Understanding the Cartoon AffairGS Don Morris, Ph.D.
February 10, 2006
Riots around the world, embassies have been burned and now people have been killed. Danish cartoonists are in hiding fearful for their lives. Millions of Muslims are calling for their execution. In many locales security forces have engaged the rioters in street fights, sticks and rocks have been thrown and Islamic political leaders and religious leaders are "ramping up" the rhetoric that has been actualized with horrendous actions. What is going on?
Is this behavior new within the Muslim world? No, it has been going on for years. Aid workers have been kidnapped, murdered, tourists and journalists have met the same fate, assaults on innocents in Kenya and Bali, trains have been blown up, funerals and weddings have been attacked, people have been injured and killed for years, planes have been flown into massive buildings-the reason has been rage, at least that is what the media has told us. Experts have offered the same worn-out mantra, "it is justified behavior because they (Muslims) have legitimate grievances and we in the West do not understand." This is the justification and regrettably the validation of such human behavior. Perhaps it is time to step back from the fray and offer an analysis of what is true. (1)
First, what do we know: The infamous cartoon that theoretically sparked this entire furor was published months ago. The same cartoon that appeared in a Danish newspaper was also published in an Egyptian newspaper Al Fagr back in October 2005. Let me repeat, October 2005, during Ramadan, for all the Egyptian Muslim population to see, and not a single squeak of outrage ever occurred. The Muslim world knew of this cartoon for months and there was no outcry.
Second, many of the Arab governments were and still are trying to address their own internal society problems. For example, in Saudi Arabia the leaders had to deal with the deaths of hundreds of people that took place during the Hajj stampede. Jordanian citizens are infuriated with the government's new minimum wage law; the Syrian Government has had to address its Lebanon problem- the Harriri murder. In Egypt, the government has run afoul of its population as it tries to pass the new Judiciary reforms and Social Security Bill- these "reforms" will cut over $300 million dollars in benefits to some of Egypt's poorest families. We all know what is going on in Iran.
Third, the Iranian leadership has been "beating the drum of intolerance" and railing against Israel and the entire Western World for weeks all the while doing its best to secure the ability to make a nuclear bomb that can now be transported to not only Israel but also to Europe. They are not only working on the death bomb, they simultaneously are creating the delivery agent aka long distance missile.
Fourth, a group of Danish Muslims started a tour of the Arab countries taking along the now infamous cartoon and they added 12 additional cartoons. They went to these countries to stir up hatred for the West. Interestingly, Egypt and even Hamas turned them down. However they had a positive reception in Qatar. The satellite-TV channel Al Jazeera that specializes in inciting Muslims against the West and anything democratic received them with open arms. The channel's chief Islamist televangelist, Yussuf al-Qaradawi (an Egyptian preacher who is also a friend of Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London), issued a "fatwa" and the fuse was lighted. Mr. Yussuf al-Qaradawi energized his network of Muslim Brotherhood militants in Europe to attack the cartoons. In addition he presented the claim, a false one not known to most Westerners, that images were not allowed in Islam and that the Danish cartoonist had violated "an absolute principle of The Only True Faith." This was all that was needed to ignite a theological firestorm.
Fifth, little known and as of this writing unreported is the fact that Denmark is assuming the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council just as the IAEA is to refer Iran to the Council and ask for sanctions. A perfect time for Iran to suggest that Denmark is not a friend of Islam and is actually an enemy.
Sixth, Syria has its own problems with the world community as the UN has been forced to have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and five of his relatives and aides, to testify in the murder of Lebanon's former premier, Rafiq al-Hariri. Please note that the destruction of embassies has occurred in Lebanon and Syria. There is evidence that Syria actually bussed into Lebanon Muslim Brotherhood members to demonstrate. (2)
This all leads one to conclude that perhaps, just perhaps, it isn't about cartoons, rather it began as a diversionary tactic and as each day goes by, the Muslim world watches and observes how their behavior is playing in the West. I believe this is morphing into an even greater problem. History is replete with the proverbial "historical moment" and we may be witnessing just such a moment in time. As of this writing, this affair is expanding across the world and is now being displayed in many more Muslim countries and also Western countries, especially in Europe. Note that this story is not disappearing, it has "news legs" and it is turning into a war of cultures.
For a moment let us consider the following possibility. The world has an Iranian President soon to have the capability to destroy large populations along with their infrastructure. This is the same man who has publicly announced that one country should be wiped off the face of the earth, has publicly challenged the United States and for that matter the entire Western World. He has blatantly turned his back to requests and demands made of it by this same Western World. Many call him a lunatic, crazy and do their best to discount his words. I do not! He believes that the world should be Islamic and he is not alone.
In the West we have fallen into the trap. The focus is upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the hypocrisy of the Muslim leaders. While we engage this academic debate, we fail to address another crucial point: there are now millions of Muslims who believe that the world would be better off if all the world was under Islamic rule and it is time to address this head on. Political correctness must be abandoned-we are facing a showdown of cultures. I understand that this statement alone dismisses my credibility in some eyes. By doing so, you abdicate responsibility for debate. Let us examine some additional facts.
In the West you can practice your religious beliefs-in countries whose governments are under Sharia law, your non-Islamic religion is subservient. If you even discuss your religion in these countries you may pay for it with your life. There is no separation of religion and State-it is religious law. Our non-Islamic religious and secular values are different, let us finally be honest and open about this fact. I find it rather incredible that we in the West realize that when we travel to Islamic countries that we must follow and obey their social and religiously defined daily behaviors including wardrobe, language and gender relationships to identify but a few. Yet, here in the West, we profess to honor differences among groups of people but really find it difficult at times to accept others' behavior and beliefs.
We are now asking ourselves, how come the concept of assimilation has been abandoned? What does it mean to assimilate any way? It is time to entertain this debate before it is too late. For example, in human behavior there is a concept known as impulse control. It manifests itself in overt behavior. Have you noticed how here in the United States we tend to exhibit impulse control at funerals, weddings and when we are angry with our government's policies? Part of our culture is to display what we call "civilized behavior" in these instances. We even have laws that direct such behavior. We would not and do not allow the firing of machine guns into the air when we demonstrate. We display impulse control over our thoughts and emotions-those who don't are subject to consequences that have been agreed upon by the general population. I don't know about you but when I have guests in my home, there are sets of behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable and I only ask that you honor my home. I do not see this behavior principle in play now-I see us making excuses, providing justification and giving into those who bring their way of live here with no intention of assimilating.
If I am someone who believes that it is my way or no way, then I may be ready to act upon this belief if I think I could take advantage of a society that is unwilling and/or unable to stand up for its beliefs. Given the status of certain Islamic leaders with beliefs that only Islam is the answer, then the time may be near to act upon that set of beliefs.
We should become clear what we value, how we want to live our lives and stop feeling guilty if it excludes an entire group of people. Don't you see, they have no problem expressing what is best for us; they have no difficulty creating disruption and confusion inside a "free" society. Please understand that they will have no difficulty excluding our values. We live in a culture based upon Judeo-Christian values inside a political structure that enables and ennobles those who hold alternative beliefs. We call this freedom. They are counting on this very freedom and are using it against us and it is our Achilles heel.
End Notes1. Alexander H. Joffe, FrontPageMagazine.com, February 6, 2006
2. Amir Taheri, The New York Post, Feb.9, 2006