Things That Offend Muslims: Cartoons, Books, History, Operas…
James Lileks observes that the list of things that spark outrage and violence from Islamists is long, indeed.
Clip and save, for this may come in handy: If you mock Islam with a drawing or a novel, you get riots and dead people. News of mishandled holy books yields riots and dead people. Insufficiently reverent short films by a Dutchman yields a dead person, specifically the Dutchman.
Now we add this detail: Quoting medieval religious colloquies is a reasonable justification for burning churches, shooting a nun and holding up signs demanding that the pope convert to Islam or saw off his own head. (There have been reports of carpal tunnel syndrome among radical Islam’s enforcers, and they have requested we all help out.)
This is a new twist: Now history itself cannot be discussed. Since it’s difficult to predict what else will enflame the devout, Islam has to be treated with unusual deference, like a 3-year-old child with anger management problems.
But it’s not what we say that truly offends. It’s what we are. The West’s lack of interest in joining the Ummah is an affront in itself, and we broadcast our sins in High Infidelity. If you believed that the West’s apostasy was an affront to God, you’d spend your leisure hours torching straw popes, too.
Oddly, the barbaric reaction to art and other forms of speech is having its desired chilling effect. We’ve had the network behind “South Park,” which doesn’t blink twice at showing blood coming out of the Virgin Mary’s rectum or all manner of vile representations of Jesus Christ refusing to show a cartoon image of Muhammad. The Germans are preemptively canceling operas.
A leading German opera house has canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting a storm of protest here about what many see as the surrender of artistic freedom. The Deutsche Oper Berlin said Tuesday that it had pulled “Idomeneo” from its fall schedule after the police warned of an “incalculable risk” to the performers and the audience. The company’s director, Kirsten Harms, said she regretted the decision but felt she had no choice. She said she was told in August that the police had received an anonymous threat, but she acted only after extensive deliberations.
Political and cultural figures throughout Germany condemned the cancellation. Some said it recalled the decision of European newspapers not to reprint satirical cartoons about Muhammad, after their publication in Denmark generated a furor among Muslims. Wolfgang BÃ¶rnsen, a culture spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc in Parliament, accused the opera house of “falling on its knees before the terrorists.” “It is a signal to other stages in Germany, or even elsewhere in Europe, to put no works on their programs that criticize Islam,” he said.
Joe Gandleman observes that the controversial scenes were included the last time the opera was staged, a mere three years ago.
It’s just that some things have changed since then, such as the boundaries of free speech, what art is permissible, how far people who write, draw and perform are willing to go to perform their freedoms to do what they have been able to do for many years, and what is deemed PC (or dangerous to your physical health).
Ed Morrissey overstates matters a bit when he writes, “How does the West lose the war against radical Islamists? One small surrender at a time.” Sensitivity to the cultural concerns of others is, generally speaking, a good thing and the West is learning a lot about the Muslim world. Avoiding gratuitous insults is laudable when done as a result of enlightenment. But it’s lamentable when done out of fear.
Open dialogue with civilized Muslims is a necessary component of stemming the tide of Islamist violence. Surrender of our basic values is not. Indeed, appeasement in the face of terrorism will, quite naturally, yield more terrorism.