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Ross Rambles: Joining in the blasphemy

Monday, February 27, 2006

This is NOT a depiction of Mohammed
Few people know that I can draw cartoons. I decided to draw a cartoon of Mohammed in solidarity with Danish cartoonists who have experienced death threats as the result of their depiction of the prophet of Islam.

My start on this effort is seen accompanying this column but I did not go through with it. It would be unfair for me to commit this newspaper to a course of action that almost all of the newspapers in the country have avoided.

I assume that Mohammed had a beard, so the clean-shaven image accompanying this column cannot be regarded as an illustration of Mohammed. If people want to draw a beard on the image to depict Mohammed, they are free to do so but that is not the responsibility of this newspaper.

It is not personal fear of retaliation that restrains me from creating a full depiction. I hereby confess that I have downloaded the cartoons of Mohammed from the Danish newspaper via the Internet and have shown those images to others, making me guilty of blasphemy against Islam.

Here I will further display my capability of blasphemy - Gosh darn that Mohammed guy! There, I've done it. I've ruined any chance I might have had to earn a heavenly reward of 72 virgins.

Frankly, after 50 or so, any additional virgins would become unmanageable. It has been suggested that you don't have to (to put it delicately) be with every one of the 72 every day, making the 72 number less overwhelming.

The images from the Danish newspaper are not particularly offensive by non-Islamic standards, but any depiction of the prophet is blasphemous to Muslims.

In order that the faithful be stirred to the appropriate level of murderous fury, truly offensive cartoons were circulated and falsely attributed to the Danish newspaper.

This was the reason some European newspapers cited for reprinting the Danish cartoons and the reason why U.S. newspapers should print them.

If non-believing Danes have been targeted for death threats for displaying images of Mohammed, then shouldn't believers who circulate grotesque images of Mohammed under false attribution of the source be regarded as even more deserving of death?

It seems that is not the way it works in the Muslim world. All is accepted in the holy struggle against the infidel, even suicide bombings that have resulted in unintended but predictable death of innocent Muslims.

Out of cultural sensitivity, I should distinguish the above reference to the Muslim world as the "extremist Muslim world" rather than the "mainstream Muslim world", but the Muslim leadership gives little evidence that there is any wide gulf between the two categories of Muslims.

Whether or not the cartoons in the Danish newspaper are offensive in nature is irrelevant to the larger issue involved. Imagine that a serial killer targets his victims because they were impolite to him. The question of whether the victims were actually impolite is irrelevant to the question of whether the serial killer is guilty of murder.

In Europe and the U.S., freedom of speech includes the right to lampoon political or religious figures. This has resulted in writings and images that are offensive to Christians, Jews and others as well as Muslims.

To express outrage at bad taste is acceptable in the West and is also part of the free speech process. To commit or encourage murder as a result of this outrage is unacceptable. We have to accept Muslims' rights to operate under Islamic values in their own countries. We should not back down on insisting that they accept the right of other countries to operate under different values.

In retaliation for the Danish cartoons, a contest has been launched to encourage the creation of cartoons making light of the Holocaust. Although the resulting cartoons will inevitably be offensive, it is a better outlet for anger than violence.

The results of the contest will not likely generate the kind of outrage in the west that the creators expect. After all, anti-Jewish writings and images are already commonplace in the Muslim world.

"Valley of the Wolves" a film that recently opened in Turkey, depicts a Jewish doctor at Abu Ghraib prison who cuts out prisoner organs and sells then to rich people in New York, London and Tel Aviv.

This movie was made before the Danish cartoons and was made in Turkey, which has the friendliest (least hostile) relationship to the United States of any of the Muslim dominated countries.

The inherent anti-Jewish prejudice among much of the Muslim population is shown in the choice of the Holocaust as a subject for cartoons. Retaliation against Jews for something non-Jewish Danes did shows a thought process that is, at best, immature.