It fueled the righteous anger of many nations, left at least six people dead and more than a dozen others wounded. It saw buildings go up in flames, protests around the world, and the West pitted against the Middle East. It was a cartoon.
Yes, the fury, death and destruction of the past couple weeks around the world were all caused by a cartoon. It really makes me think about “the pen is mightier than the sword” saying. The caricature of the Prophet Muhammad was an inappropriate little drawing, and if the editor at the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, had better taste, it wouldn’t have printed. But no drawing in the world is worth this violence.
Yet the recently published cartoons in the newspaper, featuring the Prophet Muhammad, have caused a wide range of reactions, many violent. The boycotts were more than understandable; they were deserved.
That is peaceful protest. The marches, shouting, rotten-egg tossing and flag burning were also perfectly acceptable – but then events went too far. A German man was kidnapped and only released after his kidnappers realized that he wasn’t Danish or French. Would they have killed him if he was?
Embassies were torched in Damascus and Tehran and protestors smashed windows and threw stones in Gaza. A teenager was killed in a stampede in Somalia, and in a protest of thousands in Afghanistan, at least five people were killed, and over a dozen others wounded.
Muslims are angry because Islam forbids depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and Allah, concerned that it will lead to idolatry. So when he is shown with a bomb strapped to his head, their anger is entirely justified. But doesn’t Islam also preach peace?
They are angry because the cartoon mocks their religion, but the violence serves as contradiction and mockery in its own way.
They are also afraid cartoons such as this will add to European “Islamophobia,” when people fail to see the difference between Islam and militant Islam. Most Muslims are non-violent and have been struggling to get Westerners to understand this since Sept. 11.
Again, understanding this puts their anger into perspective, and I encourage that they boycott and protest. But when the protesters become violent, it throws them back. They portray themselves to the world as violent people. This is unfortunate, because Muslims don’t advocate violence, but many in the West won’t believe that now.
This isn’t the first time religion has served as an excuse or cause of violence. The Crusades, the unending wars of the Middle East, Holocaust, Salem witch trials, Inquisition, murder of Joan of Arc, etc., all had religious causes. When will it stop? People should understand by now that violence in the name of religion is not only incredibly hypocritical, but also a regretful, blood-soaked tragedy.
This is not a freedom of the press versus respect of religion issue. Somebody is always offended by something, so it is impossible to protect everybody. It isn’t that the press shouldn’t be allowed to print religious caricature; rather they should consider their responsibility and ethics and elect not to print it.
Just as in a perfect world, journalists should elect not to repeatedly broadcast footage of air planes crashing into the World Trade Center or print the faces of assault and abuse victims.
People need to remember one thing: it was just a cartoon. Crayon, pencil, marker, even pastels on paper; it shouldn’t have been able to hurt anyone. More so, the Danish newspaper apologized in January, yet it was after this that the real violence started. It wasn’t an offended religion that set it off – just wounded pride.
Ashley Helaudais can be reached email@example.com.