The insensitivity of the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of Mohammed, and the stupidity of those European papers that republished them after the predictable outrage, is only equaled by the thoughtlessness of those in the Muslim world who are reacting in a manner that only confirms the reasons for the ridicule in the first place.


Not that violence is something to be laughed at. Nor is the ridicule of others' beliefs a minor thing, even if it is based on what seems to most of the world an excessively strict interpretation of the second of the Ten Commandments (or the second part of the first Commandmentdepending on which system of numbering one uses) that forbids the making of images of any living being, not just attempts to picture God. But the point of most of the cartoons, which seemed to be aimed at what the rest of the world perceives to be an inherent Islamic tendency towards violence, is only re-enforced when the reactions seem to be predictably violent.


Not that we should expect such ridicule to be accepted passively. When one gallery in the USA just a few years ago displayed a crucifix suspended in a bottle of urine and called it "art", and another displayed a picture of Mary and the Infant Jesus decorated with elephant dung, many Christians were outraged. But no fatwas were issued or buildings fire-bombed.


Such acts of retaliation have never been compatible with the Christian ideal. In fact, the one of the earliest surviving depictions of the crucifixion was among graffiti found scratched on a wall in Rome showing a person kneeling before a figure on a cross. In it Jesus is pictured with the head of a donkey, and the caption reads "Alexamenos worships his god". But we hear of no riots breaking out over it. Instead, for several more centuries Christians suffered such ridicule and slander, and even torture, crucifixion, burning, being thrown to lions, etc., before the blood of all these martyrs, who refused to strike back, eventually resulted in the conversion of most of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire to the Christian faith.


No doubt that there have been periods in Christian history when blood would have been spilled over such insults, especially when, after that mass conversion, the mistake was made, again and again, of uniting church and state. But history has taught Europeans and Americans, as well as much of the rest of the world, that too close an alliance between religion and politics is unwise and that such violent reactions to insults only escalate into more violence and mayhem and eventually leads to a world that becomes unlivable for all. Perhaps Islam, as the youngest of the world's major religions, has simply not lived long enough, or has been isolated from the rest of the world for too long, to have learned that lesson.


Maybe the bright side of this incident, unfortunate as it is, will be to move Muslims, as well as certain Christians and others, bit closer to understanding and accepting however much they or we may not like it what it takes to live in peace with the rest of the world.

R W Kropf 2/7/06


Outrage.mss 542 words 06-02-07.html