It's now increasingly clear that these protests really have nothing to do with religion and everything to do beating up the West. A mob in Afghanistan attempted to storm a U.S. military base, in protest over cartoons published in a private newspaper in a non-american country. Did anyone explain to them that the American government has nothing to do with it?
But what is really bugging me is the fact that here in North America, we're tying so hard to be sensitive to Muslim feelings that we're forgetting our own principles. Bush, for example, said that "We believe in a free press. We also recognize that with freedom comes responsibilities. With freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others."
Meanwhile, in Canada, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay "commend[s] those who have acted responsibly," presumably in not publishing the cartoons.
In PEI a student editor is in trouble for having published them.
The Washington Post also gets it wrong and attempts to ascribe as much blame to Europeans as to cynical Arab governments. It says that "Freedom of speech is not under threat" in Europe. Um, this shows precisely that it is. If a paper cannot print what it wants to print, irrespective of whom it will offend, freedom of speech is under assault. The Post talks of being sensitive to its minorities, not realizing that those minorities need to accept some basic aspects of Western society - like freedom of speech and conscience.
Meanwhile, the Europeans are standing up for their freedom, while we're backing down. The New York Times and the Post have both said that, out of concern for being sensitive, they did not publish the cartoons. Honestly, if they said "We haven't published the cartoons because, as much as we'd like to, we're afraid some nut job will start killing our staff or bombing our offices," I'd be okay with it. If they said, "Here in PEI we have two cops and they're busy catching potato thieves and Anne of Green Gables vandals, so we can't protect our little university from a screaming mob of semi-literate fanatics," that would really be a much better justification than "We need to be more sensitive to the beliefs of a bunch of fanatics who happen to think we should also ban gay marriage and lop off the hands of thieves."
But this craven approach is nonsense. The minute we start allowing ourselves to be sensitive, we are bowing to their demands. Has that approach ever been taken in North America with any other religion? We've seen plenty of cartoons blaspheming about Christianity or Judaism here and people get huffy but no newspaper says "we need to be more sensitive." [I'm using italics for the word sensitive to give it a sneer].
Likewise, how far can this go? What if a paper prints a cartoon mocking Chinese Communism? Is that not quite as bad? Where does the line get drawn - we have to be sensitive to religion but not political parties? We have to be careful about offending Muslims but it's okay to poke fun a those who practice voodoo? Catholic Church: Fair Game / Southern Baptists:Not?
Further, when I was sworn in as a US citizen, Dubya in his taped message, after telling me how great it was I can practice my faith, said that America was the "most free" country in the world. One of my family member was told by a coworker that America was better than Europeans because we were "more free" than them.
It seems to me that the tables have turned.
Self-censorship at mob demand is as bad as government censorship - it's just a different party doing the censoring.