(This respectful but sharply barbed cartoon articulates the Muslim viewpoint on this debacle.)
Recent cartoons published by a small Danish newspaper have caused an uproar in much of the Muslim world. (I would link to the cartoons, but feel that by doing so, I would be repeating the offense against my Muslim neighbors.) Those cartoons were doubly objectionable to Muslims, as they:
1. Pictorally represented Mohammed, founder of Islam; this is considered objectionable in and of itself by the majority of Muslims.
2. Mocked Mohammed in a variety of ways (in one cartoon, he appears nutty and his turban is portrayed as a bomb).
Further, it turns out this same newspaper rejected cartoons that mocked Jesus, even though their creator had shown them to Christian spokespersons before submitting them to the newspaper.
The above offers Christians an interesting set of ethical questions. What would Jesus do? Hmmm.
I do support the right of other human beings to mock my faith, though it may cause me great personal pain. If the God/Man Savior I believe in literally died in order that his enemies might live and have a chance to be reconciled to Him, how can I, a mere human being, expect better treatment? (If you smell a sort of apologetic for Christianity implicit in that last paragraph, you are correct; the Suffering Savior is the primary reason I am able to believe in God -- any God at all -- when faced with a world so filled with suffering and evil.)
I do not support the right of other human beings to abuse my neighbor, and that includes upon religious grounds (or irreligious grounds). Therefore, I protest what this newspaper has done to my Muslim neighbor. (I would also object to Muslim cartoonist attacks on the holocaust, such as the cartoon done of Ann Frank and Adolf Hitler in bed together. This too is an attack upon my neighbor, my Jewish neighbor in that case.)
I also, perhaps contradictorally, support freedom of the press even to say stupid, ignorant things. However, I again would say that Christians should very vocally protest the abuse of our neighbors at the hands of a careless press, just as loudly as we would protest a movie mocking Christ. (Interestingly, some years back, Muslims did protest one controversial movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ," on the grounds that it was disrespectful to Jesus; I'm not debating whether or not the movie was in fact blasphemous or anti-religious but rather showing that Muslims may have in that case shown more cultural sensitivity than we Christians show.)
Many Muslims feel that mocking Mohammed is no less objectionable than mocking the terrors of the holocaust. Perhaps we who don't see Mohammed as God's Prophet cannot agree on that one. At least, however, can we agree that it is an evil to belittle another human being's beliefs simply because we do not share them? That is my strongest feeling. If someone stomped on a picture of Christ, or -- remember this one? -- put a crucifix in a jar of urine and called the resulting "artwork" Piss Christ, I'd feel a deep sense of anger and beneath the anger, sadness.
Finally, the cultural context of all of this cannot be denied. Most news stories focus on the violence a minority of Muslims have indulged in as a reaction to the Denmark cartoons. But in-depth analysis of western reactions to Islam, many of them rooted in fear and ignorance, are few and far between. Fewer still come from the west.
Again, I think as Christians we should affirm our Muslim neighbors' pain, and object to western media and western culture's assault upon a faith our media knows little about. I for one think an apology is in order, not just from the initially offending newspaper, but from all those newspapers who reprinted the cartoons in question. While not supporting violence done by some Muslims in the name of their faith -- violence rejected by many, many Muslims as an aberration -- we ought to support the protests of our neighbors as being wholly legitimate.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Fairly simple, really.