Feb 9, 2006

"With tolerance, a Muslim views the widening chasm" [LINK]

A day can't go by without another letter to the Globe:

The recent cartoon crisis offers a reminder that some of history's worst upheavals hinged on ridiculous events. World War I followed the assassination of an otherwise unremarkable royal heir. The Cultural Revolution, which caused the death and dislocation of millions of Chinese, unfolded in the wake of a negative theater review. If these insubstantial incidents hadn't triggered such major events, others surely would have.

So while I read with interest Naureen Attiullah's perspective as a moderate Muslim hoping to avoid the sort of incidents that enflame radicals, I have lost patience with the continued focus on what motivated the Danish editors who published the cartoons. The story is not whether they intended to hurt anyone's feelings, but on the wildly disproportionate response to such a relatively minor offense. If, as Attiullah suggests, the editors had chosen to blaspheme the Jewish and Christian religions as well, can anyone doubt the response from those quarters would have been different?

Tom Worster's analogy to someone hurling insults while entering a biker bar is no better, and certainly doesn't reflect well on Muslims to be so casually likened to violent street thugs. Neither explains how avoiding such confrontations leads Islamic nations to become more moderate; it simply doesn't.

Even if those who published the cartoons had the worst possible motives, they should still be commended for offering us a moment of clarity. They have forced us to confront Denmark's Princess Margaret's essential question: whether our ideals of tolerance and respect are matters of conviction or convenience.

UPDATE: It made it, edited down quite a bit.

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