Daily Archives: 4 February 2006

Offensive Cartoons

You know, when I first started Quaequam Blog! 1.0, one of my objectives, such as I had them, was to tease out the intersections of politics and comics. Over the past two years I have to say I’ve found myself getting less interested in comics – I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find anything that has anything new to say. As such, my posts on the subject have slowed down to a trickle. But it would be remiss of me not to comment on the latest row over the Danish “Mohammed” cartoons.

My own view is that this episode highlights everything that is wrong with the collective mindset of Islam. As I commented on Will’s blog yesterday, who is committing the greater sin? The non-Muslim cartoonist who is reliant entirely on their imagination when picturing Mohammed? Or the Muslim who sees Mohammed in a jumble of lines and colours? Surely the devout response is to not recognise these cartoons as having anything to say?

Secondly, all these protests, all this outrage, is completely over the top. Far worse atrocities are committed on a daily basis by Muslims. I don’t need to hear Muslim voices condemning these – it goes without saying. I do however need to hear even greater outrage over, for instance, the kidnapping of Norman Kember from anyone who thinks a couple of pictures is worth burning a flag over.

But I won’t. The problem isn’t these cartoons. It is a set of values that places honour over and above liberty and mutual respect. The West has treated the Middle East appallingly over the past century or so. But the Middle East has treated itself far worse. More to the point, it is precisely this set of values that means that terrible mistakes like invading Iraq leads to suicide bombing. It isn’t just the invasion that should be condemned; it is the mindset that reacts by lashing out blindly.

I don’t believe there is anything inherent in Islam that is forcing this; Christianity was in a similar state 500 years ago and it still is in many parts of the US. But it does need to break free of these cultural restraints. Every time an idiot like Jack Straw indulges such crass sentimentalism, or the government gets carried away with Religious Hatred laws, we are only letting them off the hook. There are plenty of voices within Islam itself that despises this medievalism – we should be helping them not their opponents.

There is something wrong with our own culture that we seem to have internalised the moral lesson within the Emporer’s New Clothes and yet are incapable of applying that to other cultures. Cultural relativism does no-one any favours.