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Thursday, February 16, 2006


Violent Protests Over Cartoons Continue

Denmark in The Center of the Cauldron * Anti-Semitism in Arab Press
Five people reported to have died in Pakistan in violent demonstrations against publications of cartoons about Prophet Mohammed. Are the demonstrations spontaneous? Not according to reports. For some reason it is not hard to incite mobs in that part of the world. If it is not satire about the prophet it would be something else. People should be free to demonstrate against acts that are rightly or wrongly taken as disrespect to deeply held beliefs. There is nothing wrong about boycotts of good and services from countries that are deemed responsible. But arson and looting are despicable acts. Loss of lives cannot be justified, even if the dead are considered by some as martyrs for a holy cause. Denmark, where it all began, and other European nations who are the targets of Islamic rage, face a difficult situation. But if they capitulate where would it all end? The BBC reported: "Blatantly anti-Semitic literature is on sale in Cairo, just like many other Arab capitals. The BBC News website's Martin Patience reports on the apparent inconsistency in the Egyptian reaction to the Danish cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad."

Cartoons are a form of satiric expression. No more, no less. One can argue about good taste or lack thereof in what cartoonists might use as subject but that is no justification to muzzle them. Above all, editorial policy must never be discriminatory. If the prophet is fair game, so must be the pope and Virgin Mary. From The Washington Post: "But the scope of the fallout tells only one story. The debate over the cartoons is replete with unintended consequences, some still taking shape this week. On one side is a defense of freedom of expression, on the other an unforgivable insult to a sacred figure. In between are potentially longer-lasting repercussions: a rethinking of relations between Europe and the Muslim world, and a rare moment of empowerment among Muslims who have felt besieged. Given the moral certainty pronounced by each party, some in the middle feel forced to take sides, blurring the diversity of religious thought that might offer grounds for compromise."

It is odd that the war against Iraq, in which thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives, does not arouse Muslims to protest with the same degree of passion. Although no Islamic country joined the Coalition of the Willing as active partner, some tacitly provided support by allowing bases and overflights. "Denmark was among the first countries to join the Coalition of the Willing." With the facts that are now known about the lies and deception used to form the Coalition, Danes have reason to be ashamed of their role in the war but not for publication of the cartoons.

I enjoyed reading your opinions on the cartoons. Perhaps if the people rioting had more freedom of expression, they would respond with words instead of fire.
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