In Pakistan's largest riot, 70,000 people gathered in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where I traveled last week, burning cars and cinemas. In Lahore, my birth city, at least two protestors were killed when a mob burnt Western fast-food chains, while in Islamabad students launched petrol bombs at various embassies.The views expressed by the writer, Farhana Ali, offend me. However, I have no intention of sending her death threats or trashing any of the kebab houses in my town. In fact, I'm glad that UPI published her piece, because it makes it clear, to anyone who is willing to grant followers of the Prophet the courtesy of believing what they say, that non-dhimmi Westerners and Muslims inhabit different mental worlds with different value systems.
They were protesting "Fitna" -- "Ordeal" in Arabic -- a forthcoming short film by controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Wilders, who has called the Koran a "fascist" book, has promised to release his film this month. They were also protesting the decision of several Danish newspapers to republish the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that provoked deadly riots after their first airing in 2006.
More than that, until one or the other side gives up some of what it holds dear, Islam needs to be quarantined from the rest of mankind. We do not need more understanding of the Muslim politico-religious ideology: Muslims are endlessly, this and every day, telling us everything we need to understand. What we need is the will to face an unpleasant reality and act accordingly.
In a post-Sept.11 environment, where relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West are at best precarious, at worst distrustful, and above all central to everyone's security, the Danish editors might have known that reprinting the cartoons would provoke destructive behavior rather than encourage peaceful dialogue.Ms. Ali, perhaps you would like to try to understand me (and quite a few people like me in my part of this planet) as well as demanding that I respect your religion's feelings. Here's what you need to grasp.
The editors might have considered that respect for democratic traditions and values does not necessarily trump the need to tolerate religious communities that are particularly sensitive to safeguarding their Prophets, icons and scriptures.
You are welcome to practice your system, which encompasses far more than what most people consider a religion, even though it has many aspects that are distasteful, even appalling, to me (as well as some aspects I admire). But the ill-concealed menace in your article is a good example of why many of us do criticize Islam and Muslims. You are saying in effect that any statement, remark, drawing, or joke that your fellow Muslims take amiss is a license to riot, injure, even kill. You point a gun at our heads and tell us to show you the respect you don't show us or you'll splatter our brains.
To put it differently, respect for democratic traditions and values absolutely requires us to give free rein to expressions that might offend your sensitivities, your Prophet, and your holy books. We hold that right as sacred as you hold your Prophet. Millions of our ancestors have died to preserve the right to seek our salvation or happiness or goals as individuals, not as well-trained, obedient followers of a supposedly infallible doctrine. We join churches or groups if we choose, but only if we choose. We guard the right to develop our souls or form our opinions by listening to whatever we like, not what is prescribed for us.
You don't want to be offended? Well, who does? But let me tell you something: hardly a day goes by when I don't see, read, or hear something that offends me. I live in a civilization that has nearly abandoned good taste, that has enshrined celebrity and tolerates self-centered, inconsiderate behavior. So I have some idea of how you feel.
But being offended is the price I pay, willingly, for living in a society that is still mostly geared to freedom of speech and thought, despite all the political correctniks whose ideas about such things are not dissimilar to yours. I fear that such freedoms won't be around much longer, whether because the West accepts dhimmitude or because we come to think that not offending, even by speaking the truth as we see it, is more important than keeping liberty alive.
But we haven't reached that point yet. Not here. Not now. If you don't understand that, and you push us too far, you invite far worse than offensive cartoons.
You do say one thing I agree with: "Feelings of alienation and isolation, particularly among European Muslims, could make it difficult for Muslim communities to co-exist within mainstream Western societies." I wish you no harm, but I don't think we can live together.