And by that title I refer to the demonstrators as well as the cartoons they are demonstrating against.
The picture on the right is apparently one of the most offensive of the cartoons. (See the rest here btw, in the unlikely event you haven’t already.) Not only does it portray a forbidden picture of the prophet (peace be upon him – just not upon anyone else), but also it suggests that Muslims might sometimes be connected with planting bombs and terrorism and stuff. What a thought. Everyone knows Islam is a peaceful religion, and if you want proof just look at this crowd peacefully protesting:
So they’re offensive to Muslims. And the State Department agrees this is bad, according to Reuters:
These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims,… We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.
Well you know what – I’m offended too. I’m offended that the government presumes to suggest that ridiculous fairy tale religious beliefs should be protected from criticism. Religious beliefs, remember, are the ones not backed by any reliable evidence. And these are the beliefs we are not supposed to criticize? But why not? Surely, those beliefs not backed by evidence should be the first in the line for criticism? Of course, I can see why the religious would want their religious fairy tales protected from ridicule. They are, ridiculous. The major tenets of most religions are so utterly and inherently ludicrous you would not under normal circumstances expect a ten year old to believe them. However, I rather see that as their problem, not mine.
Ophelia at Butterflies and Wheels puts it more eloquently. Read this piece on the idea that these cartoons represent a battle between religious extremism and freedom of speech:
That's not how I would draw them, actually. That is a little too predictable, and it's also not quite the point. It seems to me the battle is between the idea that religion should be immune from criticism and the idea that it should not be. Or, perhaps, it's between the idea that 'sensitivities' and feelings of being 'offended' and desires for 'respect' should receive great deference and attention and loving concern and the idea that grownups are supposed to have learned how to take being 'offended' in stride and move on. Or it's between the idea that 'the sacred' should be inviolate and the idea that it should be subject to scrutiny. Or it's between the idea that 'blasphemy' is strictly forbidden and the idea that 'blasphemy' is a meaningless word referring to an empty category and should be drummed out of our vocabulary, let alone our laws. Or all those, and a few more.
She follows this with a reply to this idea that images of Muhammad are not allowed:
Not allowed to whom? Interesting that she neglects to include the necessary qualifier. Interesting and revealing, and of course she's not the only one who's been using that trick. There's an authoritarian little move going on by which people try to pretend that taboos apply universally as opposed to only the people who accept them. We can all draw pictures of Muhammad if we want to, and the Sarah Josephs don't get to tell us it's not allowed.
Right. That is exactly the point. I don’t mind if religious people want to practice their silly beliefs on their own, just as long as they don’t bother me and as long as they don’t tell me their silly made-up rules apply to me as well. But that’s never enough for these people. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Religious nuts everywhere, if they could get away with it, would make damn sure their rules applied to all of us.
Don’t believe me? Check out this report from the Bad Astronomer. A religious twit appointed by President Bush to work at NASA as a public affairs officer used his position to instruct a NASA web designer to make changes on the NASA web page about the Big Bang, because:
The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion… It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”
This is how the government, if we let them, will meddle in the scientific process. It’s hardly surprising that the administration supports the view that the Mohammad cartoons are “not acceptable” – they are fellow travelers. This is why it is important not to buckle to the pressure from these Islamic thugs, but to criticize religion wherever it tries to get out of its box. Or as Ophelia writes:
Religion is in need of constant vigilance and interrogation and steady unrelenting pressure, so that maybe someday in some other happier time, it will stop being a source of misery and deprivation and oppression for so damn many people, especially women. So bring on criticism, mockery, cartoons, robust discussion, and whatever else it takes.
Right again. And for an even more extreme view, read Morpheus’ Millitant Atheist Declaration. Also right.
Make no mistake, these cartoons are not “racist” as some have claimed, nor do they compare to comments made by the Nazis about the Jews in the 1930s (this is just Orac’s Hitler Zombie again). This line of reasoning is a false analogy. Racism is the belief that a whole race of people is inferior to another race, despite evidence to the contrary, and actual discrimination based on this belief. Cartoons making fun of religion are just making fun of a belief – a belief that is not backed by any evidence, is patently absurd, and that adults are free to choose or reject. (In free countries anyway.)
The reaction to these cartoons are an eloquent example of the basic problem with religion. If I disagree with someone on, say, what is the best make of car, or on whether psychics are real or not, for the most part we can agree to disagree and get on with our lives. If I disagree with someone about what God wants, no compromise is possible. How can you disagree with what some fundamentalist thinks God revealed to him? The logical conclusion is the firing of newspaper editors, torching of embassies and death threats to bloggers and others. Agreeing with them that their religious beliefs should not be mocked will lead to self-censorship and will only embolden them to demand more next time. If we don’t stand up against religious intolerance now, it will only get worse.
More good reading on this subject:
The Two Percent Company’s Welcome to the Asylum. Population: Way Too Many
Christopher Hitchins’ Cartoon Debate
PZ Myers with a slightly more sympathetic view of the Moslems themselves