When my sister-in-law was little, she could be teased very easily. Just looking at her funny was enough to bring on the tears. She has grown out of that, but you’d only expect an adult to grow out of that childish state of super-sensitivity. It’s part of becoming an adult. Life can be cruel, and growing up means learning how to deflect or ignore the sometimes cruel comments that others make.
This is also true with religion. As Robert Heinlein famously wrote, “One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.” As much as you might prefer otherwise, not everyone will treat your religion with the dignity and respect you believe it deserves. You might think that, with 33% of the world’s population identifying as Christians, people would treat Christianity with the greatest amount of respect, but that’s certainly not the case — especially in the art world. Chris Ofili created a multi-media treatment of the Virgin Mary spattered with elephant dung and cutouts of female genitalia from pornographic magazines. That’s the sort of dignity and respect that ought to be shown the mother of Jesus Christ, right? What about Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ? In case you missed the controversy back in 1987, Piss Christ is an “art” piece created by dunking a crucifix into a bottle of the artist’s own urine and then photographing the image. When Christians complained about these two creations, claiming they desecrated the images of two of the most holy personages in Christianity, the near-universal response from the art crowd was “Suck it up, Christian crybabies!” And Christians, for the most part, did just that. That is why you don’t remember Christians threatening to cut Serrano’s throat, or Billy Graham urging his co-religionists to end Ofili’s life. In the West, the right to free expression simply trumped the importance of showing respect for the religious sensibilities of Christians.
This is why, at least twice a year, certain people gather to protest and mock my religion right in the faces of my co-religionists — and they are not fire-bombed, attacked, or beheaded. Under the watchful eyes of the local police who are there to protect their freedom of speech, these protesters drag holy scriptures across the concrete and mime wiping their buttocks with sacred religious vestments, all the while loudly proclaiming that people of my faith are going to hell. If someone of my faith should lose his cool at the protesters’ blasphemous acts and get into a scuffle with them, it will be he — not the chanting, insulting, offensive protesters — who is arrested and taken away. Here in the U.S., we prize freedom of speech more than freedom from offense. That’s why people here can feel safe in mocking even what we hold most holy. Kanye West is safe even when he poses as Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone, although the Left seems to believe this is an edgy, courageous stand against the fundamentalist Christians who swarm around in the Red States. But taking a poke at Christians is safe because Christians have become more mature than those who choose to make fun of them.
So let’s fast-forward to September 2005. The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed some political cartoons about Islam and its prophet Mohammed. You can view the 12 political cartoons in question at Zombie’s page, about 3/4 of the way down. The first 3/4 of the page shows representations of Mohammed across the centuries. Incensed Muslims in Denmark forwarded these images to their co-religionists across the globe, also including three highly-offensive images that were not printed by the newspaper. Methinks some people intended to stir up trouble, and they have succeeded. Danish embassies have been burned in Lebanon and Syria, and the angry rioters have not targeted only the Danes. Other Scandinavian places have been indiscriminately attacked and trashed. Neither are news people immune from making mistakes like this; my wife and I heard a news reporter accidentally report how the Muslim people were angry over Dutch cartoons. I guess if Muslims can attack the Norwegian Embassy in Tehran, Iran, then it’s also OK for the geographically-challenged press not to know the difference between Holland and Denmark. (Hint to press: one is Scandinavian, the other is not.)
So what is the difference between how Christians and Muslims react when their religious icons are mocked? Christians do not consider Christ any less holy or worthy of respect than Muslims do Mohammed. The difference is one of maturity. Christianity has been around for about two thousand years, and it has grown up a bit during that time. Islam, on the other hand, sprang up some 600 years later, and it is a little like your kid brother. When things don’t go according to the Prophet’s wishes, Muslims pitch a fit with yelling, crying, and wild flailing of fists. While a child’s temper tantrums are annoying, these fits of rage can get downright deadly when they’re being pitched by immature, brittle adults with knives and firearms. And that might be my biggest problem with the way Muslims react to any impugned dishonor of their faith. Armed riots seem to be the standard Islamic response to anything that upsets them. Someone puts panties on a prisoner’s head — it’s time to riot! Someone makes up a story about flushing the Koran — it’s time to riot! Someone draws a disrespectful picture of Mohammed — it’s time to riot! The picture above was taken from a recent demonstration against the Danish cartoons. It would appear that, to Muslims, it is morally acceptable to respond to an insult by killing the insulter. Oh, yeah, that’s a mature attitude.
Not only does Islam seem brittle and immature, the world is also perceiving it as a deeply insecure movement because of the widespread backlash against Denmark. Those who are inwardly secure in their faith rarely require the approval of their beliefs by others; much less do they demand such approval with a show of violence. This behavior is the mark of an inherently uncertain and unstable belief system, one that constantly requires propping up. Islam seems to need a perennial enemy to focus its bile and hatred upon — whether it is the Jews, the Crusaders, the infidels, the Americans, the West or Denmark — just so it can remain a cohesive entity.
It is a mistake to think that Muslims can be placated by apologizing for these cartoons. If they had not set off the Muslims, something else would have done just as well. This is the ideological equivalent of a child’s tantrum, pure and simple — a violent, unreasonable demand that the world fear Muslim might and kowtow to every Muslim sensibility. And like all tantrums, if we choose to defer to the first angry outburst, more and worse ones are sure to follow.
So there is just one thing to say about all this: “Suck it up, Muslim crybabies!”
P.S. If you issue a fatwa calling for my death because of this post, you will only have proven my point.
Addendum (2/8/2006): A few updates on MuslimFreakoutOverSillyCartoonsGate:
HonestReporting.com is showing the hypocrisy of Muslims whining about the “offensive” Danish cartoons when they have no problem printing their own anti-Semitic cartoons.
There were a dozen political cartoons printed in Jyllands-Posten, but when the Danish Muslims passed the cartoons to their brittle coreligionists, they included three other images without revealing where they got them. Gateway Pundit has uncovered the origin of one of these three extra images. It’s not a picture of Mohammad at all. It’s from a pig calling contest.
Ted Rall, a political cartoonist, has waded into this discussion on uExpress.com. While I find his cartoons unfunny, and his politics laughable, I actually agree with this paragraph he wrote:
What if millions of people take offense? What if some of them turn violent, even murderous? So what? No one can make you angry. You decide whether or not to become angry. If journalistic gatekeepers worry about the mere possibility of prompting outrage, they’ll validate mob rule and undermine our right to a free press, one that covers the controversial along with the bland.
Addendum (2/9/2006): From what Michelle Malkin is reporting, it was NeanderNews that uncovered the source of the pig-snouted image passed around by the Danish Imams. Kudos to Dennis for discovering this!
JunkYardBlog has a great summation of this Comic Jihad issue in an under two minutes video file. Watch it and share it with a friend. Then share it with another.
Addendum (2/16/2006): So the major news companies tell us they won’t post copies of the 12 Danish cartoons because it will inflame the sensibilities of the Islamic world, but at the same time they have no problem running more Abu Ghraib pictures which will inflame the sensibilities of the Islamic world. Cox and Forkum has a great cartoon about this very subject: