|By Danny Kampf
I dont often see things as black and white, but this Danish/Muslim
cartoon controversy is the most trumped up, absurd story Ive heard
in a long while. It both infuriates and shocks me that nearly every time
I talk to a fellow student about this issue, their first reaction is to
equate the situation as a struggle between two extremes. How people can
even think of comparing a few cartoonists to riotous mobs of violent fundamentalists
is really beyond my comprehension.
Just in case you havent been following the news lately, it all
began last September in Denmark, when the national paper Jyllands-Posten
published 12 cartoons about Mohammed. Some of the pictures were less
than flattering. Strangely enough though, when they first came out,
there was surprisingly little uproar even in the Middle East.
In fact, a month after their initial publication in Denmark, an Egyptian
paper, Al Fagr, printed the cartoons in a front page article designed
to show them in bad taste; and yet, no reaction of consequence materialized.
So how did we go from there to torching Danish flags and embassies?
Well, things didnt really get ugly until a rather conservative
delegation of Danish Muslims left Denmark to tour the Middle East
cartoons in hand. But this was no idle tour. Galvanizing outrage and
proselytizing their intolerant beliefs was the purpose of their trip.
However, because the original cartoons failed to make a splash on their
own, the group, led by the Imam Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, decided
to spice things up a bit with some additional work of their own.
The informal delegation, in what can only be described as propaganda,
disseminated cartoons of Mohammed being portrayed in a variety of racist
ways. Some pictures showed the prophet with a pigs body, while
others just settled for a nice pair of devil horns. Whats interesting
about this is that these pictures never saw the light of day in Denmark,
even though they were falsely attributed to Jyllands-Posten. Needless
to say, the outrage spread from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia in the blink
of an eye. Before anyone knew what was going on, ambassadors were being
withdrawn from Denmark and people were dying in riots.
Were the original cartoons offensive? It depends on who you ask, but
I would say they werent. In fact, I would argue that most of them
were rather tame and that all of them constituted legitimate satire.
The only possible exception to this is the cartoon that has gotten the
most play in our media: the one showing Mohammed with a turban shaped
like a bomb.
But this is more than the unfocused racism its detractors accuse it
of being; it is political, albeit blunt, satire. One cannot deny that
there exists a small minority of Muslims who have engaged, and continue
to engage, in murder and in some cases, mass murder all
the while citing Mohammed and Islam as their inspiration. From Theo
Van Gogh to September 11, the world has born witness to a minute, but
significant, population of religiously motivated killers who naturally
reflect poorly on the broader religion they claim to represent.
Isnt it natural for the West to satirize those who seek to undermine
its very existence through acts of terrorism? Which is really the ugly
caricature of Islam, the Danish cartoons or the terrorists they mock?
Yet thats not even the issue at hand according to CAIR and other
Muslim advocacy groups. The issue is supposedly independent of any underlying
political commentary. Ostensibly, what has so many Muslims upset is
simply the literal depiction of Mohammed himself, something which is
traditionally frowned upon in Islamic teachings.
But if that were true, where were all the riots when South Park
portrayed a ridiculously silly Mohammed (who, if I recall correctly,
had the power to shoot fireballs)? The Supreme Court has a statue of
Mohammed and yet no one has set fire to a U.S. embassy. Dantes
Inferno describes Mohammed as a sinner who is eternally
burning in hell; and there are numerous depictions of his eternal plight
in Italy so where are the violent mobs swearing jihad against
Maybe its just a matter of time before the people who are burning
Danish flags today switch their attention to one of the aforementioned
abominations against Islam. But that would just further demonstrate
how ridiculous this whole mess really is.
See, theres something we prize in the West and its called
free speech. That includes the right to irresponsible and offensive
speech. Muslims are hardly the first religion to be mocked in the public
realm. Both South Park and Family Guy feature
Jesus Christ as a regular character. In one episode of South Park,
Jesus boxed Satan. In another, a statue of the Virgin Marry explosively
bled in the Popes face.
And you know what? It was hilarious.
It strikes me as odd that even moderate Muslims are offended
by these cartoons. I mean Jesus Christ! Theyre just cartoons!
Did that take youre breath away? Good, because that illustrates
my point. A faith that cant laugh at itself is an insecure faith.
And in case you didnt notice, I also just blasphemed Christianity.
To be specific, I took the Lords name in vain. Moreover, I did
so in an utterly tasteless and vulgar manner meant to shock our cultural
But do I fear for my life, as the Danish cartoonists now do?
No, I dont. And the reason for this is because religious taboos
dont apply to those outside of ones religion. As Andrew
Sullivan put it in his excellent article in Time (Your Taboo,
Not Mine), I eat pork and I'm not an anti-Semite.
Whether or not the Hadith explicitly forbids Muslims from portraying
Mohammed has no bearing on me, nor should it. After all, the Hadith
forbids the portrayal of any of Allahs prophets, including Moses
and Jesus. Yet what Muslim would really get offended if I drew Jesus?
Even if someone did, why should I care? Its a ridiculous proposition
that what I can and cannot do is dictated by someone elses religious
But this whole sensitivity debate reveals an entirely different issue
altogether: the gross double standard towards anti-Semitism. The Muslim
media routinely depicts horrendously racist caricatures of Jews. Yet
hardly a peep can be heard from the Muslim community, even inside the
Moreover, there is no political satire to these cartoons. They amount
to little more than Holocaust denial and with no apparent sense of irony,
a ridiculous conflation of Nazism and Jewish-ness.
Why is our media playing into this game? So far, the New York Times,
USA Today, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have all
failed to print the cartoons. On top of that, CNN, NBC and CBS wont
show them either.
Why? Because theyre offensive to Muslims? Have we really been
reduced to restricting our access of information to what is deemed religiously
In what must be one of the greatest acts of televised incongruity,
CNN vividly displayed a series of Jewish caricatures (which were blatantly
racist) during a segment on anti-Semitism in the Arab media; when the
segment concluded, Wolf Blitzer stared into the camera and, in all honesty,
said they refrained from showing pictures of Mohammed out of respect
for the Muslim community. As Tim Rutten put it in the Los Angeles Times
(Lets be Honest about the Cartoons), He didnt
Whats going on in the U.S. media today essentially amounts to
fascist bullying. Theres another reason why editors of this nations
media firms refuse to reprint the cartoons a rarely articulated
reason: Out of fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood
of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will
on those who do not believe as they do. Those were the words of
the Boston Phoenix, which went on to claim, Simply stated, we
are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles
of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place
the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies
in physical jeopardy.
Why would they fear for their lives? Its not just the violence
in the Middle East; its the threat of violence over in Europe.
Protestors in London, not exactly the pinnacle of the Islamist underground,
carried signs in one demonstration that read, Be Prepared for
the Real Holocaust, Europe You Will Pay. Your 9/11 is on
Its Way, Behead Those who Insult Islam, Exterminate
Those who Slander Islam and a thousand variants in between.
This goes beyond freedom of speech. This is the foundation of fascism.
These are the brown shirts of today.
And yet it all started with just 12 cartoons in Denmark. If there was
ever to be a more telling clash of civilizations, let it be this: the
West stands for freedom of speech, domestic non-violence and moderate
religion. What does Islam stand for?
Those who are moderate and rationale Muslims need to establish themselves
as the loud majority. If they dont, they will cede control of
their religion to a set of fundamentalists, whose sole purpose is to
drive themselves and everyone else into a permanent war with the West.
And if anything proves the veracity of those 12 cartoons, its