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February 22, 2006
Prophet Cartoons Polarizing Muslims

The New York Times reports that the cartoons that dared to criticize Islam and Mohammed have created a polarization not just between Islam and the West, but within Islam itself as well. More and more, moderate Muslims have noticed the damage done to the image of their faith by the crowds of lunatics burning embassies and killing people around the world, and they struggle to hold a mirror to the faithful:

In a direct challenge to the international uproar over cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, the Jordanian journalist Jihad Momani wrote: "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras, or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony?"

In Yemen, an editorial by Muhammad al-Assadi condemned the cartoons but also lamented the way many Muslims reacted. "Muslims had an opportunity to educate the world about the merits of the Prophet Muhammad and the peacefulness of the religion he had come with," Mr. Assadi wrote. He added, "Muslims know how to lose, better than how to use, opportunities."

To illustrate their points, both editors published selections of the drawings — and for that they were arrested and threatened with prison.

Mr. Momani and Mr. Assadi are among 11 journalists in five countries facing prosecution for printing some of the cartoons. Their cases illustrate another side of this conflict, the intra-Muslim side, in what has typically been defined as a struggle between Islam and the West.

In fact, most Muslim journalists who have criticized the response to the cartoons find themselves either in jail or facing arrest, and the article itself provides a very telling look into why. The isolation and persecution of these journalists show that the riots and demonstrations represent mainstream Islam, despite the multicultural pablum given by most pundits over this eruption. Friends and relatives of these reporters remain silent for fear of violent retribution. A significant moderate faction within Islam has been cowed into almost-complete silence by the ascendant violent and radical factions.

Further appeasement of the latter means that the moderates will only lose more ground. The Islamists who exploited the cartoons to generate political capital for themselves have won a tremendous victory, and those Muslims who may have been on the fence before this issue will no doubt find themselves drawn to the faction with the most momentum. One measure of this victory has been the reticence of the Western media, especially the American media, to even show the cartoons to its readers before condemning them as offensive. The media moguls could take a lesson from the Muslim journalists about editorial choices:

Mr. Momani expressed exasperation when asked why he printed the cartoons. He insisted that it was the work of journalists to inform, and that he did so after speaking to many people who were outraged without ever seeing the cartoons.

Too bad American editors have forgotten this basic principle of journalism. Momani will pay for his adherence to journalistic integrity with his livelihood and perhaps his life, but he understood why a free press exists. Our leading media lights appear to have forgotten that in circumstances much less dire than Momani's -- to their everlasting shame.

This acquiescence is not helping moderate Muslims to take control. It cedes the center ground to the Islamists and encourages them to make ever-increasing demands on the West for submission. As long as they keep winning those battles, the moderates do not stand a chance.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 22, 2006 7:17 AM

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» Fast Forward: Part II from ShrinkWrapped
Islam is splitting in front of our eyes. This split is not primarily between Shia and Sunni, or between Arab and Persian and non-Arab Islam, or any of the other variations of Islam we read about. The split, which is [Read More]

Tracked on February 22, 2006 12:53 PM


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