"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

"I Detest What You Say, But I Will Fight to the Death to Preserve Your Right to Say It."

The world has been horrified and mesmerized by the specter of organized mayhem in order to force an apology from publications, journalists, and even governments because one obscure Danish newspaper, in the name of free speech and freedom of the press, months ago, published a several cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, showing, generally how most Westerners view that prophet based on the behaviors of those that purport to follow his legacy and emulate his behavior as the "perfect man."

Mockery of religion and "art" using religious symbols in a disrespectful manner has been the custom in the West for many hundreds of years. Most Westerners disapprove and also find the products of this form of "art" to be disrespectful and distasteful. But the fear of limiting the freedoms of speech, of the press, and a fear the establishment of a state religion or placing the rights of one religion above that of another, has allowed the unabated continuation of this practice leaving the viewing or non-viewing to the eye of the beholder. In other words, one is free to look or not look, close the book, turn the channel, or turn off the TV.

In the U.S., this policy may seem hypocritical as last year millions of Americans were infuriated at the "wardrobe malfunction" of Janet Jackson. What they were protesting was not so much the fact that the event occurred as that it occurred in an unexpected venue: the Superbowl Halftime Show.

Controversial displays such as "Piss Christ," depicting Jesus Christ through a haze of urine are inappropriate and distasteful to some and blasphemous to others, yet Christians are loathe to do more than refuse to see the exhibit, withdraw patronage, or complain vociferously. One does not find Christians threatening the life of the artist, or the owners of galleries or even attempting to burn down the gallery. Nor have they demanded and apology the artist, owners of galleries, or publications that depict this piece of "art." They and their families are not in hiding for fear of their lives.

Perplexed Westerners then view the behavior and demands made by Muslims, in some cases asking: does God need protection from man? How is the depiction of a mortal man worthy of such fuss and bother? Isn't the way we treat each other more important than a cartoon?

The various cartoons are interesting. One depicts Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. Haven't suicide bombers in the last few decades blown up thousands of people, many of them innocent bystanders, as an emulation of Mohammed? Another addresses the fact that male suicide bombers believe that, among other things, blowing themselves up will get them seventy-two virgins in Paradise. And yet another depicts the an obviously nervous cartoonist, perhaps in fear for his life. These cartoons depict what Westerners see happening in Islam being done in as an emulation of Mohammed or mandated by the Koran. Muslims see themselves depicted and they don't like it. The solution would be to ferret out and stop the perpetrators of violence.

Westerners now know why the cartoons are such a big deal. However they resent having a foreign sect tell them what should be published in their own newspapers, and how to form their own conversations, and how to conduct themselves in their own countries.

Will democracy change Islam and make it more compatible with Islam? Probably not as voting is not democracy. Democracy has to do with values and Muslim values are not compatible with those of the West. Muslims, in or out of the West, then should not expect that the West should change values anymore than the West should expect a change in values or behavior in Muslim countries simply because they can elect their leaders.

We have the right to say what we want in the West. Sometimes it provokes a fight or destruction of property. Those that do fight are jailed and prosecuted. No one is allowed to say, "He provoked me or humiliated me" as a legitimate defense or he "He humiliated my God" as a defense in secular nations.


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