Death Penalty for Danish Cartoons?

The Danish cartoon story may have subsided in the West, but the controversy still reverberates around the world.

Sixty delegates from youth groups in Denmark and the Persian Gulf met in Dubai this week to talk about the cartoons and the worldwide protest they provoked.

Amr Khaled, an internationally known Muslim preacher, held a similar dialogue in Denmark last month. Another prominent imam, Yussef Qaradawi, criticized Khaled for seeking dialogue and sponsored his own conference insisting that Muslims should not talk to Danes until their government apologized.

During a visit to Egypt last month, Prince Charles criticized the cartoons. Several days later, parliamentarians of the European Union and the Mediterranean denounced the caricatures and "the violence which their publication provoked."



Mohammed Asaadi, center, awaits trial outside a Yemeni courtroom last month.

For Yemeni journalist Mohammed Asaadi, the debate is a life and death issue. The 31-year-old editor of the Yemen Observer, an English-language weekly, returns to a courtroom today to face charges of blasphemy for reprinting versions of three of the Danish cartoons. If found guilty, he could be sent to a firing squad.

In February, Asaadi published two stories criticizing the Jylands Posten newspaper in Copenhagen for publishing caricatures that denigrated the Muslim prophet. Asaadi also called on Muslims to accept the Danish newspaper's apology and move on. The Observer articles were accompanied by edited versions of three cartoons, with most of the imagery blacked out.

Asaadi was arrested for violating laws banning the publication of anything that "prejudices the Islamic faith." He spent 12 days in jail before being released. When his trial opened in February, lawyers intervening in the case asked for the death penalty.

Asaadi's trial has interrupted a short but eventful career in journalism. The son of a farmer and a housewife, Asaadi grew up in a village near the city of Taiz in Yemen. He took his first English class in high school in 1988 and says he instantly "fell in love with the language." He worked to pay his way through college and support his wife and children, graduating with a degree in English from Taiz University in Yemen.

After a chance meeting in 1999 with Faris Sanabani, then the editor of the Observer, he landed his first journalism job. He picked up additional training at the University of Westminster in London and worked as a fixer and translator for a host of visiting Western journalists. In February 2005 he became the editor in chief of the Observer.

Since his arrest, the Observer's print edition has been discontinued although the online edition is still published.

In an e-mail interview earlier this month, Asaadi talked about his case.

WOR: Last month, prosecution lawyers asked for the death penalty in your case. Are you afraid of dying for publishing a cartoon the size of a postage stamp?

Asaadi: I trust that the judge will not listen to the demands for a death sentence, though; it is very worrying to hear those demands. My parents, family, colleagues and I are terrified. Nobody can be happy to hear voices calling for his death for whatever the reasons are.

WOR: In your last court appearance, the Yemen Observer reported that 21 lawyers were shouting that you should be put to death. Who are they?

Asaadi: The lawyers found supportive ground among some fanatics in the public and the government. They are money-seekers and are doing business more or less. When they collected money from local mosque dwellers, they rushed to prosecute us. None of them is even able to pronounce "Yemen Observer." Many of them have never read it or seen that particular issue.

WOR: Some of those lawyers said that you were lucky to be on trial, saying that the legal action protected you from extra-legal violence. Did you take that as a threat? Do you feel safe?

Asaadi: Internally, I don't feel safe, though I understand that the public can be better informed about my situation if there's an opportunity to explain to them. The newspaper is closed and the remaining staffers are in full alert. There are foreigners working with us and they are in full alert. I avoid appearing very much in public places, though I have never received a direct death threat.

WOR: What's your mood like personally? Are you doing any journalism?

Asaadi: I am terribly frustrated. I feel I need a quite long time to forget the horrible experience of the 12 days in jail, the trials and the terrible consequences on my family, parents and the newspaper. I am not doing any actual journalism. I am psychologically depressed about the continuous closure of the newspaper. It is killing to I look at sad faces of the staff. Some staffers wanted to work voluntarily and others left their jobs. Two months out of business is very expensive. The longer the trial takes, the worse our situation in the Yemen Observer becomes.

WOR: Some say the governments in Syria and Iran stimulated outrage about the cartoons to bolster public support and distract attention from their own failings. Is such a dynamic at work in Yemen?

Asaadi: You can't compare Yemen to those two countries and regimes. Of course there are visible shortcomings here in Yemen, yet not to the extent of the situations in Syria and Iran.

WOR: First, we had the cartoon controversy, then the U.S. Congress rejected a Dubai company's bid to run U.S. ports. Are these scenes from the proverbial "clash of civilizations?" Or something else?

Asaadi: It is not a clash of civilizations. The Danish newspaper doesn't represent the western civilization. I think it is a "misunderstanding of the other" on both sides. If there was a true clash of civilizations we could not exchange these emails. Or maybe I should say that clash in this context means violence, disturbance and bloodshed, not necessarily in battlefields, but in peoples' minds, thoughts and morals. I hope we can together do something about it. I am motivated more than ever to dedicate time and effort for this noble goal.

WOR: Is there anything else that readers in Washington and elsewhere should know about your case?

Asaadi: They should know more about Islam and the charming character of the Prophet and not from the perspectives of Bin Laden, Zawahri, Zarqawi, and similar mentalities. We suffer here from fanatics more that you do in your countries. We suffer for being open-minded, moderate and tolerant.

By Jefferson Morley |  April 18, 2006; 06:53 PM ET  | Category:  Mideast
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These Islamo-fascist tyrannies are rather depressing with their bluster, violence and intolerance.

I left Pakistan in the early 90's and now live in the DC area and I thank god every day for this.

Westerners ought to beware of the growing Islamist cancer in the world.

These people are hateful, deranged, serious and say what they mean.

Posted by: Abu Hassan | April 19, 2006 09:41 AM

So these courts want to put this man to death for exercising his freedom of speech. Frankly, I have been an open-minded liberal all my life but the branch of Islam (or any group or religion for that matter) that favors these kinds of punishments is disgraceful, immoral, and the world should do everything it can to end it. This is not religion, but terrorism, and should be labeled as such. These people disgust me.

Posted by: Mark | April 19, 2006 10:42 AM

Mark: I have edited your comments slightly. Strong views are welcome but dehumanizing insults directed at categories of people are not acceptable here.

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | April 19, 2006 11:08 AM

I am very impressed with Mr. Asaadi's character. I sincerely hope that he is released and allowed to continue his work.

Posted by: Brandon | April 19, 2006 11:42 AM

This is nothing new. the islamic way of life is a sham. Muslims should be embarrassed.

Posted by: Bill | April 19, 2006 11:43 AM

This should make us step back and realize that there are fundamental differences in world view between the Western world and what appears to be the majority of the Muslim world. These differences are irreconcilable. There is simply no way to strike a middle ground between "the threat of violence to suppress what you see as blasphemy is ludicrous, and I'm going to draw a cartoon to illustrate that" and "if you do, you should be killed."

We must not allow a desire to hold hands and "make nice" prevent us from being crystal clear about the fact that some sets of values are better than others. It is better to live in a civil society than in one that riots and kills over cartoons. It is better to live in a society with freedom of religion than one that prohibits the free exercise and recruiting efforts of other religions. It is better to live in a democracy than in a society ruled by unelected clerics.

This is not culturally dependent - freedom is the birthright and destiny of all people everywhere. We're descendents of people who took "give me liberty or give me death" as their rallying cry. I firmly believe that religion has a place in our society, but this sort of barbarism does not, and must be opposed whenever and wherever it appears.

Posted by: Appalled | April 19, 2006 11:49 AM

So Mark gets edited for "dehumanizing insults directed at catagories of people", and yet Mohammed can slander the Jewish people. Yet another attempt at appeasing the Islamic threat.

Posted by: Bryan | April 19, 2006 12:12 PM

Umm, Jefferson, not sure what Mark might have written that you felt compelled to edit, if "zionist pigs" is OK . . .

Posted by: annie | April 19, 2006 12:15 PM

Bryan, "Mohammed" is a faker who has been banned from this forum. What I took out of Mark's comment did nothing to further his argument and a lot to diminish the civil tone. "Mohammed's" provocations were eliminated because they are intended to incite, not inform.

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | April 19, 2006 12:15 PM

Annie: "zionist pigs" is not OK. That comment will be edited

"Hosni," like "Mohammad" is an imposter who is trying to poison this forum. He too will be banned.

Your comments, by contrast, are welcome.

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | April 19, 2006 12:19 PM

Mohammed and Hosni's comments were not edited out, not sure why you thought they were.

Posted by: Ellem | April 19, 2006 12:37 PM

A technical glitch in the blogging platform delayed their removal Ellem. You will see they are gone. BTW "Hosni" and "Mohammed" are the same person. While posing as anti-Semite, this person also contributes racist attacks on Arabs under other names. So he has been banned.

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | April 19, 2006 12:45 PM

Glad to see that at least somebody at the Post has, albeit belatedly, begun to see that the Islamists think nothing of stretching the truth, making false analagies, making up events and or turning events on their head, etc. to gain sympathy and supporters. It really hurts to see that outlets that have been trusted for years bend over more than backwards to give "the other side" their say, no matter how invalid (after all, if NASA reported that in recalculating the diameter of the Earth there was a difference between what had been accepted and reality, would you give an equal forum to the Flat Earth Society so that they could make their case?).

What is really disturbing about this is the statements coming out of some European countries, and I include Prince Charles in this. One wonders if he should be given a Bowler hat and an umbrella and allowed to announce that we have now obtained "Peace in our Time".

Posted by: Catcher50 | April 19, 2006 12:53 PM

I hesitated to post any thing because this free media is "free" to all, and am very surprised by the low level of intellect in many of these postings. Yet, after I read the comments so far and how tilted, ignorant and utterly insulting for Islam and the Muslims, I decided to send this note, hopefully it will put the cartoons issue in prospective.

1. After living in the US for 26 years and traveling allover the world, I thank Allah (the name of Almighty used in Arabic) that the predominant people in the US are still rational, fair and have a great capacity to put things in proper prospective;

2. The cartoons issue seems trivial. It is indeed trivial if it's an isolated incident without the intent to provoke and insult others. It is NOT trivial when the sole goal is to insult Islam. That is the fact. After reading over 500 commentaries in English and Arabic about the matter, and after I heard on 60 minutes "from the horse's mouth" I have no doubt in mind that those who provoked this issue have one purpose: insult willingly Islam and the Muslims.

3. The Muslims are going to be blamed in all cases. If they don't respond, it will encourage the tradition of insulting Prophets of Allah; and if they responded, no matter how mild the response is, they will be cast as against freedom of speech!

4. So, given that the intent of the perpetrators of this whole issue is to insult Islam and Muslims, and create an atmosphere of non welcome to the foreigners in Denmark -- given that, what's the Muslims response should be?

The local people (in Denmark) tried every possible way to make the newspaper stop this practice. The ambassadors of the Muslim world tried hard to meet with PM of Denmark to get this issue dealt with calmly. And many efforts of the same took place. End result: insistence on insult at all levels!!

Therefore, the Muslims need to respond and the logical response I see is two tracks: a) explain to all why it's not allowed to portray Prophets in Islam -- all Prophets; and b) use peaceful means to object to the insults.

These two tracks are what are now practiced by over 95% of the Muslims worldwide.

Let me say a sentence or two on each track:

a) Why it’s not allowed to portray the Prophets in Islam?

The Muslims know how Prophet Mohamed looks like; in fact, he also described how Prophets Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Joseph, and others look like – So, it’s VERY simple to draw a picture for Mohamed (and these Prophets) based on the well-narrated descriptions. Why we don’t do it? Simple: The Prophet told us not to do it! Logic: to remove any temptation to give the Prophets higher virtues than what they represent, and NOT to go near associating with Allah in any way or shape or form. That’s why Muslims never hold “pictures” of Mohamed or any other Prophet and never indulge in the business of emulating them in movies, documentaries, etc…

b) Adequate response. Islam is practiced by quite a large number of people. Islam means peace, literally. Therefore, the response must be within that framework. The leaders and scholars of Islam have the responsibility of taking vigorous role in these circumstances to put a cap on emotions and irrational responses. A lot of good efforts were done to that end, yet overall I consider the Muslim’s response quite inadequate. I consider positive dialogue, sending commentaries to the editors of various magazines, and a statement by the Muslim World Organization and by UN Secretary General early on would have been adequate; unfortunately all meaningful responses came quite late. Yet, it’s time to call it quit and move on!!

One final word: I'm so optimistic about the well-being of Islam and Muslims because 1) Islam as a system is strong and has shown its impact on humanity for centuries; 2) Reasonable human beings of all races and genders when they rationalize all issues related to Islam give it a fair hearing and understanding; and 3) Muslims have to quit complaining and show the magnificence of Islam through discipline, hard work and unity of purpose. That’s what the Muslims should focus on.

Aly A. Farag, Professor of Engineering, University of Louisville.

Posted by: Aly Farag | April 19, 2006 12:53 PM

Despite what Aly Farag would have us believe, Islam does not mean "peace." It means "submission." This correct translation explains a great deal about the behavior of muslims.

Are you going to submit to the muslims?

Posted by: stegman | April 19, 2006 01:06 PM

It makes me sad to see how little people know of Islam. While I am not Islamic, the fundamentals of their religion is so similar to all other religions. I think that the best Islamic response would be to go and work with churches, temples etc to educate. If the average person understood and didn't think it was different (and therefore awful) it might change perceptions.

Yes, our churches should be coming to you, our rabbis should be beating down your doors to ask what we can do to learn and understand our common themes, but realistically the majorities tend to ignore the minorities, and its up to you to self-advocate. Islamic people may have to remind us of our own rule--love thy neighbor.

Posted by: ljb | April 19, 2006 01:11 PM

The cartoons don't seem offensive to me. I'm an unbeliever, and am prepared to tolerate people who shout "death to unbelievers" and the like, so they should be able to tolerate cartoons. We live in one world and must recognize that people who disagree with us exist and must be allowed to continue to exist.

Posted by: Gene Venable | April 19, 2006 01:15 PM

Nice job, JM.

But why isn't Assadi's story on page A1?

Posted by: RC | April 19, 2006 01:17 PM

Thanks for your thoughtful post Aly Farag. Perhaps you could add your thought about Asaadi's trial.

As for you Stegman, what do you think of Asaadi's comment to me about what Westerners should know?

He said, "They should know more about Islam and the charming character of the Prophet and not from the perspectives of Bin Laden, Zawahri, Zarqawi, and similar mentalities. We suffer here from fanatics more that you do in your countries. We suffer for being open-minded, moderate and tolerant."

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | April 19, 2006 01:35 PM

Whats wrong with insulting Islam willingly? What special providence protects Islam from insult? Christianity is constantly ridiculed through various forms of media, yet I don't see riots and embassy burnings when it occurs. I'm sure the "Jewish Masters" would probably say the same thing regarding the treatment of their religion. Yet it is quite proper for the Muslim world to respond like thugs when their religion is attacked? I think the extreme vocal minority always receives the focus of the media so your 95% peaceful protest number is probably correct, but 5% is still a significant number when it is allowed to act outside the norms without fear of retribution.

Its great that many Muslims are shunning Danish products as a protest. Economic boycott is always an effective tool. That is your prerogrative. Just as it is the prerogrative of a newspaper to challenge the norms even though it offends a large segment of the population.

As an engineer you should probably understand the principle, what hides behind walls of secrecy will eventually be revealed and broken. What stands in the light of day and transforms to withstand the constant attacks shows its strength.

Posted by: PTT | April 19, 2006 01:39 PM

There are bad apples in every religion. Islam is a religion of peace. Even Mr. Asadi quoted in this article people who chanted for his death had their own agendas (money, politics etc.) Most people in the Muslim world condemn the publishing of these cartoons in a peaceful manner (Mr. Morley failed to reference them here). In my opinion publishing cartoons falls in hate speech not freedom of speech. The same Newspaper refused to publish the cartoons of Jesus few months before it published Mohammad’s cartoons.

Those people who have been bashing Islam have neither studied Islam nor tried to understand it. What Some in Western Media is trying to create an environment of hostility towards Islam so the people in West become unhappy of Islam. Such an environment will allow future attacks by the Western Governments on Muslim countries with natural resource with political impunity in their countries.

Let me be very clear actions of those fanatics who are burning cars, embassies and calling death Fatawa do not represent Islam. Most Muslim countries are poorly educated. The politicians, governments in those countries use masses to forward their agendas. Don’t believe it see how the religious right in this country (highly educated by comparison) pushing its agenda.

For those who are interested to know about Islam, should study the life Of Holy Prophet Mohammad with an open and fair mind. One place is to go to: www.alislam.org

One last thing, when you debate someone please be civilized. Name calling, Hate speech does not help your argument.

Posted by: Few points | April 19, 2006 01:46 PM

The Louisville professor is blinded by his own "peace" or "submission" to an utterly offensive religious practice. But that's my opinion. I find Islam offensive. Don't even try to convert me. But, should I demand that you not mention Islam in your writings? Even though it is offensive to me? Do you even care that the foundation of my beliefs are slighted when you praise Allah? Should I then demand you never mention Allah in your speech?

You say Islam gives you strength, but you show great weakness in the face of true freedom. I know that you can dictate many freedoms that are offensive to Islam, but that does not in itself make them offensive.

I am educated in many religions. I respect an individual for the depth of his own character, and never the particular ancient dogmas of his beliefs.

I am glad that Islam gives you peace. With that then maybe you may better the world with your character. However, your religion, Islam, even by your own words, treats true freedom with jealousy, envy, and ultimately, disdain. It is meant for you, and others, but not the world over.

Posted by: Burgone | April 19, 2006 01:48 PM

Good post, PTT.

95% peaceful protests (a subjective assessment at that) still cannot excuse 5% of violence against the innocent. It does not excuse putting a man on trial to death.

People are offended everyday -- whether it be based on race, religion, weight, or whatever else for that matter. But it will never be legal, or moral, to use that as an excuse to commit crimes and acts of terrorism.

It says something when on any debate with any other religion, race, or politics, I have no problem standing up for myself. But somehow on this one, I'd rather stay anonymous.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2006 01:50 PM

I was under the belief that Islam was supposed to be the religion of peace, and that the Koran spoke of peace not violence. Yet in 2006, an Islamic court is going to decide whether or not to put somebody to death for a cartoon picture depicting the prophet Mohammad in a negative way. Quite frankly I find that outrageous and offensive, and I find membembers of the Islamic religion to be mass hypocrites, lets stop worrying about the cartoons and start worrying about the suicide bombers every day in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel. I don't see the Islamic clerics and members of the muslim community become outraged or holding mass demonstrations against the suicide bombers, now they want to put this newspaper editor to death. Unfortunately I believe their overall views, opinions, beliefs are quite slanted. In order for me to consider Islam to be a legitimate religion of peace, members of the Islamic religion need to do away with radical Islam, treat woman fairly and as true equals, allow religous tolerance of other religions and stop blowing themselves up.

Posted by: E. Ford | April 19, 2006 02:01 PM

Several commentators have suggested that those of us who are critical of the Muslim world's response to these Danish cartoons need as to be educated about the true nature of Islam. Changing our perceptions through remedial education about the peaceful nature of Islam is not going to work as long as we routinely see thousands of Muslims marching in the street calling for the death of unbelievers in response to various slights to their religion.

One fundamental difference between liberal democracies and the Muslim world is that we don't celebrate our crazies. Yes, we have anti-arab idiots, anti-semitic idiots, Ku Klux Klanners, etc. - but no responsible Western leader in any way supports or defends them. Until responsible Muslims stop defending and consistently disavow the violent wing of Islam, it's going to be very hard to convince others that it isn't true Islam.

Posted by: Appalled | April 19, 2006 02:01 PM

While not Muslim, I was also offened by those cartoons. Along with Jesus, Mohamed is a person that I admire. Jesus along with the Jewish prophets were recognized as prophets in Islam during his "Night Visit" to Jerusalem. The problems we face in the Middle East are not because of Islam, Christianity, Or Judism, but because of ignorance and prejudice within these religions.
I think those cartoons were hurtfull ignorant, bad manners, and, to put it mildly, in poor taste. As an American, I recognize under the 1st Amendment to the Bill of Rights, that government is not allowed to touch questions of religion, and that freedom of religion is a basic civil right. All religions should be treated with respect.
While you may have the right under free speech to say something offensive, it doesn't give you to the right to Libel individuals, people, or groups. Taking into account the situation in the Middle East, as the Supreme Court once said in a Decision on "free speech", it does not give you the "right to yell fire in a theatre". The use of words in foreign policy are very important, or we may all be trampled to death in the rush to the exits.
However, having said all that, no one should face death because of bad taste, ignorance, bad judgement, or bad manners. While I greatly admire the various prophets of Islam Christianity, and Judism, I have personally been turned off by organized religion because its prejudices and tendecy toward violence. I don't think any of these great religions are threatned by the remarks of the ignorant. Their messages are too powerful.
As to the reporter from Yemen, I think some diplomatic efforts should be made on his behalf similar to what happened in Afghansistan with the Christian. We need to help our Muslim brothers and sisters too.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | April 19, 2006 02:15 PM

And just as a lot of Muslims are calling for non-Muslims to be educated about Islam, I ask all hateful, fundamentalist Muslims to be educated in fundamental freedoms and liberties, equality for women, the history of the United States, and what we have done for the world, and not spew out ignorant, anti-American chants as told to you by your imams, and calling for the deaths of us infidels.

Posted by: Anonymous II | April 19, 2006 02:16 PM

The "right to yell fire in a theatre" is a false analogy here. The problem with a false cry of "fire" is that it will cause immediate panic and unecessary attempts to escape, which will result in direct physical harm. So, you can't do it without being liable for the results (unless, of course, there really is a fire).

Cartoons critical of Muslims intimidating artists who might otherwise depict the Prophet are not the same; Muslims in the street are not panicing trying to escape a physical threat - they're simply offended. While it is common courtesy to avoid offending people unnecessarily, I have no right to limit others' freedom of speech by prohibiting them from saying things that offend me (no matter how "violently" I may be offended). Further, I have no right to respond with violence.

Posted by: Appalled | April 19, 2006 02:29 PM

Having lived in Egypt and traveled extensively through the Middle Ease, I'm inclined to believe that the vast majority Muslims aren't radicals ready to kill/riot at the slightest hint of an insult.

HOWEVER, there are very significant problems occuring in the Islamic world that need to be addressed by Muslims without blaming others. The fact that you can get 5 percent of Muslims to violently react to a CARTOON, but can't get any kind of large protest against suicide bombers is a problem.

Ultimately, it's the Muslims who will suffer the most from the radicalization of their religion and their regions. They will need to internalize that fact and do something about it, or this will continue.

The West can help by setting a good example, respecting differing opinion, avoiding gross stereotypes, and avoiding hypocrisy. Ultimately, however, it's up to the Islamic world to come to grips with what is happening to it, or it will spiral deeper into tyranny, terrorism and poverty.

Posted by: Jim | April 19, 2006 02:30 PM

Until moderate Muslims speak up and displace the violent, primitive voices of their Islamist radicals, there IS NO MIDDLE GROUND to meet the Muslim world.

If they think they have any right to tell Europeans what Europeans can publish in their own coutry they are INSANE.

So let's get this straight: SUICIDE BOMBERS and ARMED MILITANTS all the time make videos about their violent, grisly deeds "Allahu Akhbar Allahu Akhbar" and that's OKAY? But a Danish cartoonist pens a caricature of a cartoon bomb (ball with fuse) onto the headwrap of Muhammed and all he11 breaks loose.

This is ludicrous beyond measure. Let them kill the Yemeni editor. The world shall continue to see that the reigning voice of militant Islam prefers to rule by terror and fear in the style of the 8th century. And so their countries will remain the backwaters of the world.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | April 19, 2006 02:43 PM

Let's see if I got this right, VOR?

The "Voice of Reason" says that a Yemeni journalist attempting to exercise his right to free speech and reduce misunderstanding between Islam and the West should die so as to confirm your view of Islam.

It would seem that you have more than a little in common with the lawyers who have called for the death penalty in his case.

Or am I missing something?

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | April 19, 2006 02:51 PM

Another nice interview, Morley. Kudos.

Islam is neither more nor less peaceful a dogma than Christianity. The Koran is more militant than the New Testament but it's pretty tame compared to the Old, which tells believers to massacre infidels, enslave captured towns, rape foreign women etc.

Islam is a younger religion, less far along its curve of development. The fact is it's more brutal because its believers have more belief.

Christianity was the same a few centuries back. The inhabitants of Salem, Mass would have had no problem understanding these Yemeni fanatics.

If Christianity became softer, it's not because of Jesus' gentle teachings. The Crusaders knew those when they butchered all the Moslems, Jews and Orthodox in Jerusalem. The Spanish Inquisition knew Jesus' teachings when they tortured and burned heretics. The protestants and catholics knew them when they trashed Europe in the name of Christ in the 30 Years' War.

What tamed Christianity was science, and the growth of agnosticism and atheism in western societies. In other words, secularism.

Great advances in human freedom, like the American Revolution, were always driven by the most secular men of their day.

Left to itself, unbalanced by secular forces, Christianity would also rapidly become violent and intolerant.

You just have to look at the way some Christians talk about Muslims to see that.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 03:01 PM

Why do non-Muslims need to learn about Islam? In this country, you are guaranteed basic human rights. If we look past any religion and view people as entitled to these rights what does it matter what religion you are? What does it matter how much the next man knows about your religion as long as he treats you like a human being understanding that the freedom to exist is mutually granted? However, no one has the right to a guaranteed life free from being insulted, or having his/her feelings hurt. If the Islamic community wants to be outraged, don't waste your outrage on a few cartoons published in a foreign paper, direct it at those who riot and kill in the name of being offended, of having their feelings hurt. There are backwards people all over the world, but when an ignorant Westerner calls Muslims barbaric, don't prove him right! Don't try to aplogize for those who right kill foreigners and call for death to entire cultures in attempt to prove someone who calls your culture barbaric justified in doing so. Has no one stopped to consider the absurdity of it all? Should Americans take to the streets calling for death to entire nations, religions, or cultures? Ridiculous. Now we have a jounalist facing death for printing cartoons. Does any Muslim honestly wonder why some people call Islam a barbaric religion? Don't get me wrong, there was a time when the village elders could order death by stoning for "blasphemy" and "witches" were burned at the stake but some cultures have grown up. Maybe this is a systemic problem rooted in poverty and oppression,not just religion. Unfortunately, in the end, through western eyes it simply looks like barbarism.

Posted by: Thorsten | April 19, 2006 03:13 PM

First I would like to applaud Mohammed Asaadi who is extremely impressive. This is the kind of person the West should reach out to.

To Aly Farag-

"It is NOT trivial when the sole goal is to insult Islam. That is the fact. After reading over 500 commentaries in English and Arabic about the matter, and after I heard on 60 minutes "from the horse's mouth" I have no doubt in mind that those who provoked this issue have one purpose: insult willingly Islam and the Muslims."

For all my readings I agree. The reason the cartoons were published was to challenge the self-imposed censorship of Danish cartoonists who refused to print the Prophet. An environment has manifested itself in Europe whereas otherwise free people are not free to express their views (no matter how hateful or intellectually absurd those views might be) for fear of their lives.

This environment was so terrifying that cartoonists, with no interest in hatefully insulting Mohammed, were fearful merely of depicting him neutrally in a children's book.

In the Western world, where religion has been separated from the church and freedoms such as speech and expression of religion are paramount, this kind of environment is inexcusable. A western society cannot function and maintain itself if self-censorship, for fear of violent reprisal, exists. This is the environment that was challenged by the Danish cartoons. What they did was noble, not because insulting Islam is noble, but because fearful self-censorship victimizes all people who wish to live in open societies where we are just as free to practice Islam, Christianity, or Judaism as we are to be offended by those religious practices.

For this I applaud the Danish cartoonists whose prior self-censorship for fear of violence was later vindicated because of death threats from islamic radicalists.

"The Muslims are going to be blamed in all cases. If they don't respond, it will encourage the tradition of insulting Prophets of Allah; and if they responded, no matter how mild the response is, they will be cast as against freedom of speech!"

Unfortunately a small minority who resorted to violence has stained the moderate islamic world. Because of that 5% of radicals the Islamic world is strangely reluctant to self-police and any protest of the mistreatment of Allah will be viewed as an infringement on the West's free speech.

It was not always like this. The moderate Center for American-Islamic Relations here in the United States demonstrated brilliantly the difference between a radical protest and a reasonable one. In 1997 CAIR protested the "cartoon" of Mohammed that did and still does sit atop our highest of judicial bodies: The Supreme Court of the United States of America. CAIR was ruled against and, rather than burning down embassies, they publicly stated their disagreement with the decision but expressed appreciation for the sentiment and consideration the matter had received.

This was nearly 10 years ago.

It should be an excellent reminder that Western principles of free speech and religion can coincide with Islamic ones regarding the prophet as long as reasonable people prevail. CAIR's voice is heard and respected and will certainly factor in to new Government building architecture. Oh by the way, no one had to die as a result.

It is unfortunate that CAIR's actions cannot be the prevailing example of Islamic protest of Western tradition. But you are represented by the best and worst of your religion, and it is up to you to hoist the former and subdue the latter. You cannot expect the West to respect Islam while it simultaneously protests peacefully and burns down buildings (and kills people).

"So, given that the intent of the perpetrators of this whole issue is to insult Islam and Muslims, and create an atmosphere of non welcome to the foreigners in Denmark -- given that, what's the Muslims response should be?"

You tell us? Are you advocating violent reprisals or are you one the "moderate" Muslims who simply refuses to denounce violence?

"The local people (in Denmark) tried every possible way to make the newspaper stop this practice. The ambassadors of the Muslim world tried hard to meet with PM of Denmark to get this issue dealt with calmly. And many efforts of the same took place. End result: insistence on insult at all levels!!"

The insistence was that when Islamic principles clashed with fundamental Danish ones that it was unacceptable for Denmark to subdue itself to Shari'ah law. It is unfortunate that this response, by necessity because of the structure of Islam as currently practiced, is insulting. That's life. If freedom of speech "offends" Islam then Islam will just have to deal with it.

It should be noted that if a Muslim had never stabbed Theo Van Gogh in the first place, and that if Muslims didn't practice issuing Fatwahs with such frequency and seriousness on those who dare insult Islam, then this action would not have been taken in the first place. The reason the Danish newspaper published the Mohammed cartoons but not one of Jesus, as succintly explained by the publisher of that newspaper, was because there was no self-censorship environment because Christians don't issue Fatwah as frequently, seriously, or aggressively as Muslims.

"These two tracks are what are now practiced by over 95% of the Muslims worldwide."

Even if this were accurate, why would you think this is enough?

The fact is, people like you will always be stuck in the unfortunate position of apologizing for much of the Political-Islamic world. This world includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, among others. And these countries are willing to execute people who prosletyze other religions, depict the Prophet Mohammed, or convert. These countries operate with the tacit approval of the Muslims that reside in them.

For you to think that 95% of the Islamic world peacefully protests the freedom of religion and peace is for you to explain why so much of the Islamic world votes for Shari'ah law which is fundamentally at odds with those principles.

"Why we don’t do it? Simple: The Prophet told us not to do it! Logic: to remove any temptation to give the Prophets higher virtues than what they represent, and NOT to go near associating with Allah in any way or shape or form. That’s why Muslims never hold “pictures” of Mohamed or any other Prophet and never indulge in the business of emulating them in movies, documentaries, etc… "

And...? Why should these be binding on non-Muslims? (Allegedly) Mohammed also says that people should not drink alcohol or engage in homosexual acts. Are you suggesting that Westerners are bound to honor these Islamic principles as well? By what, exactly?

"1) Islam as a system is strong and has shown its impact on humanity for centuries;"

For a number of reasons, least of which that Islamic states outlaw apostasy, legally bind the sons and daughters of Islamic men to that religion, and outlaw Islamic women from marrying non Muslims. These rules are suspiciously structured to "strengthen" the religion of al-silm (NOTE: this means Submission not Peace); by outlawing any possible avenue a Muslim would have for becoming a non-Muslim. By threat of execution.

"2) Reasonable human beings of all races and genders when they rationalize all issues related to Islam give it a fair hearing and understanding;"

How can all "genders" give Islam a fair hearing when women cannot even get a fair hearing in Islamic courts? Or do you deny that, according to Shari'ah law, the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man?

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 03:19 PM

Great comment, OD. I especailly liked "Islam is . . . more brutal because its believers have more belief." Your examples of the historical atrocities unmoderated by the teachings of Jesus are great too.

Do you think there is a difference between Christianity and Islam in terms of their openness to science? Clearly, not all Christians are open to scientific explanations, regardless of how much their world is based on the technological marvels that are based on scientific findings. Nonetheless, these ideas have become dominant, such that the people who are most able to work in those fields have significant power and influence w/in the larger society.

Do you think that there is anything distinctive about Islam that is likely to make Muslims more or less receptive than Christians and Jews to a secular, science-based understanding of the world?

Posted by: THS | April 19, 2006 03:23 PM

OD-

Hah, thanks for the laugh.

Those of us that, in your elite view, dare denigrate the Religion of Submission are not doing so because we have some indefensible belief that our religion is structurally superior to Islam (which it may or may not be).

The distinction between the Islamic world and the Post-Christian western one made by myself, and others, is that Islamic countries still operate much like Christian ones did 300 or 800 years ago. The only apt comparison that Yemen has with the Christian world is hundreds of years old, which is precisely why the reasonable Post-Christian west might say "What the hell is wrong with these people?"

You unseriously pointed out the difference between the Islamic world and the Christian one; secularism. Yet you failed to explain why Islam has failed to embrace this modern principle (youth? Give me a break...) or, more importantly, what methods those of us who have should engage to force that change.

Any thoughts?

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 03:32 PM

I want to reiterate, based on the tone of this thread, that I hope more than anything that Mohammed Asaadi survies this ordeal unharmed. Further I find myself critical of the Islamic "moderates" who are strangely silent even though Mohammed Asaadi is material evidence that moderates exist and that the West should do everything possible to reach out to them. Asaadi is shining example that the West and Islam can coexist peacefully and both Yemen and Islam would do themselves an enormous and irreperable disservice by executing him.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 03:43 PM

THS and Notice both seem to be asking my opinion on the same question. Why did Moslems fall behind in science and learning?

We appear to agree that that is the root cause of modern Islam's frequent intolerance.

I would ask your opinion as to why that happened, Notice. Genetic differences, perhaps.

The truth is well enough understood by most historians. The early Arabs already had a large trading and mercantile class when their initial wave of expansion brought them into contact with ancient settled civilisations and centres of culture. That's why they dominated science from 650AD to about 1300AD.

What brought them down was, first, the Mongol invasions, which led to the devastating sack of Baghdad. While we think of medieval Islam as pressing on the west, they themselves were facing far more serious challenges from eastern nomads in the later middle ages, culminating in the ravages of Tamurlane and the seizure of power by the Ottoman Turks. (Arab power had then already been partly broken by Seljuks and Mamelukes). We in Europe had it easy by comparison.

The Islamic world seemed to have a new lease of life after the Ottomans settled down in Constantinople after 1453, having taken the city with the world's most advanced artillery.

But the Meditteranean/Silk route economy on which their society rested was then in its final years, though no-one knew it.

With the discovery of America, the focus of trade shifted irrevocably to the Atlantic. The great western ships that were developed to make these voyages were history's first examples of Christian technology that surpassed its Moslem equivalent.

The result was that the Islamic world instantly became a backwater, isolated from the world's main trade routes.

The same collapse that hit them also hit the great Christian Meditteranean trading civilisations. Venice's decline, and Genoa's, date from the same time. In fact Italy as a whole fell into disrepair when in 1450 it had seemed the centre of the Western world.

It was Christopher Columbus, more than any other man, who derailed the march of progress in Moslem civilisation.

Nobody's fault, just one of those things. History is like that.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 03:57 PM

Re: "Let's see if I got this right, VOR?"

You are missing something. The statement "Let them kill the Yemeni editor" is not advocating that they do so - taken together with the next sentence, it's a sarcastic way of saying that they're harming their own cause.

Posted by: Appalled | April 19, 2006 04:03 PM

OD-

"I would ask your opinion as to why that happened, Notice. Genetic differences, perhaps."

Certainly not.

Great history lesson. That explains, partly, the why regarding Islam's inability to accept Secularism. The more important question I posed was how do we encourage Islam to voluntarily adopt Secularism or make them change if necessity forces our hand.

If poverty or poor circumstance by itself explained why Islamic countries execute apostates then you would have a point. It does not. Apostasy is a crime worthy of death in Saudi Arabia because some interpretation of Islam espoused by millions of people says so. Do you acknowledge that there is either something wrong with the teachings of Islam or something wrong with the way it is practiced in the Islamic world?

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 04:04 PM

PJ, you have completely misinterpreted the application of "yelling fire in a theatre" -- basically you are saying that one cannot offend someone's religion, because that is not part of protected speech. Indeed, that is protected speech/press -- just as one has a right to criticize our government or make fun of our celebrities. You conveniently chose to ignore the application of "Yelling fire in a theatre" to those who have incited violence against the Danish publishers, the Americans, and anyone who offends the Islam religion. That is the ultimate application of "yelling fire in a theatre".

Posted by: The Supreme Court | April 19, 2006 04:09 PM

The difference between modern Christianity and modern Islam is easily illustrated. Imagine a newspaper editor reviewing two cartoons for publication: one ridiculing Christ, and one ridiculing Mohammed.

In the case of the cartoon ridiculing Christ, the editor has to worry about angry letters to the editor and cancelled subscriptions.

In the case of the cartoon ridiculing Mohammed, the editor has to worry about death threats, riots and embassies burning.

Posted by: | April 19, 2006 04:12 PM

"Do you acknowledge that there is either something wrong with the teachings of Islam or something wrong with the way it is practiced in the Islamic world?"

I acknowledge that there's something wrong with Islamic teaching insofar as I don't believe in God, therefore I can hardly argue that those teachings are right. I don't accept that Islamic doctrine teaches more intolerance than Christianity. When both religions were operating at full blast, the Jews, for example, regularly fled Christian lands to settle in Moslem ones. Look up the history of the town of Ragusa, for example.

I also acknowledge that there's something wrong with the way it is practiced in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and several other places. It's a lot better in, say, Turkey, where I used to live.

I also acknowledge, though you didn't ask, that there's something wrong with the way Christianity is practised in some US states, where the faithful try to legislate against other's sexual behaviour based on their own religious beliefs, or enforce teaching of religious doctrine in science classes.

I agree it's less extreme than lopping hands and heads off, or firing squads. But I don't thank Christian tolerance for that. I thank the presence of large numbers of secularists in US society.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 04:21 PM

Notice,

Why do you hold all Muslims (over 1 billion) responsible for what goes on in Yemen, a state in the Arab world, in one of its courts?

Do you understand that not all Muslims are subject to Yemeni laws and that Yemen is a fully independent sovereign state with its borders, laws, courts, traditions and languages of its own?

I have never understood this open racism, and open bigotry.

I highly suggest that you examine your ideas again and think for a minute what if, as a Christian, you went to some foreign country in which you were associated with some crime committed by another christian in a country that is foreign to you.

Posted by: Karim | April 19, 2006 04:22 PM

To OD: I'd argue that there's a fundamental difference between teaching that some things are moral, immoral, right or wrong, and trying to kill people who disagree. That's more than a difference in degree, it's a difference in the nature of the response. An Islamic world that taught that certain sexual behaviors and lifestyles are morally wrong, and taught that certain interpretations of science are incorrect, without reacting with violence, would be no threat to democratic societies.

Posted by: | April 19, 2006 04:25 PM

Jefferson,

My first message on this thread has not been posted yet (it said it required approval by the blog owner), is there a reason why? maybe because my message contained web link?

Thank you

Posted by: Karim | April 19, 2006 04:34 PM

The extreme wing of Christianity does use violence. They kill abortion doctors, for example. The scope of their violence is limited by the separation of Church and State in secular western societies. They must contend with the law when they murder, while Moslem bigots often find the law on their side.

The extreme wing of Hinduism, which sadly does have State backing from time to time, has killed far more people in pogroms of intolerance than the Moslems have. Yet strangely we never hear people mock Hinduism as a "so-called religion of peace".

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 04:34 PM

This is astounding and appalling. But as I read this it occurred to me: as obviously barbaric and insensible as this is most of us, so does our death penalty appear to most of the rest of the world. Oddly, it is mainly the fundamentalist Islamic countries who are with us on the death penalty at all. We just save it for bigger crimes.

I mean, on the (1-10) enlightenment spectrum, 5 looks to 7 exactly the same way as 3 looks to 5.

Posted by: b2o | April 19, 2006 04:36 PM

Michelle Malkin covers the issue:

http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005017.htm

Posted by: Nord | April 19, 2006 04:42 PM

OD-

"I don't accept that Islamic doctrine teaches more intolerance than Christianity."

Keep dancing. Do you accept that Islamic doctrines are practiced in more intolerant ways in 2006 than Christian ones?

"I agree it's less extreme than lopping hands and heads off, or firing squads. But I don't thank Christian tolerance for that. I thank the presence of large numbers of secularists in US society."

You would be better off thanking the Constitution, which explicitly states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The differnece between Saudi Arabia is that their religious fanatics are empowered by the state, whereas the Christian fanatics in America are constrained by the Constitution. In so far as their arguments are exposed as transparently religious, as was the case in a recent Intelligent Design Supreme Court, they are rejected as incompatible with our secular government.

Karim-

I did not mean to give the wrong impression that I were a Christian.

"Why do you hold all Muslims (over 1 billion) responsible for what goes on in Yemen, a state in the Arab world, in one of its courts?"

I do not, I hold the 20 million Yemen Muslims who tacitly support Shari'ah law responsible for the death of this great man Mohammed Asaadi if he is put to death.

Any country that enforces Shari'ah law, or any Muslim citizen who tacitly encourages it, I hold responsible for his death.

While Yemen is one country, Iran is another. So that's another 70 million Muslims. Add in 25 million Saudis. Add in forms of Shari'ah law in Sudan (30 million), Libya (5 million), and Afghanistan (30 million) and we have hundreds of millions of people who strongly believe in something that is incompatible with Western values.

I accept that it is wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of a few, but it is also dishonest to say that we should treat these cultural clashes as merely the works of a tiny minority.

"I have never understood..."

Much of anything, from the looks of it.

And do not call me racist. Twice in a few hours people on this blog have accused me of racism without a single instance of me making a racially motivated claim in my posts. If you want to accuse me of something as serious as racial bigotry the onus is on you to provide evidence.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 04:43 PM

Notice: "The differnece between Saudi Arabia is that their religious fanatics are empowered by the state, whereas the Christian fanatics in America are constrained by the Constitution."

As you can see, I made the same point in my last comment.

Far from dancing, I've already agreed that Islam in 2006 is more likely to be interpreted intolerantly than Christianity is (though not Hinduism).

I think I've also shown that poverty, war, and invasion of Moslem countries by foreigners have all contributed to that problem.

What baffles me is that so many people seem to think war and invasion can be part of the solution.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 04:48 PM

OD-

"The extreme wing of Christianity does use violence. They kill abortion doctors, for example. The scope of their violence is limited by the separation of Church and State in secular western societies. They must contend with the law when they murder, while Moslem bigots often find the law on their side."

Important distinction, no?

"Yet strangely we never hear people mock Hinduism as a "so-called religion of peace"."

That's because Hindus never disingenuosly claim to be the "religion of peace" while they simultaneously engage in murder. The majority of Hindus live in a secular democracy, as well. Can the same be said for Muslims?

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 04:50 PM

OD-

I think we agree more than we disagree. I'll ask you a serious question: What do you think is the best solution to encourage secularism on the non-secular Islamic world? Is there a peaceful solution, in your opinion?

I wish there was. I am disheartened when those individuals who seem the most hopeful candidates for bridging that gap, such as Mohammed Asaadi, could potentially be put to death precisely for this reason by the Islamic Shari'ah Law of the country they reside in.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 04:52 PM

When we condemn someone to death in the U.S. it is usually commeasurate with his crime. Government exists to ultimately protect people from other people, or institutions. Religion is an institution. Imagine a government existing to protect an institution from individual opinion. If that were the case, death sentences would have been meted out left and right for people campaigning against big tobacco. This journalist is one man facing an institution of over 1 billion people and close to 2 thousand years of tradition. What would happen if they just let him go? Would it set off a revolution in which all Muslims felt free to express their opinions? Or would life go on without much change?

Posted by: Thorsten | April 19, 2006 04:56 PM

"The extreme wing of Christianity does use violence. They kill abortion doctors, for example. The scope of their violence is limited by the separation of Church and State in secular western societies. They must contend with the law when they murder, while Moslem bigots often find the law on their side."

No, there's a fundamental difference here. No politician supports, justifies or even tries to explain the murder of abortion doctors - even the ones who believe abortion is morally wrong. No religious leader of any stature supports, justifies or tries to explain the murder of abortion doctors - even the ones who believe abortion is itself murder. Newspaper editorials do not support, justify or try to explain the killing of abortion doctors. We, as a society, simply do not accept it. American society views those who kill abortion doctors as murderers. There is no broad public support (not even the "5%" that have so often been cited in this discussion) for the killing of abortion doctors. Our society simply rejects it.

This has nothing to do with laws regarding the separation of church and state. Again, our society simply rejects this sort of violence - this is as true of religious people as it is of the non-religious. There is no wide-spread movement of Christians that is agitating for the lynching of abortion doctors that is being heroically held back by the law. We have our nut cases, just like any other society. But - and this is a huge but - we do not celebrate them, we do not tolerate them, and we do not justify them. We treat them as the anti-social criminals that they are.

Posted by: | April 19, 2006 04:58 PM

"Our society simply rejects this sort of violence - this is as true of religious people as it is of the non-religious."
Clearly, you've never been to Big Water, Utah. ;)

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 05:09 PM

OD-

Worlds of difference between suspending laws that pose little to no physical threat to the population to aquiesce to a small religious minority and basing your entire judicial and legal system around a set of laws that demand physical death on all who attempt to convert from the state religion.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 05:15 PM

Yeah, we agree on many points Notice.

"What do you think is the best solution to encourage secularism on the non-secular Islamic world? Is there a peaceful solution, in your opinion?"

I'd say that the WORST approach is anything involving the military. There is no military solution.

The second-worst approach is anything that sets up science and learning as a competitor to Islam. It need not be. Their own tradition of science, though distant, can be tapped into.

There was a recent exhibition in Britain, 1000 Moslem Inventions. This kind of thing can help enlighten bigots on both sides.

Only trade, economic development, and education can close the gap. They need economies less dependent on oil. They need scholarships, investment, tourism and travel. We can push it along in small ways. There are no instant fixes to historical problems that developed over centuries, of course, but the world moves a lot faster these days. Something like an “Asian Tiger” economic spurt would do a lot to eradicate this problem.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 05:18 PM

Notice,

Whether you were a Christian or not is not important. It was an example.

You claim that what you wrote was not racism when you just wrote again another round of racist and bigoted statements.

What makes you think that all 20 million Yemeni support the charges against the journalist?

For the compatibility with western values, Arabs (like myself) could care less.

Perhaps you could correct me but they were the same values that massacred 6 million Jews (the other middle easterners with a different religious flavor), not to mention the other many millions that died in both world wars, on top of the countless dead who were killed during the good ole days of western colonialism.

Recently and not too far away from Yemen, another western power has been bombing a foreign country in the last 3 years during which more than 100,000 civilians were killed, including children, and women, and god knows how many maimed. Sometimes entire families are killed in a single bombing, on top of bombing wedding parties and burning human beings with chemical weapons (WP).

I know that they say that civilians are not targeted, they just drop bombs on residential areas and "hope" that no civilian would be hurt! I guess that's how over 2 million Vietnamese were killed like pests by US government bombs.

Pathetic disregard of human life.

Only 2 years ago, the US government was the only country that openly justified and carried out the execution of minors.

Children as young as 15 were (and still) held in Guantanamo bay prisons with the full knowledge of the US government and its congress.

So I tell you what, we do not need your western ways, we can solve our issues on our own.

I am confident that Assadi will not be executed, and that has nothing to do with the western ways that you are chanting about.

Assadi has support among his own people.

Posted by: Karim | April 19, 2006 05:19 PM

Notice said: I'll ask you a serious question: What do you think is the best solution to encourage secularism on the non-secular Islamic world? Is there a peaceful solution, in your opinion?


This is actually close to the question I was asking, although I may not have asked it as clearly as I should have. Let me ask again, but first let me say first that I appreciate the history lesson.

Like Notice, I am interested in the future. Notice is asking whether and how it might be possible to encourage the growth of secularism in the Muslim world.

In my question, I was trying to get at whether you thought there were doctrinal aspects of Islam that might make Muslims less responsive to secular influences than were Christians. Your history lesson was based in economics. Is that what you would say about prospects for the future, i.e., that people need to be offered economic prospects that make fundamentalism less appealing? If so, can this be done within the social framework of Islam?

Posted by: THS | April 19, 2006 05:26 PM

OD-

You are an optimist. I don't think violence is a cureall, but I certainly do not wish to practice cultural suicide like many western societies do when faced with Islam. When the other side demands total reverse assimilation it is hard to foster "understanding" from either. I am heartened by the CAIR example in an earlier post, though, so maybe you are right.

"You claim that what you wrote was not racism when you just wrote again another round of racist and bigoted statements."

What have I said that was racist?

"What makes you think that all 20 million Yemeni support the charges against the journalist?"

I did not say they support the charges, I said they tacitly support their own political system which includes the Yemen judicial system which happens to be based on Shari'ah Law. As an American, I tacitly support the political system I am a member of which includes our Judicial system. Whether I approve of all that systems decisions or laws is another matter, but I am still complicit.

"For the compatibility with western values, Arabs (like myself) could care less."

Is anyone taking notes?

"Perhaps you could correct me but they were the same values that massacred 6 million Jews (the other middle easterners with a different religious flavor)..."

The same values? Hah, what a joke. It was the Nazis willingness to ignore fundamental Western values, like the freedom of religion (which includes freedom to practice Judaism) that allowed them to commit such horrible atrocities. In regards to Religious insensitivity the Nazis had more in common with Islamic Shari'ah Judges.

"So I tell you what, we do not need your western ways, we can solve our issues on our own."

I'm afraid that decision will not be yours if Islamic countries continue to materially support people who blow up our buildings and assault our paramount freedoms; it will be made for you by us.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 05:32 PM

Most of my post was addressed to Karim though I failed to make note of that and it appears as if the entire thing is a response to OD. Sorry 'bout that.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 05:34 PM

It's not so much that I'm an optimist, as that I'm extremely pessimistic about the effects of violence and war.

In a sense, that strategy has just been tried (insofar as Iraq was a genuine attempt to implant democracy in the middle east - ie not very much). It has failed.

All we're seeing from the militarisation of the problem is increasing polarisation.

That serves many people's agendas, but not yours or mine.

It seems foolish to take on Islam's bigots with militancy. That is fighting them on their own chosen ground. They have an inexhaustible supply of angry young men.

Example is a powerful force, one that America has wielded with great success in the past.

It was the bright lights of West Berlin that brought down the dinosaurs of Eastern European communism. The same approach will work further east - so long as they really do have a fair chance to share in the fruits of secular, scientific culture.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 05:40 PM

Don't worry, I realised where you'd left off addressing me.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 05:40 PM

THS - I'm absolutely convinced it can be done within the social framework of Islam, because Islam has already been a scientific, learned, and tolerant culture in the past. So there's nothing in the basic dogma that prevents it being so again.
I realise my historical analysis seems quite materialistic, but I think history proves that learning withers in the absence of trade and industry (oil doesn't count, of course).

Most of these problems are already concentrated in the Arab 25% of Islam. Rich Islamic countries like Turkey and Malaysia have no serious religious oppression.

The Arab world is very, very poor. Even oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia have far less money than most people think.
In fact the combined GDP of the entire Arab world (over 300 million people) is less than Spain's (40 million people).

Radicalisation in Saudi Arabia has gone hand in hand with falling standards of living since the 1970s.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 05:52 PM

OD-

Perhaps you said it in an earlier post so forgive me for asking. Where do you stand on the cartoon issue? Do you think self-censorship is an admirable instance of leading by example or a dangerous precedent of rewarding violence and radicalism?

I'm of the latter opinion.

We probably agree more than disagree about the harmful effects the Iraq War has had on our Islamic PR. Since the War predates the cartoon issue it's difficult to know whether things would've gone differently had we never invaded. Though the chronology could also support the idea that it has increased polarisation.

I refuse to rule out that certain strains of Islam (Wahhabism for instance) are incompatible with Western principles like treating Women as human beings, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 05:53 PM

OD-

"but I think history proves that learning withers in the absence of trade and industry (oil doesn't count, of course)."

I could be missing your point, but why doesn't oil count? If it doesn't count because it didn't encourage learning in the specific region in question, isn't it possible that there is something wrong with this region?

"Rich Islamic countries like Turkey and Malaysia have no serious religious oppression."

I don't classify Turkey as an Islamic country since it is secular. I think this, and not its riches, is a key difference (although maybe I'm playing a chicken-egg game. Rich countries can become secular and religious ones cannot?) Further, and you having lived there and a much more accomplished grasp on history might provide some insight on the why, the Armenians 90 years ago would have disagreed with your rosy asessment.

Posted by: Notice | April 19, 2006 05:57 PM

My I make a suggestion: The violence and ignorance demonstrated by the Islamist peoples of the Middle East is not indicative of any moral deficiency or natural disposition of believers of Islam. Their behavior is the conduct of primative people, as the Middle East (and much of the Far East) is still largely a primative region. Muslims living in the more civilized parts of the world don't engage in the same conduct as their brethern in Egypt or Syria. That's why no American or British Muslims were rioting or threatening violence.

Posted by: CT | April 19, 2006 06:02 PM

When you really look at it, all the world's major problems essentially boil down to two things: natural disasters and racism/intolerance. Only one of the two can we really do anything about.

Regarding racism/intolerance - the problem we can do something about - it's real simple: either you're part of the solution or you're part of the problem. For the Muslims as a whole, even those who proclaim themselves "moderates" aren't doing anything to fight the racism and intolerance of Islamist thought. Since they aren't part of the solution, this makes them part of the problem. There simply aren't enough Assadi's in the Muslim world, and there's no reason I can see this has to be the case.

Hasn't the human race had enough of violent racism/intolerance over our over 6000 years of recorded history? Giant yawn.

Posted by: Tacks | April 19, 2006 06:03 PM

OD -- you seemed to have use this forum to share your views on Christianity, war in Iraq, and use of military in general, Vietnam war, Hinduism, abortions, the history of everything, etc., etc...but I hope you are not using all of the other arguments to be an apologist for militant, fundamentalist Muslims, who have condoned, encouraged, and endorsed violent actions against innocent peope.

a) do you think the Danish newspapers, or anyone, have a right to publish those offensive cartoons?
b) do all the crimes that you have listed, allegedly committed by Christians, United States, Hindus, justify violent actions against people who have a right to express their views, as offensive as it may be?

Posted by: | April 19, 2006 06:04 PM

Thanks again. Now I have a different question. I have a behavioral science PhD, but my knowledge of history is, as my questions may have indicated, weak.

I'm looking for a place in the DC area where I could take sort of "grand sweep" history courses---taught at a level that assumes very good students who don't have a lot of expertise and aren't interested in becoming experts.

Are you from this area? If so, do you have any recommendations? How about recommendations for books or lecture series?

Posted by: THS | April 19, 2006 06:04 PM

THS,

I can answer your question of "spreading secularism" in our countries if you allow me.
Although I am not religious at all, any attempt to somehow tell us that "you should adopt our western ways" should be rejected outright, for the simple reason that it is usually a manifestation of racism and bigotry not of mutual respect and understanding.

I rather live and deal with our flavor of government that bans alcohol for instance than to accept through "cultural coercion" and disrespect so-called "western ways" that for instance openly ban and criminalize the use of certain drugs (but not alcohol) and that define marriage in a discriminatory way.

The issue with the Yemeni journalist is a matter of justice.

I challenge everyone of you to find me a single case in the Arab world in which someone was executed by he state because he insulted Islam in the last 30 years.

Every now and then, guests do insult Islam on Al-Jazeera in its debate shows (if You can read Arabic, I can point to transcripts from Al-Jazeera itself).

Marxism was once a popular ideology in the Arab world, and obviously most of its followers were atheists.

Posted by: Karim | April 19, 2006 06:08 PM

OD - one day you may regret preaching this secular, science is all truth, philosophy when we are all just human robots, completely void of any spirituality, whether it be Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism...just like religion, science too can be taken to the extreme, i.e. cloning. It is, after all, science endeavors that brought forth nuclear weapons, pesticide, etc., etc., and a lot of things you have preached against.

Posted by: | April 19, 2006 06:11 PM

I agree that the "you should adopt our ways" approach is not good. But I would favor an approach that offers people alternatives, including the opportunity to see our ways.

As you probably know, currently, 20% of Afghan children die before the age of five. I am sure their mothers and fathers grieve for them and wish that they could provide a better life--better food, better health care, better education.

But they cannot achieve these things on their own. They need direct help, but also a government and economic system that provide a context that supports and channels their efforts.

Posted by: Karim | April 19, 2006 06:20 PM

Do you seriously believe war will solve this "problem" of intolerance? That is just plain silly.

The only way you can make one side convert to your belief is to completely wipe out the other side, they can't disagree if they are dead. You must execute complete genocide and do like the United States in the colonization of the west. Replace the population with your own people. I believe the justification under the benevolence of our constitution was that the Indians were just savages that needed the enlightenment of Christ. ;)

Or you could just do surgical strikes. Invade the capital of an offending country, kill all the population and burn it to the ground.

Of course you have to guard against retaliation from the Muslim brotherhood countries of which Pakistan is one. Since that country has nukes, you probably want to do first strikes there in order to neutralize their arsenal. Since the nuclear fallout will affect the neigboring countries of China and India, you might have to watch out for retaliatory nuclear strikes from those countries.....

Starting wars is easy. Its learning how to end them with a clear winner is the difficult part. Thats why we have the United Nations as worthless as that institution seems to be. Something that our President and his sycophants are probably starting to realize.

Democracy cannot be imposed, it must come from within. You would think that the lessons from Vietnam would make this obvious, but stupid people tend to breed faster so it is inevitable that history must be relearned.

Posted by: PTT | April 19, 2006 06:20 PM

That last post that says it's from Karim is from me. I was actually posting TO Karim.

Posted by: THS | April 19, 2006 06:24 PM

“I could be missing your point, but why doesn't oil count? If it doesn't count because it didn't encourage learning in the specific region in question, isn't it possible that there is something wrong with this region?”

Oil doesn’t count because it’s an extractive industry, not a manufacturing one. The world is divided between countries that trade in raw materials, which are generally poor and uneducated, and those that trade in finished goods and specialised services, which are rich and educated. Oil is on the wrong side of that divide. We see the same problem in Africa, where mining generates plenty of money but no educated workforce.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 06:28 PM

“I don't classify Turkey as an Islamic country since it is secular.”

Actually, an Islamic party, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) now rules Turkey having won the 2002 elections, kicking the secular Motherland Party out of office for the first time since Ataturk. Turkey’s current PM, Erdogan, spent four months in prison in 1999 for reading a poem that a court said incited religious hatred.

In Turkey, it’s traditionally the secularists, especially the Army, who oppress the Islamists. The AKP, by the way, has more women representatives in the legislature than Motherland ever did.

http://archives.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/11/03/turkey.elections/

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 06:29 PM

“The Armenians 90 years ago would have disagreed with your rosy asessment (of Turkey as a country without religious oppression).”

Citing the Armenian massacre as evidence of Islamic intolerance is most unfair and the opposite of the truth.

In fact, the Army officers who ordered the massacre were the exact same people who instituted secular rule in Turkey, banned the Islamic alphabet, and forbade Turks from wearing beards and skullcaps. They were trying to copy Western Europe.

Moreover, the root cause of the massacre had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with nationalism, territory and national security paranoia (Britain, which was then at war with Turkey, tried to stir up an Armenian revolt, then abandoned it).

What you’re effectively saying is that any massacre carried out by Moslems is a sign of Muslim intolerance. So therefore I can conclude that the massacre of Jews by Germans in 1941-45 was a sign of Christian intolerance. Or I could point out that Rwanda’s Hutus are Christians, therefore Christianity is a religion of violence. Same logic.

I don’t defend all of Turkey’s actions, least of all that one, but Turkey is a nation-state that has often acted for purely national-political motives. Look at Turkey’s harassment of its Kurdish population. The Kurds are Sunni Moslems, just like the Turks.

The Armenian massacre had exactly zero to do with Islam...except that the people who did it were the same people who tried to suppress Islam in Turkey.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 06:31 PM

Re the cartoons, a pox on both their houses. Needlessly insulting other religions is either stupid or evil. Threatening cartoonists with death is both.

Were I an editor, I certainly wouldn't have reproduced the cartoons. Because while I treasure my free speech, I don't wish to use it to promote hate. Even though I have a right to.
THS - I'm not from DC area. I'll think about books.

Re Anon on me having cause to regret my secularism, I'll have to think about that. I already know that atheism is a lot less comforting an ideology than religious faith.

Gotta go, back later.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 06:41 PM

By the way, regarding oil as a poor basis for an educated society: 98% of Saudi Arabia's oil is extracted by the national oil company Aramco.

Aramco IS Saudi Arabia's economy, yet it provides jobs to just 58,000 people, and many of them are either foreign or unskilled.

You can't build an industrialised society on the back of an oil industry.

Posted by: OD | April 19, 2006 06:49 PM

The problems with Islamic fanaticism cannot be solved overnight. It is rooted in illiteracy. Islamic governments exploit this ignorance to stay in power. Scratch any leader of an islamic country (yes, including among the Saudi princes or the Iranian mullahs) and you will find him a well informed person with more in common with the Bushes and Blairs of this world than his own countrymen. After all he probably vacations at the same resorts, eats similar foods and sends his kids to the same private schools and later to the multinationals for further training.

Threats to destroy Israel is his security card. He probably has no intention to do so, but what the heck... if he can deflect attention of the maseses away from himself, it gains more time to steal more billions from the treasury. In the end there will always be a country that will provide asylum if the loot is big enough!

LOL

Posted by: Name's Bond, James Bond | April 19, 2006 07:05 PM

Hey Karim,

I don't know why you ran into that's obstacle. It's happened to me too.

I'm glad to see you got through.

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | April 19, 2006 07:08 PM

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