The offensive piece showed the Prophet Mohammad as a suicide bomber, a notion that is certainly worthy of discussion. If suicide terrorists carry out their actions in the name of Islam, is it not fair to ask whether the Prophet approves of these actions?
According to Muslim law, not in effect in Europe although some of the terrorists would have it so, there can be no visual rendering of the Prophet, whether positive or negative. Western culture doesn’t feel obliged to honor this practice, and so the cartoon.
To show their displeasure, Muslims took to the streets, imploring Osama bin Laden to extract his trademark revenge. Inevitably, the protesters burned and stamped upon U.S. flags because, well, why not? What’s a good protest in the Arab/Muslim world these days without a U.S. flag to burn or mutilate?
But it would be wrong to dismiss the protests as the usual actions by the usual suspects, for two reasons. One, in addition to the cries for vengeance, some of the protesters urged a boycott of things Danish. That suggests possibilities for those of us in the West who are offended by how we are portrayed in that part of the world. Second, the protesters remind us that as much as we say we believe in free expression, etc., we actually do restrain ourselves on some issues of culture and taste.
On the business of boycott, a fine, old Irish invention: Imagine if we in the United States could summon the will and power to swear off Middle Eastern products whenever one of the region’s religious or ruling elites offends us. What if the next time some cleric in Iran or Saudi Arabia or Syria denounces us “infidels” and worse, we take to the streets and launch a boycott of … of, er, well, of what?
Ah, yes: Sad reality. You see, when it comes to economic pressure, the folks over there have it all over us. The enraged Muslim masses can live without Danish cheese for a while and feel as though they’re really showing those satanic Danes. But we can’t live without Arab/Muslim oil. Not now, anyway.
If the President has his way, that’s not going to chance any time soon. In his State of the Union speech, President Bush complained about our “addiction” to oil. He has that right. He then laid out a vague plan to sort-of get us to kick the habit over the next 20 years or so.
Sorry, not good enough. Not by a long shot. Not at a time when, for example, terrorists in Iraq are raking in money from graft in the oil business. So here’s how it works: We buy sport utility vehicles from our creatively bankrupt U.S. automakers, we fork over thousands of dollars per capita every year to keep these babies running, the money goes to some of the world’s worst regimes, and somehow some of our money gets in the hands of terrorists who want to kill us.
The President didn’t exactly put it that way, but I wish he did. Yes, the formula is simplistic, but so what? Who, at this point, can’t deny that our dependence on oil is the biggest national-security threat we face?
Personally, I’m envious of the Muslims who are boycotting the Danes. I wish we had the power and the will to launch a boycott or two of our own.
As for the second issue, freedom of expression, the demonstrators have a point. We in the West pride ourselves on that freedom, but is it so absolute? Not really. Taste and sensibility serve as self-censors in the press, and political correctness imposes strictures on what can be said in public forums. To deny this is to be either na