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Mohammad Cartoon Outrage Descends on Charles

mohammad6.jpgEarlier, I mentioned the case of Acton Gorton and Chuck Prochaska, two University of Illinois students currently under investigation by their school for making the editorial decision to print the Unknowable Cartoons of Mohammad in the student newspaper alongside the usual reports on the murders, arson, boycotts, and diplomatic incidents that have resulted. I am pleased to learn today that the Harvard Salient, a political paper, has decided to publish the cartoons of dread and din, despite quite legitimate fears of riots, boycotts, administrative inquest, or real harm to person or property. Here is the Salient’s website, although as of this writing it is unreachable, due either to its sudden popularity or its being under seige, as some infidel web servers have been since the controversy erupted.

The editors of The Dartmouth have not, as far as I know, gone on-record with their excuse for not printing the twelve cartoons (and the three putatively fabricated ones) alongside news coverage of the global violence caused by them. It is the paper’s policy to run graphic incidentals along with major news reports. Although the cartoons themselves did not move on the wire along with the Associated Press’ dispatches, they are prevalent enough online. If I were to divine the editors’ excuse, I suspect, like CNN, that it would be their respect for the religion of Islam. Such respect would forbid the printing of religiously offensive cartoons. Like CNN. That would be their excuse, but it would be hard to square with the fact of the situation, which is that the cartoons are no longer editorial in nature and are now incidental to top-priority international news. Yet The Dartmouth has not run them, out of respect for an obscure and deeply fundamentalist [yet quite novel] religious taboo, one not writ in the Koran, that has been abused by Islamists to incite violence against westerners. That religious law applies thoroughly to them.

When New York Mayor Giuliani threatened to reduce taxpayer funding in response to a piece of art which did not even have a salient observation to make—was merely the Virgin Mary smeared with excrement—because it was religiously offensive, the image was reproduced thousands of times on television and in newspapers.

These cartoons of Mohammad, which critique Islam’s self-censorship, have, just today, caused three murders. One of the dead is an eight-year-old boy, struck in the head by bullet fired by, to use the AP’s terminology, a “demonstrator.”

That, at least, is the sort of ‘respect’ outraged Muslims are affording free speech advocates. The Dartmouth and countless other college newspapers have chosen not to report the news fully not out of respect for religion, but out of fear—justified fear. One wishes they’d be braver. But one can demand that they at least be honest about their reasons for such sudden fealty to religious dogma.


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