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Values to Die For
Cartoon riots demonstrate the cultural chasm…

[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 2/13/06

Values, traditions, taboos, beliefs, legends and symbols are powerful elements of a culture; so powerful, in fact, that followers may be willing to die for them and even cause others to die for disrespecting them. Showing disrespect, even unintentionally, to a street gang can get you killed in many American neighborhoods. Mere rumors of police brutality have sparked deadly riots and waves of vandalism right here in American cities.

So as we watched, with mounting anger, the Muslim masses rioting over the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad, keep in mind that America has not been immune to destructive riots over incidents that, real or not, did not justify acts of assault, murder and vandalism, least of all, against innocent people who did nothing to provoke them.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

The cartoons first appeared in a Danish newspaper last autumn with little circulation outside that tiny country with a population substantially smaller than that of New York City. Many Muslims say that depicting Muhammad is sacrilegious although others have said that nothing in the Koran specifically forbids it. Whether it is or is not, though, is a matter of concern mostly to Muslims. Infidels are not bound by the rules of Islam.

In any event, not much happened in the way of Muslim rage for several months after the cartoons first appeared except for diplomatic protests and demands that the Danish government chastise the newspaper. We, of course, don’t do that in free countries. In real democracies, newspapers are free from government intimidation and can publish whatever they wish, subject to laws against libel, fraud and pornography.

Freedom of the press is a highly esteemed value in western countries. Still, many European and American editors decided not to reproduce the cartoons for fear of offending Muslims. This was a rather timid response from editors who seldom seem to mind offending other readers. The cartoons, after all, had become a major news story. I guess a free press means that the media are free not to publish news, too.

Only after several months did Muslim mobs take to the streets calling for revenge and burning flags and embassies. Not only were the Danes targeted, but also other European nations, the United States and, of course, Israel. Obviously, Muslim leaders took advantage of what began as a diplomatic protest far away in Denmark to plan and organize numerous large and violent rampages throughout the Muslim world directed against Europe, America and Israel.

It’s easy enough to incite Muslim masses to riot against Europeans, Americans, Christians and Jews. Any excuse will do and it can always be in the name of religion. Poverty and ignorance is pervasive, unemployment is high and the future offers little promise. Religion is about all that most of the people have and their leaders know how to use it skillfully to inflame passions and incite anger toward foreigners and away from their own harsh rule and moribund economies. Riots don’t just occur spontaneously in these tightly ruled countries.

Moderate Muslims around the world, of course, deplored the violence. But almost every call for calm seemed to be accompanied by some attempt to rationalize Muslim reaction to the cartoons. Some claimed that Islam does not get enough respect from those of other religions and that we should be more deferential to Muslim sensitivities and values. If it is indeed true that westerners fail to afford enough respect to Islam, perhaps it has something to do with the stereotypical behavior of Islam mobs calling for beheadings and death to the infidels and the intolerance so frequently displayed by Muslims for other religions.

It is not enough for moderate Muslims to simply condemn such behavior. They must disown it and seek to expel those who practice such hatred from the religion they are hijacking. If Islam truly is a religion of peace, there wasn’t much of it in evidence among the Muslim mobs that sacked the western embassies and shouted “Death to the Europeans! Death to the Americans! Death to the Christians! Death to the Jews!”

The cartoon riots provide yet another frightening example of the cultural chasm that exists between most Muslim nations and the modern world. Muslims demand that their values and religion be respected everywhere while they feel perfectly free to trash other religions and cultures. They must be permitted the right to practice their religion and customs anywhere but will not tolerate the practice of other religions within their own countries. Such religious intolerance will continue to foster violence and delay that day when we can live in peace with each other, if indeed that day ever comes. -one-

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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