Across the globe, Muslims are protesting the publication of cartoon images of the prophet Mohammed in European newspapers. They’re being incited by clerics:
An imam at the Omari Mosque in Gaza City told 9,000 worshippers that those behind the drawings should have their heads cut off.
Demonstrators are carrying belligerent signs, like this one:
This one is completely over the top:
And that was in London, not Gaza.
Meanwhile, the State Department denounced publication of the cartoons:
“These cartoons are indeed offensive to the beliefs of Muslims,” State Department spokesman Justin Higgins said when queried about the furore sparked by the cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper.
“We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility,” Higgins told AFP.
“Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable. We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices.”
An interesting idea: freedom of the press “must be coupled with press responsibility.” Someone tell the New York Times.
The striking thing about the Mohammed cartoons is how mild they are. Most of them are innocuous; probably the most incendiary is one that shows Mohammed’s turban as a bomb:
Which is not exactly complimentary, but hardly unfair, given the thousands of people who have been blown up by fervent Muslims purporting to act in Mohammed’s name.
The State Department says that publishing cartoons like this one, and even tamer ones, constitutes “inciting religious or ethnic hatreds.” Why? These cartoons are very mild commentary by any standard. Compare them, for example, to the vile, anti-Semitic cartoons that appear frequently in the Arab press. The cartoons are said to be offensive because Muslims don’t believe in depicting the prophet, even in complimentary ways. I can understand that. Likewise, we Christians don’t believe in submerging crufixes in urine, and calling them art. So the Muslims can adhere to their prohibition; but if someone else chooses to draw a picture of the prophet–or, say, eat bacon–it should not be an occasion for threats of genocide. For the State Department to suggest that there is some shadow of legitimacy to the widespread, violent reaction to the cartoons is unfortunate, to say the least.