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Meditation 454
The Bomb in the Turban

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I like editorial cartoons. They are a remarkably effective way of delivering a strong opinion. Now that does not mean I like every cartoon. Quite often I find an editorial cartoon to be overly offensive, or misleading, or ill-informed, sometimes all of these. Unsurprisingly, most, though not all, of such cartoons are ones with which I disagree with the position being presented by the cartoonist.

If I strongly dislike a cartoon, I do have options. I can just ignore it; I can write a letter to the editor protesting; I can even write a letter to the cartoonist; or if I'm exceptionally offended, I can cancel my subscription, thereby depriving the paper which published the cartoon of my patronage. But, I don't see it as reasonable demanding that the government of the country in which the paper is situated apologize to me. In the western world we have a free press, and the government has neither responsibility nor accountability for what is published.

And yet, due to a handful of cartoons published in a newspaper in Denmark, and republished as a demonstration of press freedom in several other European countries, we see massive outrage in the Islamic world, threats of violence, and demands for government action and government apologies.

Now why did the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten publish the dozen caricatures of Muhammad? As explained in the Copenhagen Post:

“Jyllands-Posten called for and printed the cartoons by various Danish illustrators, after reports that artists were refusing to illustrate works about Islam, out of fear of fundamentalist retribution. The newspaper said it printed the cartoons as a test of whether Muslim fundamentalists had begun affecting the freedom of expression in Denmark.”

It would seem they have their answer - and now we now know that Muslim fundamentalists are affecting freedom of expression - if we let them do so.

If you want to see what the furor is about, the cartoons are currently displayed here. This link may not be valid for long. Other sites with the cartoons have dropped them in response to pressure..

There are two major aspects to Muslim objections to the cartoons. First of all there is an Islamic prohibition on depicting Muhammad - an injunction for which there is no direct authority in the Qu'ran. Secondly, several of the cartoons showed Muhammad as a terrorist, the most blatant perhaps being one with a bomb in his turban.

Islamic prohibitions are irrelevant to those of us who are not Muslim. Period. Muslims have no more right to impose their beliefs on others than other religions should impose their beliefs on Muslims. Just as we have to accept the crude and racist anti-Semitic and anti-western cartoons which are a staple of the Arab press, they should be prepared to accept the lower key criticism aimed at them in the western press.

As for the depictions of Muhammad as a terrorist: This is only a mirror held up to the Islamic world. It is their religious leaders who use the teachings of Muhammad to justify terrorism. It is their religious leaders who call for armed jihad. It is their religious leaders who promote the murder of innocents

If Muhammad as a terrorist is objectionable to Muslims, then I say to them: "Get your own house in order."

I will be happy to support the idea that Muhammad is not a terrorist once Islamic religious leaders stop preaching it. And not before.

But, the mob demonstrations, the threats of violence, the demands for apologies from those who had nothing to do with the cartoons, these all point to the validity of the image of the bomb in the turban.