Why events like the Mohammad Cartoon Contest are important



By now you've heard about the two shooters who attacked the Prophet Mohammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. They shot one guard and then were killed themselves.

The raging debate is: is the contest an important demonstration of free speech, or a needless provocation against the Muslim religion? After all, we wouldn't defend a contest that made fun of Christianity, or a contest that made fun of Judaism, would we?

In actuality, of course, Christianity and Judaism are ridiculed non-stop, 24/7. Movies, books, and the media portray Christians as nutjobs, perverts, and radicals. Anti-Semitism loosely disguised as anti-Israel rhetoric has become quite fashionable in Europe and is starting to find a place in American college campuses as well. And yet no one is killed for attacking Christianity or Judaism, because, on the whole, 99.99% of Jews and Christians are very tolerent people.

I wish I could say the same about all Muslims. A substantial minority of them are extremely intolerant. They have their own religous rules, but seem to think the rest of us, who are not in their religion, should follow them as well... or be killed. If nearly all Muslims were peaceloving I would be the first to say that this contest would be an offensive provocation. But because they insist on killing us for not following their rules, I think we need contests like this to show that we will not be cowed and that we are not subject to their rules.

Here's something that may surprise you: many Muslims have no problems with depictions of the Prophet Mohammad, and don't consider it offensive at all. There are two main branches of Islam, Sunni and Shi'ite. Shi'ites generally have no problem with images or drawings of Mohammad, and depictions of Mohammad among Shi'ites are actually quite common! It's only Sunnis, some Sunnis, who have a problem with it. So the world is expected to acccomodate the desires not of a billion Muslims, but merely one faction of a faction of the Islamic religion.

It's not just about cartoons, of course. If Western society caves on this, how long before we are threatened with death sentences if we criticize a particular Ayatollah? Or if we criticize a particular rule among some practicioners of Islam, such as female genital mutilation, or the requirements to wear a burka? You may think, "It's simple, just don't draw Muhammad." But it doesn't end there, the intimidation merely begins there, if you let it.

This dispute over cartoons is also symbolic of the larger authoritarian personality of radical Islam. In the Middle East, and parts of Africa, if they catch you and you are a Christian, Jew, or the wrong kind of Muslim, you die. In Europe right now large gangs of Muslims are systematically hunting down and killing Jews. And this is still while they are in the minority in Europe.

I'm sure those who say that they find such contests needlessly offensive are never offended by the riots in Baltimore or in Oakland or Ferguson. When most Muslims can reach the point where they say, "We disagree with this, but we aren't going to show up with guns to shoot you," when they stop hunting down and killing people of other religions, then I will say the time for such cartoon contests are past, but not until then.

(Abridged version originally published in AT)



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