A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Caricatures of Protest

Editorial cartoons are a subject near and dear to my heart. My master’s thesis examined and interpreted cartoons on the same subject (Nixon in Watergate) by two different artists, Herblock and Garry Trudeau. Thus, I am somewhat interested in the publishing of several cartoons in Europe that are igniting widespread outrage, violence and now death.

The cartoons in question depicted the prophet Muhammad, and the outraged people are Muslims in a number of countries who believe that any graphic depiction of the prophet is tantamount to idolatry, and therefore is blasphemous. To those outraged, the only suitable punishment is death. The best that Western civilization can offer is condemning the depictions (originally drawn to test the limits of free speech), apologize for offending the Muslim nations, and explaining that, well, this is part of the price of living in a democracy. Not surprisingly, this is not sitting well with the offended multitudes. They still want blood.

Muslims have every right to feel offended; if this is their belief and they feel someone has crossed the line, then fine, protest. Their reasoning linking the depictions to a form of idolatry is perfectly sound and logical. However, protesting can be done peacefully. Yes, it can be done; pickets have been reported in front of the Philadelphia Inquirer building because the Inquirer dared to reprint one of the cartoons. There have been no reports (yet) that this protest has sparked the burning of buildings or the destruction of other property or persons.

On the other hand, this is one of the byproducts of living in a free society: the chance that someone, somewhere, will not always like everything that the media publish, broadcast or otherwise disseminate. The protests demonstrate that the concept of free speech is unheard of or unknown in many parts of the Islamic world. There could also be the chance that the Muslim extremists are using these cartoons as an excuse to further their hatred of Western civilization. After all, these cartoons were originally published five months ago and nary a word was heard, until newspapers in other countries republished them two months ago.

The protests should probably hit the Bush administration between the eyes, but then again it probably won't. While Team Bush’s efforts to spread democracy may be well intentioned, the results are not working out to their satisfaction. Those Muslim majority countries that have had democratic elections have put extremist governments in place. Go figure! Who could’ve seen that coming? Why didn’t the good guys win these democratically sponsored elections?

The answers are simple, Bush. Everybody in the world (except you) has realized that perhaps some people in the Muslim world are not ready or willing to embrace the ideals of a free society. Not yet.


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