Friday, February 03, 2006

Some brief observations on the whole brouhaha over the Mohammed cartoons:

I have absolutely no problem with Muslims demonstrating en masse and expressing outrage over this. However thin-skinned they are, their beliefs have been offended, and they do have the right to voice their displeasure. If certain countries want to make this displeasure official, that is also their prerogative.

The preceding obviously does not extend to death threats -- or worse -- against the authors of the cartoons, their publishers, or the citizens of the countries where the cartoons have been published.

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Let's take note: using the name of Allah for a terrorist organization, or having a mass murderer like Atta take Mohammed's name as his own does not bother the Muslims a whole lot. Commuter bombings in London, bus bombings in Israel, carnage against Russian schoolchildren in Beslan and Iraqi kids in Baghdad -- in the name of Islam -- all elicit barely a shrug. But print up some images of Mohammed, and the Muslim world explodes. This is a very crucial insight into the ethics of the Muslim community as a whole. We ignore this particular lesson at our peril.

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I know it's an annoying cliché, but Words mean things. I've heard too many times now that our (Western) value systems require us to "respect the beliefs of others." They most certainly do not. We usually respect others' beliefs as a courtesy, but we are under no obligation to respect the beliefs of anyone at all. We do not have to respect your beliefs; we only respect your right to hold those beliefs. That means we won't hurt, imprison, or kill you for merely holding or expressing some belief at odds with our own. (A courtesy the Muslims frequently fail to extend to others.) In no way does our value system prohibit mocking anyone's religious beliefs, tenets, or icons. It's disturbing that so many people are unclear on this, to the point of claiming that freedom of speech does not extend to blasphemy. Those European officials who feel this way may want to have their watch repaired: it's a few centuries behind.

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You have to feel for poor ol' Europe. Decades of anti-Israel sentiment, nearly a half-century of lips planted firmly on Arab posteriors, billions sent to the murderers in the West Bank and Gaza -- and all it took was a few lousy drawings to make them the objects of death threats, fatwas, war declarations, and expulsions from the same West Bank and Gaza. Don't get me wrong -- I am thrilled that Europeans are finally standing up for freedom and genuine tolerance -- but I also hope that it's dawning on them just what dangerous, fickle, and worthless "friends" they have been cultivating.

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