Sunday, February 26, 2006

An Ideology That Justifies Breaking Things

Young men in groups like to break things. Most are restrained by decency and their moms to not do it very often, and not with other people's stuff. But they still want to. They are always in the market for an ideology that would make it a good thing to go out and break other people's things. If they think they are protecting something precious – family, country, faith – you can get up a mob of angry young men in an instant. They will march down a handy street and break windows, burn cars, and beat up anyone remotely connected to The Enemy.

Which brings us to the Cartoon Riots. All over the world we have had Muslim mobs, mostly young men, rioting, burning, breaking, beating. All things Danish, previously among the least offensive objects in the world, are targets for destruction. Guys who sold Danish flags made money selling them to the mob, so they could be burned.

It is safe to say that 99% of the rioters had never seen the cartoons. They just heard that a Danish newspaper had printed some cartoons that made fun of the prophet Mohammad. In this country that would lead to angry letters to the editor of the paper. I have seen the cartoons. If the paper had run them without any indication that they were supposed to represent the prophet Mohammad, you would never know. They look like ordinary depictions of bomb-throwing Arabs that you can see in any Western paper in any given week. If they had said that they represent some guy named Mohammad, not THE Mohammad, sensitive people, Muslim and otherwise, would have tut-tutted and turned the page.

The guys who are making the cartoon riots wanted to have a riot. You can find guys like that in every market and bar and lounging place in the world. Different mobs have different triggers, but none of them require much to set them off.


Charlotte said...

My thinking is that we should by-pass nation-building and offer football games, bowling alleys, video arcades, etc. plus giving them all t.v. sets and setting up a channel full of car chases and pretty girls. Additionally, they need beer and pizza and nachos with salsa. If you took all the toys away from our young men, they would be out stampeding up and down the streets and setting buildings on fire within 24 hours. Boys just wanna have fun.

Gruntled said...

The first business to make money again in Baghdad after Saddam Hussein was removed was satellite dish installation, so the locals could watch Baywatch.

Anonymous said...

i'm afraid that i must disagree with you on this matter. there is significant grounds for anger on the part of the muslim community, and while their reaction is not warranted they should not be looked down upon for their outrage.

i think certainly these people HAVE seen the cartoons. they were probably shown them as propaganda by the powers that be, who are manipulating these attacks. there is clearly a different mentality in the western world than in the islamic world in regard to such matters. the violence may be disproportionate, but the outrage is not uncalled for or unjustified. these cartoons are quite offensive, especially when viewed through the lens of islamic tradition (not islamic fundamentalism, but the basic principles of islam).

one reason the cartoons are so despised is because they are viewed as sacrelige rather than satire (and according to islamic defintions, they are). it is blasphemous, according to the doctrine of islam to depict either allah or his prophet mohammed visually. it is considered idolatry, and as a an analogy consider it similar to taking the name of the lord in vain in the christian tradition. these works of art go beyond what is considered unholy, by not only depicting the prophet, but by depicting him as a terrorist. having seen the cartoons, i too would feel a little outraged, were i a muslim.

granted i would not revert to violence to express this. the young men in question have obviously been manipulated. the reaction against the danes is clearly part of a carefully planned orchestration by higher-ups in the world of islamic terrorism. i believe the violence is not as spontaneous as they are being written off as.

what surprises me more than anything is that this issue has been a rallying point for free speech. i'm rather surprised that the danish cartoonist who drew the infamous series is being lauded as a champion of free expression rather than a bullwark of stupidity. yes, as members of a free society (like the united states, denmark or any of the other european countries that published the cartoons) and that means we are granted rights to freedom of speech. however, the side that is not being presented here is when that right to speech should be used and when it should not. though he had the right to draw the cartoons, it seems that the illustrator did not pay attention to how monumentally stupid it would be to do so. afterall, in radical islamic terrorism, we are fighting an enemy without a sense of humor about their religion. they have shown us on previous occasions that they have the power to manipulate large groups of people into violence, and even into being willing to die for their faith. is it then a good idea to exercise free speech in a derogatory manner against this group? no, it certainly is not. is it beneficial to do so, when the emphasis of what is being done in that region by western powers is to try to create a bridge of understanding between islam and the west? most certainly not. these cartoons were ill-advised, and the results, though much more dramatic than i could have ever imagined, are therefore not wholly surprising.

so, while i am not trying to justify the riots as appropriate, i am trying to say that their motivation is not surprising. perhaps it is hypocritical of the islamic world to react as such. however, knowing that such an event was possibly, there should have been a degree of censure utilized in this case. ultimately, this dilemma arose out of unchecked stupidity. let's remember, it's always better to think before you speak.