Friday, February 10, 2006

My two or three cents on the Mohammed cartoons

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A couple of weeks ago, if someone had made any suggestion that Muslims would be burning Danish flags, it would have been a joke. The most offensive thing that ever came out of Denmark before that was King Diamond.

I wondered where they got the flags, before I found an article explaining that one store owner at least had purchased them after he found out about the offensive cartoon. My other theory is that there is a flag store somewhere in Damascus or some other Arabic capital city, and the owner has a stock of flags from every country in the world. He’s just waiting for the lucrative opportunity when someone from Mauritius will do something to anger the Muslim people so he can sell the flags, lighter fluid, and lighters. (He even has some flags pre-packaged with matches and flammable liquids to sell at discount package prices!)

But anyway, on to the cartoons. I don't see why everyone immediately thinks that this is an insult to "the prophet." The way I would interpret this offhand is that the cartoonist was making a statement about the current attitude of what everyone likes to call "the religion of peace." The statement: Mohammed would not have wanted people to go around killing other people for the sake of Islam. At least, not if it truly is "the religion of peace" as they would have us believe. And perhaps since I've been a long-time listener to heavy metal music I might have a better idea what northern Europeans are trying to say. Of course, the Arab people don't have a sense of humor. They're trying to make a series of comics poking fun at the Holocaust. I'm sure you could already find that if you searched the web for a little while, and it would probably be pretty funny if you can dissociate humor from reality.

In any case, even if he was trying to insult Islam, he's a hero for freedom of speech. If that is the case, he may be a dickhead, but still a hero in some sense.

It probably wasn't wise to make his statement the way he did. But the deed is done, and I, for one, would like to send my moral support to the cartoonist and to all the great people of Denmark.

And to all the people who thought it would be a good idea to burn Danish flags, I would like to send a message: lighten up. Sure, I understand why you're insulted, especially if you don't have a sense of humor or an education or anything like that. But in the end, it's not really a big deal.


  1. Is there nothing Sacred?

    Is there anything that is "off limits" for humor? Can I make fun of mutilating dogs without causing offense? Is Free Speech the only thing that we hold sacred?

    I'm reminded of Texas v. Johnson in this debate. It is a right of the people of the United States to burn the American flag in protest of their government. Would it be as justifiable if flags were burned at comedy clubs, for the purpose of comedy? "Hey everybody, the punchline is that I'm going to burn this flag and urinate on it!" Ha ha ha...??? I don't think so. The context of the speech is important.

    While I disagree with violence being a reaction to the regretable humor, I understand and have sympathy for their outrage. This is not just about Denmark and a Cartoon, it is about the western "nothing sacred" culture infultrating their "highly sacred" and respected culture of Islam.

    If my study of Islam is correct, it is highly offensive even to depict (form a "graven image") of The Prophet. Some fundamentalists even refuse to speak his name in vain.

    I don't think this is merely about a cartoon, obviously, and to treat it as merely about a cartoon is making average muslims fighting for their religion into religious fanatics. It is about symbols of their core beleifs being sacred and symbols of our core beliefs being "up in smoke".

  2. With freedom comes responsibility. We have heard that said a lot in recent days.

    The Danish cartoonist abused his freedom of speech, in my opinion, when he placed many others at risk aside from himself through the cartoons. He should have been savvy enough to know that his work would end up being used by the extremists to fuel the already raging fire of hatred for Western ways.

    If we ever hope to convince other cultures of the merits of our ways, we will need to set better examples than that set by the Danish cartoonist. We should be taking the high road.

    It would not hurt us one bit in our culture to be more considerate and respectful all the way around.

    I still intend to buy Danish products though.

  3. If I was a Muslim. I would be offended at how some of Muhammeds followers have turned his philosophy into an excuse for rabid violence. Ridiculious! what a represintation of a 'Religion'.

    People & religions are made fun of all the time w/out going off the nut.

    Just shows the idiotsy of what religion can do .

  4. In my experience, which very well may be limited, the people who seem to most need to show others their commitment to their faith usually have the weakest hold on it.

  5. Many conflicts are actually conflicts of principles. Great principles, perhaps. This is one of those conflicts.

    The problem though--the problem with our society--is that we (as a collectivity) haven't developed very sophisticated ideas as to how to find balance in these situations. Instead, we react by focusing on the need to protect one principle, and we damn the other worthwhile principles in the process.

    Of course, the escalation of whole mess is clearly the fault of those pathetic uncivilized barbarians--those religious fanatics--who just don't "get" the importance of free speech. Why can't they "get" the cartoonist's intent? Clearly, there was a good underlying message. One even they should agree with.

    Oh, well, what do you expect? Why shouldn't we just come out and say what we are all thinking?

    That they are savages?

    And as for those among us who stood up for free speech by re-printing these cartoons even after we learn that some people find them offensive--What are they if not heros in the defence of a cause? Or perhaps I should say martyrs. Our martyrs.

    The truth is that our society suffers from it's own smugness in the way it handles these situations. We are the smugly Westerners. Surprise, surprise that the savages don't seem particularly cooperative about taking lessons on great principles from us today.

    We--so many in our culture--suppose ourselves to be so sophisticated in our principles. But the truth is "we" have simply responded with a knee-jerk reaction.

    First we respond with a knee jerk reaction to the conflict. Then we pause to comment how weird it is that the other guy is being so hot headed about all this--after all, it's really just a trite matter. Then we congratulate ourselves on our comparative moral sophistication.

    A conflict of great principles indeed.

    Yay us!!

  6. Copernicus: I am saying that we are greater savages than they...even more because we don't even recognize it.

    I could agree with you more.

  7. Moise, your comments were bang on. I just needed to say it my way.

    And as SusieQ says, "With freedom comes responsibility."

  8. BTW, I trust that you realize that I was speaking ironically when I referred to "them" as savages, barbarians and religious fanatics.

  9. Great comments, everyone. I knew it was a good idea for me to not post a response to Moise right away and to let this stew over the weekend.

    I agree, first, that tact is in order. Whatever the cartoonist's message, it could have been done in a better way.

    I still stick by my original post, though. I think that in the world today you are, whether you like it or not, a part of the free marketplace of ideas. And that particular bazaar can be a very nasty place. But in the end the best messages will win out.

    I don't think, however, that the cartoon is particularly funny. (Actually most political cartoons aren't funny.) Moise, you did make me laugh--almost out loud in Con Law II class--with your little flag-burning at a comedy club hypothetical.

    Additionally, I don't think that most of the people that are angry about this cartoon have actually seen it. The poor people of these third-world countries that are so incensed about this cartoon don't strike me as the newspaper-reading type. They probably heard about it from the power players in their country who like to twist everything around to make the people so pissed off at everyone else that they're too blind to be pissed off at their own leaders who have nine palaces and a fleet of Mercedes and BMW cars that they likely never drive. Ironically, this is the exact thing that the cartoonist seems to be making light of with the cartoon.

    And Trusty Getto was spot on with this comment:
    "In my experience, which very well may be limited, the people who seem to most need to show others their commitment to their faith usually have the weakest hold on it."
    That is an incredibly insightful comment. I think people like that are the people who are perhaps the least secure in their faith--like the Christians who are threatened by the teaching of evolution in the schools for fear that science could somehow disprove religion. This kind of thinking evidences a profound lack of faith.

  10. In my experience, for the more devout religous people the religious bonds are stronger then racial and even family bonds. So an offensive religious comment will effect them more.

    A quarter of my staff are muslim and it seemed the more religous ones were effected more.