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Mohammed Image Publication Condemned by US State Department. Does the U.S. have any idea what it is saying?

Earlier today, U.S. State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper condemned the publication of images of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed. Speaking for the Bush administration, Cooper reasoned that “These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable…. We call for tolerance and respect for all communities for their religious beliefs and practices.”

Let’s unpack that. First of all, the cartoons may indeed be “offensive to the belief of Muslims.” A number of cartoons are offensive to the belief of many people. Open the op-ed section of any American paper and you’ll see the demonization of peoples and beliefs of one sort or another almost every day. Does the U.S. State Department have a similar problem with American editorial cartoons?

Second, Cooper identifies as unacceptable “inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner.” To incite is to bring into being : induce to exist or occur (Merriam-Webster) or to cause to act (Wordnet). Is it really the position of the United States that the cartoons induced religious or ethnic hatreds, that they caused death threats, riots, kidnappings and invasions of embassies? This reminds me of what I used to say when caught in a fight as a kid: “He made me do it! He yelled at me! He called me a name! He made me do it!” The grown-ups in these situations reminded me that I was in full control of my own behavior, that I decided to react the way I did. Does the U.S. State Department really believe that the fundamentalist Muslims involved in death threats, riots, kidnappings and embassy invasions cannot control their own behavior, that they were induced by a cartoon to engage in these destructive behaviors?

Finally, the State Department declares: “We call for tolerance and respect for all communities for their religious beliefs and practices” as a way of saying that it’s not appropriate for a newspaper to publish a cartoon that offends Muslim beliefs and practices. Well, then. If it is being consistent, doesn’t the State Department position imply that it is inappropriate for newspapers to publish cartoons that offend Christian beliefs and practices? Well, that’s interesting. How about the religious beliefs and practices of those sects of Mormonism that still practice polygamy? Must those be tolerated and respected?

And what about my own religious beliefs and practices? I’m part of a community with a particular set of religious beliefs and practices. We’re variously called agnostics and secularists. We believe that anybody proclaiming to definitively know a universal standard for behavior, handed down from a deity, is probably full of bullshit. We work as hard as we can to practice an avoidance of the worship of religious texts and authority figures as infallible. Agnostics and secularists in the United States make up a larger community than the community of either Jews or Muslims here. Is the State Department going to condemn any lack of tolerance or respect for secularism or agnosticism?

… or is the State Department’s declaration conditional: we condemn the offending of religious sensibilities when those offended choose to become violent and threaten the lives and safety of other people in reaction? Because, you know, that’s what it looks like. And, gee, that would not only be a kind of weasely, counterproductive appeasement, but also an indication that there’s a problem with the very beliefs and standards of the religious community in question.

Oh, dear. Was that offensive of me to say?

7 thoughts on “Mohammed Image Publication Condemned by US State Department. Does the U.S. have any idea what it is saying?”

  1. Junga says:

    This is astoundingly stupid of the U.S. government. How about they condemn people who make death threats against artists for no other reason than that the artists refuse to comply with religious orthodoxy?

  2. An American Mick says:

    With somebody elses religious orthodoxy, no less.

  3. Patricia says:

    It looks to me that the Republican Party has gotten very uptight about being politically correct, all of a sudden.

  4. Bob S-K says:

    I wonder if the State Department officials crafting this sort of nonsense have actually read the cartoons.

  5. Mike says:

    I personally feel a bit more than offended by a religion that would condemn me to death, as I just heard (on CNN) a mullah calling for with “all Christians” According to them, I fall into that category. If they feel insulted, my suggestion to them is to dial 1-900-929-Waah…it costs $.75/minute for pity for the first three minutes, and $1.50/min. thereafter. And I am ashamed of an American government that would kow-tow to these bloodthirsty SOBs in the venal worship of the Almighty Dollar (“blessed be It’s name…”)

  6. Bob says:

    Jim…Excellant commentary. The US state dept never disppoints. You can always count
    on the folks in that institution to come up with the most unimaginably stupid political/diplomatic
    positions on the entire planet. These Yale/Harvard graduates are simply unable to grasp
    the notion that folks who saw off other folks heads, who bomb and burn Christian churches and
    monasteries, AND who hijack commercial airliners and fly them into the WTC and THEN
    celebrate by dancing in the streets and on the campuses of our country do not have a leg to
    stand on when claiming victimhood because someone drew a cartoon of their freaking
    goat brained pedophile of a prophet. I’m seriously concerned that the free world and our
    nation cannot survive unless measures are not soon taken to clean up the mess at DOS.

  7. Joseph says:

    Didn’t you know, the United States only cares if Muslims are offended by something. After all, they are somehow superior to us? We would never condemn publications or actions that offend Christians, such as calling for the deaths of all Christians and/or non-believers.

    Just think, Hitler at least tried to keep his position to exterminate the Jews rather quiet during the course of WW2. These radicals are making their intent clear to the entire world, yet for some reason we’re worried about pissing them off? How sad the state of affairs is…

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