Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Cartoon Riots

Questions abound, as usual, Bush, in the matter of the world-wide riots in the wake of re-publication of those original Danish cartoons poking irreverent fun at the prophet Mohammed and, by extension, the Muslim religion. Interesting that they seemed to evoke no such response at the time of their original publication. Perhaps the venue was too restricted to attract much notice. But no, it was their recent re-publication in newspapers throughout Europe that set the Muslim world on fire with religiously-inspired rage.

The questions swirl around such things as freedom of expression and respect for the rights and religious beliefs of others: Was the original publisher right in soliciting--as I understand it--cartoons depicting attitudes toward Islam? In publishing the results? Were the European papers justified in republishing the cartoons to inform their readers what the fuss was about? Were they perhaps obligated to "report the news"? Were they rashly adding fuel to the flames? Or were they just plain naive? Should they have withheld the pictures from the public out of respect for Islam? Out of good taste? Out of concern for the possible consequences?

Were those who took such deep offense justified in their response, or did they merely lack a sense of humor? Were the perhaps merely irritated reactions of otherwise moderate Muslims exploited and inflamed by radicals who saw the opportunity to take political advantage? Were the protests justified? At what point does the right to peaceful protest stop when violence threatens? How much force is justified in controlling political demonstrations? Are the protesters right in condemning whole countries rather than individual cartoonists and their newspaper outlets? What are we to think, when the publication of a handful of irreverent, perhaps tasteless cartoons leads to wholesale destruction, the attack on embassies, and death? Thirteen people have died already, as of this writing.

The answers, of course, are all imponderable, Bush. Or simply too complex to untangle. But in this tinderbox world, the explosion of rage is deeply troubling. Given where we humans stand today in relation to each other, given the hatred and the fury of perceived disempowerment, given the hardening of political, religious and philosophical arteries and the inability to listen to each other, this handful of silly cartoons has the potential to lead us into World War III. Pathetic, no? And I very much fear that this is a world, in part, of your creation, Bush, in that your policies have done little to better relations with the Islamic countries of the Middle East, and much to reinforce their negative views of America, its power, and its insatiable greed for oil.

1 comment:

PK said...

It would be like wrapping a bomb around the head of Jesus where the thorns were. Not too many cartoonists would put that out there. I see their anger, but not the total violence that has come from it. Would the Christians do that to their Jesus? I think not. The problem I believe stemmed from the fact it was not just once, a year ago, that this cartoon ran, but it was taken up again and published. They could excuse it once as ignorance, not twice.