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A Decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind

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The furor over the Danish cartoons is sparking an odd reaction among some commentators in the West who see no contradiction in condemning the idiocy of Joel Stein or the repulsiveness of Tom Toles while urging solidarity with the idiot newspapermen in Denmark who thought it a good idea to not just illustrate Mohammed, but to include some illustrations designed to offend. Like Toles and Stein, they sought a cheap reaction, and getting it, are alarmed that anyone could be judgmental of their efforts.

Of course the thugs who threaten violence against the idiots are evil, and the reaction across radical Islam is every bit as chilling and outrageous as the 1989 fatwa against Rushdie.

But I think the third course between the cartoonist provocateurs and the radicals waving guns at the EU employees in Gaza is to denounce without ambiguity or excuse the latter but at the same time to delineate a very bright line between what the West stands for and the churlishness of the caroonist provocateurs.

Our country’s founding document includes in its opening paragraph the explanation for why the Declaration is necessary: “a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that [we] should declare the causes which impel [us] to the Separation.”

The cartoons were in bad taste, an unnecessary affront to many of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, just as Joel Stein affronted the military, the families and friends of the military, and as Toles did the same to the wounded, and their families, friends and admirers. Of course each of them had the absolute right to publish their screed, and the Danish (and now Norwegian) governments must reply to demands that these papers be punished with a steely refusal to be dictated to as to their culture of free expression and the protection of the vulgar and the stupid.

But don’t cheer the vulgar and the stupid.

There are hundreds of thousands of American troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe among Muslim peoples who they are trying to befriend. The jihadists like nothing more than evidence that these troops represent a West intent on a new crusade and a new domination of Muslims. Idiot cartoonists make our troops’ jobs more difficult, and the jihadists’ mission easier.

We rightly condemn and must continue to condemn every anti-Semitic outburst from the president of Iran and every anti-Semitic cartoon published in the hate press of the Middle East. Those condemnations loose some of their force among some of the world if we rush to defend those cartoons that can objectively be seen as anti-Muslim.

The jihadists are the enemy, not the Muslim world. Refusing to recognize how idiot cartoonists can indeed offend Muslims who are not only not Islamofascists but also our allies and even our fellow citizens is to refuse Muslims the right to at least the same level of disgust that Christians display when they denounce stupid NBC series like The Book of Daniel or shows like Will & Grace.

From the president’s remarks at the National Day of Prayer yesterday:

In our country, we recognize our fellow citizens are free to profess any faith they choose, or no faith at all. You are equally American if you’re a Hebrew — a Jew or a Christian or Muslim. You’re equally American if you choose not to have faith. It is important America never forgets the great freedom to worship as you so choose. (Applause.)

What I’ve found in our country, that whatever our faith, millions of Americans answer the universal call to love your neighbor just like you’d like to be loved yourself. Over the past five years, we’ve been inspired by the ways that millions of Americans have answered that call. In the face of terrorist attacks and devastating natural disasters here and around the world, the American people have shown their faith in action again and again. After Katrina, volunteers from churches and mosques and synagogues and other faith-based and community groups opened up their hearts and their homes to the displaced. We saw an outpouring of compassion after the earthquake in Pakistan and the tsunami that devastated entire communities. We live up to God’s calling when we provide help for HIV/AIDS victims on the continent of Africa and around the world.

Cartoonists seeking to offend need to be defended against violence, but they don’t deserve praise and certainly not praise for their gift to the jihadists.

Decency, and a respect for the opinions of mankind, oght still to be highly valued.


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