Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Medium Post on the Cartoons

Since it seems like everyone and their brother has commented on the depictions of the prophet Mohammed and the reaction in parts of the world, it seems like a good time for me to say something. Of course in true blogosphere fashion, I'm going to comment on what others have said. I want to start first with my fellow centrist blogger, Alan over at Maverick Views. He has a good post about why it might be time to stop reprinting the cartoons in question, but he adds this comment that I found troubling:

The mass republishing of the cartoons also served a good purpose as it showed the radical Muslims that our culture of free speech cannot be subdued—that we as Westerners are united in our commitment to freedom and condemnation of radical Islam.

I am glad for the original publication of these cartoons and glad they were republished all over Europe, America and elsewhere.

But the usefulness of these cartoons has ended. We’ve proved how incompatible much of Islam is with Western values. We’ve proved our commitment to free speech. Now we’re just poking a rabid dog with a sharp stick. There’s no sense to that.

Flag on the play.

Islam is incompatible with Western values? Hmmm. Should a bunch of screaming fanatics in Syria or Iran speak for a whole faith? What about American Muslims? Are they basically backwards folk because of their faith?

Maybe it was a slip of the tounge and Alan meant radical Islam. I would hope that he wouldn't paint all 1 billion adherents of Islam as a bunch of savages.

Which leads to this great op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by a Muslim biochemistry professor at Cal State-Los Angeles.

Finally, the
Minneapolis Star Tribune had an editoral in Thursday's paper that just didn't get what this was all about. The editorial condemns the violent reactions to the cartoons in the Muslim world, but it also very scathing towards the Danish paper that first ran the offending cartoons accusing the paper and the editor of racism, and belittling the free speech argument:

Then there is the ignorant Western notion that this is a "free press" issue. Baloney. Sure, a free press CAN depict Mohammed any way they want, but that doesn't mean they SHOULD, knowing how deeply Muslims feel about it. The Danish editor who started all this hadn't a clue what he was doing -- perhaps because racism is so widespread and virulent in Europe. The editor was so Eurocentric he didn't know that depicting Mohammed would cause offense. Equally ignorant was the decision by other European newspapers to reprint the cartoons in "support" of the Danish newspaper. They weren't supporting a free press, they were supporting a stupid press.

I think the "Strib" is way off the mark on this.

First, this is a free press issue. They are right that what was shown was offensive and if I were the Danish editor, I probably wouldn't have run it. But this is about principles not niceties. I tend to have a libertarian view on this, but I feel that we have to defend speech, even if it offends others. I don't like the Klan, but I would allow them to protest because they have a right. And if others want to protest the Klan protesting, that is there right as well. If the only speech that we defend is that which doesn't offend any group, then we might as well chuck the belief in the free press out the window. My own belief is that the Strib is putting Political Correctness (which last I checked wasn't included in America's Bill of Rights) over long held democratic principles such as freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Part of me wonders if the Star Tribune would have the same view if this were a paper in the American South that was being harrassed by a bunch of Christian fundamentalists. I'm not holding out hope.

Second, is the charge of racism. Okay, so where was the outrage when The vanGogh was murdered by a Muslim fanatic in 2004? Should someone be shot and then have their throat cut because of a film? I guess the Strib would say he got what he deserved.

On a similar note, I'm kinda embarassed by the timidity of the American media on this issue. Why aren't news outlets standing in solidarity with the Euro-counterparts?

On another topic entirely, sorry for the sparse posting. I have a new job, so that and other outside activities are keeping me busy.


Alan Stewart Carl said...

Yep. Good flag. Should have said "radical." I always try to make that distinction. I chose the word "much of" in hopes it would be read "radical" but no such luck.

Karl said...

There's an interesting article on the cartoons at the Weekly Standard. Among the points it makes:

The cartoons were first published on September 30 (my birthday!), 2005. No reaction.

They were reprinted in an Egyptian newspaper on October 17. (Hmmm... my girlfriend's birthday. This is getting weird.) Still no reaction.

After radical imams cobbled together three additional cartoons (so much for the general prohibition on depictions of Muhammed), then they finally get riots.

One conclusion: militant Muslims will seize on any excuse to riot against the West, and if the chosen reason is too flimsy, they'll "enhance" it until it holds up.

Karl said...

Another point I've made a couple of times:

Okay, so where was the outrage when The vanGogh was murdered by a Muslim fanatic in 2004? Should someone be shot and then have their throat cut because of a film? I guess the Strib would say he got what he deserved.


It's fashionable to draw a careful distinction between radical militant Islam and moderate Islam. We can even hope it's accurate.

However, I would have a lot more faith in the existence of a strong moderate current in Islam if I saw even the occasional bumper sticker that read "Not in my name" in Arabic.

Another good bumper sticker would be one that read "Dissent is Halal".

The Truffle said...

Hi there, Dennis!

You're right that we should distinguish between radical Muslims and the moderate/progressive members of the ummah. I think much of the difference is cultural and regional.

Take for instance, Senegal, whose population is 95 percent Muslim. They're pretty relaxed about religion in general, with a secular constitution.

See here for more: