Sunday, February 05, 2006

Time for a religion to grow up.

This post is a bit more serious than the last few.

This week, I've been reading about the growing anger in the Islamic world over the Danish (and other European) newspapers' publishing cartoons of Muhammad, some of which were insulting by themselves. (even discounting the Islamic prohibition against depictions of Muhammad in the first place.)

The first thing that strikes me as unusual is - the Danes? They're the last Europeans I would have thought to get embroiled in something like this. They're usually the tolerant ones - shying away from anything ... confrontational.

The second is, why now? These cartoons were first published back in September or October. Why are they suddenly being republished now? Why weren't they such a hot topic back then?

Gives one pause to wonder why.

But to me the real issue here is the Islamic reaction. Not that it's unusual. It's not, they do this anytime someone in the Western press says or does anything remotely related to something they construe as an insult to their religion.

That's the problem. For years, Muslim papers have been publishing some of the most insulting cartoons of Jewish figures, ridiculing the Jews, and nowhere has anybody in a religious position of power in the Islamic world said anything about respecting someone else's religion. I'd bet that they've published a few about Christian figures, too, although I don't know it for a fact. But all of a sudden, let someone publish a few critical of Islam, and now, people have to die over it!

European papers say it's a freedom of speech issue. The US government, in a cynical effort to appear less critical of the Islamic world, has noted that such freedom has to be tempered with responsibility. Funny, that's the first time I've heard that one around here. Try that one in a journalistic seminar about free speech, and you'll get laughed outta the room!

The real issue here is that Muslims need to let their religion grow up and meet the modern world. I'm not saying that they have to allow muslims to suddenly start drawing depictions of Muhammad, no. I'm saying that they have to understand that not everybody feels bound by sharia (Islamic law). Muslims feel that it's ok for them to insult others, as long as they're unbelievers. But it's death for someone to insult Islam. Sorry, folks, double standard. The world doesn't work that way.

Muslims need to understand that not everybody feels the same way, and that when they erupt in violent protest, burning embassies, pronouncing death sentences, etc., they only perpetuate the image the rest of the world already has of their religion.

They keep saying that Islam is a peaceful religion. But the Koran says explicitly that unbelievers are to be killed. They keep saying that it is a loving religion. But it is also an intolerant one, that assumes everyone else should be bound by their rules. That's not very loving. Even though I'm not Muslim, if I draw a picture of Muhammad they don't like, all of a sudden, I have a death sentence over my head!

Grow up, people! I promise, if you draw an insulting picture of the Pope, I won't burn your embassy down.

But do go ahead and boycott Danish or European goods. That's fine; it's a much more effective way to get your point across! But burning embassies and pronouncing death sentences don't. You do NOT read about something called a war against Islam in the Western press, only in Muslim papers. Except for each other, Christians haven't shot at anybody over religion for quite a while, and I'd bet, unless you shoot first, we're not gonna start again now.

Freedom of the press be damned. Non-Muslims are NOT bound by the Islamic prohibition against making images of Muhammad, or anybody else. Christians have been making images of Jesus, and God, for centuries. Jews, believe it or not, have been pretty good about not making such images as far as I know. They take the first commandment much more seriously than the Christian world has. But nobody in the Christian community expects Muslims to adhere to our religious laws. Most Christian countries even allow Muslims to build and worship at mosques. But can Christians build and worship at churches in Muslim countries? Hell, no! In Saudi Arabia, they won't even officially allow Christians to worship in private homes, much less allow a church to contaminate their holy soil! Most tellingly, even in Israel, Muslims are allowed to build mosques and worship there.

So if the Islamic world wants the rest of us to respect their religion, they need to start respecting ours. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God. We just don't all agree on the status of different prophets. So that's a basis for killing each other?

In this world of nuclear death, that is insane.