In Webster's dictionary one definition of cartoon is quote—“a ludicrously simplistic, unrealistic, or one-dimensional portrayal or version.”
Unrealistic. Ludicrous. So how do fringe elements of one religion turn a cartoon into an international uproar? A call to arms so great that even the unusually unwavering U.S. media is now unwilling to broadcast the cartoons that generated the news?
Four months after a Danish newspaper first published cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, one of which depicted him with a turban shaped like a bomb, violent protests have erupted in Lebanon and Syria, the Danish embassy in Beirut has been burned, and a Lebanese Christian neighborhood destroyed over the weekend. On Monday, troops in Afghanistan opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least four. In Somalia, a stampede killed a teenager. In Iraq, protesters called for the death of anyone who insults Mohammed. In Iran, the Danish and Austrian embassies were hit with Molotov cocktails by protesters.
Now all of us in the media here in the United States are rightly afraid of what impact showing these cartoons could have. Freedom of the press is a nice principle, but if it‘s going to lead to people being hurt or killed, it can and should cloud one’s journalistic judgment. I am not surprised that media outlets--including this one--are not broadcasting the cartoons in question. But free press is not the point here. Why don‘t we see protests like this when terrorists impugn the prophet Mohammed by killing civilians and then claiming it was done in his name? Not since a later-retracted piece in “Newsweek” magazine reported about a Koran being flushed down the toilet by American interrogators at Guantanamo has the press been so scapegoated. There, some blamed “Newsweek” for more than a dozen deaths among protesters.
Now the Danish and other European editors who printed the cartoons are taking the heat. And CARTOON FURY
• U.S. cartoonists weigh in on the controversy
while it seems some bad decisions were made, let‘s be clear--in both cases, the violence stems from extremism. We‘re talking about caricatures, much like the ones that regularly appear in the Arab press demeaning Jews.
The Anti-Defamation League releases a list every month of anti-semitic cartoons, which appear in the Arab press. Not to mention how Christ, the Virgin Mary and other symbols sacred to Christians are sometimes mocked. Look at the animated series “South Park,” for example.
Cartoons are caricatures. That doesn‘t mean they‘re funny or appropriate. But let‘s not lose our focus on what this is about. It‘s an excuse, a way for a few to take advantage of the deeply held religious views of many others.