While I was in college, I was the Opinion Editor of my school paper for one year. As the Opinion Editor it was my job to print articles and cartoons on a variety of topics, some which induced negative responses. I received criticism for materials printed on my pages regularly, but I never apologized for my editorial choices. If I still had an editorial page of my own, I would run the cartoons that the Danish paper Jyllands-Postens ran and here’s why: printing cartoons to educate the public is a function of freedom of the press, freedom of the press is necessary for an informed citizenry, an informed citizenry is necessary for a functioning society, and a functioning society is in everyone’s best interest.
Sadly, there are too many editors in the world not printing the cartoons, including the New York Times. Too many printing them and losing their jobs or their newspapers like the editor-in-chief and opinion editor of The Daily Illini, a Russian newspaper and a Saudi paper among others. And too many editors (and world leaders) are offering apologies for reproducing the images that have caused such a huge controversy. Jacques Chirac, Bill Clinton and those who took over The Daily Illini after suspending the two students who chose to print some of the cartoons come to mind. Especially in the Western world, it’s a shame that those of us who have freedom of the press (at least to some degree) don’t value it enough to stand with Denmark. Many publications spinelessly refuse to print the cartoons, meanwhile: cities burn. Thank goodness for bloggers keeping tabs on the insanity and printing what our papers are too afraid to print.
When a thinking person sees or reads something that offends them in a newspaper, they write a letter to the editor; they don’t torch KFC. Clearly, there is more than a touch of irony in the violent reactions of Muslims around the world as a result of these cartoons. Those rioting are proving the point of some of the cartoons; that there is an underlying violent tendency within parts of Islam. So instead of rationally responding to the cartoons, protesters angry over them have burned or tried to attack Danish Embassies around the world, attacked McDonald’s and other fast-food chains (MichelleMalkin.com has a great photo of Ronald McDonald enveloped in flames) and set effigies of President George W. Bush on fire according to Reuters. Setting poor Ron McDonald’s statue on fire would almost be funny if it weren’t so illogical and if vandalism wasn’t a crime.
Michelle Malkin has done an incredible job of keeping track of the cartoon insanity around the globe on her blog. One of the best links from her site was to an interactive map on www.lastingnews.com that marks where cartoon protests have taken place and gives the details of each incident. According to the map, some of the most egregious incidents were the storming and burning of Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, Syria on Feb. 4; the attacks on the Austrian, Danish and Norwegian embassies in Tehran, Iran on Feb. 6; rioting in Benghazi, Libya which resulted in 11 deaths and the Italian consulate being set on fire; the killing of 15 Christians in Nigeria, attacks on Christian churches and shops in Sukkur, Pakistan and the protests in Lahore, Pakistan in which two protesters were shot dead after 200 cars and at least four buildings of western or diplomatic affiliation were burned.
Jihadists have also taken to attacking websites, by hacking into them and spraying them with e-graffiti. Sites all over Denmark and the Western world have been hijacked.
But the most disturbing thing I saw, and it sickened me to see it, was the way in which Muslim religious and government leaders are offering exorbitant amounts of money for the death of the cartoonists. According to Arab News, “A minister in India’s Uttar Pradesh state government has offered a reward of $11.5 million to anyone who would kill any of the cartoonists who drew the images of the Prophet Muhammad.” On February 17 the Associated Press reported that a Pakistani cleric was offering a $1 million bounty on the heads of the cartoonists. Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about putting a bounty on someone’s head for drawing a cartoon. Nor it is funny to look at the pictures of the cartoonists with red gun-sights superimposed on their faces (also on Michellemalkin.com) that are on the Internet. The Danish cartoonists have been in hiding for some time now, but it is a shame that they have to be. I shudder to think of what would happen to any other people group who responded to an editorial cartoon the way these Muslims have.