Free Speech and Neo-Colonialism face off in the "Cartoon Wars"
No question exists that the protests engulfing the Islamic world about the now infamous Danish cartoon are despicable and over the top reactions. However Condellezza Rice is dead wrong when she dismisses the protesters as being fueled by Iran and Syria (ironically, two dangerous nations that George W. Bush's administration has engaged in a six year effort of appeasement towards.) In fact the protests in the Islamic world have been most violent in places far from the influence of Iran and Syria. Places, like the secularized and pro-American United Arab Emirates The center of gambling and prostitution in the Arab world) where a Hindu Indian sailor was stabbed to death by protesters yesterday, or Indonesia, a former colonial outpost of the Dutch or Jordan, whose out of touch pro-western King Abudullah tranced around the USA with Christian Fundamentalists last week. The bottom line is that on the street, Islam feels affronted and whether they are right or wrong historically, Europe had better take note of the true feeling of the masses in the Islamic World.
President Geroge W. Bush has recklessly and irresponsibly committed the resources and prestige of the United States towards furthering Democracy in a region where open elections will ultimately mean theocratic or mob rule. Iran is the closest thing to a Democracy in the region and they are also among the two or three most dangerous nations on the planet. Yet Iran is backed by European Governments who are trying to keep their own populations from exploding. While European Governments may act somewhat responsibly, their citizens do not as we'll see later.
Why is Islam so reactionary about a bunch of cartoons? Well, for starters Christian Fundamentalists in the U.S.A. weren't wild about the characterization of Christ in the historically inaccurate movie, "the Last Temptation of Christ." While they reacted in a more civilized manner, their rightful indignation, can be easily related to the reaction of true believers in Islam who saw the Danish Cartoons (which were after all printed in order to be provocative) as blasphemy. The same can be said for Jewish groups who rightly protested Mel Gibson's historically inaccurate and racially motivated film about the crucifixion of Jesus. Those like myself that study Roman History know that the era of the Emperor Tiberius was so inaccurately depicted in Gibson's movie that the picture amounted to little more than a work of total fiction. The reality is that Islamists can easily exploit the cartoons because of the current conditions and hostility that Muslims face in Europe, Muslims who were invited in to European nations by their Governments who are short of labor.
The reality is that in Europe, racism is still largely institutionalized more so than in the United States. For all the pontificating that Europeans do towards Americans about tolerance and race, it is the Europeans that have a real racial problem, and for that matter a real racial agenda. France, the Netherlands, Spain, U.K., and Italy have openly racial political parties, that unlike their right wing counterparts in the United States are far from a marginal political force. Jean Marie Le Pen received the second highest vote total in France's 2002 Presidential Election after waging a campaign based almost exclusively on nativism and racism. The United Kingdom still has laws on the book (though scantly enforced) institutionalizing Anglicanism as a State religion.
And at Soccer Stadiums across Europe, Black players are met with monkey like chants and open racial slurs. One such match took place last year when the English National team traveled to Barcelona to play the Spanish. The entire Spanish crowd hurled down monkey chants every time one of England's black players recieved the ball. When was the last time that happened in an American stadium?
Throughout Europe, an unjustified hatred of Islam is spreading almost as quickly as the simplistic, uncalled for hatred of the United States. Europe, the continent which dove into the Dark Ages under Barbarian domination after the Fall of Rome, a continent which openly exterminated the vast majority of its Jewish population over several centuries, and believed it was a white man's burden to civilize some equally advanced cultures such as China, India and Japan now leads the world into a new dangerous and intolerant era. Charles De Gaulle would be proud to see Europe asserting itself against American "muscle," but would ashamed to see how Europe is reacting to the very region and people DeGaulle and his brethren tried to cultivate as friends of Europe.
It's more than just a cartoon, it's Europe's continuing fall from grace, Europe's continuing disgrace.
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- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.