Opinion: "Why American Newspapers Should Publish the Cartoons"

February 23, 2006

Source: The Christian Science Monitor


On February 23, 2006 The Christian Science Monitor ran an opinion piece by Jonathan Zimmerman, who teaches history and education at New York University. He writes, "The Great Cartoon Controversy just won't go away... Yet most American newspapers still haven't published the cartoons themselves, lest they insult Muslim sensibilities. And that's exactly backward. The impulse to protect Muslims from insult reflects what I call racist multiculturalism: In the guise of defending a given group, it caricatures and demeans them. Start with the widely accepted idea that the cartoons will offend any Muslim who sees them. How do we know that? After all, the billion or so Muslims in the world include an enormous array of nationalities, ethnicities, and ideologies. Saying that the cartoons insult 'Muslims' - and leaving it at that - collapses all of these distinctions.

Even more, our newspapers have often published images that appear to offend or malign other religions. Remember the 1987 imbroglio over the photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine? Shot by the American photographer Andres Serrano - and underwritten by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts - the photo sparked outrage around the country, from Christian churches and radio programs to the halls of Congress. But most major newspapers published the image, reasoning - correctly - that readers should be allowed to judge it on their own.

OK, you might respond, but Muslims are different. They take this blasphemy stuff really seriously. And when they see it, they can't control themselves. So they burn, destroy, and kill.

That's hogwash. And it's racist hogwash, to boot. Many Muslim clerics around the world have condemned the recent spasm of violence, which runs counter to Muhammad's own teachings about human dignity and forgiveness. Only a subset of Muslims have rioted over the cartoons. And if you hold these thugs to a lower moral standard than other people, well, you just don't think too highly of Muslims."