With the current furor over cartoon depictions of Mohammed, I’ve decided to take a step back and look at the big picture. Just how serious is blasphemy taken by some of the other major religions, and just how much respect is accorded other faiths by non-practicioners? (I figure as a repeatedly-self-declared agnostic, I am the closest thing to a disinterested party as there is around.)
Let’s look at some examples of blasphemous imagery, and see how they are handled:
First, there’s this cartoon I stumbled across a while ago. It is rankly offensive to two major faiths — Christianity and Judaism. But I have to admit I snorted at it. I even shared it with a select few (OK, just Laurence Simon), who said he was going to post it, but he never did.
How about stuff that’s pretty much guaranteed to offend Christians? How is that handled?
How did Christians react to these desecrations of their holiest symbols with bodily wastes? Yeah, there was a hue and cry. There may have been even a death threat or two. But the most extreme reaction I can recall by most people was a denouncement that these had been paid for with taxpayer money — THEIR money — and they were outraged over that. I don’t recall massive Christian riots over them, burning buildings and calling for death.
Judaism takes a bit more abuse. Partly because they’re a smaller group, partly because they’re much more in-your-face to the Muslim world, partly out of respect for historical tradition. But take a look at some of the anti-Semitic cartoons collected here, or this award-winning cartoon. Pretty extreme stuff, but again no major backlash.
Then there’s Islam.
The Ten Commandments, common to all three faiths mentioned above, says you shall not worship graven images. In Islam, this is taken to the extreme that one should not even create an image of Mohammed. And whether or not you believe in the tenets of Islam or not, they’re bound and determined that we shall all live by them.
Therefore, it is an unforgivable sin for ANYONE to draw pictures of Mohammed. Even non-Moslem cartoonists in a Western democracy, acting fully within their legal and moral rights — for the Danish government to tolerate that is, to much of the Islamic world, a declaration of war.
One of the basic tenets I learned in a class on ethics is that for any ethical system of beliefs to be acceptable, it must be universal. It must apply equally to all, or it is inherently unfair. So, by that standard, it seems that the governing principle underlying the Muslim outrage must be that one must respect a religion’s beliefs, even if you don’t ascribe to them.
And how does Islam rate on that standard?
The Taliban, who I think we can all agree represented a very fundamentalist view of Islam, decided that its “no graven images” belief extended to two huge statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. And, with great ceremony and glee, they destroyed them — despite pleas from the world community, not just Buddhists.
In 2002, Palestinian terrorists fleeing Israeli military forces entered and occupied the Church of the Nativity. While the siege lasted, they repeatedly desecrated the Church and abused the Christian staff. And when they left, there were no apologies, no reparations — just celebrations that they had negotiated their way out, proclaiming it a great victory.
And let us NEVER forget the ongoing extermination of any signs of Jewish occupation of the Temple Mount, undertaken by the Palestinian Authority in contravention of international law and done under the color of “restoration” to the mosque built on top of the holiest site to Jews.
In Muslim nations, there is freedom to belong to another faith. As long as you don’t make a point of it. That means you can’t display any signs of your faith. You can’t build a house of worship. You have to pay a special non-Muslim tax. And if you get caught “attempting to convert” a Moslem (which could mean something as innnocuous as explaining your beliefs to a curious Moslem), you can be put to death.
That’s just for Christians. Jews have it even worse — when they’re even allowed entry into the country.
So let’s sum up: according to the Moslems, our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and all the rest are secondary to the tenets of a faith the vast majority of us simply don’t believe in.
I think not. The Golden Rule applies here: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If the Moslem world wants respect, it must be willing to give it.
I am reminded of a great quote from Mahatma Gandhi. When asked about his opinion of Western civilization, he replied “I think it would be a good idea.”
Modern-day Islam, I am sad to say, is reminding me more and more of contemporary gangs. So eager to answer any insult or challenge, incredibly prickly about their “rights” and “turf,” and so quick to resort to violence. The Danish cartoons were a “dis” on them, and they seem poised to go to any lengths to avenge that slight.
So what do I think of Moslem civilization? I think it would be a good idea — but I’m basing that purely on speculation, as I’ve seen damned little evidence of it so far.