Friday, February 10, 2006

Cartoon Controversy

So, a Danish newspaper prints cartoons of Islam's prophet Muhammad several months ago, and the issue flares up two weeks ago into mass protests, flag-burnings, death threats, boycotts, attacks on embassies and missions...

One of the common misconceptions in mainstream reports about the "cartoon row" is that Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere did not riot because some of the cartoons depicted Muhammad in an unflattering manner, but because they depicted Muhammad at all. Visual depiction of Muhammad is strictly forbidden under Islamic law.

Fair enough - but Denmark, Europe, and the US for that matter, don't live under Islamic law, do they? In fact, they follow a set of laws protecting the freedom of expression (at least on paper). So in these countries, depiction of Muhammad - while some may consider it sinful - is not illegal.

This is where ignorance comes in. See, the cartoons were commissioned as commentary on self-censorship by illustrators who balked at drawing Muhammad for a children's book, fearful of provoking just this sort of reaction. Ironically, the book was supposed to teach Danish children tolerance towards Islam. But whoever was behind it obviously had no clue whatsoever that Muslims consider visual representations of their prophet a sin. Nor were they aware that in Islam, sin and crime and pretty much one and the same, because it is not just a faith, it is a social order. And not just that - it is a universal faith and social order, considered by its followers to be the ultimate divine revelation. Islam respects Judaism and Christianity's right to exist insofar as they are considered previous, "flawed" revelations of the divine message. As such, they get special, second-class status in Islamic societies, while all other faiths are deemed idolatrous and condemned to extermination. But they are not, under any circumstances, ever considered equal to Islam.

And because Islam considers itself universal and ultimate, it does not allow for coexistence with other social, religious or political systems: the dar-al-Islam is in constant conflict with dar-al-harb, the dark world of infidels who dare not accept the final revelation of god. To tell a Muslim that he should tolerate the freedom of a Dane to draw a picture of Muhammad is absurd; the injunction against it is at the heart of Islam, and thus applies everywhere, to everyone, especially the infidels. To deny the universal and ultimate character of Islam is to become apostate - and Islamic law says apostasy is punishable by death.

That is not to say that burning Danish embassies is the only response available to Muslims. Though violence in the name of the faith is considered a sacred charge, Muslims had many choices in how to react to the publication. Someone might have written to the editor and said, "Look, you are infidels and you do not understand. Any depiction of the Prophet is sacrilege to us, and we ask you to respect that." In today's West, obsessed with political correctness and "human rights," do you think anyone would deny this request?

But those who chose to make the cartoons into a focal point of mob violence did so on purpose. They wanted the riots, craved the outrage, desired violence, as it promoted their position within Islam as advocates of jihad against the West. The violence also played up old racist animosities; it should not surprise that Iranian papers thought a fitting response would be a cartoon depicting Anne Frank in bed with Hitler.

In a battle between free speech and "multi-culturalism," in today's Europe, free speech is bound to lose. The post-modern, post-Christian West simply cannot comprehend a religion like Islam, whose followers resort to aggression and murder at the smallest slight. Christians don't burn embassies when someone exhibits a crucifix soaked in urine, do they? Which goes to explain why Christianity is under constant attack by the secular state, and Islam is appeased at every step.

Again, the post-modern, post-Christian society running the West has only one religion - power - and only one saint, violence. Force is the only thing they worship, and the only thing they respect. When Christians are offended by something, they protest with words, and are answered with mockery. When Muslims are offended, people die - and Muslims are answered with apologies and claptrap about sensitivity, respect and tolerance: words they see in a completely different context, one the post-religious West doesn't understand.

No comments: