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Monday, February 13, 2006

The Danish Cartoon Protests: "Clash of Civilizations"? - Reactions & Commentary

This is part II of a three part roundup on the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Protests of February 2006. The first post is titled: "The Danish Cartoon Protests: Spontaneous Indignation or Orchestrated Hatred?"

Orchestrated or not, Muslim anger over the Jyllands-Posten cartoons provoked an internal debate among bloggers, pundits and journalists over a number of issues, including the treatment of religion by the media, the limitations of "free speech," the character of Islam and Christianity, the threat of dhimmitude and the spiritual welfare of Europe.

  • Symposium: The Clash to End All Clashes? Feb. 7, 2006. National Review Online asked some experts on Islam and/or the Mideast for their read on what's going on and what can/should be done. The questions posed to each member: Is this a clash of civilizations we're watching? What can be done? By Muslims? By everyone else? -- Among those participating were a number of Muslims, including Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish Muslim writer based in Istanbul, Turkey (and blogging at The White Path) -- pointing out that "if this reaction were not nationalist, but purely religious in nature, then it would also follow on the mocking of Jesus Christ and Moses. After all, the Koran regards these holy men as God's chosen messengers."

    Also joining in the discussion was Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies ("It is not a "clash of civilizations" that is taking place. It is a clash between civilization and barbarism — which currently expresses itself most forcefully and lethally as Militant Islamism"); Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes (contending that "It certainly feels like a clash of civilizations. But it is not") and Bat Ye'or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1996) and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (2005), who counters:

    We have always been in a clash of civilizations. The fact that our European leaders choose to deny the reality is not an argument to dismiss what is so obvious to everyone. But having a clash of civilizations does not entail a global war of all against all. On the contrary, it imposes a need for a deeper dialogue — a type of dialogue that has been prevented by our leaders, busy to protect the virtual and sanitized image of Islam they tried to impose on Europeans for 30 years, through a culture of self-flagellation, self-guilt, obfuscations, denials, obsequiosity, anti-semitism and anti-Americanism: what we call politically correct and totalitarian language.

  • Jonah Goldberg argues that "this isn't about cartoons":
    We're not talking about "religion." We're talking about a specific religion — Islam. Does anyone truly think that the burning of Danish embassies and calls for the "slaughter" of those responsible by Muslim protestors have really taught the BBC or the New York Times to be more polite to evangelical Christians or Orthodox Jews? Does anyone really think that Arabic newspapers — often state-owned — are going to stop recycling Nazi-era images of Jews as baby killers and hook-nosed conspirators because they've become enlightened to the notion that words can hurt? Considering that an Iranian newspaper just announced a contest for the best Holocaust cartoon, the odds seem slim. Besides, why belittle the Holocaust in response to something a Danish newspaper did?
  • “Religion of Peace” or Riots?, by George Neumayr. NRO February 6, 2006:
    Uproars over criticism of radical Islam almost always follow the same ironic trajectory. First, someone makes an observation about the violent character of Mohammed or Islam. Then what follows? Violent protests and rioting, which serve to illustrate and confirm vividly the criticism that occasioned them.

    Only radical Muslims would consider rioting a rational rebuttal to descriptions of Islam as violent. What other religious group riots or issues death threats after it is criticized? It is precisely because Christianity is so tame that Western liberals often feel safe to lampoon its history as violent. They wouldn't dare level similarly harsh criticism of Islam.

  • Noting that Denmark is our ally in the war on terror,'s Paul J. Cella characterized the defiance against the enemy; RedState colleague Erick dissents:
    As the State Department, I think rightly, said, we should respect the freedom of the press, but there must be responsibility in that freedom. These cartoons were drawn mockingly in a nation where ethnic tension between the native and Muslim has been growing. Perhaps we mature Christians are just use to the scorn and derision of secular society, but Muslims are not. And while I think their outrage has been disproportionate to the offense, at least they are willing to protest the mocking of their faith instead of being willing to accept the secular world's constant peeing on their faith.

    Had it been Christ or the Virgin Mary instead of Muhammad, I guess we would also be supporting the Danish media against the protests of Christians.

  • Picking up from an earlier post (What's at stake in the war with radical Islam Feb. 1, 2006), Michael Liccione (Sacramentum Vitae) believes we are witnessing "that double standard again":
    Say what you want about the emotions aroused by violation of religious sensibilities. Nobody would give Christians a free pass for doing such things, and Muslims shouldn't be either. And some Muslims even say so. But almost to a person, Muslims really want it to be illegal, even in non-Muslim countries, to do things that so deeply offend Muslim sensibilities. From a moral standpoint, I could accept that if the same consideration were extended to every religion—even though such a law would arguably be unconstitutional in the United States. But of course such consideration isn't extended equally to all religions, nor could it be. Muslims cannot be reasonably required to refrain from publishing anything deeply offensive to non-Muslim sensibilities; that would mean, among other things, forbidding them to publicly affirm some things in the Qu'ran. That would be persecution, which nobody wants. So how can non-Muslims reasonably be expected to refrain from publishing anything deeply offensive to Muslim sensibilities?

    There's only one answer: the double standard arising from the natural Muslim belief that their religion is true and all others are inferior if not thoroughly false and contemptible. That is the double standard that must be resisted. Failure to resist it would be dhimmitude, which is morally unacceptable by humanist as well as Christian moral standards. That's why I support Denmark and urge you to do the same.

  • Speaking of double-standards, Amy Welborn takes aim at the New York Press, responding to the news that the entire editorial staff of the alternative NYPress walked out and quit because the paper's management refused to print The Cartoons:
    This is perhaps the most amazingly brazen moment of inconsistency we've seen yet in the press treatment of this material. The paper's management doesn't want to offend religious sensibilities? Really?

    How quickly they forget

  • Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus (First Things' On the Square) concurs that the root issue is dhimmitude:
    [T]he most frontal challenge imaginable has been put to the West. It is a challenge that may soon be backed up by a nuclear threat from Iran. The challenge is simply this: A very large sector of the Islamic world is now demanding that the West live by Islamic rules. . . .

    The current explosion of violent protest is to be understood as a demand that Denmark, and the West more generally, subject itself to Islamic rules about what can and cannot be published. The European response to date, unfortunately aided by pusillanimous comments by our State Department, is an instance of what Margaret Thatcher called “going wobbly.” Warnings by some that Europe is on the way to becoming “Eurabia” have gained further credibility.

    A free press is by no means an unmixed blessing, but it is an essential part of the democratic way of life that we cherish and, as a nation, intend to advance elsewhere. It could turn out to be the case that most of the Islamic world, under the control of those who hold political and religious power, ends up by rejecting the democratic way, which would be very sad. But there should not be the slightest hesitation on our part in making clear that we will not compromise our freedoms by submitting to their rules. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a great deal of timorous hesitation at present.

    Dhimmitude has been a concern of Fr. Neuhaus for some time now -- in 1997 he spoke of "The Approaching Century of Religion" (reviewing Bat Ye'Or's classic work The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude), and in the following year defended Ye'Or's work against the critics from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) in "Islamic Encounters" (First Things 80, February 1998).

  • Multiculturalism vs. Liberalism. Ohio University professor Scott Carson (An Examined Life) on "the intellectual fascists of our time":
    I think it's important to remember that for every weirdo throwing a Molotov cocktail there are many thousands of devout Muslims who would never dream of acting violently towards even the worst of sinners. Islam, like Christianity, worships the God of Mercy and Compassion. The violent folks are not acting qua Muslim when they act violently. There are Christians who sometimes act that way too, though you don't hear about them very often, and they are not acting qua Christian when they act that way, either. These people are not religious fanatics, they are simply fanatics.

    For people like that, democracy is actually a Bad Thing, since it tolerates dissident views. In this sense these fanatics are no different from the Communists or the Fascists, for whom the elimination of opposing views by whatever means necessary is licit if done in service to The Cause. . . .

  • For Mark Shea (Catholic and Enjoying It), this is a good time for Europe to pause and reflect:
    As I've insisted all along, a diseased and inflamed spirituality cannot be healed by a diseased and anemic one. But the Holy Spirit has his own plans. History is not about Islam. It's also not about America or Europe. It's about Jesus Christ and the fullness of his body, which is the Church. Islam, like everything else (including the depraved West) is going to ultimately end up bending the knee to Christ. But the defeat of Islam will come through the Cross more than it will through force of arms (though I think arms are going to be necessary at times).

    Meanwhile, as unpopular as this will make me, let me say that, for the sake of prudence, post-Christian Europe should consider whether it is really able to fight the fight it is warming to with the thin-skinned bullies of Islam. It feels good to tell these pinheads off, I know. And perhaps some kind of conflict is inevitable. The Danish cartoons represent one of those thrilling moments in a movie when the brute who has just deliberately spilled three glasses on the hero's suit finally gets the drink in the face he richly deserves.

    However, after that is the little problem of the logistics of the barfight. Can a Europe that believes in nothing, including life or love, actually sustain a conflict with a culture that very definitely believes in higher things?

    Good question. And in case you're wondering, Mark also explains why this blog has not run the Danish cartoons.

  • When political cartoons criticize or mock Christianity... - Carl Olson (Insight Scoop provides a roundup of mixed reactions. "Meanwhile, the riots continue and the death threats keep rolling in. All this from folks who go violently nuts over cartoons, but regularly produce copious amounts of anti-Semitic literature and anti-Christian ugliness . . . "

  • Teófilo (Vivificat) has a three-part series of posts as well on the "Islamic cartoon rage" (On Mohammmed, caricatures and cross-worshipping; Dinesh D'Souza on Blasphemy and More on the Muslim Reaction), including this observation:
    I remind our Muslim friends of what we did here in the States to squash the rebroadcasting of the South Park episode which many Catholics like me found offensive and tasteless: we wrote letters to parent companies, we appealed to the hearts of a few individuals of Viacom's (the parent company of the Comedy Channel) Board of Directors and to those who purchased advertisements in the program, which threatened the wallets of all involved. What happened? The episode is not going to be broadcasted again, neither in the U.S. nor in the U.K. . . .

    Muslims in traditionally Islamic countries can learn from these grass-roots approach. In fact, they must learn it if they want to foster rational discourse within their own countries, and not sucumb to mob rule, nor to increased government censorship over their media. Considering where the protests are taking place--Syria, Iran, Lebanon--the reaction has been pretty hypocritical in my view. These repressive states allow these protests as a safety valve, for their citizenry to vent their frustrations and emotions against "foreign threats" and not against the ills brought to them by their own regimes.

  • Love and Malice Feb. 7, 2006. Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea) offers a spiritual reflection, introducing the counsel of Holy Scripture, the Holy Father's encyclical and the wisdom of a Desert Father:
    In seventh century Sinai, there was a desert monk who lived in a time when Christian monks in Sinai had to be careful what they said as the early Muslims attacked other monasteries in the area and took political control. It is often thought that he and his fellow monks must have struck a deal, that they would be careful what they said about the Muslims and, in turn, the Muslims would not attack their monastery as they had attacked some other Christians. The references to Islam in John Climacus's Ladder of Divine Ascent are subtle and cautious and few. And yet he counseled his fellow monks . . .

(Part III: The Danish Cartoon Protests: The Vatican Responds).


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