He has been a symbol of inspiration for many, many centuries. The way He lived His life is the symbol of perfection for millions upon millions of His dedicated followers. Blasphemy against His name is undeniably against religious code. And when great insults are made against Him, either through language, actions or even art, people are justifiably angry. That?s why people were outraged when in 1987, Andres Serrano revealed his ?Piss Christ,? a crucifix submerged in the artist?s urine.
The response? A lot of angry people arguing that taxpayer money that goes to the National Endowment for the Arts should not be funding such ?artwork?.
Statements were even made on the U.S. Senate floor criticizing the work. But in the end, people respected the right of freedom of expression and freedom of speech?even as much as it pained them to do so. And the controversy faded into the distance as more relevant topics of discussion arose.
What wasn?t the response? Loss of property, loss of life and a great worldwide uprising against foreign governments that had no connection to Andres Serrano.
Those offended by the depiction did not turn to extremism and violence as an acceptable expression of their resentment.
Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper printed 12 original cartoons portraying the prophet Muhammad in varying negative lights for the first time in Sept. 2005.
The caricature that was possibly the most offensive featured Muhammad telling suicide bombers to stop their actions because heaven had run out of virgins.
The paper printed these cartoons knowing that they would offend Muslims; their intention was to highlight the fact that radical Muslims use religion, Muhammad especially, to justify their egregious acts of violence.
One of the original Danish cartoons was captioned: ?Relax folks, it is just a sketch made by a Dane from South-West Denmark.? The actual response ironically justifies this remark.
Had Muslims throughout the world responded with indignant civility, perhaps it could have been argued that Jyllands-Posten?s claims about Islam were not true.
But some Muslims became increasingly angry and refused to let the issue slide, or even bring it into focus in a civilized manner. Instead, a group of imams from a whole host of countries met in December of 2005 to discuss ?appropriate? responses.
Their decisions and the resulting actions are a disgrace to the millions of moderate Muslims who peacefully follow the Qu?ran. The imams distributed the 12 cartoons; but they also added three of their own drawings, far more offensive than any of the originals. It was largely due to these new cartoons, drawn by the Muslim leaders, that massive uprisings have occurred all across the globe.
If millions of Muslims in Syria, Lebanon or Iran want to protest the cartoons, by all means they can and should. Speak out against them. Ban them. Even burn them. But they should do so in Syria, Lebanon and Iran.
The Danish Embassy is Danish soil. The people that were killed had no relation to the cartoons until such a connection was drawn by the radicals.
The Danish newspaper has a right to freedom of the press; the citizens have a right to freedom of speech. They exercised those rights, however controversial their methods may have been.
But no one, anywhere, has the right to impose personal moral beliefs on others that trump the defined laws of a nation. Carrying out vigilante ?justice? or ?morality? in the name of religion or fear or offense is not tolerable in any form.
Western nations must send a clear message that Political Correctness has gone far enough. A style of ice cream cone sold by Burger King was taken off the European market without a second thought because the swirl looked like a representation of the written word for ?Allah;? yet the preaching of determined destruction of all non-Muslims by extreme leaders is taken as ?religious expression.?
Double standards of this kind are not only extremely unfair and offensive, but also a serious threat to the future. If the citizens of the 21st century are to live together peacefully, they must treat and be treated equally, both in action, and in law.
By no means am I trying to impose ideals of free speech or free press upon foreign societies or governments. But if we are to respect others? rights not to have those freedoms, then they must respect our choice to have them.
The policies of foreign governments and their strongly held religious beliefs should have no effect on the rights that protect citizens of Denmark or any other nation?particularly when those rights are exercised within a country?s borders and within the boundaries of its laws.
As the protests across Europe spread, activist Muslims proudly displayed signs including text such as ?Europe. Take some lessons from 9/11,? and ?Freedom: Go to Hell.?
Freedom may indeed start to die if these protests succeed in restricting basic tenets of Western democracy. But what would go to Hell would be those of us unwilling to fight in freedom?s defense.