Putting the cartoons in context
At the 2:30 p.m. ET editorial meeting we had a lively discussion of what the context should be for our coverage of the Muslim rioting over publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
The bottom line for me was that this can't be dealt with as a story about cartoons or even about Islamic prohibitions about the depiction of Muhammad. It has to be about the simmering pot that went to boil, as Shibley Telhami, the University of Maryland scholar, said this morning on Washington radio. He noted that this is the Islamic version of the Rodney King verdict. In that case, it wasn't just about the verdict against four Los Angeles policemen. It was about African-Americans' belief, whether based on reality or perception, that they had been the victims of decades of racism and thuggery by the LAPD.
On a larger scale, there seems to be in our culture an ability to deny that, in spite of all our good intentions, we are returning to the clash of civilizations that defined most of world history. And that to ignore how a significant portion of the world feels denies us the opportunity to understand what is going on. One of the things I tried to point out was the Islamic belief that they feel they are being targeted, personally, as well as politically.
Muslims feel that they are victimized by the West, and even putting aside the conspiracy theories that rattle around the Middle East, a cursory survey of what has been happening to them in the past 25 years would give anyone some cause for concern. Over the past quarter century, the number of Muslims killed by "infidels" of all kinds approaches 3 million.
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