This simply cannot be the global norm!
On September 19, 2012, Harvard professor Karen King dropped a bombshell that is sure to reverberate throughout the West. She held in her hands a scrap of 4th century Egyptian papyrus that quotes Jesus mentioning his wife! If authenticated, King’s revelation undermines more than two centuries of Roman Catholic teaching and the very rationale for the celibacy of priests.
King’s announcement was greeted with rioting. Angry mobs streamed out of the Vatican and clashed with Italian police. Forty people died before the Italian military forced the surging mob back within the confines of the Vatican. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, an estimated 5,000 Irish-American Catholics forced their way onto the grounds of Harvard University. The mob, marching behind a crucifix-emblazoned banner, toppled the statue of James Harvard as they shouted “Mendacium!” (“A lie!”), a direct slam at Harvard’s motto: “Veritas” (truth). Three Harvard professors were pulled form their classrooms and were beheaded as the crowd chanted, “Jesus is Lord!” Worldwide at least 17 other nations saw protests and a reported 115 people have been killed.
You don’t remember hearing about this? Of course not. It never happened. The only thing that’s true in the above two paragraphs is that Professor King did, indeed, unveil a scrap of papyrus in which Jesus mentions a wife. (She also said that she’s working with teams of experts to make certain it’s not a forgery.) So why did I write this? To contrast it to the ridiculous (and childish) reaction currently occurring in Muslim lands in reaction to, of all things, a YouTube video.
In case you’ve tuned out the news, some jerk in California calling himself Sam Bacile—yeah, I know, where you find a jerk in California?—made a cheap movie in which Mohammed is depicted as a randy ladies’ man and a charlatan. Offensive and needlessly provocative? Of course it is, and you don’t have to be a Political Correctness freak to condemn his actions. But a better reaction is simply to ignore Bacile and allow him to obtain the obscurity he so richly deserves. Instead, Muslims across the globe have stormed U.S. embassies, burned flags, attacked citizens, and have killed at least 30 people. Congratulations! The disgusting and inexcusable carnage aside, the major accomplishments of such actions have been to send thousands of people to YouTube to watch the repulsive video, transform Bacile from an idiot into a civil libertarian, cast Islam in a more negative light than Bacile could have ever done, and encourage copycat parody, such as that found in the French journal Charlie Hebdo, in which Mohammed appears as a naked letch. The reaction to the French cartoons? Why more rioting of course.
Let’s be blunt about the problem here. Muslims must stop allowing fanatics to define them. This sounds clichéd, but it’s true: I know numerous Muslims and they are sweet, loving, devout people. I’d much rather spend time with them and have them as neighbors than the Bible-thumping zealots who attend a nearby church. A lot of people associate riots and murder with all Muslims. That’s very sad and it’s akin to associating all Christians with the bloodthirsty murderers who gun down doctors who perform abortions. But the cartoonist calling himself Luz who drew the French lampoons has a point when he notes that the only time there have been protests over the magazine’s content have been the three times he parodied Islam. He also has a point when he says, “I live under French law. I don’t live under Koranic law. I’m not the one going into the streets with stones and Kalashnikovs.”
I’ve never seen this French magazine, so maybe Luz is a jerk also, but he’s not wrong about his defense. Here’s the deal—we live in the Global Village. That means the world is a marketplace of ideas as well as goods, including the concept of free expression (even if means freedom to be a jerk). If Muslims wish to live in the modern world, they must purge themselves of those who would cast them back to the 10th century and throw a veil over the rest of the planet. Every religion contains zealots, fools, and those who spread hatred and call it God’s will. What civilized nations do is prosecute such people; they don’t revere them as leaders, prophets, or martyrs. Civilized nations also tolerate everyone’s beliefs. Sort of like what Mohammed said when he told Muslims to respect all “the peoples of the book (Scripture)” and specifically mentioned Jews, Christians, and Sabians!
Muslims have been slandered. Some of it is self-induced; Muslims cannot expect respect when they blaspheme the traditions of others. Remember the Afghan Taliban blowing up the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001? Remember the beheading of Daniel Pearl? (A person “of the book.”) How many Muslims nations demand Palestinian statehood? Compare that list to the number that recognizes Israel’s right to exist. Remember the killing of two US soldiers because of a rumor (false as it turned out) that soldiers willfully destroyed Korans? This must stop and Muslims must take the lead in wiping out those who cast Islam in a murderous light.
If one wishes to live in the Global Village, one must put up with (and learn to ignore) jerks–not because we wish to, but because it’s simply too dangerous to impose any one variety of orthodoxy. So some fool burns a Koran or a Bible. So what? Does this in any way diminish the power of God? Many Americans view the nation’s flag as a sacred symbol. What if, every time protestors in some far-off land desecrated an American flag, the United States sent waves of bombers and Marines to lay waste to the offending nation? Can you say “Armageddon?”
Muslims have a right to be angry when someone disrespects their core beliefs. But civilized people do not resolve their problems with Kalashnikovs. They do, as millions of Christians have done in the wake of the Jesus revelation—they return to those core beliefs for solace. Muslim nations must learn to accommodate difference, even boorish behavior, or they will find themselves persona non grata in the Global Village. The veil of isolation will descend, not from the hands of extremists, but from the Villagers who will ignore them.