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Feb 4th 2006

apologize for calling us violent or we’ll kill you!

american and british leaders have said the printing/reprinting of the cartoons of the prophet muhammad goes over the line of good taste. in some sense, i would agree. in my post pissing in our holy water, i called the posting of “gay lds missionary” photos in salt lake city ethnic intimidation. that case, however similar, has significant differences from this one.

first. location. the arguably offensive artwork was originally put on display in salt lake city, utah. this is, as i noted there, the worldwide headquarters of the church of jesus christ of latter day saints. that act would have been akin to the danes publishing and distributing the cartoons in mecca, itself. they did not do that, and even declined to post the cartoons in their online version so those abroad would not see them.

second. the purpose or utility of the expression. what were the lds missionary photos protesting? they seemed to constitute little more than a gratuitous public display of homosexual affection, mixed with sacred lds and christian symbols. some acknowledged them as a protest against lds policies toward homosexuality. the danish muslim cartoons also seemed to be gratuitously offensive, when much less would have done the job. however, of the twelve images of muhammad, there were several addressing the serious issue of islamic terrorism. this is certainly a valid point to make. worldwide muslim terrorism is a huge problem.

to wit (and bringing us to the third point): response of the aggrieved party. in response to the cartoon controversy, muslims engaged in terroristic acts of vandalism, threats, and kidnappings. how did members of the lds faith respond to their ethnic intimidation? letters to the editor, mostly. one kid allegedly went to the gallery to try to remove the “artwork” but didn’t succeed. but that goes back to the first point: the confrontational location chosen by the artist.

so when the US criticizes the danes and other european papers for printing and reprinting the cartoons, i think they are wrong. we have a huge military that can get our ideas across to the muslim world. we have the most powerful bully pulpit in the world, the office of president of the united states. if we want to call someone a terrorist, we will do it, then we will bomb them until they are dead. if the danes want to express their anger and affect social change, they have newspapers. free speech. dialogue. and, of course, marijuana.

the muslim world’s unbelievably immature response to the cartoons reminds me of something i learned in kindergarden or earlier. when another youngster egged me on with words, and i responded with physical aggression (well, as much physical aggression as a 5 year-old could muster), i was taught “he only used words, you don’t hit back.” we learned useful mantras like “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me ” and “i’m rubber, you’re glue. whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” we became (or at least were given the tools to become) impervious to the foul and offensive words of others. what do muslim children learn at this age? presumably the useful lesson that all infidels must be killed.

two things should come out of this cartoon controversy. first, we should thank the european papers for basically siding with us, in a sense, in the war on terror. for some of them, this would seem to be a first. second, let us see the intolerance and immaturity of radical islam. let us realize we need to find and encourage moderate leaders in the muslim world and help them develop a winning message so they can lead their loonies back to civilization.

following is a collection of news and opinion on the issue. if you see an article elsewhere that you would like to recommend, let me know:

Up to 300 [muslims] went on a rampage yesterday inside the lobby of a Jakarta [Indonesia] building housing the Danish Embassy in protest over cartoons that Muslims say insult Islam and the Prophet Mohammad.

Shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), [they] smashed lamps with bamboo sticks and threw chairs around in anger at cartoons originally published by a Danish daily newspaper.

Muslims consider any images of Mohammad to be blasphemous. [ed–this is not completely true. (as reported on NPR yesterday, at least) sunni muslims believe all images of muhammad to be blasphemous, but most or all other sects do not. in evidence of this, one can buy images of the prophet muhammad from street dealers in iraq and other places. most of the muslim world is protesting in this case because they don’t like being ridiculed, not necessarily to stop the blasphemy.] [source]

there is also a very interesting discussion going on at, of all places. one comment notes the same people who are protesting these cartoons regularly laugh at al-jazeera cartoons about jews, destroy buddhist statues, and burn western flags. in any event, the entire thread is recommended. ***that said, watch out for offensive language and four letter words***

the following msnbc article, a q&a with nbc’s charlene gubash, highlights an otherwise unreported outbreak of violence, as well as some idiocy:

there was violence attached to some of the demonstrations — on Thursday night where they threw an explosive at a French cultural center.
We spoke today to Dr. Asad Abu Sharak, a professor of linguistics at Al Azhar University in Gaza. He is considered to be a moderate….He said he believed that this was an example of a double standard, that when someone denigrates the Holocaust they throw them in jail. But when someone denigrates the religious figure that Muslims hold most dear, they call it freedom of speech. [source]

interesting, despite the reporter’s misspeak (“denigrates the holocaust”). though i disagree with the austrian courts jailing someone for denying the holocaust, i don’t think the “moderate” professor’s comparison is fair. the reason is, the holocaust occurred. it happened, and now it is true and fixed and done. the religion of islam, though it is, itself, stuck in the past, is interacting with the modern world each day, and breaking new ground and making interpretable news right before our eyes. in short, the story has not been told. the jury is still out. etc. if the austrian man drew a cartoon featuring moses with a gun shooting palestinians, it would be in poor taste, but it would be a much fairer comparison to the danish muhammad cartoons. i also doubt it would get the artist jailed (even in israel).

the moderate also went on to comment on a new conspiracy against muslims by the west. (he is apparently the last to hear about the war on terror). then the reporter concludes with this gem:

Everybody in the Muslim world, though, wants a clear-cut apology. They don’t want the caveat of free speech, they want a clear-cut apology. So, maybe it won’t go away until they hear those words, “I’m sorry.”

i’d like to hear that, too. e.g., “i’m sorry we bombed you on september 11th. we won’t do it again,” or “i’m sorry we bombed you on july 7th and march 11th. we regret those killings,” or “i’m sorry we continue to threaten you with beheadings and kidnappings. we don’t know what we have been thinking.” any of those would be a good start. then the danes can tender their apology.

LGF and interested participant are reporting that danish islamist leaders may have fueled the fire themselves with additional drawings not published by the newspaper. from interested participant:

Another aspect of the story that hasn’t been getting much attention is that the Muslim outrage at Jyllands-Posten may have been triggered by two Danish imams. Ahmed Akkari and Abu Laban compiled a dossier of racist and culturally insensitive images circulating in Denmark and took them on a 2005 road show in the Arab World. The dossier contained some outrageously offensive images of unknown origin which had never appeared in Jyllands-Posten.

Three, in particular, have produced seething anger. One showed Muhammad as a pedophile, another as a pig and the last depicted a praying Muslim being raped by a dog. None were in the newspaper but were shown throughout the Arab world as indications of Islamophobia in Denmark.

Thankfully, the Muslim response to the cartoons so far is somewhat less strident than previous episodes in which prophet Muhammad was disrespected. As a reminder, author Salman Rushdie wrote some unflattering words about Muhammad in The Satanic Verses and received a death sentence by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered for his film depicting the lives of Muslim women. I’d like to think the Muslims are mellowing and someday will respond like the rest of us do when we see something that offends us. We flip them the bird. [source]

and this from instapundit:

reuters: Washington on Friday condemned caricatures in European newspapers of the Prophet Mohammad, siding with Muslims who are outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.

Major U.S. publications have not republishing the cartoons, which include depictions of Mohammad as a terrorist. That is in contrast to European media, which responded to the criticism against the original Danish newspaper that printed the caricatures by republishing the offensive images themselves.

instapundit: I’m sorry, but the lesson here is that if you want to be listened to, you should blow things up. That’s a very bad incentive structure, but it’s the one the allegedly responsible parties have created. [source]

human events has the original danish newspaper images. these sites have photos of muslim reaction:

a “photoshopped” picture: that is supported by rhetoric:

We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible,’ one preacher told worshippers at the al-Omari Mosque in the Gaza Strip as tensions spread over the publication of the cartoons, first in Denmark and later in Norway, France, Germany and Spain. …

‘We must tell Europeans, we can live without you. But you cannot live without us,’ prominent Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi told worshippers in Qatar. ‘We can buy from China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia… we will not be humiliated.’

In Lebanon, thousands of Palestinian refugees marched through the streets of their camps, burning Danish and Norwegian flags and calling on Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader, to avenge the Prophet Mohammad.

We will not be satisfied with protests. The solution is the slaughter of those who harmed Islam and the Prophet,’ said Sheikh Abu Sharif, spokesman for the militant Osbet al-Ansar group, at a rally in Lebanon’s largest camp, the southern Ein al-Hilweh. [source

perhaps the most memorable piece i’ve read on this controversy is a comment made by someone identifying himself as “kim suk-yoo” at

We wake up this morning to see video on CNN showing rampaging Muslims around the world. In Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific Rim … Muslim Mobs spreading mayhem. It seems that these mighty mad Muslims are rioting and firing their ever-present AK-47s into the air because of cartoons. Yup … This latest epidemic of Muslim outrage comes to us because some newspapers in Norway and Denmark published some cartoons depicting Mohammed. In fact, here is one of my favorites:

Admit it, this turban/bomb thing could be the next big fashion hit on the Muslim street!
Muslim outrage huh? OK … let’s do a little historical review. Just some lowlights:
Muslims fly commercial airliners into buildings in New York City. No Muslim outrage.
Muslim officials block the exit where school girls are trying to escape a burning building because their faces were exposed. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims cut off the heads of three teenaged girls on their way to school in Indonesia. A Christian school. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims murder teachers trying to teach Muslim children in Iraq. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims murder over 80 tourists with car bombs outside cafes and hotels in Egypt. No Muslim outrage.
A Muslim attacks a missionary children’s school in India. Kills six. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims slaughter hundreds of children and teachers in Beslan, Russia. Muslims shoot children in the back. No Muslim outrage.
Let’s go way back. Muslims kidnap and kill athletes at the Munich Summer Olympics. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims fire rocket-propelled grenades into schools full of children in Israel. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims murder more than 50 commuters in attacks on London subways and busses. Over 700 are injured. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims massacre dozens of innocents at a Passover Seder. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims murder innocent vacationers in Bali. No Muslim outrage.
Muslim newspapers publish anti-Semitic cartoons. No Muslim outrage
Muslims are involved, on one side or the other, in almost every one of the 125+ shooting wars around the world. No Muslim outrage.
Muslims beat the charred bodies of Western civilians with their shoes, then hang them from a bridge. No Muslim outrage.
Newspapers in Denmark and Norway publish cartoons depicting Mohammed. Muslims are outraged.
Dead children. Dead tourists. Dead teachers. Dead doctors and nurses. Death, destruction and mayhem around the world at the hands of Muslims .. no Muslim outrage … but publish a cartoon depicting Mohammed with a bomb in his turban and all hell breaks loose.
Come on, is this really about cartoons? They’re rampaging and burning flags. They’re looking for Europeans to kidnap. They’re threatening innkeepers and generally raising holy Muslim hell not because of any outrage over a cartoon. They’re outraged because it is part of the Islamic jihadist culture to be outraged. You don’t really need a reason. You just need an excuse. Wandering around, destroying property, murdering children, firing guns into the air and feigning outrage over the slightest perceived insult is to a jihadist what tailgating is to a Steeler’s fan.
I know and understand that these bloodthirsty murderers do not represent the majority of the world’s Muslims. When, though, do they become outraged? When do they take to the streets to express their outrage at the radicals who are making their religion the object of worldwide hatred and ridicule? Islamic writer Salman Rushdie wrote of these silent Muslims in a New York Times article three years ago. “As their ancient, deeply civilized culture of love, art and philosophical reflection is hijacked by paranoiacs, racists, liars, male supremacists, tyrants, fanatics and violence junkies, why are they not screaming?”
Indeed. Why not?

see also previous coverage:

muhammad cartoons reverberate
muslims threaten violence against europeans who depict them as violent

8 Responses to “apologize for calling us violent or we’ll kill you!”

  1. Ryan

    While I’m not sure if those European Newspapers should trump things held sacred in a religion, the reaction from the Muslim world is ridiculous.

    The irony is just ridiculous.

  2. i don’t disagree with you. yet i resist the politically correct stance of the british and the americans for a couple of reasons: first, the hypocrisy from people who have zero respect for other religions, demanding that theirs be free from ridicule. second, the response, which could have been civil (cutting of diplomatic ties, boycott of goods, oral and written expressions of disagreement), was violent, nearly indescriminate, and almost completely unhinged. i laughed out loud while watching news footage of arab men ransacking a consulate somewhere, throwing furniture down to the street below and waving their national flag out the window as if in conquest, all while the static text on the screen read “cartoons cause violence” or something like that. as i said, i laughed out loud to think that someone’s words (or drawings) could incite this drastic response. these muslims’ concept of “civilization” is very squirrely.

  3. doug

    If this whole episode isn’t a perfect example of the clash of civilizations, I’m not sure what is.

    The caricatures of Mohammed are no doubt very offensive to many Muslims. I think that printing them was in bad taste.

    Likewise, as you noted Travis, the photographs of two guys dressed up as Mormon missionaries that were put on display in Salt Lake City were quite offensive to many members of the LDS Church. Or, take for example the “crucifix in a jar of urine” scandal from several years ago that riled many Christians across the US.

    In any case…the difference in the reactions of the Christian and Muslim communities is not just ridiculous or comical. It is scary. One can only hope that Islam can purge itself of this irrational and psychotic fanaticism.

  4. lol @ “cartoons cause violence.” There is the whole thesis of my childhood right there. I guess I shouldn’t have had those forbidden viewings of Tom & Jerry as a kid..

    I personally don’t justify the slanderous depictions of Muhammad in contrast to the extremist responses which I agree are.. extreme. Both the slanderous depiction and the rediculous responses are a disservice to Islam. Ergo I think the U.S. is right (not wrong) to use it’s “bully pulpit” against the papers that ran the slander.

  5. i appreciate your comments, and i’d like to flesh out the argument fuller now. a very insightful question was asked in the comments to a post on this subject at times and seasons:

    was there a need to provoke muslims in the first place?

    very good question to ask. the answer is ‘probably not.’ but that shouldn’t be the end of the analysis. what if the cartoons had appeared in the nytimes (or, more likely, the nypost) after the hijackings in september 2001. or in a spanish paper after the madrid bombings in march 2003 or 2004 (whenever they occurred) or in a british paper in july of last year? would they have been permissible under those circumstances? the danish(?) filmmaker, theo van gogh, was stabbed to death in public last year, and a note was left on his chest warning this was the consequence of his insult to islam by making a movie about muslim women.

    the muslim population in northern europe is growing, and asserting greater influence. why can’t the danish newspaper serve as the place for non-violent debate? i think it is reasonable, under the circumstances. the whole muslim world (granted, it’s hard to keep track of a billion people’s soulful desires, but for all we know, the whole muslim world) is either celebrating or tacitly approving of the offenses perpetrated by the so-called radicals–even the saudi prince who reminded mayor giuliani after 9/11 it was america’s policies that needed to be changed to prevent future attacks. until islam denounces terror, intolerance, beheadings and suicide bombings as its major form of communication with the west, i think the characterizations are okay by anyone who feels threatened.

    if catholics were still inquisitioning people in far off lands, you can bet there would be cartoons of jesus manning the guillotines. as people have noted, this kind of caricature of non-muslim religions goes on daily in the muslim media.

    anyway, as i quoted above, is there a need to showcase these cartoons? (“no! they provoke muslims!”) so have the wars america has fought in afghanistan and iraq. arguably, the wars will have a positive effect in the long run. also arguably: there is utility of the expression, “islam sure seems to be a violent religion…..” the utility will hopefully be some social change for the better. or at least some of the most vehement militants will kill themselves off in the stampedes to ransack european embassies.

  6. Mark

    Yikes! To compare the LDS Gay Missionary display with the Prophet Mohammad caricatures and then call the former the more egregious… I’m just at a loss for words. It does reveal one thing: you must be completely ignorant of the homosexual issue taking place *within* the Church.

    Does it make no difference that the “missionaries” photographed were actually raised in the Church and were both former LDS Missionaries? Did you know that the photographer was LDS? This is more of a dissent from within than from without and is what distinguishes it most from the Mohammad debacle. For that same reason it is an act of speech that should be commended. We should never quell dissent from within, but face it honestly.

    Your analogy is narrow-minded and disappointing.

  7. Does it make no difference that the “missionaries” photographed were actually raised in the Church and were both former LDS Missionaries? Did you know that the photographer was LDS? This is more of a dissent from within than from without and is what distinguishes it most from the Mohammad debacle.

    i don’t think the “within/without” distinction so important. when one of the “gay lds missionaries” in the photos or nick of attempts to criticize the faith from within, it is treated as if from without. that is how i have treated it in the past (just search “gay mormon” in our search bar at the top of the blog). that is how most lds people treat it. when there is such a material “breach” (if you will) of the teachings of the church accompanied by an unrepentant attitude, that is the only way we know how to treat it (if someone is sinning in other ways, denying that it is a sin, they would be treated the same way whether their problem is adultery, fornication, what have you). people blatantly rejecting (some set of) the teachings of the church are treated as if they have left the church. we can debate this, but i think it is right in the sense that i am talking about it. these people have, often, stopped attending church altogether. this would support the claim that they are no longer “in” the church.

    former “insiders” are often treated with more contempt than outsiders, both in the lds church and elsewhere this is probably because they know the sensitive points to attack and tender nerves to strike.

    salman rushdie would be the best example. there is, apparently, still an outstanding fatwa calling for his execution because of a book he wrote almost two decades ago. at the time of its publication, riots nearly identical to the cartoon riots took place. people were killed. etc. over a book written by (gasp) an insider.

    for a more contemporary example, take irshad manji. she is a feminist lesbian canadian muslim (a delightful combination) and an outspoken critic of a cornucopia of islamic policies/practices:

    Manji has been a vocal critic of orthodox Islam, especially the treatment of women by some Muslims. She does not wear a headscarf or chador whereas most traditional Muslim women do observe the hijab. She has criticized the Palestinian leadership and the opinions of some Muslims about Israel. She questions historical interpretations of the Qur’an and advocates the concept of ijtihad, “the Muslim tradition of independent thinking”

    in an interview between ms. manji and a muslim scholar from a UC school that i heard on amy goodman’s “democracy now!” the other day, she was constantly derided and ridiculed, especially for her claims to be an insider when (the islamist male claimed) she is actually a complete outsider. it is interesting to me how this posturing goes on in the islamic world, as well.

    in any case, what do you think would have happened if irshad manji had put the muhammad cartoons in an art gallery in mecca? stoning? rape? beheading? i think all of these things are realistic possible consequences. it is no coincidence she broadcasts her criticisms from canada, and lives in a dwelling with bullet-proof windows. i don’t think the issue of from whom the criticisms emanate is the determining factor for muslim rage. i don’t even think you have to be inside the lds church or the religion of islam to criticize, study, comment, or admire the faiths.

    it is an act of speech that should be commended. We should never quell dissent from within, but face it honestly.

    i do not think the “art” featuring “gay missionaries” in salt lake city is commendable, and as it was a little misleading to me (i first understood that this was some sort of reenactment of a mission experience for the two models, which is not true). on the contrary, i think one way mormons with homosexual tendencies could honestly and commendably address the issue would be to talk about how they are dealing with same sex attraction in appropriate church meetings. although we don’t generally do this with sins — discuss them and share them openly– i think this would do a lot more for dialogue and understanding than publishing offensive artwork.

    ***i should also mention that the most inflammatory cartoons were an inside job:

  8. […] apologize for calling us violent or we’ll kill you (this and two other posts, muslims threaten violence against europeans who depict islam as violent and muhammad cartoons reverberate show us that radical islam has no sense of irony) […]