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2/07/2006 10:39:00 PM | Justin

Prophet Cartoons: The scrawl that broke the camel's back
Every day, I wake up and read the latest headlines about this Muhammad cartoon fully expecting to be shocked by the new heights of outrage it's brought overnight. The issue actually began way back in September, but in the last week, it's spark riots in every corner of the Muslim world, including the burning of embassies Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Lebanon... It's also brought boycotts of Danish goods that may ironically prove as damaging as potential UN sanctions on Iran. In the latest news, Iran has started a contest to see who can make the best holocaust cartoon. Holocaust cartoons may be a better outlet than violence, but still, it's pretty morbid, not to mention uncalled for, considering the jews had absolutely nothing to do with the Danish cartoons.

I'm sure most Americans are looking at this Muhammad cartoon incident as the final proof that the Islamic world has been absolutely crazy from the beginning. I've heard some of the protesters arguing that the proper punishment for the cartoonist is execution, and if the Danish government does not deal out this punishment, it too is accountable. It's the old "You're with us, or you're against us" mantra, except this time its being issued over something that seems trivial to us.

Another way to look at this cartoon issue is as the final straw that has pushed the Muslim world past its breaking point. After stomaching war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and general villification for just about everything wrong with the world, all it took was a spark for the entire muslim world to ignite and unite. According to this view, we can chalk up all the violence and anger over this cartoon incident to just another manifestation of pent-up outrage about the war in Iraq. Sure, this fits the liberal anti-war world view almost too well, but it deserves consideration:

The last time I remember the muslim world enraged so incomprehensibly was in 1989 when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his publication of The Satanic Verses. The context of that event is surprisingly similar to this one: It was two year's into the first intifada (we're five years into the second). It was also after the Reagan administration armed Saddam Hussein to the teeth, hoping to bring down Iran, and the Islamic revolution it spearheaded.

My point is that I don't think either of these two "fatwa-type" events could have ever occurred in a more peaceful context. The cartoon protests may seem absurd to some of us, but when people are collectively angry enough, just about anything can set them off.

By the way, when I say "the muslim world" in this piece, I'm sorry if it seems like I've lumped in moderates muslims who are as bemused by ensuing events as anyone else. It is probably only a minority of folks who are attending these demonstrations and calling for action against Denmark. Unfortunately, it's a very vocal minority.

ps. Perhaps I should apologize even more profusely for the poorness of the pun in the title of this post. Sorry, more profusely.



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