2/04/2006

The Infamous Mohammed Cartoons

There has been a lot written about the Danish cartoons and the resulting response of the Muslim world. I am not going to post a link to any articles, you all know what they say. Instead, I would like to offer my opinion on the Muslim response and on the West's response to the Muslim outrage. To add to my own opinion, I will use excerpts from the book "The Middle East: 2000 years of History from the Rise of Christianity to the Present Day" by Bernard Shaw, copyright 2003 Phoenix Press.

Muslims have no notion of the separation of Church and State. It is not a part of their culture or history. Indeed, in the eighteenth century when Mirza Abu Talib visited England, he noted with astonishment their means of law. He was astonished that the purpose of the House Commons "included the promulgation of laws and fixing of penalties for wrongdoers." In his writings regarding his trip, he notes that "the English have not accepted a divine law revealed from heaven and therefore are reduced to the expedient of making their own laws in acordance with the necessecities of time and circumstances, the state of affairs and the experience of judges."
This key difference can again be seen in the relationship of France and the Ottoman Empire during the very late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Age of Enlightenment was well underway and the French were embracing the notion of liberty and fraternity under a new Republic. When Napoleon conquered Egypt, these ideas spread into the Muslim world and were greeted with displeasure on the part of religious officials. Rhetoric of the time centred on the idea of France as the "Great Satan," a corrupting influence among otherwise purehearted Muslims. France was a nation of infidels who had separated the "Lord of Heaven" from their laws. Much of this same rhetoric is still in use today, the object being the US (and recently, Denmark) and not France.
It may be surprising to some that Muslims would be angry at non-Muslims for drawing pictures of Mohammed. One has to keep in mind the fact that for Muslims, the ideal world is a world in which everyone is a Muslim. In a certain sense, it is not unlike the Christian notion of salvation for the entire world. The purpose of the Great Commission is to evangelize to the entire world, to spread the message of God's grace in order that they may convert to Christianity and be saved. Christian's recognize that not everyone will accept the Gospel and not everyone will be saved. They are still called to love those individuals and to extend grace to them. The Muslim notion does not consist of evangelism in the same sense. Islam is the best state for the world, the final revelation of God. Those who do not accept it may be warred against as infidels. Muslims are not required to extend either love or grace to non-Muslims. The extension of love and grace is a key difference between the two beliefs.

In my post on Hamas I make a point that I would like to reiterate. Only a handful of people recognized the fact that someone who does not share your societal values, someone who does not want peace, someone who hates and resents your very existence, cannot be trusted. To date, it is my opinion that the Western relations with Muslim nations have been very naive. We are approaching people as though they want peace with us, as though they desire to be our friend. They do not. Friendly nations don't burn the flags of other nations. They don't spout angry rhetoric, or demand the destruction of a group of people. The leaders of our nations need to change their approach; they need wisdom, maturity and what I can only describe as street smarts. This is not the time for political correctness or walking on eggshells.
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