Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cartoon Violence

Recent headlines about "cartoon-related violence" makes me think of anvils dropping on people's heads and exploding cigars. But the Muslim reaction around the world to a Danish newspaper's publishing of cartoons mocking Mohammed brings up some serious issues.

On the one hand, rioting and setting fire to embassies is a ridiculous response to images on paper. On the other hand, the Danish newspapers were very insensitive. No western newspaper would ever make fun of Jesus that way. As a matter of fact, the same newspaper that published the Mohammed cartoons had refused to publish cartoons making fun of Jesus as too offensive. Clearly, there is a double standard here. Muslims are not treated with respect by Westerners, and the Muslim rioting is an after-the-fact justification in the minds of many. It's a vicious circle: if you don't treat people with respect, they are not inclined to behave civilly towards you, either.

Maybe western news should hold a "freedom of speech" week in which nothing is taboo in political cartoons. Let's make fun of Jesus, and God, and Bush, and the Pope, and the Jews, and black people, and white people and Christians, and every other group we can think of. Prove that the west really believes in freedom of the press. Would that make a difference?


Anonymous Rich said...

If I understand what most of the person-in-the-street interviews have been saying, the depiction of Mohammed in any way is something to be avoided. So if he was shown with a bouquet of flowers and puppy dogs at his feet instead of with a bomb/turban, they would still have been unhappy. So, if you take them at their word, it's not even a matter of making fun of the Prophet that is the trouble, it is the fact of the picture itself. Of course, poking fun at him in the way that was done doesn't do much to soothe emotions. There isn't a similar taboo about the image of Jesus or Moses or other figures such as the Pope.

The only analogy I can think of would be the way that the Tetragrammaton was considered so holy that its original pronunciation has been lost. What if someone produced thongs or bikini tops with the holy name of G-d imprinted? Would devout Jews start rioting around embassies?

6:40 PM  

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