Dating as far back as 1932 is the “Serenity Prayer” composed by Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, “God give me the serenity to accept things which cannot be changed . . . Give me the courage to change things which must be changed . . . And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.”
There is an underlying premise in those words which applies to the current world-wide unrest, turmoil and rioting which has erupted over a few cartoons in a Danish newspaper reflecting the cartoonist’s viewpoint of the Muslim-led attacks on the people and religions of non-Muslim countries. That underlying premise is that there isn’t very much we can do about the Muslim actions and reactions.
One of the results of the present furor, the riots, the embassy burnings, the deaths of individuals, and the reigniting of expressions of hatred for the West, for Israel and for America, is the rash of Internet messages poking fun and ridiculing Muslims and the Islamic faith. Such efforts are pointless. We know the attitude of Muslims toward us – toward everyone who does not embrace Islam. Their attitudes are nothing new – they have not suddenly originated because of a few cartoons in a newspaper in Denmark. They have been obvious to even the most casual observer of world news – with the masked gunmen, the kidnappings, the beheadings of innocent people, aid workers, journalists, school children, even tourists.
But a few editorial cartoons as caricatures of Mohammad appearing in a small circulation Danish regional newspaper last September, and reproduced in an Egyptian newspaper in October, during the holy month of Ramadan, did not ignite the violent reactions demonstrated by Muslims around the world in February of this year. The cartoons weren’t really all that insulting. In fact, the three worst ones were not even published in the Danish newspaper, but were apparently added to the Danish cartoons by some radical Islamists who wanted to stir up more hatred for the West. At first Danes were the targets, but the rioting soon spread throughout Europe, the Arab nations and even into Asia and the Pacific region. In Yemen and Jordan, for example, editors of newspapers which published the cartoons have been ordered to stand trial, and in Indonesia and Malaysia, strong Muslim nations, massive rallies of protest were scheduled.
This situation provided new ammunition for Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who used it to bolster his position of asserting Iran’s freedom for nuclear development. His speech last week was punctuated with shouts of: “Death to Denmark” … “Death to Israel” … “Death to America.” Ahmadinejad blamed Zionists for the Danish cartoons, and accused the US and Europe of supporting Zionism, and warned that they would pay a heavy price. He continued his threat to remove Israel from the map of the world, and told his followers, “We ask the West to remove what they created sixty years ago, and if they do not listen to our recommendations, then the Palestinian nation and other nations will do this for them.” He added this warning to the West: “Do the removal of Israel before it is too late and save yourself from the fury of regional nations.”
Alarmed by the demonstrations across Europe, Ursua Plassnik, of Austria, the President of the European Union (EU) , condemned the Iranian president’s renewed threats against Israel, calling his remarks “completely unacceptable.”
As might be expected, former president Bill Clinton described the cartoons as “totally outrageous,” and our State Department, not the strongest supporter of Israel, produced one spokesperson to say that the cartoons were “offensive,” and another to say that “inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable.” It is so difficult to balance this acquiescence to Muslims, against the cartoons regularly emerging from Muslim sources depicting Americans and Jews in the most despicable manner, with no comments on them being “outrageous,” or “offensive” from any American spokesperson. Indeed, the principle of a free press, not regulated by government restraints, was involved in the publication of the Danish cartoons last September. One seems to recall that the concept of “freedom of the press” is part of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
In short, there is nothing much we can do as individual Christians to change the relationships between the Muslim nations and the West. What we can do, of course, is pray for Muslims, which is probably not a very frequent prayer topic in most Christian churches. And we can become knowledgeable as to the seriousness of the situation – not by ridiculing Muslims, but by accepting the fact that what is happening today is one continuing aspect of a centuries old conflict. We can urge our government leaders, Senators and Representatives, to remember that this is a nation built on Judeo-Christian principles. It is so obvious that our government does not give any significant recognition to Buddhism or Hinduism, for example, which are part of the national religious scene. However it does give recognition to, for example, the observance of Ramadan, and openly invites Islamic representatives to state functions, and constantly reminds us that Islam is a religion of peace, and worthy of the same respect we show toward Christianity. Even the head of the nearly useless United Nations, Kofe Annan, while accepting a $500,000 environmental prize in the United Arab Emirates, said he shares the anguish of the Muslims over the cartoons, and urged them to “forgive the wrong they have suffered.” The point is that we are at war, but only the Muslims seem to understand that.
The Danish cartoons, published five months ago, were only trotted out when the Muslims needed an excuse to rekindle the fires of their hatred for America, Israel, the West – indeed, for all non-Muslims. The response to the rioting, the burning, the violence, the murders, the desecration of national dignity must be responded to not by mere words expressing an opinion as to whether the cartoons were right or wrong, but by having governments and politicians establish the inviolate law that no nation or religion can with impunity threaten our liberties and our lives, or the liberties and lives of our fellow nations in the civilized world.
Quote for the week: “The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.” -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
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