Cartoon Violence

Of course, I refer to the worldwide Muslim riots in connection with the publication of a satirical cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. As usual, I have tried to understand the violence by imagining my response to a similar “insult” to my own beliefs. Maybe someone could depict Jesus in a disrespectful way (as has of course been done often) or make fun of Catholics devotion to the Blessed Virgin. You get the picture. I can certainly imagine strong responses from the Catholic/Christian community, and perhaps some demonstrations or even boycotts. I can imagine a vigorous public discussion questioning the motivation behind the images and decrying them as vicious, unwarranted attacks. I cannot, however, imagine worldwide riots.

In fairness to Muslims, the publication of these images does appear to have been a rather blatant provocation. Ostensibly, the cartoons were published to test the theory that “Muslim fundamentalists had begun affecting the freedom of expression in Denmark. In retrospect, not such a good idea. Nonetheless, the Islamic response does itself appear a bit “cartoonish.” After all, the drawing of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban does capture rather eloquently, it seems to me, one readily apparent aspect of today’s Muslim fundamentalists. And, unlike Jesus and most other prophets, Mohammed did promote the use of violence against “infidels.”

But for Muslims, this logical analysis of the right of free speech and the use of satire is beside the point. Their religion considers the cartoons sacrilegious and blasphemous. As a Catholic, I have seen (or heard about) worse examples of sacrilege and blasphemy directed against my church. I don’t like it, but neither do I call for the beheading of the perpetrator. And, in some cases, I might look deeper into the reasons behind the “attack” to understand what aspect of my church’s image might have caused someone to justify it. For example, I would tend not to react strongly to “sacrilegious” criticism of the Church for the priest pedophelia scandal.

Similarly, I would expect Muslims to understand the image problems created by Islamic terrorists. Suicide bombing is wrong, and ought not be supported or promoted by any religious faith. To the extent that the Islamic faith supports violent behavior, it too is wrong, and subject to severe criticism. The violent demonstrations now ongoing tend to justify the West’s characterization of parts of Islam as dangerously deranged.

DadNews02/08/06 3 comments


Patrick • 02/08/06 3:36 PM:

I have thought about posting on this issue, but wondered if there were really anything worthwhile to say about it that would be more than a sort of preaching to the choir. I did find an interesting note by Christopher Hitchens on Slate, at least:

As well as being a small masterpiece of inarticulacy and self-abnegation, the statement from the State Department about this week’s international Muslim pogrom against the free press was also accidentally accurate.

“Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images, as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief.”

Thus the hapless Sean McCormack, reading painfully slowly from what was reported as a prepared government statement. How appalling for the country of the First Amendment to be represented by such an administration. What does he mean “unacceptable”? That it should be forbidden? And how abysmal that a “spokesman” cannot distinguish between criticism of a belief system and slander against a people. However, the illiterate McCormack is right in unintentionally comparing racist libels to religious faith.

While I disagree with Hitchens, who seems to be gleefully insulting those who are religious, I agree that parallelism in our grammar is of utmost importance. We all know what Sean McCormack meant to say, but I hope we all also know what he said: that religious belief itself is unacceptable.

Let us take more care with our use of the English language, brothers and sisters (and parents).

Dad • 02/08/06 11:16 PM:

As suggested by the opening sentence of his third paragraph, grammar is apparently not very important to Hitchens either. And, later in the piece, his use of parallel structure to equate the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger to the “reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers” is as indefensible as it is reprehensible. He insults not only Muslims with his words, but also most of the rest of the world. Then he pontificates about his own “principles” that prevent him from resorting to the type of physical violence we are currently seeing from his less-evolved brethren. One might expect a little more civility from someone named Christopher.

Let me go on record as not recommending that Mr. Hitchens have his head removed (although he might consider having it examined). Between his mocking and unsupported insults, he does make some good points. Perhaps the best comes near the end of his essay, where he says that “… free expression trumps the emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be inconvenient.” Amen. (If you don’t mind my saying so.)

David • 02/11/06 12:06 AM:

I found this NPR piece, Where Do Editorial Cartoonists Draw the Line? to be pretty interesting. A few artists are interviewed, including Mike Luckovich, a Catholic.

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