It’s back to rain again. The freeze is over. The floor, once again, is covered in dog footprints! I wake up and mop, mop in the afternoon, and mop in the evening. It’s not only the dogs’ fault. We live in the countryside and we love to go out for walks. Friends drop by. It’s vacation and kids come over to play. So I keep my mop handy and chase after Auguste to clean his feet before he comes indoors. (He hates that and wiggles like a freshly caught trout) With all this rain it’s not very fun to go walking and we’ve been watching a lot of TV, which I usually don’t like, But it’s vacation and the kids are Bored.

Anyway, the biggest talk here in Europe is about the cartoons. (The NY Times has an excellent article in it explaining about what happened.) 4 Months ago, a Danish newspaper printed some cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed in different situations, most not very funny, but most politically pertinant. Nothing happened for nearly 4 months. But during that time, Danish Imans left Denmark with the drawings (and other drawings that were not published, but which the Imans felt would further inflame the situation) and they headed for several Mideastern countries not really known for their political affinity with the West. The Imans spent a long time and a lot of money, (supposedly) stirring up the Muslims about this. And what they hoped came to pass – thousands of extremists picked up the cause and began to shout.

We all know that the ones who scream the shrillest are heard the most, and the media tends to listen to the loudest shouting. The extremists are the ones shouting the loudest right now, and they are shjowing their discontent by burning buildings and threatening to kill people. And lest you are tempted to feel sorry for those insulted by the drawings, know this: The Islamics are not above publishing cartoons demonizing other religions. In other words, they can give but they cannot take. Even the moderates are being drawn towards the extremists side because there is a law in Islam that forbids any criticsm whatsoever of the prophet. I’m sure you all remember Mr. Rushdie and the death fatwah against him, and the Danish film maker who was stabbed to death because he made a film about Islamic repression of women. In other words, no one can criticise Islam.

We take free speech for granted (or at least we used to. I saw that the Rolling Stones had words censored from their songs so as not to shock the American sensibilities) And here in France we have free speech, but the law can decide whether or not free speech degenerates into hate speech – For ex. it is against the law to incite violence or hatred. And there is a thin line to walk between provocation and incitation to acts of violence. The Islamics want us to believe that simply publishing these cartoons are an invitation to violence. They actually try to make us understand why the mobs are screaming murder and burning buildings by telling us they are offended. But the truth is that No one is forcing anyone to look at the cartoons. The fact that they are offensive to some is not a reason to cry murder. But there is a positive note here. Not so long ago, the Catholic church was burning heretics, science was reason to hang, and reason was replaced by religion. But things changed. At the cost of a few brave souls. At the cost of the extremist’s visions. The Catholic church was put back into its place – out of the government, out of the law. People were free to worship as they chose. The Muslims have not arrived at that place yet, but this can be the crack in the wall that finally lets moderate Muslims say what they want to. If the protests keep on, if the violence grows, it will cause the gulf between the moderates and the extremists to widen, and that can only be benefical to Islam as a whole. So while it is making headlines all over Europe, it’s also opening a dialogue that is actually very interesting. In the meantime, please buy Danish produce to show your support for free speech and a free press.
Here is a great article by a true moderate to ponder:
http://www.iranian.com/Azizi/2006/February/Cartoons/index.html

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