Monday, February 13, 2006

What to Do About the Cartoons?

When my daughter was young she discovered that she could get almost anything by masking enough of a fuss. Eventually her mother would give in to keep peace in the family. My feeling was that she was that giving in might provide short-term peace but it assured more fights in the future.

As Moslem protests continue over the Mohammed cartoons, the European Union is suggesting some sort of "voluntary" rules to prevent future occurrences. The Moslem world is making a fuss and the West is giving in in the interests of peace.

Of course, there are many agendas involved. Iran and Syria are distracting the world and their own populations from other issues - Iran's nuclear program and Syria's interests in Lebanon. Regardless, this is a world-wide protest. The same thing happened last year when a report was published that American guards flushed a Koran down a toilet.

It should be remembered that the Danish editor who ran the cartoons didn't wake up one morning and decide to insult Islam. He was outraged himself that artists in Denmark were already afraid to draw the prophet for a children's book. The cartoons were a protest.

It should also be remembered that some of the cartoons are not offensive. One is straight-forward. Two incorporate Mohammed and the crescent (although some people are offended because this appears to give the prophet horns). The best of them shows a cartoonist looking over his shoulder in fear while drawing a face labeled "Mohammed". For some reason these cartoons are never mentioned but the one with the bomb in the turban is described in every news report. Just do a Google News search for the words "bomb", "turban", and "cartoon" and see how many hundred hits you get. In this way the news media are cooperating with the protestors by making it seem that all of the cartoons are offensive.

While I'm listing things to remember I should add that prior to these protests, the main stories in the news about Moslems involved the death count from Iraq (due to bombs) and Iran's nuclear program (building The Bomb). To most of the West, the face of Islam wears a bomb.

So what should be done? I think that we should go ahead and fight it out. More papers should print the cartoons. All papers should print them. Daily. Eventually the Muslim world will get tired of the fight. They will see that derision by non-believers does not affect their own faith.

Otherwise we will continue to suffer from hyper-sensitive hypocrisy from the Moslem world. After all, how can they complain about twelve cartoons (or fifteen counting the three fakes that have been distributed in the Moslem world) when they are producing movies like Valley of the Wolves. This movie shows American troops led by Gary Busey attacking an Iraqi funeral and kidnapping guests who are harvested for body parts by Billy Zane. This sort of slander appears daily in the middle-east and is watched by the same people protesting Danish cartoonists.

A better model for protest would be the fish wars. Many Baptists and other Christians use the fish symbol for Jesus. In response, some people started putting Darwin fish on their cars. These are similar fish, facing the other way with small feet and the word "Darwin" on them. The Darwin fish are making fun of the religious beliefs of many Christians but instead of protests and death threats, they responded with a bigger Jesus fish labeled "truth" eating a Darwin fish. Both sides have escalated from there. This site, for example, has 40 different anti-Jesus fish including the ever-popular Gefilte Fish (they also have the cartoons). This is how to fight religious arguments - with the bumper sticker.

Anyway, the issue is free speech vs. accomodation. The measure of free speech is not how far you go to protect things that you believe in, it is how far you go to protect other people's words. The cartoons were published as a political protest over existing limits on freedom of speech. Moslems are using this to try to formalize these limits. Regardless of how you feel about the cartoons, if you believe in free speech then you cannot apologize for them being printed nor can you agree to future restrictions.

One last thing to remember - speech in Europe isn't as free as in America. Europeans already have a number of restrictions on free speech, especially concerning Hitler. The best complaint I have heard about the cartoons is that a country that makes it illegal to question the Holocaust should also make it illegal to insult the prophet. The answer to this should be to make all speech free instead of making more topics forbidden.

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