What can be learned from the Danish cartoon controversy? The first is that we are surrendering the interpretation of the Koran to the more radical Islamic fundamentalists. After a few days of the controversy, we heard from many Muslims such as Iranian journalist Amir Tahri and blogger Iraq the Model that Muslim drew more controversial pictures throughout their history than what the Danes published. On top of that, the more controversial pictures distributed though out the Middle East were fabricated by some of the Islamic clerics themselves. (If it is heresy for infidels to publish unflattering pictures of Mohammad, what about Islamic clerics themselves? If they fabricate pictures and then distribute them, is that not worthy of at least a stoning or a beheading of a few clerics?) So maybe, we should not automatically allow the more extremists of Islamic clerics to consider what is or is not heresy. To do so only strengthens their hands against the more moderate Muslims.
The second aspect is to quit apologizing to these radical forces. When these pictures were originally reprinted last fall in Egypt, no noticeable wrath came from Muslim clerics. They became political weapons to be used against the democratization process that is proceeding in the Middle East. Sari Hanafi of the American University in Beirut told the New York Times, “These autocracies made use of the cartoons (the most offensive of which were fabrications) as a way of showing that the expansion of freedom and democracy in their countries would lead inevitably to the denigration of Islam.”
What we are seeing is an orchestrated efforts by autocratic regimes colluding with extreme fundamentalist clerics to conjure up Muslim rage for their own political gains. Denmark is scheduled to assume the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council and the Iranian mullahs goal is to intimidate the Danes and other European nations as Iranian nuclear program become an issue for the UN. Self-styled radical Islamic leaders throughout Europe, with close ties to some of the fundamentalists regimes in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, are using these cartoons to assert their dominance over Muslim minorities struggling to gain a foothold in the mainstream of European life.
This was not about religion but about politics. When the National Endowment for the Arts used government money to promote a picture of a crucifix in a bottle of urine, there were no massive calls for murder by Christians. The picture of Mohammad with a bomb in his turban was much about the abuse of Mohammad words being used to promote needless violence as anything else. How can anyone truly judge if a picture is truly offensive if it is not allowed to be printed?
The one lesson learned that it is okay to use government money to insult Christians but it is not okay to draw cartoons to make political points about the apparent terrorist activities of some Muslims. Much of the media refuse to publish the pictures and most Americans and Europeans have yet to see the original pictures. One Iraqi blogger estimated that 90% of the Arab world hasn’t see these pictures. So before we declare something offensive, it might be nice if we could preview them. Christian symbols are insulted quite frequently by our own culture. This doesn’t excuse the insults but in an open society, those things that we hold most dear will be satirize.
One aspect of this controversy is that once again we see our enemies for who they are. Many radical Muslims are exporting their Middle East repressive regimes to Europe. Wall Street European editor Daniel Schwammenthal writes, “The Islamists can’t send the journalists to a gulag but they can silence them by threatening to kill them. Bomb threats twice forced the journalists to flee their offices last week. “
And it appears that this intimidation is working. Schwammenthal observed, “Just as was the case with communism, Islamic totalitarian impulses find their apologists in the West. In Qatar, former President Bill Clinton decried the “totally outrageous cartoons against Islam.” EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said the journalists “have to understand the offense caused by cartoons of this nature.”
By failing to defend our own ideals, we have conceded the high ground to the most murderous aspects of the terror network. The strength of a culture, a faith or an ideal is how it stands up to scrutiny by its critics. If a faith refuses to allow itself to be challenged or faith to be tempted, then is not faith or ideal that has truly taken root. Christians have seen their own faith mocked in our secular society but many still hold their faith to be the truth. For many, their faith is their bedrock and their identity and no amount of sacrilege will dissuade them. The strength of our culture is that we allow open debate and it is in those debates that our ideals are strengthen.
Blogger Iraq the Model gives the following advice to the European, “One last thing, even if the entire EU apologizes it won’t change a thing; fanatics in our countries here had always considered the west their infidel arrogant crusader enemy and no apology no matter how big or sincere can change that.” Appeasement on this issue will not strengthen our position in the Islamic world but only encourage the more murderous to continue further upon the path of destruction. Fanaticism will not be deterred by appeasement of our own principles.