Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Cartoon Controversy

This is the big story going on these days - what to do about those damned cartoons.

Short version - some anti muslim cartoons were published in Denmark. Muslims got very upset (to the point of rioting). Danish cartoonists are scared. Europe is wringing its hands. American Media is not showing the cartoons (although they are, of course, readily available on the internet.

This is a story made for Conservative Commentators. Poor Danish cartoonists being harassed by intolerent and hateful Muslims.
The riots and demonstrations across the Middle East and Western Europe (though not yet playing here) over some cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad have set off a parallel intellectual riot in the West over the nature of free speech and free expression. Many pundits and editorialists have worked feverishly to keep this a debate about the propriety of running cartoons. Some news outlets are updating their procedures so as not to offend "religious" sensibilities in the future.

The quotation marks around the word "religious" should say it all. We're not talking about "religion." We're talking about a specific religion - Islam.
- Jonah Goldberg, "Controversy is about culture clash, not cartoons"

The cartoon implosion now rocking the Muslim world - featuring embassy burnings, threats of 9-11 sequels and the Arab street equivalent of the Terrible Twos - is based on equal parts fake photographs and a default riot mode looking for an excuse. Extreme propaganda on one side and a lack of fortitude on the other have brought us near the brink of extinction through a global act of accidental self-mockery.
- Kathleen Parker, "The end of civilization was a joke"

Those who argue for republication of the Danish cartoons are not "instigating" a clash of civilization. Nor are they pouring gasoline on a fire. Rather, they are defending against the already declared and engaged radical Islamist clash against the Christian, Secular, Jewish, Hindu, Chinese world by expressing solidarity with the firemen.

In this case, the firemen, perhaps surprisingly to some, is the European press. French socialist newspapers, The BBC, and other major secular European media stand shoulder to shoulder with a right-wing Danish newspaper against what they correctly see is an unyielding demand by radical Islam that Europe begin to start living under Sharia law.
- Tony Blankley, "Cartoons, but not the funnies"
I have to admit not having a strong opinion one way or the other on this issue. The cartoons are mostly banal and not very funny, I can't see defending them as some great artistic statement. And of course it's hilarious for the newspaper who requested these cartoons to pretend they didn't know this might happen.

On the other hand, my own religion has been mocked before. In cartoons and in articles. And reading those articles and cartoons did sometimes upset me. But I didn't riot. I didn't demand that my personal feelings be taken into account by my entire society.

On the other hand, I am pretty well off. Perhaps things would look different to me if I was broke. Or, more to the point, if I lived in a society that I felt prevented me from ever making something of myself. Perhaps the riots are just a symptom of larger social problems in Europe.

So like I say, not sure what to say about this issue.

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