05 February 2006

Is Iran Pushing the Cartoon Offensive?

Laurence Jarvik wonders whether the sudden ratcheting up of the current Cartoon Offensive, which was just a local Danish phenomenon back in September 2005, isn't perhaps being pushed by Iran in retaliation for pressure from the EU on its nuclear program.
Anyone who has seen the cartoons knows they are "tame" and not on their face offensive. Yet the organized and international nature of the protest would indicate state support as well as religious sensitivity. Given that the original offense took place four months ago, the outbreak of violence at this point raised the question:

What if this is a shot across the bow to the EU and the non-Muslim world that an attack on Iran could lead to the Muslim "street" exploding around the world?

Just a working hypothesis at this point--but all the more reason for the US and UK to take a stronger stand in support of the Danes, if true. For if this was a test, then the US and UK look like they have failed the test. They have been intimidated. And the Europeans, so far have not.

Which means military action, if it does take place, will require a great deal better diplomatic and public relations support than the Iraq war.
If you look where the principal violent outbreaks have occurred so far in the Middle East--in areas where Iranian allies remain most influential: Hamas in Gaza, the Assad regime in Damascus, and now possibly Hezbollah in Lebanon--Iran's possible handiwork does seem likely.

Jarvik also links to the apparently newly assembled Mohammed Image Archive:
While the debate rages, an important point has been overlooked: despite the Islamic prohibition against depicting Mohammed under any circumstances, hundreds of paintings, drawings and other images of Mohammed have been created over the centuries, with nary a word of complaint from the Muslim world. The recent cartoons in Jyllands-Posten are nothing new; it's just that no other images of Mohammed have ever been so widely publicized.

This page is an archive of numerous depictions of Mohammed, to serve as a reminder that such imagery has been part of Western and Islamic culture since the Middle Ages -- and to serve as a resource for those interested in freedom of expression.
Personally, I think ridicule is one of the most potent weapons against religious totalitarianism. And I'm not inclined to feel very sensitive to the feelings of people who, in the name of religion, (a) burn embassies, (b) blow up infidels, and (c) demonstrate with signage that contains variations on the formula "Kill/Exterminate/Massacre/Behead Those Who Insult/Defame/Slander/Ridicule [Insert your religion here]."

And here's a nice quote posted by Kansan Bart Hall on a long, fairly temperate, and sometimes thought-provoking comment thread on Winds of Change about the Cartoon Offensive.
"Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure. Fundamentalism is, therefore, inevitable in an age which has destroyed so many certainties by which faith once expressed itself and upon which it relied."

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) [liberal theologian]

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