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March 2018



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The Cartoons of Muhammad Problem

Wikipedia article Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy
the 12 cartoons
Other cartoons that were not published by Jyllands-Posten But some people said they were.

Gaza EU offices raided by gunmen
The newspaper that published the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten, has said earlier it published the drawings to test the boundaries of expression about Islam.
Its editorial on Sunday said it did not mean to insult Islam. "We at Jyllands-Posten feel regret because the issue has reached this level and we reiterate that we did not mean to insult anybody," it said. "We believe, like the rest of Danish society, in the respect of freedom of religion."

OK the first problem.
Muslims have a prohibition against pictures of Muhammad. (So far so good. No one disputes their right to not make pictures.)

Some Muslim leaders have asked their followers to kill people who have done things they don't like. (Such as translate unflattering books about their religion.) and some of their followers have indeed killed people.

Nobody likes to be mocked, but most people think that killing someone for writing a book or drawing a picture is not acceptable.

This problem has been polarized by both sides as:
Western Freedom vs. Muslim Faith
Followers of "Western Freedom" use it to show that "Muslim Faith" is bad.
Followers of "Muslim Faith" use it to show that "Western Freedom" is bad.

Second problem.
Because some people have been (unjustly) killed by Muslim extremists other people are afraid they will be killed if they offend Muslims.

Nobody like to be threatened, to live in fear, or to be censored.

The Jyllands-Posten was commenting on this issue when they commissioned the cartoons. Out of the 40 artists they contacted only 12 cartoons were commissioned. The only thing they asked for was images of Muhammad. One can argue that since Muslims have a prohibition against pictures of Muhammad than any picture is offensive no matter how flattering. But, to be honest, if that were the issue there wouldn't be rioting in the streets. Yes, there probably are a few Muslims crazy enough to take offense at any depiction of Muhammad. But that isn't what is happening here.

The Cartoons:

1 of the cartoons depicts a Arab immigrant school child calling the editors of the Jyllands-Posten "reactionary provocateurs"

2 of the pictures are what I would call neutral to positive. They depict Muhammad as a man standing in the desert, in one he has a donkey with him, in the other he has what looks to me like a crescent halo (indicating his status as a holy man) but has been described by others as "resembling horns"

1 is an abstract drawing of a male face (presumably Muhammad) with a crescent and a star

1 depicts a row of religious and secular figures in turbans on a police line up and a witness unable to identify Muhammad.

1 depicts a Danish artist who wants to publish an illustrated children's book about the life of Muhammad, wearing a turban with an orange (labeled "PR stunt") dropping into it and holding a stick figure drawing of Muhammad.

1 depicts two men with swords rushing into a room where Muhammad says "Relax it is just a cartoon made by some hick from Denmark"

1 depicts a frightened artist drawing a simple portrait.

1 depicts Muhammad standing on a cloud greeting suicide bombers with "Stop stop we ran out of virgins"

1 depicts Muhammad with his eyes censored by a black bar brandishing a sword, in front of two women with only their eyes showing.

1 is a crude abstract drawing of crescents and stars with a poem about the oppression of women in Islam.

1 depicts Muhammad with a bomb in his turban (this appears to be the most offensive one in the set.

The thing is, only 3 of the cartoons were even critical of Muhammad. Three more were critical of Muslim extremist violence. The remaining six do not look critical of Islam at all to me.

There were other pictures that were falsely attributed to the Jyllands-Posten, (which is why it is important to document which pictures they did publish). One of those pictures was of a contestant in a French " pig-squealing " contest. I can understand why depicting Muhammad as having a pig snout would be offensive, if someone had done it. Another was picture of a Muslim kneeling in prayer being sodomized by a dog. That cartoon is offensive by anyone's standard, and may be hard to find since no reputable paper would publish it.

The third problem is the current air of hostility toward the Arabs and Muslims.

I have heard Muslims compare these cartoons to Holocaust denial or hate speech. Their complaint is that freedom of speech is being use to shield a persistent oppression of Arabs and Muslims.

That is why calling for humorous cartoons about the holocaust seems like a reasonable and pertinent response for them.

This makes the issue more complicated. Anti Semitic cartoons aren't socially acceptable in mainstream media in America. They are legal and people make and publish them all the time, but reputable papers. Of course we usually make a distinction between criticizing Jews in general, criticizing individuals who happen to be Jewish, and criticizing Israel. We publish cartoons that involve Moses, and Jesus all the time. But anti-Semitism a touchy subject. And I can see the Muslims point. We aren't nearly as sensitive to anti-Islamism as we are to anti-Semitism. But then Jews didn't get social acceptance in the west by killing people.

So in conclusion:
1. I support the Jyllands-Posten I don't think they meant to be offensive and I think it was very good of them to apologize anyway.
2. I don't think one can hold the government of a free society responsible for the independant actions of it's citizens.
3. I don't think killing people or threatening their lives is the solution to any problem. Arabs and Moslems need to come out strongly against violence. Hey, I was against the war in Iraq from the start.
4. I think Western societies need to seriously address the problem of anti-Islamic and anti-Arabic rhetoric.


I think what really needs to be said is that Fundamentalists - OF ALL RELIGIONS - are bad.