***Re. the disappearing post: I am sorry to have posted this and then hidden it again. I was confused as to which editor of Jyllands-Posten was responsible for commissioning the original cartoons that have (at least in name) incited violence throughout the Muslim world. I originally wrote about the general editor, when I needed to write about the cultural editor. I have corrected this mistake. If you would like to read Flemming Rose's excellent editorial defending his decision to run the cartoons, here is a link. It is no longer timely, really, but I'll re-post it anyway. Thanks for stopping by!***
What do Roy Horn, Timothy Treadwell, and Flemming Rose have in common? They all, despite the fact that they supposedly ought to have known better, poked and prodded the sensibilities of wild beasts.
Roy Horn, of the famous Las Vegas Mirage duo, Siegfried and Roy, was mauled on October 3, 2003 by a seven-year-old white tiger in the middle of his performance. Siegfried and Roy had been famous for working with large cats for over thirty years. Yet, to many animal behaviorists, this was a mauling that was, for the tiger, a long-overdue instinctive reaction. You cannot, the experts pointed out, ever take for granted that a wild animal, even one raised in captivity, is truly domesticated.
Timothy Treadwell has been brought back into the public's attention recently by the award-winning documentary, Grizzly Man. He first caught the media's eye in the 1990s, when his innovative immersion into the grizzly bear populations of Alaska began to have a following. Timothy Treadwell believed in his heart that his unconventional habitation with the most fearsome of bears was somehow accepted and welcomed by the creatures. He spent 13 summers in Alaska, amidst the grizzlies. On October 5, 2003, Timothy Treadwell and his companion Amie Huguenard were attacked and killed by a grizzly bear. National Forest rangers found and shot the rogue animal, and they discovered the remains of the two "bear-whisperers" in his stomach. Bear experts, biologists and zoologists who have spent their entire lives studying the nature and habits of bears, shook their heads collectively over an outcome they had foreseen. These bears are not cuddly little teddies who just need love and understanding to commune with humans, the experts emphasized. These are wild animals -- to be studied and seen as unobtrusively as possible.
Flemming Rose was the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper. In September 2005, he decided that his cartoonists were self-censoring themselves by not ever depicting the Islamic prophet, Mohammed, in their drawings. He asked the cartoonists to break free by drawing their interpretation of the Prophet, which Rose then published in Denmark. In January 2006, the Islamic world errupted with violent fury, that the face of their prophet and religious founder should be depicted at all, let alone the two most satirical of drawings. Leaders and commentators from all over the world decried the drawings with this most unexpected of messages: Flemming Rose should have known that any affront to Mohammed would result in this barbarous display, so he is the one responsible for all of the deaths and destruction. In other words, he needled wild beasts, and the result was the proper harvest of contention sowed.
And, what surprises me the most, is that Islamic leaders and Muslims alike let them get away with this reaction. It is amazing how many times I have heard in essence the statement: Oh, sure, the violence is regrettable, but, really, what could you expect after that level of provocation? When did it become okay to see Muslims as less than human, less than responsible for their reprehensible actions? When is an editorial decision in a non-Muslim country an absolute precursor to the mobilization of insanity within practitioners of a religion? What is remarkable, too, is that Flemming Rose gave Muslims around the world more credit for rational thought and adult behavior than their own leaders. He may have wanted to start a dialogue. What he got was a tantrum, a stampede, a frenzy.
This entire general international complacence with the rioting speaks terribly of a world-view that Muslims are somehow sub-human -- that they are beasts who must be excused from evil behavior because they are merely ruled by instinct and savagery. Why aren't people decrying these despicable actions without the addendum that they are, after all, simply the just deserts for a rash act of spiritual insensitivity? Goodness, give Muslims the respect and responsibility of being accountable to rational evaluation and reasonable response. Mob violence is a disgusting predisposition of the darker side of the human condition, but nowhere else do we see it widely excused as a foregone conclusion. As those made in the image of our Creator, all humans must be held to a standard above our baser elements.
It seems to me that, when people are secure and steadfast in their faith, they tend not to be this touchy. Idolatry is forbidden also in Christianity and Judaism, but we see cartoonists drawing their (not always considerate) depictions of our Lord every day. It never made me want to burn down an embassy to see them, though. I've actually even laughed at some cartoon depictions (the "Far Side" cartoon of God's kitchen comes to mind), because I know that my God is so much bigger than anything man does. He is Creator of the heavens and the earth -- of things seen and unseen -- and nothing will diminish Him, no matter how inane, blasphemous, or downright silly.
May the peace of the one, true God come upon the Middle East and to all of us frail and fallen humans around the world.