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Cartoon riots demonstrate the cultural chasm…
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 2/13/06
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
J.F. Kelly, Jr.
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
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-
2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.