The cartoons were in bad taste, an unnecessary affront to many of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, just as Joel Stein affronted the military, the families and friends of the military, and as Toles did the same to the wounded, and their families, friends and admirers. Of course each of them had the absolute right to publish their screed, and the Dutch (and now Norwegian) governments must reply to demands that these papers be punished with a steely refusal to be dictated to as to their culture of free expression and the protection of the vulgar and the stupid.
But don’t cheer the vulgar and the stupid.
There are hundreds of thousands of American troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe among Muslim peoples who they are trying to befriend. The jihadists like nothing more than evidence that these troops represent a West intent on a new crusade and a new domination of Muslims. Idiot cartoonists make our troops’ jobs more difficult, and the jihadists’ mission easier.
Cartoonists seeking to offend need to be defended against violence, but they don’t deserve praise and certainly not praise for their gift to the jihadists.
The Jihadists have their rallying points, and we have ours. Freedom of speech is a good one. Muslims across the world, including in the comments section on this blog, are openly rejecting that concept. We should embrace it. If doing so puts our troops in harms way, maybe they are in the wrong place?
When I first saw the cartoons last fall I found them cheap, shallow, and mostly pointless. But this struggle has nothing to do with the artistic or satirical qualities of the cartoons. It has to do with not only the legal right to publish them, but also the civic atmosphere that makes such publishing possible. Muslims of all stripes, and far from just “Jihadists,” are now doing their best to poison the civic atmosphere in the West so that nobody will ever again publish cartoons critical of Islam or even critical of some of Islams contemporary followers - the latter of which was obviously the purpose of the cartoons.
It is not a slippery-slope argument to point out that there are a lot more things than portraying the Prophet Muhammed that is super-duper haram in Islam. No matter how deep you bow, Mr. Hewitt, you’ll never bow deep enough to satisfy the Muslims.
So straighten your back and stand up for your right to gab.
Hugh’s major error is in deliberately ignoring the intent of the cartoons. Their purpose was neither to offend Muslims nor to denigrate Islam, but to determine whether controversial views can still be aired in Denmark without fear of massive reprisal. It is clear from the reaction of some Muslims — most importantly the heads of various Middle Eastern states — that they can not.