There are three reasons not to publish the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed with his turban styled as a bomb (to view the cartoons, click here) and the other images that have sparked violent protests and deaths throughout Europe, the Middle East, West Asia, and Indonesia:
1) Out of fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do. This is, frankly, our primary reason for not publishing any of the images in question. Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history.
2) Out of respect for the millions of faithful and peace-abiding believers throughout the world who are deeply disturbed by the violation of their religion’s proscription against the pictorial representation of their prophet.
3) And in the hope that restraint shown by those who believe deeply in the sanctity of free speech will be able to stand side by side with those who believe with equal fervor in the dignity of religious expression to oppose the forces of darkness and evil in the Islamic world.
That is why there is no image in the space above this editorial.
Make no mistake: the events of the past two weeks are the clash of civilizations writ large, a bloody conflict that makes the intense culture wars that grip this nation seem polite by comparison.
Here, in the United States, we can be proud that the large and diverse Arab-Islamic communities that surround Detroit are peaceful. Greater Dearborn is as intensely American and it is Islamic. For more than 100 years these sons and daughters of immigrants, along with their cousins who are more recent arrivals, go to work daily, raise their children, go about their lives, and practice their religion. They are deeply saddened and pained by this controversy and equally disapproving of their co-religionists’ violence.
Perhaps the most eloquent condemnation of the Islamofascists — for that is what they are — came from Iraq’s leading Shiite Ayatollah, Ali Al-Sistani. “Horrific action,” is how he described the publication of the cartoons. But the protesters spread a “distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love, and brotherhood.” They have, he said, “exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds.”
Hate is central to all of this: hatred of the West, of democracy, of tolerance, of freedom, and of modern conceptions of the dignity and diversity of human life and belief.
As the Wall Street Journal has reported, when Denmark’s largest daily, the conservative Jyllands-Posten, months ago called for satirists to submit work lampooning Mohammed, its editors didn’t know what they were getting into. The editors were ignorant of the cultural prohibition against religious images in general and the particularly sacrilegious nature of depicting the Prophet Mohammed. They were also ignorant of the fact that they chose to publish the results on the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy season.
As the Journal pointed out, what began as a local Danish dispute was elevated into an international controversy thanks to the intervention of the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian governments. From there it was not long before the most radical and vile elements of the Islamic world were able to harness the issue to their own purposes.
In doing so, the Islamists proved the essential point suggested by the cartoon of a be-bombed, turbaned Mohammed: that Islam harbors a virulent strain of belief that is not only violent in nature but terrorist by design. That peaceful Muslims were offended by the image is understandable, but the fact remains that for the vast majority of the world’s peace-loving citizens of all persuasions, it was an apt analogy.
That, we suspect, is the underlying reason why so many papers in Europe — and at least three in the United States — saw fit to reprint the cartoons. In doing so, they were not only endorsing the Western ideal that freedom of speech should be sacrosanct and that the cartoons to non-Muslims were clearly within the Western tradition of political comment. At least two, the now-infamous turban-bomb one and another lampooning suicide bombers who acted on the promise of heavenly satisfaction from hundreds of virgins, hit uncomfortably close to the bone.
So commonplace are outrageous graphic libels and slanders published in the Islamist press, that when Iran’s leading newspaper announced a contest for the funniest depiction of the Holocaust, it was met with the equivalent of an international shrug. “There they go again,” those hate-filled Islamic radicals.