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February 4, 2006
The Contrived Cartoon Network

It appears that the controversy over the Prophet cartoons has been somewhat artificially enhanced by Muslim imams in Denmark, according to the London Telegraph. Numerous readers and commenters have pointed towards this article by Charles Moore, who reports that not only did these cartoons appear months ago, but the Danish imams included a few more than European newspapers never printed in order to fuel the outrage of their followers:

The complained-of cartoons first appeared in October; they have provoked such fury only now. As reported in this newspaper yesterday, it turns out that a group of Danish imams circulated the images to brethren in Muslim countries. When they did so, they included in their package three other, much more offensive cartoons which had not appeared in Jyllands-Posten but were lumped together so that many thought they had.

It rather looks as if the anger with which all Muslims are said to be burning needed some pretty determined stoking. Peter Mandelson, who seems to think that his job as European Trade Commissioner entitles him to pronounce on matters of faith and morals, accuses the papers that republished the cartoons of "adding fuel to the flames"; but those flames were lit (literally, as well as figuratively) by well-organised, radical Muslims who wanted other Muslims to get furious. How this network has operated would make a cracking piece of investigative journalism.

Now the BBC announces that the head of the International Association of Muslim Scholars has called for an "international day of anger" about the cartoons. It did not name this scholar, or tell us who he is. He is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. According to Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, Qaradawi is like Pope John XXIII for Catholics, "the most progressive force for change" in the Muslim world.

Yet if you look up Qaradawi's pronouncements, you find that he sympathises with the judicial killing of homosexuals, and wants the rejection of dialogue with Jews in favour of "the sword and the rifle". He is very keen on suicide bombing, especially if the people who blow themselves up are children - "we have the children bomb". This is a man for whom a single "day of anger" is surely little different from the other 364 days of the year.

Hugh Hewitt has posted thought-provoking comments today on how he imagines Winston Churchill would have reacted. Hugh has argued for the past two days that we should uphold the right of European newspapers to print the cartoons, but not endorse their publication in a knee-jerk reaction to the violent Muslim protests worldwide. He asks us to recall how we Christians feel about negative depictions of Jesus and how often we've protested anti-Christian media portrayals. And he has a point, for which I recommend CQ readers review his posts over the last couple of days to consider.

However, the point is not the offense to religious sensibilities, especially in light of the gasoline poured on this fire by Muslims themselves. It isn't the restriction of idolatry, either; as Moore points out, plenty of artwork depicting the Prophet exists in the ummah. Muslims are angry because these cartoons criticize followers of Islam and the actions of the Prophet.

Editorial cartoons exist to challenge political thought and expose hypocrisy. Among religions, Islam should be the least protected from this form of speech, as it insists on involving itself in temporal political matters wherever it is practiced. Indeed, it insists on dictating political and legal matters, usually in the most extreme terms, and it uses the life of Mohammed as its claim on political and legal supremacy. Christianity hasn't taken that position in centuries, focusing on the spiritual and individual rather than group diktat. Judaism hasn't had the means to develop that kind of theocratic position for over two millenia until the establishment of Israel, and even then the Chosen have chosen a liberal democracy for themselves rather than rule by the high-priest descendants of Aaron.

That insistence on dictating terms of temporal power makes criticism, by cartoonists or editorialists, absolutely necessary in order to combat the stultifying reach of sharia. Islam sets the terms of debate. It cannot insist on temporal rule based on Mohammed and the Qu'ran and then expect people to refrain from criticizing either one. Christians understand this, even if they don't pursue the thought intellectually to its end. If we Christians insisted on basing all government and laws explicitly on the four Gospels, we would necessarily be forced to intellectually defend each and every passage, as well as the life and actions of Jesus and his disciples and their assumed infallibility to rule on human activity.

For this reason, we must support the publication of the cartoons by European news organizations. Islam wants to impose its tenets on us, and if we give up the option of political criticism, we have moved more than halfway towards surrender to the Islamists. For those individuals who cross the line into unnecessary offense, the option to use free debate to argue the point will remain open as long as we defend free speech.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin worked all night on a video presentation that connects a few dots. Be sure to watch it.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 4, 2006 9:28 AM

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» Muhammed Cartoons Used As Scheme To Market Violence from Myopic Zeal
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