It’s been said that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we should do a thing. I think that philosophy is nowhere more apparent than in the incredible violence erupting in the Muslim world since the publication of political cartoons defaming the prophet Mohammed.
We must recall that the Muslim world is not the western world before embarking on any discussion of how and why this happened. It is the greatest failing of European civilization – and that includes America, since we are European descendants – to judge and indict the beliefs of all other cultures based on how they stand up to our own. It’s nothing new: It happened with the Crusades, with the conquest of the Americas, with Australia, it continued in South Africa, it continues today all over the globe. As a culture, westerners believe we’re right above all others and will not back down.
That’s not to say that other cultures are not so stubborn. Certain Muslim extremists exhibit the pinnacle of such zealotry, but the Muslim people on a whole are not so determined to shed blood.
So first let’s examine the root of the cartoons’ creation: Danish (read: European) arrogance. It is completely acceptable to defame Mohammed because he’s not our prophet, he’s not Christ, he’s not the Pope or St. Whoever. He’s just this Muslim thing, and when you’ve got all these terrorists and mercenaries waving guns and killing people in the name of the Prophet, well, why shouldn’t it be okay?
Sure, if someone in Saudi Arabia had drawn and published cartoons of Christ shown in a horrific manner there would be outrage. You say, correctly too, that there wouldn’t have been storming of Arab embassies with guns and torches. Our culture largely frowns on such things on our own soil, the likes of Oklahoma City and Waco notwithstanding. Muslims, as depicted by the television cameras, are violent, religious fanatics and a little crazy.
None of this excuses the horrible violence after the publication of the cartoons. But we still have to find western arrogance guilty of the spark that ignited this misery. Since England and the Crusades, we have inflicted our values on a people and culture that did not want them, and fought to the death to resist us. The Muslim world is one of violence largely due to western influence.
We, as a culture, believe that Christianity and Democracy and by-God American values must be spread throughout the world to make it a better place. It’s been that way since forever. Monroe doctrine, manifest destiny, it’s all the same thing: We’re right, as a culture, the rest of the world is wrong. We are an arrogant, demanding, holier-than-thou culture, and there’s no denying it.
Just look at what journalists and editors in the United States are saying about not publishing the inflammatory cartoons here: They’re calling it a matter of freedom of the press, but that’s hogwash. If sensible, sensitive upper management says don’t publish it because it’s the wrong thing to do, that’s a whole different animal. Just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we should do a thing. What would be the point? Inciting more hatred in the Muslim world? We watch CNN and shake our heads and worry over the violence, and while it’s right to condemn it, we ignore the sparks. The flint and steel of our arrogance ignited the tinder of the Muslim rage. They’re comparing us to European news outlets who have run the cartoons outside of the Danish publications! As if Europe, still, is the measure by which we account ourselves here.
Perhaps none are more guilty than the press of this arrogance. None other than L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, proclaimed in his newspaper in the late 1800s that, "The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians…wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth."
Instead of Indians today, the villains are the Muslims and all the stoppers have been pulled. It’s okay to defame and ridicule and blaspheme other religions and religious figures because they’re not ours, and so in effect, it’s not defamation or blasphemy at all.
"Well," we say in dismissal, "it’s just plain silly for them to get all upset about a silly thing like a cartoon."
And again, we’ve proven it: Now we’re telling them what they should and should not be insulted over. See the incredible arrogance of it? See how we’re projecting – imposing – what we believe on others?
Our attitude will be the death of us because as a culture we have never been able to let others believe what they wish to believe, live as they wish to live. Our collective philosophical, religious and economic noses have always been poked into other people’s business in an effort to "bring civilization" or "make their lives better" or "bring freedom" to others, whether they want it or not. Our emphatic, stubborn belief that we’re so right about everything will be our undoing.