Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bokbluster: Also not Muhammad

Chip Bok, editorial cartoonist for the Akron Beacon Journal, published the above cartoon and provided his own editorial, both of which have generated an avalanche of emails. Or maybe a blizzard of them. Anyway, some snow metaphor. Here's Bok's brief editorial:
Fair and Bland, February 05, 2006

CNN pixilated the cartoons that set off a world wide Muslim temper tantrum. If the cartoons are a distortion of Muhammad then CNN has distorted a distortion. Guess we'll never know what all the fuss was about.

Most of the mainstream media in the U.S., other than Fox News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the New York Sun, took a pass on showing the cartoons. Editor and Publisher has a story on the media refusal to publish the cartoons.

It seems little arrogant for a religion to demand that the whole world play by its rules. And a little wimpy for most of the American media to go along with it.

Christopher Hitchens considers the incident proof of "an aggressive intent".

Posted by cbok on February 05, 2006 at 12:50 PM
Following this editorial by Bok is a long argument of emails debating Bok's cartoon. The first admonishes him:

Dear Mr. Bok:

I am a retired United Methodist minister. I have preached for over 40 years for interracial, interfaith, intercultural understanding and reconciliation. Alas, your cartoon this morning undid all of that. Your medium has an impact. You have a responsibility to be a positive force in the community. May I introduce you to a few Muslims to help you get over your sickness?

Posted by: Rev. John R. Beaty, February 06, 2006 at 10:55 AM

Which received this answer one week and a couple of hundred emails later:
"I am a retired United Methodist minister. I have preached for over 40 years for interracial, interfaith, intercultural understanding and reconciliation."

It must have been a highly ineffective ministry if a cartoon could undo it all. Perhaps this is God telling you that your talents would have been better spent in other ways -- such as preaching the Gospel.

Posted by: Kickero, February 13, 2006 at 11:00 AM
And that was the tone between Christians! Muslims also sounded annoyed:
As an American born practicing Muslim, I was shocked to see your cartoon. It not only went against my Muslim values, but also my American values of regard and esteem. However, Our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) taught us to act in kindness and respect to even those who hurt us. It was wrong of you publish that tasteless cartoon and you have offended many by doing so. Speaking on behalf of Muslims -- we forgive you, but also do not want to see anything like this ever again.

Posted by: Dalia Mohammad, February 07, 2006 at 08:53 AM
And the debate goes on for a couple of hundred emails and growing. Well, that's free speech in action, though some of the implied messages can sound ominous. I wonder what Dalia Mohammad meant by this: "we forgive you, but also do not want to see anything like this ever again." Is her ultimate statement an ultimatum? What happens if Muslims do see something like Bok's cartoon again?

I found Bok's cartoon funny. It effectively satirized CNN's self-censorship by illustrating the how the very pixilization of Muhammad's face made the Prophet of Islam look ridiculous. For hypersensitive Muslims such as Dalia Mohammad, Bok's cartoon 'offended' because it was ... 'tasteless.' Good point. Add more spice next time.

And as for the cartoon's putative 'offensiveness,' well this comment provides the best response:
Nowhere in the United States Constitution or the Bill of Rights does it protect anyone from being offended or offended by speech. Non-offensive speech does not need protection under the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the United States of America. No one would try and stop non-offensive speech.

Voltaire said around the time of the Founding of this Country that, "I may disagree with everything that you say, but I shall defend to the death you're right to say it."

Posted by: Beth, February 11, 2006 at 03:12 AM
Exactly ... except for the grammar-offending "you're." Beth's grammatical errors notwithstanding, the Bill of Rights protects free speech, and that includes offensive speech. Those are the rules in America. European states have similar rules.

Islamists want to change these rules. Abu Laban, one of the Muslim imams from Denmark who toured the Middle East to raise protests against the original cartoons, states this aim clearly, as noted by World Net Daily ("'Muhammad cartoon' proved fake," February 8, 2006):
Abu Laban seemed to affirm that in the interview with Fox News, which was noted by Gateway Pundit.

The Muslim cleric told reporter Jonathan Hunt of his demand that Danish leaders "within their abilities and competence and within the concept of dynamism of liberalism to create 'a new set of rules.'"

Hunt: So, you want a new set of rules for the way Western Europe lives?

Abu Laban: Yes
As Bok points out, "It seems little arrogant for a religion to demand that the whole world play by its rules."

Yet that's precisely what the Islamists want not only for Muslims but also from non-Muslims, submission to Islamic rules.

In one word, dhimmitude.


At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arrogant? Yes, that fits nicely.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

Satirizing satire is tricky business. Bok made me laugh.

As for whether or not distortion of distortion is still close enough to an image to be offensive... that's a great topic for an aesthetics class.

Either way, this topic is too big and too important (regardless of one's political/religious stance) for it to go unmentioned. Just as it is the news media's responsibility to find and report the news, it is the job of the political cartoonist to point out the foibles, the ironies, the humor and--every once in a while--the profound truth in the politics around us.

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Right. And I think that most people in the West are not going to cotton to being told to shut up.

Westerners fought too long and hard for free speech to let it simply slip away.

I hope.

And I'll bet that plenty of people around the world would also prefer the right to free speech.

Including many Muslims. Check with Freedom for Egyptians or Rantings of a SandMonkey, and see.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That resounding "Right" was for Gabe's post, but I'll second Jessica's post as well.

Jeffery Hodges

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