Outrage over a cartoon…and yet no one died

Cross posted by Raheem Kassam, Executive Editor of The Commentator

Only on a BBC radio call-in show in Britain could you have heard listeners phoning in to express how the West would get what it has coming to it for a peasant-like film being uploaded to YouTube by some anonymous character in the United States. 

But that is precisely what I heard, when as a guest on the BBC Asian Network last year, I was asked to take part in a phone-in discussion with listeners about the “Innocence of Muslims” film. 

At the time, protests in Pakistan, Libya and other Muslim countries terrified pusillanimous Western leaders into apologising for the freedom of expression, or freedom to offend. The fallout was the death of an American ambassador and diplomatic staff, although the links to the protests in this case are spurious.

The same of course can be reflected upon of the firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo office in 2011, and of the response on the streets of Britain when a Danish newspaper published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. Hundreds died. Property was burned. Unknown numbers of people were injured.

Against this backdrop, I have been assessing the implications of the Benjamin Netanyahu cartoon over the past 48 hours. 

The Commentator, as you know, first reported the extraordinarily offensive cartoon on Sunday morning, noting the invocation of the long-standing blood libel against the Jewish people. Many have argued, that the cartoon depicting a big-nosed, blood-loving Netanyahu is nowhere near as offensive as depicting Prophet Muhammed as a terrorist, or similar.

I would argue that actually, the Netanyahu cartoon was worse. Not for ‘criticising’ the Israeli leader, but rather, for invoking the Der Stumer-esque view that the Jews have big noses and dabble in the blood of Arabs or Muslims. This is outright racism. The Mohammed cartoons, were (distasteful) parodies against a singular religious figure, not the demonisation of an entire people.

But even if you don’t buy that – and really, I understand if you don’t because it’s quite a fine line – then upon taking the two incidents as equal, and asserting that the freedom to offend should remain paramount, I would tend to agree with you

The fact is, the Sunday Times exercised its right to offend this past Sunday, on Holocaust Memorial Day, thus making its blood libel doubly, trebly, quadruply more offensive. And indeed, the appropriate levels of offence were taken.

But you didn’t see rioting in the streets, or the calls for the beheading of the perpetrators of the cartoon. You may have heard moans of the decline of Western civilisation, but you never heard encouragement towards it. In fact, the response to the Sunday Times cartoon was quite the opposite of what we’ve seen in recent years when religions take offence.

There were articles, quotes, comments, letters, political interventions and more. But never did the outcry overspill, and only ever was there a call towards more civility, not less.

Now, to be clear, we know full well that Muslim communities around the world, by and large, were not rioting and inciting violence after Mohammed was depicted in a provocative fashion – but it is these ‘moderate Muslims’ who must work to bring their house in order, casting out the crazies, expunging the extremists, declaring vehemently and repeatedly, “Not in my name.” 

It is these demons that Muslims in West still have to overcome – and until they do, they can claim no moral high ground over offences they feel are perpetrated towards them. 

The Guardian, Muslim rioting and ‘Cause & Effect’.

An official Guardian editorial on Oct. 1, In praise of the political cartoon‘, commended the Egyptian newspaper Al Watan for “publishing… pictures with the message that the west misunderstands Islam“, which the editorial contrasted with “Charlie Hebdo‘s senselessly inflammatory caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.” 

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine which printed a set of cartoons on Sept. 19 featuring Muhammad which included more than one depicting him naked.

The magazine’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, explained that they were “using its freedom of expression to comment on the news in a satirical way.” The news he’s referring to is rioting by Muslims throughout the world, beginning in mid-September, in response to the low-budget anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims‘.

In addition to praising the Egyptian cartoons, about the West’s apparent misunderstanding of Islam, the Guardian editorial contrasted such attempts at greater understanding with “…Charlie Hebdos caricatures which, “produced a week of protest, embassy closure, legal complaint and, most gravely, 19 dead [and 160 injured] in Pakistan.”

What the Guardian is referring to is violent rioting, on Sept. 19, in Pakistan’s largest cities – on a day of government-sanctioned protests over the film and cartoon.  According to a New York Times report on the violence, most of the deaths occurred in Karachi, where “protesters burned effigies, stoned a KFC and engaged in armed clashes with the police that left 14 people dead and more than 80 wounded by evening.”

Regardless of the details of the deaths, however, to claim that the Hebdo cartoon – of a man who Muslims believe was a messenger and prophet of God – “produced” the Pakistani deaths is absurd.

The editors of a French satirical magazine do not have blood on their hands.  

Citizens of Pakistan, Israel, America, or adults of any faith in any other nation in the world who possess moral agency, can freely chose to engage in senseless rioting over a religious or political insult  – thus risking death or injury – or they can choose not to.

Is such an intuitive understanding of ’cause and effect’, and individual moral responsibility, even debatable?

Blurred reality: What a Guardian photo of Muslim protest signs fails to focus upon

The Guardian’s recent edition of ‘Picture Desk Live‘, Sept. 24, included this photo of more protests by Muslims over the anti-Islam film, as well as the recent caricatures of Muhammad by a French satirist.  This protest took place in Sri Lanka.

Here’s the caption:

I noticed the word “Jew” on one of the signs, but the shot was taken too far away to make out the words on the sign, so I Googled the image and was able to find a bit more information.

The Washington Post had a shot of the same protest, albeit with photos focusing much more closely on the scene.  Here’s what you can see:

Sign in middle reads: ‘Who’s behind the film? Jews’

Here’s the caption:

The following sign, from the same protest in Sri Lanka, is a reference to Charlie Hebdo, who published several caricatures of Muhammad (along with one of an orthodox Jew) in a French satirical magazine.

Sign reads: France, don’t fall victim to Jewish propaganda

As I observed in a post on Sept. 23 (and as Palestinian Media Watch reported on Sept. 24) the hypocrisy of the protesters’, in condemning insults to Islam while continually engaging in virulent antisemitism, is stunning – a cultural habit which results in the absence of natural feelings of guilt or embarrassment most of us experience when holding two inherently contradictory views. 

The Guardian, as with most of the mainstream media, in failing miserably to expose such groups to the kind of critical scrutiny which would necessarily challenge such moral hypocrisy, ensures that no lessons will be learned. 

The significance of the MSM’s gross moral abdication when reporting on the recent riots in the Arab and Muslim world can’t be overstated.