The New York Times provides an interesting perspective on Muslim Rage that’s worth noting (h/t Walter Russell Mead):
(Protesting the film) was also a demand that many of them described with the word “freedom,” although in a context very different from the term’s use in the individualistic West: the right of a community, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, to be free from grave insult to its identity and values.
Mead places this in the context of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis, noting:
In the world of Islam, the film is often seen as a direct and intentional act of blasphemy and evil, part of a larger, concerted effort to humiliate, weaken and destroy Islam. The defense of the ‘right to free expression’ comes across as hypocritical and self serving. The wave of revulsion in the west against what are seen as crazed violent bigots is neither fully understood nor respected.
I’m not sure how much I agree with Mead’s assertion that the protests are about a “freedom from blasphemy,” coming from a region that has shown little respect or tolerance for other religions or even other Islamic sects. While the NYT quotes protests in Egypt against the DaVinci code in 2006, they were nowhere near as organized or widespread as those we are seeing in Egypt today. If Muslims have become the protectors of faiths everywhere, why are they destroying the graves of Sufi saints in Mali and shrines in Libya (note that Sufism is itself a sect of Islam)? Why are Coptic Christian girls being raped and forced to convert to Islam? Why are Copts being driven out of their ancestral homes in Egypt where they have lived since the time of Christ? IF you believe that Muslims have become the guarantors of freedom of religion I have some lovely intact Buddhist statues in Afghanistan I’d like to sell you.
But Mead and to a lesser degree the NYT are correct: this is fundamental difference between Islamic and Western civilization as exemplified by the United States. Either religious laws trump freedom of expression or they don’t. Either the laws of God or the laws of Man are supreme. While there are many grey areas in the world, this particular issue is binary – at least to secularist westerners. Under Islam there is no such thing as the laws of Man only the rule of God so the issue is condensed even further.
Mead believes that the apparent consideration by the PC newspaper of record of such a thing as a Clash of Civilizations is a good thing, and I tend to agree. We need to stop deluding ourselves by accepting canards such as “Islam is a religion of peace” that are based more on our own ignorance of the faith and faulty assumptions than facts. We need to see Islam for what it is, a political force that shares some religious characteristics familiar to us yet is a unique among religions and political movements in the world today. Only then can we begin to craft policies that work to minimize conflict with the religion while at the same time protecting our own God-given freedoms.