Friday, February 10, 2006

Searching for the Right Parallels to Cartoons

I posted yesterday agreeing that a parallel to cartoons of Mohammed was the burning of the flag. I post today to disagree with Martin Peretz in The New Republic (registration required).

What the cartoons have revealed: "Muslims are just plain forbidden from depicting the prophet. So, let them not depict him. But Christians and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists are not prohibited, and I assume that the Danish cartoonists were not Muslims but Lutherans (an overwhelming majority of whom assert that they do not believe in God) or from that cool breed of Scandinavian rationalists. Another cartoon shows the prophet greeting some martyrs at the entrance to heaven, and he shouts to them, 'Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins.' When you compare the most offensive of these caricatures to the vile and inciting images of Jews routinely shown on government-owned television all over the Muslim world (forget about the ugly role of caricature in the long history of Christian anti-Semitism) you wonder what all the fuss is about. OK, Bill Clinton doesn't wonder. He's referred to them as 'these totally outrageous cartoons against Islam,' although I myself doubt whether he's ever bothered to look at them. Is he for free expression or for that sloppy multiculturalism that forbids you from raising anyone's hackles? This is the liberal's dilemma. By the way, a European-Arab website--in retaliation, I suppose--has just put out a cartoon showing Anne Frank and Hitler in bed."
I don't agree with his specifics. Offensive cartoons of Jews, whether of Anne Frank or whoever, are parallel to offensive cartoons of Muslims (or Lutherans [by the way, a Lutheran would believe in Christ and God]. Offensive cartoons of U.S. Presidents are parallel to offensive cartoons of Saddam Hussein or the ayatollah. An offensive cartoon of Moses or Abraham or God would parallel one of Mohammed.

I was brought up to be sensitive to others' feelings, but as a liberal I believe in equal opportunity for everyone to offend everyone.

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