The headline on “My Yahoo” just looks silly: “Cartoon Protests Turn Deadly.”
I think it is silly for some Christians to get worked up about the “Book of Daniel,” NBC’s ill-fated television show that belittled Christianity. But at least the Family Research Council wasn’t burning and pillaging and the like. What’s going on here? As you probably know, a Danish newspaper ran some political cartoons that featured Muhammed, the prophet if Islam. It is considered blasphemous for a Muslim to make a pictorial representation of the prophet (sort of like the OT commandment against making a graven image of God) – mainly to avoid worship of Muhammed, but also out of respect for his greatness. (Remember – Muslims to not deify or worship Muhammed, though they do revere him greatly as what we might consider the ideal man.)
In response to the cartoon, riots have broken out all over the Muslim world. People have taken to the streets – sometimes violently – to protest the publication of a cartoon. Adding intrigue to the plot is the fact that the cartoons first ran in September, and at that time did not generate the frenzied response we see now. What’s going on?
I spoke with a man whose opinion I respect who knows a lot more about this region than anyone else I know, having studied it for years and spent time there. He suggested that the ruling elites in the Arab world have a bit of a stake in fomenting this kind of violent outrage at the West. Conditions in most of these countries are not great and many live in poverty. There is a simmering anger and frustration that the rulers fear could be directed at them. So it is helpful to blame the West and fan the flames of hatred and angst in that direction. After all, look at the way they disparage and deman the prophet!
Sure there’s more to it than that. Sure Muslim newspapers somtimes disparage Jews and Christians. Sure there are a lot of Muslims that hate the West and all that it stands for and all it has done in the last five hundred years. They have a longer cultural memory than we do. But really, violent protests over a cartoon? This is certainly more going on here than a cartoon – and I think that demagoguery makes sense. Of course, sometimes it all just looks pretty ridiculous to me.