The Debate continues as Aaron Meltzer takes on the issue of the cartoon creators' freedom of speech, the threats to their persons, and he looks at why we have animosity between Islam and Judaism and Christianity in the "South Park Shot At" follow up:
On the surface this issue appears simple. Clearly nobody should be threatened with murder, or for that matter, actually murdered, for something they said or created. More and more Radical Islamists who kill and threaten to kill appear at best misguided and malicious, and at worst insane. However, one fact we should keep in mind is that angry Muslims are just as rational as we are. So then the issue goes from being about whether a person has the freedom to express what they want to why what would otherwise be a small offense causes Muslims in the Middle East to erupt with violent rage. So why does it?
That question is complicated. The origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages, but the most important events happened after World War I. All three Abrahamic religions promise their adherents that they are better than everyone else, in one form or another. The Old Testament refers to Jews as the chosen people, the New Testament states that only Christians will go to heaven, and Islam offers a destiny similar to the Christian one. This sense of being special conflicted terribly with the reality and humiliation of Colonialism, just like it did with any other colonized group. The humiliation of Colonialism is key and cannot be understated in understanding how Arabs view the West currently. This, combined with the creation of Israel, completes in many Muslim Arabs’ view of the West eternally humiliating and occupying their lands.
This, of course, does not give them a license to kill. The reality is that the West no longer has any interest in colonizing or otherwise humiliating Muslims. Likewise, the state of Israel was created because of the historical claims that Jews also have to the Holy Land, in addition of the Palestinians, and because of the two millenniums of persecution Jews faced in Europe. Instead, the main reason this recent history fans the flames of hatred for the West is mostly because the Arab leaders themselves have been doing the fanning. The easiest way for authoritarian leaders to retain power is to point to an outside enemy, and there is no more obvious an enemy than Israel and the West to blame for their misery, rather than the actual incompetence of their rulers. This, combined with the near universal religion of Islam in the Middle East, allows rulers to concentrate the entire societies energies towards an outside enemy and creates a sense of connection between the people in the different Arab, and in some cases, Persian, states.
In turn, Muslims in Europe and, although to a much lesser extent, the United States, sometimes find it difficult to assimilate in the West, creating the problem of violent Radical Islamists who grew up in the West. However that is a whole new topic for another time. So in that sense, when Arabs riot violently in the streets and Muslims in the West protest, and a very small minority commit murder, because of a simple cartoon, while there are genocides occurring against Muslims, like in Sudan, that are being ignored, they are not really rioting against the cartoon, but against the perceived injustice the West has been perpetuating for a little over a hundred years that has been fanned by incompetent Authoritarian leaders.
As a side note, I realized that in many cases in this piece I used the word Muslims and Arabs interchangeably. This is unintentional, when I use the word Muslims I am referring to the wider world of Islam, while when I use the word Arabs I am only referring to Arabs. This is important because violent riots and post- World War I colonialism only happened in the Arab world, but Muslims in the rest of the world may feel sympathy and adopt these feelings, especially Muslims in the West.
- by Aaron Meltzer