Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Feb. 4, 2006

February 3, 2006

Drawing A Line

I assume by now you've heard about the flap over the cartoons of the prophet Mohammad that ran in a Danish newspaper back in September. If not, catch up here.

The reaction against these cartoons is so over the top I don't even know where to begin my rant. It begins with the Koran, an appendix of which carries quotes from Mohammad, including one forbidding drawings or pictures of any living creature, since only God can create living creatures.

Over time this doodling prohibition was narrowed to just humans. But then mega-maniacal Mullahs like Ayatollah Khomeini so much liked seeing their faces plastered on everything from money to billboards. So the prohibition was narrowed to just drawings or pictures of Mohammad himself. (Even that rule seems to have its commercial limits as visitors to Iran will attest that paintings and posters of Mohammad and Mecca can be easily found in the local markets.)

So, what's this flap all about, really? What we have here is a mass inferiority complex on steroids. Muslims feel the West disrespects them. Gee. I wonder how on earth that could be?

Could it be because they lump all us non-Muslims together as 'infidels," demanding from the West while heaping ridicule and disdain on us?

Or that the only time we see Muslims rioting over something it's an inanimate object, like Korans, novels or cartoons. But they seem able to go on as if nothing significant has occured when one of their own blows up a bus load of innocent men, women and children.

Maybe it's because they claim covering their women from head to toe and restricting their every movement is their way of showing respect for women. While we notice Muslim men don't seem interested in being treated to that brand of "respect" themselves.

It could also be because we sense a double standard when women accused of adultry are gang raped and/or stoned to death for their half of the "crime," while their male co-conspirators get off with a few lashes and live to adulter another day.

It could be any one, or all the above. But for me the bottom line is the quality of the cultures themselves. While the western countries are far from perfect, those of us living in them are not exactly chaffing at the bit to trade places with the folks rioting over a few cartoons.

Respect can't be had on demand. It's earned – or not – as the case may be. The Islamic world has not only failed to earn the West's respect, but seems to working overtime to lose what little they have.

The fact of the matter is that, despite the West's dependence on oil, the Islamic world is largey a ward of the West. The Saudis and Kuwaitis spend their oil money on bling -- from the western nations. It's the West that keep the Egyptians afloat. It's the West (and Israel) that keeps the Palestinians in business. It's the West that shows up when tsunamis wipe out Muslim Indonesians.

For the most part the Muslim world is a backwater of civilization a social, political and financial basket case.

I had to chuckle last night as I watched Arab shopkeepers pulling Western goods off their shelves in protest of other European papers running the offending cartoons. They said they were going to boycott all western goods until the governments in question apologize. Right. So until they get such an apology the Blue Light Specials at Alladin-Mart will be limited to all-things goat, hummus and hemp sandals. We'll see how long that lasts.

And when the bird flu sweeps through the Islamic world they will demand the West provide western developed vaccine, quickly and free. Because their scientists had either fled to the West or busy trying how to build nuclear weapons to develop a vaccine of their own.

Let's compare the Muslim world's reaction to the cartoons of Mohammad to how a mature nation responds to such a trival event. There was a similar flap a couple of years ago in France over a cartoon, only that time it was Christians who got their knickers a twist. The cartoon made fun of the Pope's opposition to any form of birth contro. It depicted Jesus, stark naked, with a woody, wearing a condom. Catholics screamed foul and the case made its way to the top French court. The court ruled that, thought the cartoon was certainly offensive to some people, it was not against any laws, nor should it be. Freedom of the press also means freedom to offend. Becasue without the freedom to offend, a free press cannot exist.

Which brings me to our western media. Several French and German newspapers immediately reprinted the Danish paper's cartoons in support of a free press. US news outlets have, for the most part, self-censored, reporting the story but withholding the cartoons from their readers.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

What every western news operation should do is show those cartoons with every story they run on the rioting over them. The message should be that attempts to intimidate and censor a free press will result in just the opposite. Try and you will only get more of what you don't like, not less. Caving in those ignoramuses is like paying a blackmailer or giving into hostage takers. Once it begins, it never ends.

I have a challenge for the Arab press too. Do your job as journalists. Send your reporters and cameras into the markets of Baghdad, Cairo, Mecca and Tehran and show the pictures, posters and drawings of Mohammad being sold there. It's time your Islamic readers (at least those who can read) make up their minds about pictures. And, while you're at it, show some of the worst of the hundreds of anti-semitic cartoons that run in Arab papers every year, and ask the rhetorical question – is this wrong too? And if not, why not?

The proper response to this flap by the West should simply be, “Get over it! Then get a clue. This is 2006 AD, not 1206 AD."

Though I can see how many in the Muslim world might not have noticed.