For weeks now, the world has had to watch an ongoing tantrum among Muslim extremists who say that a few cartoons of the prophet Mohammed justify a campaign of violence that has included rioting, arson, kidnapping, death threats, and even actual killings. Well, that’s all well and good, but now the Muslim world is about to be tested to see what kind of context it places those offensive cartoons in.
Will the Muslim world react more strongly to these cartoons than they do to the destruction of one of their holy shrines? Will the fact that the shrine is specifically for Shiites lead Sunnis to pooh-pooh, or even justify, the offense?
The Samarra shrine, a holy place for Shiites which was famous for its beautiful golden dome, was destroyed in a massive explosion today in Iraq. There were people inside the shrine when it was destroyed, and they are likely to have been killed.
So now what happens? If Iraqi Sunnis are blamed, the event could lead to civil war. If the Americans are blamed, the Iraq War could escalate beyond our imaginations.
Or maybe there won’t be a big reaction, in which case, we have to ask why we’re all supposed to be up in arms about a few cartoons.