Wednesday, February 15, 2006


So several cartoonists in Denmark did drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, and some of them weren't complementary. Then a Danish newspaper printed them, and that made some Muslims unhappy. Some Islamic organizations asked for an apology from the Danish government, but didn't get what they wanted. As the controversy grew, newspapers in Norway, Italy, and other European nations reprinted the cartoons as a show of solidarity.

Now we've got riots in various countries. Pictures on the news show people in the streets burning Danish flags and calling for the deaths of the cartoonists. Danish and Norwegian embassies have been burned in Beirut. European aid groups have pulled out of the Gaza Strip citing safety concerns. Violence over the cartoons has killed at least three people in Pakistan.

I can't even pretend to understand the passions that are fueling these riots. I'm Mormon, and we get mocked all the time on programs like South Park, but I can't say it really bothers me, perhaps because I find the program extremely funny. But I've also come across some extremely hateful anti-Mormon literature. It made me angry, but not even so mad that I would write the authors a letter.

That said, the riots have a certain juvenile logic to them. A Danish paper printed the offensive picture, so the mobs are coming after Danish targets. A Norwegian paper joined the fray, so now Norwegian targets are fair game.

But over the past few days, the riots have expanded their scope. Now protesters are burning Danish and Norwegian and American flags. American flags? Oh come on!

Now I know we're not popular in the Muslim world these days, and not without reason. We've got this bad habit of invading Muslim countries. This makes people unhappy. President Bush acknowledged this in a press conference a few years ago when he said of the Iraqis, "They don't like being occupied... I wouldn't like to be occupied."

Apart from the occupations and bombings, people in the Muslim world have a whole laundry list of things to hate us for. Some say we fill the world with a vulgar ideology that places consumerism over spirituality or community. Yeah, we probably do that. How about turning a blind eye to extremism in Saudi Arabia, even though most of the 9/11 hijackers came from that country? Again, guilt. Abu Ghraib? Secret torture prisons? Well...?

So you can understand when people get angry at us. As a matter of fact, a lot of us get angry at us. But folks on "The Muslim Street" take it a step further and call us "The Great Satan" and burn flags and draw horns and a pointy beard on photos of George Bush. You may not agree, but at least it makes sense.

And that's what's got my shorts in a knot over this Danish cartoon thing. For once, WE DIDN'T DO IT. We almost always do it, but this time WE DIDN'T DO IT. Someone else did it! Go get someone else!

In interviews, protesters say the US pretty much controls Europe, so we're probably behind the cartoons in some fashion. People in the Middle East should know better than that. Who invaded Iraq? The American army, that's who. If we controlled Europe, NATO would have invaded. Better yet, we would have figured out how to get Europe to do the whole invasion by themselves and pay for the reconstruction.

Furthermore, European newspapers rushed to print the cartoons to show unity and make some sort of statement on free speech. Meanwhile, almost every paper in the US didn't print the cartoons out of a deep respect for Islam or because they were chicken.

Yet still the American flags are burning in the Middle East over these cartoons. I don't know what the solution is, but if we're already in trouble, we might as well just print them.

(P.S. I've noticed that rioters in several Middle Eastern cities have run out of Danish flags and have started burning Swiss flags. I know they look similar, but this is just lazy. Don't mess with the Swiss. Those are my people. If you mess with the Swiss, you mess with me. Consider yourself warned.)


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