Thursday, February 02, 2006

Winnie-the-Pooh Takes On the Muhammed Cartoon Furor

Unless you have been in hibernation you will have heard of the Muslim uproar over the publication of several cartoon drawings featuring images of the Prophet Muhammed in a Danish publication. Muslim tradition does not permit the reproduction of any image of Muhammed or of Allah. The fact that these cartoons mostly featured the Muslim prophet in the context of Islamic terrorism did not particularly ingratiate the Danes with the Muslim world.

The death-threatening and Danish-boycotting has caused a rare liberal backlash in Europe with several publications in Germany, France, Italy and Spain reprinting the cartoons in defiance of the attempt to suppress what they view as the freedom of speech.

The editor of the French publication has already been fired and the Danish government is full of apologies. But it seems as if Europe has had enough of mollycoddling (which means bowing and scraping to) the Muslim fundamentalists who believe that any action by an infidel that does not conform to the standards set by their particular brand of sharia is worthy of the death penalty.

Today's Day By Day, a popular on-line cartoon drawn by Chris Muir, captured the controversy with an admirable combination of sensitivity, disdain and wit.

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If you would like to see the offending cartoons for yourself you can see them here.

If you would like to see the sort of anti-Semitic cartoons that are printed daily in the Arab-Muslim press you can see them here.

If you would like to see a collection of depictions of Muhammed throughout history you can see them here.

And, if you want to know my opinion of such matters, I'll tell you:

As a Christian I do not believe that it is helpful or appropriate to publicly insult or ridicule historical figures who are revered by other faith groups.

As an American citizen I support the right of publications and individuals to do so under the protection of the First Amendment.

I can't say that I particularly like to see a crucifix submerged in a bottle of urine or to see Jesus depicted in a movie as engaging in intimate sex with one of his disciples but...I believe that God has given us the freedom to embrace him in faith or to reject him in disbelief. I would be denying the very freedom extended to us all by God should I become intolerant of another's decision to mock Jesus, God, Allah, Muhammed, Moses or Buddha.

Even so, acting out our freedom does have consequences that we must be willing to accept. The publication of these cartoons was bound to stir up anger among many Muslims. The fact that these cartoons were intentionally misrepresented in the Arab world in order to produce the anger that we are now seeing does not negate the publisher's responsibility to "reap what they had sown."

In any case, we in the "sophisticated and cerebral" West are getting a heady education in the emotional displays that are part and parcel of daily life in the Arab world. Anger, friendship, grief and passionate love are not only deeply and profoundly felt in this culture but are publicly expressed in a manner that can only be described as "way over the top" by our more privatized standards of "politically correct" social behavior.

Somehow, with the Arab Muslim population growing in our midst (especially in Europe), it will be useful to separate the need for mutual respect of different cultures and beliefs from the equally important need to totally reject the radical adherents of those beliefs whose goal is to foment terror and fear and to forcibly impose their faith upon the rest of the world.

Multiple hts:lgf