There’s been a lot of conversation going on recently about cartoons that were run in a Danish newspaper depicting Mohammed with a bomb turban, and another showing Mohammed in heaven telling bombers there were no more virgins left.

A few newspapers ran the cartoons as a sign of solidarity. The response from much of the muslim world was exactly what was lampooned in the first place, threats of violence.

Like it or not, Islam is overwhelmingly characterized by violence, and Islam’s leadership around the world is doing little to change that perception. There is a deep desire in the western world to understand the muslim world, and show respect for their beliefs despite how different they are from ours. That desire leads to condemnation of this kind of political satire by other westerners, not just muslims.

Which is of course ridiculous. Islamic nations are rife with hypocrisy on this issue, especially concerning Israelis, but that’s beside the point. The world community has a right and an obligation to confront reactionary, violent teachings. Why can’t we ridicule religiously sponsored murder?

Now, muslims who don’t share the beliefs of groups like Al Queda, should be able to understand that these are not attacks on Islam itself, but on particular interpretations of Islam. Just as christians can endure ridicule of extremist nutbags like Pat Robertson, muslims can draw a line between ridicule of a group of people (extremists) and a religion in general (islam).

And when it comes right down to it, Islam’s leadership still needs to do more to squelch the culture of violence that springs up around Islam, and draw a clear line between itself and those who use violence to enforce their own agendas.

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