First, we now have reports that the President of Iran is saying that the publication of those Mohammed cartoons is a Zionist plot to cause tension between Christians and Muslims. First, can we drop the Protocols of the Elders of Zion schtick? The only thing worse than the claim that the Jews have control over many major newspapers all over Europe is the fact that some people will believe this nonsense.
Then, an Iranian paper solicits Holocaust cartoons. They say that they want to see if the West holds up the same standards. I'll bet you my lovely office chair that you won't see screaming Jewish or Danish mobs attacking the Iranian embassy, saying all Iranians are now legitimate targets for Jihad, or demanding that the Iranian government shut down the paper (which, of course, it has the power to do).
This is just nuts. Let the Muslim world believe what it wants, and practice their faith however they want. But this attempt to import their standards on to nonbelivers is simply outrageous. What if Christians began rioting and attacking Arab embassies because Muslims refuse to celebrate Christmas? What if Jews began riots and burning down Western embassies because we all refuse to keep kosher? How about if Hindus ransacked the American embassy over the outrage of the amount of cow we eat? And how about the fact that the Christian cross is part of every Scandanavian flag that is being burned?
Let's also talk of tolerance. How many churches are there in Saudi Arabia? Exactly none. Ditto for synagogues.
At least some people are stepping up. Rex Murphy came out swinging yesterday:
Furthermore, they are insisting that their values and their codes apply outside their own religion and their own countries. It is astonishingly insolent. Considering the treatment that some of the press in some of these countries accord Christians and Jews -- a recent mini-series on the Protocols of The Elders of Zion in Lebanon and Egypt, the frequent anti-Semitic editorial cartoons -- it is levitatingly hypocritical, as well.
It is worth noting that however offensive the cartoons of the Prophet may have been, they cannot be as offensive as the many real suicide bombings that have been executed in the Prophet's name.
If portions of the Muslim world want to protest about a real offence against their religion they might radically take to the streets in great masses to condemn what fanatics do in the name of that religion.
Artists, writers and the press in the Western democracies have the right to create and write what they please. And so they must. It is why we are democratic. And no fundamentalism, of religion or any other variety, should be given the slightest leverage over that right.
The Washington Bureau Chief of the Die Zeit made an outstandingly articulate defence of the publication of the cartoons.
The sad part, he observes, is that some in the West are caving. In response to Bill Clinton's comment on "Anti-Islamic prejudice," he writes:
The former president has turned the argument upside down. In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe's supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities. They have radicalized what was at first a difficult question. Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules. Does Bill Clinton want to counsel tolerance toward intolerance?
On Friday the State Department found it appropriate to intervene. It blasted the publication of the cartoons as unacceptable incitement to religious hatred. It is a peculiar moment when the government of the United States, which likes to see itself as the home of free speech, suggests to European journalists what not to print.
Exactly. Let them rail all the want against Western values. Let them demonstrate and chant. But violence and threats cross the line. If we in the West threatened violence over every single time that the West has been "insulted" in the Arab world, or for every time our values were violated, well, we'd have nothing to do other than cause violence.
Personally, as well, I'm less concerned by people in Arab countries rioting or denouncing our freedoms. The worst thing for me is the fact that people in Western countries are protesting - not just demonstrating saying they don't like the cartoons, but denouncing Western press freedoms. There have been countless protestors in London and other places with signs like "Damn your freedom" and "Execute the wrongdoers" and threatening terrorists attacks in London.
I've never been one of those "love it or leave it" types, but this makes me think that there are situations in which that does apply. In Canada, or the US, or the UK or Europe we who live here do disagree with one another. We can disagree passionately. But we all accept that we have the right to disagree. We all accept that we have the right to speak freely. If we suddenly have swaths of our population that reject that basic, fundamental value, what does it say about our abilities to get along? Should, then, we surrender the principles that make us great? Or should we increasingly demand of those who come to the shores of the West, or who live here (either as immigrants, or people with long lineages), "By taking part in our body politic, you accept certain things. You do not need to accept one religion. You do not need to accept the opinions of your neighbour. But you must respect his right to have those opinions. You must respect the freedom of ideas, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of others not to have your beliefs imposed upon them."