February 07, 2006

Something Else We Can Agree On -- Cartoons

In my 10/6/05 post entitled Something We Can All Agree On, I wrote that condemning the use of torture by or on behalf of the U.S. is something we should all be able to agree upon, no matter where we stand in the political spectrum. After several months of not being able to find any more such common ground, I have finally found some, regarding the Muslim cartoons. Over the past week or so, thousands of Muslims have been protesting in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Kashmir, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey and elsewhere, against a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in an unflattering light. In many of these cases, "protesting" is the wrong word. A more accurate term would be "deadly rioting." The protesters have stormed, firebombed and torched several Danish embassies. A number of protesters, police and others have been killed and injured. The cartoonists have received death threats.

The rioters are upset that a Western newspaper printed images of Mohammed, since the Muslim religion (or at least some sects) forbids such images. Further, the rioters are upset that some of the cartoons are indeed very harsh, including one that depicts Mohammed with a turban shaped as a bomb. But Danish newspapers are not bound by Islamic law. While the Muslims are offended by what they see as religious intolerance, their attempt to have non-Muslims around the world obey their Islamic tenets is the height of religious intolerance, or worse, religious imperialism. Indeed, the Danish paper that printed the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten, has said it did so to test the limits of free speech at a time it was under threat because of the influence of radical Islam.

Firebombing embassies and killing people is not an appropriate way to protest unflattering or even blasphemic cartoons of one's religious leader. The U.S. Constitution, and the laws of other countries, give newspapers and other media the freedom of speech to print offensive material. If newspapers never printed anything offensive to anyone, we wouldn't need a First Amendment protecting their right to do so. The drafters of the Constitution believed that there should be a free marketplace of ideas, wherein the truth would win out. If someone prints or utters an offensive, inaccurate or intolerant message, others can counter that message with messages of their own, explaining why the first messenger is wrong. The blogosphere in which you are reading this message right now, with the ability to comment, is the manifestation of this principle. The Consitution also gives people the right to protest peacefully. Now, our Constitution may not have been adopted by or even be right for every country, but free speech and the right to protest peacefully against offensive cartoons or anything else are the marks of a civilized people. Riots, firebombing, death threats and killing to protest cartoons are not. Ghandi did not resort to these tactics when he and his Hindu followers successfully protested England's continued colonization of India, which included things much more horrific than mean cartoons. And one day after the memorial service for Coretta Scott King, we must remember that Martin Luther King successfully preached and practiced peaceful, nonviolent protest as the way to end discrimination against blacks, including KKK cross-burnings, firehoses and attacks by police with vicious German shepherds.

It is also important to point out the great hypocrisy behind the rioters' selective outrage. Where is their outrage when, for decades, children in the Madras religious schools in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have been indoctrinated with the most anti-Western and anti-Christian teachings, writings and images? Should the Christians of Denmark and other nations have firebombed their Saudi and other embassies? Should Christians firebomb the offices of Rolling Stone Magazine, whose current issues depicts rapper Kanye "George Bush doesn't care about black people" West as Jesus? Where is the Muslim outrage when, for centuries, Christians and Muslims of many nations have spewed the most vile anti-Semitic filth and lies in cartoons, newspapers, publications and elsewhere, and perpetrated the Holocaust and other horrific crimes resulting in the deaths of millions of Jews? Where is their outrage when Palestinian suicide bombers board buses and enter cafes in Israel, detonating their bombs and killing scores of innocent civilian men, women and children at a time, or when, just a few weeks ago, newly elected Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map?" Should Jews have been permitted to riot, firebomb and kill non-Jews around the world in protest? In fact, the brave citizens of Denmark saved many Jews during the Holocaust, at great peril to themselves, because of their concern for the principles of freedom of religion and human rights.

That said, it is important to point out several other related hypocrisies, each of which has taken place here in the U.S. First, some of the most outspoken critics of the Muslim rioters are American conservatives. Many of these same conservatives spend lots of time trying to force religious views, such as the Catholic view against abortion or the euthenasia of Terry Schiavo, upon the rest of America in the form of legislation or Supreme Court votes. Religious intolerance does not require a Muslim head scarf. Second, many of those conservatives, including President Bush and his underlings, who tout the importance of the Constitution's First Amendment in this case, have trivialized or ignored the importance of the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures, in defending the NSA domestic spying program. Just as the Constitution guarantees equal protection of our citizens, the various amendments in our cherished Bill of Rights also deserve equal protection and equal treatment. And third, even if the focus is the First Amendment, those in the White House have a very selective view, supporting it only in cases like this which bolster Bush Administration policies. When critics of the Bush Administration, such as Cindy Sheehan, Ambassador Joe Wilson or the New York Times, rely on the First Amendment to air their criticism, the White House toadies are quick to bash these folks and brand them as unpatriotic.

Sadly, however, the Muslims' violent rampages only serve to further the damaging stereotype that they are protesting in some of the cartoons -- that of a people who are quick to express their grievances by resorting to violence.


At 9:32 AM, Blogger Jimmy K. said...

Putting your Bush Bashing B.S. aside I agree with most of your analysis of the "Something Else We Can Agree On" article. Another one is the selling of U.S. ports. We need a third party. The Dems are a do nothing but Bash Bush Party.


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