TCS Daily


Drawn to the Cause

By Andrew Ian Dodge - February 6, 2006 12:00 AM

As a creative type and songwriter I am following with great concern the events in Denmark and the rest of Europe about the cartoons depicting Mohammad. Remembering what happened to Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh - who was brutally murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist -- I find the treatment of the Danish illustrators to be both chilling and a source of anger.

There are many, especially on the internet, who believe that the cartoonists are heroes of free speech; standing up to the increasing dhimmification of European society by the growing and aggressive Islamic lobby. Blogs, from both left and right, have been calling for a "buy in" of Danish products to counter the boycott by Muslims worldwide. There has been an outpouring of support for both the Danes in general and the beleaguered cartoonists on an unprecedented scale.

Many of us are struck by the Islamic world's complete lack of understanding of free speech and its uncertain results. Islamic leaders fail to grasp the fact that though one might find these cartoons offensive, it is not the job of the state to muzzle the cartoonists. They do not seem to understand that freedom of expression necessarily means the freedom to offend.

What is more disconcerting is the reaction of Imams in Europe and beyond. They have expressed their opinion that the cartoons should be banned and the cartoonist sanctioned; they apparently believe this should result because they say so. There seems to be a complete disconnect in the debate on the subject. These Islamic leaders are calling on Muslims worldwide to financially, and case physically, hurt citizens of the nation in which they reside. This, obviously, is completely bizarre.

A brief reminder of the history of the Christian church is apt: Before the reformation, the Catholic Church enjoyed near absolute religious and temporal power in Europe. There was no debate or appeal against this power. Church leaders believed their will was equal to the will of God and suffered little sharing of that power with kings and princes. The few citizens who questioned the Church's power risked their very soul and more often than not suffered torture or death.

Such is the current state of Islam. To many of the religious leaders there is no questioning a fiat that portraying the Prophet carries a death sentence. There can be no debate about it because is religious law. They do not understand that their law does not extend to non-Islamic countries, secular societies which ignore any such pronouncements. This is the quintessential clash of world view that we live with now. It is the tension between a virtual unquestioning state of religious law in some parts of the world and that system of common law, built over centuries on the primacy of the individual.

It strikes me as ironic that many Europeans and their leaders have finally understood the importance of the absolutist religious fiat because of a seemingly minor issue like 12 cartoons. It is possible that exactly because the cartoons are so clearly trivial, the clash must become all the more intense to justify itself. The most amazing thing is that all this originated in a rather small country on the Western edge of Europe. Denmark, we all know, has a history of forthright adherence to principles of freedom and democracy. In Europe overall during the last decade, the Islamic lobbies have had a fairly friendly ear. It seems to me that this issue of basic freedom to criticize, and yes, to ridicule, may finally lead European societies to stand up for their ideals. To date, thankfully, there has been no violence in Europe over this issue. I suspect that any violence perpetrated over this issue will further alienate European societies from their Islamic lobbies.

Who honestly would have thought that the event that woke up Europe to the internal threat to its ancient freedoms was not 9/11, 7/7 or the Madrid bombings, but the violent reaction to a bunch of cartoons? What a truly odd world we live in.

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2 Comments

F'em if they can't take a joke!

Muslim Blasphemy
I'm offended by the reaction to insults to Mohammed. The justification for the riots is that any (even satirical) depictions of Mohammed are blasphemy.

Satirical depictions of Mohammed can't be blasphemy without equating Mohammed with a Allah, God, or some other deity.

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