At the crossroads?

by Sal on February 6, 2006

in Politics,Religion

Are we at the crossroads to a full-scale World War III? The violence over the weekend surrounding a cartoon that depicted the prophet Muhammad is very troubling. I feel that in general, satirization of religious figures, such as Muhammad, Jesus, or others is a bad idea. People have deeply rooted beliefs in these matters, and there really is no reason to inflame them. That said, the papers had the absolute right to print the columns, and the reaction on the Muslim street is troubling. Several people have died in the riots, embassy’s have burned, and there appears to be no sign of the violence letting up, all because of a simple, albeit disrespectful, cartoon.

Why was there no reaction when a dozen or so Muslims flew planes into buildings, or bombed the tube in London? We may very well be at the crossroads to a third world war, this one between the West and the Muslim world. Many in this country, including myself, hope it doesn’t come to that. Fighting a targeted enemy such as Al Qaida, or even the Iraqi insurgency, will look like a cakewalk compared to the difficulties in fighting 1/5 of the world’s population. God help us all.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 6, 2006 at 3:55 pm

This is the definition of irony. While we can all agree how terrible the cartoon is, the response has been much, much worse.

As I understand it (because I have not been able to view the cartoon first-hand), Muslims are upset because the cartoon portrays theirs as a violent religion. And to express this anger, some Muslims will respond with violence.


Ryan February 6, 2006 at 4:32 pm

Religion of peace?

Yes, for about 90% of a population of 1.1 billion. That still leaves 110 million people who give Islam a bad name. Scapegoating their own economic and political problems on a cartoon speaks to the explosive and dangerous nature of the radical 10% of Islam– and that they may not be able to negotiate rationally on any issue after this. The Muslim street has real internal problems and aggitators that will enrage the public for self-serving political reasons that a self-serving, frustrated extremist public will eat up on their own accord.

A cartoon was drawn. Someone has to die??? Last week some “artist” in the USA drew a picture of the crucifixion with the head of Bin Ladin. Where’s the blood in America’s street? Do they love Muhammed more than we love Christ? I don’t think so. That’s not the issue. It’s 2006, not 632.


Chris February 6, 2006 at 6:42 pm

I agree, Sal, that it’s not always the best idea to satirize religous leaders, but I also think that: A) they (the Muslim Street) should, equally if not on a higher priority, be angry at how their governments treat them and cut off the level of freedom and liberty; B) if they (the Muslim street) are so bothered and offended by a stereotype, work to change it instead of acting it out and making people believe it.

On the subject of offensive political cartoons, this one printed in the Washington Compost (I refuse to post it, so go the link to see for yourself), made me sick and I ask those in the media and government, where’s the outrage?


rightonoz February 6, 2006 at 8:54 pm

Firstly, we need to understand that Islam absolutely prohibits any pictures of the Prophet, let alone what were pretty abusive cartoons.

Next thing to understand is that for many in Islam, their religion is under attack from the west. That this is not true doesn’t get through to them as you have a combination of many radical poorly educated clerics determined to whip up hysteria and a vast majority of followers who’s only education is from the religious schools if that much.

Easy for a firebrand cleric or local leader to whip up a mob into seeing the cartoons as a direct insult.

While we are being outraged at this, remember we have ourselves been guilty of such behavior over the centuries. Inquisition, religious riots, lynchings, Nazi’s, Lenin etc. Find a charismatic leader, even at local level and it is easy to whip up mob rage/hysteria, especially when religion or a feeling of being deprived or subjigated is involved.

Personally I believe the papers were damned stupid to print them. They may well have had a legal right to do so, but what sort of idiot publishes something that can be calculated to whip up anger and hysteria.

You are right Sal, if we don’t find a way to step back and to generate some tolerance and understanding in both directions, a war or series of will result.

What is more scarey is that we seem to be generating the sort of mindset in Islamic countries that could see a significant increase in 9/11 type incidents and it would only be a matter of time before WMD are involved.

Part of the problem is that we (The West) are seen as suporting some regimes that (to Islam) are involved in holding Moslem’s down or attacking them. Israel is the main one here. Despite their right to exist within secure boundaries the whole situation has been allowed to fester to the point where neither side can take the steps to allow a just peace. Now we should definitely have supported israel all these years, however the one step that could have worked – somehow sidelining (or even eliminating) Arafat years ago before he built his corrupt network within palestine was missed. Now we have a corrupt Palestine with voters sick of that corruption and constant poverty ($2.00 per day) that they turn to a radical party that has used supreme intelligence in focussing on building schools, clinics etc (all the things a responsible PLO should have done. The radical teachers in the schools teach nothing other than hatred of the West and Israel so on it goes with a never ending cycle.

I fear it will take a very gifted and determined leader in the US (even I have to admit that without the US as a full partner or leader in this we won’t make any progress) to bridge the divide and somehow defuse the situation. It will not be GWB, regardless of how any of us feel about him, he is seen as having attacked Islam, and while the educated in the Moslem world may see some positive from Bushes time, we will never win over the cleric or the masses. It will need to be a leader who is seen as not being dogmatic, even handed, willing to listen and learn. A tall order – does anyone see such a leader coming through the ranks of eather party?


Sal February 7, 2006 at 7:16 am

I tend to agree with you on the sidelining of Arafat years earlier, I think that would have brought the region closer to peace. THe disturbing thing about the Islamic world, however, is that they are demanding tolerance for their religous beliefs and values (which they deserve), but are not tolerant of other beliefs (many of their countries are theocracies and do not grant full rights to Christians and Jews).

The point I disagree with you on, rightonoz, is how to deal with it. Sociologists have pointed out that there is a code in the Arab world that looks on diplomacy as sign of weakness, victory as a sign of a gift from Allah, and defeat as a sign of punishment from Allah. I fear that I don’t see a situation where we will win over the clerics and the masses easily, and may need to exert strength. Showing strength in the past 50 years has led to some of the best diplomatic successes. John F. Kennedy ended the Cuban Missle Crisis by calling the bluff of the Soviets, and Ronald Reagan beat the Soviets in the arms race, thereby ending the cold war. Sometimes a show of strength is necessary, even without the prelude to war. Straight diplomacy rarely works with people who are not sincere. Not only will the U.S. have to have a great leader, but so will the Palestinians. I think the current Palestinian president had potential, but the unfortunate election of Hamaas has left the region in chaos.


rightonoz February 7, 2006 at 7:00 pm

I agree on the characterisation of diplomacy as a sign of weakness, which is why Iran is sticking it to the world at the moment. There is a balance (and it would be quite a balancing trick) where diplomacy backed by a bloody BIG stick works whether it be physical or economic threat. Diplomacy from strength is recognised in the Islamic world.

We need the leader who can achieve that balance, because if we resort to force again, I feel it will be seen as a declaration of war on Islam which is what the radical clerics are trying to call it already. One more might tip the balance and ignite the while pile, then we are really in deep Shit as we say. (excuse my Australian blunt talk, we call a spade a spade down here)

On Hamas, that’s scarey, however there have been terrorists who have become statesmen and democratic leaders (no I do not consider Arafat to have been one). most of the first generation of Israeli leaders were terrorists (they say freedom fighters) who killed innocent women and children in some of their strikes against the British, and some of them have been great statesmen. Hey even Washington et al would have been called terrorists by some these days. Ok some terrorists have a cause worth fighting for and have been in the right (but then they all think they have a cause and right on their side. My rather rambling point on this one is that there have been terrorists/freedom fighters who have gone on to renounce violence and achieve great things for their country. We can only hope that Hamas sees the sense and that there is an Isreali government that also sees sense and can negotiate from strength. Pushing the Palestinian noses further into the dirt would not do it.

With Hamas it might be a tall order but ever the eternal optimist.

I agree on Kennedy, but that was a VERY close call. On Ronnie, I don’t believe it was him at all. I believe the inneficiency of Russian communism ground their economy into the dirt and there was only one direction it could take. It was helped by a pragmatic leader with the vision to allow free markets and democratisation to begin it’s course, even if he was elbowed aside at the end.

Chinese communism continues to succeed and will despite any arms race or strength on our part due to cultural and leadership issues that will delay any democratisation for decades.

Russia has a very strong leader again, but this guy scares me more than Kruschev. I do not believe freedom is on his agenda at all. Communism might not be the label this time around but he will need watching carefully. (subject for another discussion?)


Mike February 8, 2006 at 8:55 am

Reagan pointed out those with Communism from the beginning. When he did so as President, the left said he was nuts. Turns out Reagan was right. He understood the nature and weaknesses of Communism better than anyone and recognized that it would collapse if pressure was applied at the right points.

We had an arms race the Soviets could not afford. Together with Pope John Paul II, Reagan strengthened civil movements that applied domestic pressure, particularly in Poland.
The Soviets were crushed domestically, economically and yes militarily thanks to the leadership of Ronald Reagan.

Gorby’s goal was to preserve Communism not to destroy it. Reagan said it would be over soon, the left scoffed at him, Reagan was proven right and left had egg on their faces once again.


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