Monday, February 20, 2006

Its not just about free speech

Jessica McBride links to an explanation by Flemming Rose, the editor of the Jyllands-Posten as to why he ran the Mohammed cartoons. Three things caught my attention. First, Rose responds to the idea that it was disrepectful to publish Mohammed's image because Islam (or at least some factions within it)prohibit depicting the Prophet:

When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission.

The other thing that struck me is his defense of the now infamous cartoon of Mohammed wearing a turban shaped into a bomb:

One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name.

I would take this a step further. If - as is undeniably the case - a significant element of Islam has decided that it has a religious duty to attack nonbelievers, then the presuppositions and images of Islam are no longer of concern only to Muslims. If some Muslims are going to argue that Islam requires flying planes into buildings and blowing up trains and busses, those of us who would be the victims are going to push back. We're going to hold that idea up to the ridicule it deserves.

If some Christian cleric decided to preach a 21st century Crusade, I'd expect both Christians and Muslims to point out the incompatability of that with the teachings of Christ and I suspect that, sometimes, it would be done in a way that makes us uncomfortable. That might even be what makes it effective.

Which brings me to the last thing that struck me in Rose's piece:

In January, Jyllands-Posten ran three full pages of interviews and photos of moderate Muslims saying no to being represented by the imams. They insist that their faith is compatible with a modern secular democracy. A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People's Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between "them" and "us," but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.

... In the words of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the integration of Muslims into European societies has been sped up by 300 years due to the cartoons; perhaps we do not need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe.

A friend in Copenhagen e-mailed me this morning that "it is not over yet", but let's hope and pray that Rose and Ali are right.


K T Cat said...

Oh, please! This is just total historical revisionism by a libertine who doesn't want to take responsibility for what they did. Here is the key paragraph for me.

This claim that the furor over the cartoons somehow enlightened all these people that Islamofascists are intolerant maniacs is idiocy. So flying planes into buildings left people confused, but cartoons clarified things? Right.

Rick Esenberg said...

"These people," if they are Muslims, don't think of themselves as "Islamofascists" and, if they are not Muslims, bent over backwards to believe that there is nothing incompatible with even the rigid forms of Islam and living in a free society. Most people, after all, even fundamentalist Muslims don't blow themselves up and crash planes into buildings. What the cartoons may have done, if they did any good at all, is to illustrate where perpetual offense can lead. What they may have done is to show both non-Muslims and (we hope) the majority of Muslims who don't want a violent jihad the ways in which Islamofascism can affect a society well short of flying planes into buildings.

Dad29 said...


What's the problem with the Crusades? At least two of them were perfectly legitimate uses of force to recapture Christian properties in the Holy Land.

Not that all was perfect...but then, let's not slam the Crusades. After all, GWB's "crusade" is for "democracy."