Muhammad Cartoons a Bad Idea

There has been quite a flap the past few days over the widespread publication of some political cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in a bad light–one even showing him with a turban-cum-bomb with a lit fuse.  Bad taste, bad manners, bad judgment.  It inflames prejudices, wounds sensitivities, and arouses hatred.  Can that be good?  One AP article (by Ibrahim Barzak) says, “The furor cuts to the question of which is more sacred in the Western world–freedom of expression or respect for religious beliefs.”  I think not.  I think it exposes a penchant in the Western press to use freedom of expression to make poor choices.  Freedom of expression means that editors were free to choose not to publish things that would certainly provoke a strong and negative reaction.  But, sadly, it also sells papers, and so the choice was made.

 If you are living in an area where these cartoons could cause heightened inter-community tension, which is almost everywhere these days, please put them away.  Better still, try to understand the Muslim point of view, and actively denounce this stupid-headed move.

I have to kill this beast from several angles.  I won’t be able to do it all in one entry.  My first move is to state plainly that Islam (with Muhammad as its founder) doesn’t foster violence or terrorism.  Certain Muslim leaders and factions favor militant actions in response to disrespect–such as attacks on Islam and its leaders, perhaps in the guise of political cartoons–or in response to the encroachment of Western pop culture and moral permissiveness into their traditional strongholds.  The Arab-Israeli conflict is separate and distinct; it’s a struggle for land and self-determination. 

To equate Islam with violence and terror is as ludicrous as equating Christianity with intolerance.  Are there black marks on the history of Christianity?  Certainly.  There’s not room here to go into evidences like the Spanish Inquisition, the deaths of the Reformers, the conflict in Northern Ireland, and other historical lows.  There have been many atrocities performed in the name of Christ and under his banner, but it would be wrong to depict Jesus Christ blazing away with a machine gun or blowing up babies.  As wrong as depicting Muhammad as a terrorist.

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