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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Disrespecting Islam

Pamela Geller recently held a "Draw Mohammed" cartoon contest in Garland, TX. Two Muslim men took offense, and took AK-47s to the event to express their offense. After grazing one officer in the ankle with a bullet, both gentlemen received a Texas welcome and are now cooling in the morgue.
Many commentators have responded to this event with two observations:
  1. These Muslim men were completely out-of-line, but Pamela Gellar provoked it because she was "disrespecting Islam."
  2. This country was founded on respect for religion and Gellar broke with that American tradition by holding the "Draw Mohammed" event at all.
 Both observations are complete crap.

Argument 1

If the commentators really believe that disrespect for Islam has no place in American society, then they must, by making the statements they have, plead guilty to disrespecting Islam. They have made a cartoon of Islam just as surely as any of Pamela Geller's contestants.
We can certainly agree that it is disrespectful to a religion to argue that some tenet of that religion is completely ridiculous. Geller's argument is that it is completely ridiculous to punish the drawing of images of Mohammed with the death penalty. Do you see the anti-Geller position's problem?

To be logically consistent, anti-Geller commentators cannot simultaneously insist that Geller was disrespectful AND that the death penalty for cartoonists is not acceptable. By the very fact that anyone says killing over a cartoon is ridiculous or unacceptable, they are making the SAME argument Geller makes. The only difference is, they are making the argument with words instead of pictures.

So, when they say that Geller is disrespectful for holding the contest, they are also admitting that they themselves are disrespectful when they assert that the death penalty should not apply to cartoonists. After all, that was the whole point of shooting the place up, right? Many Muslims insist that the death penalty MUST apply to cartoonists in order to show proper respect for Islam. Geller's critics can only avoid being hypocrites by agreeing with the gentlemen wielding AK-47s, and arguing that in order to show proper American respect for religion, we must allow Muslims to carry out their religious ritual of human sacrifice.

Argument 2

This country was built on a lot of different principles, but respect for religion was never one of them. Keep in mind that for America's first century, the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty was understood to apply only to the federal government, not to state governments. If states wished to favor one religion over another, they were free to do so. Thus, Catholics were locked out of many states' government offices, even locked out of public teaching positions at the state level, right through the 1890s.

Why do you think Virginia had a religious liberty clause written into her constitution? Because without that clause, the state was free to discriminate, and Thomas Jefferson knew it. The Bill of Rights concerned federal government action, not state governments. The idea that the federal constitution's restrictions could be imposed on states only appeared after the Civil War, when we slaughtered large groups of our own citizens in order to establish the 14th Amendment principle that the federal government could force its will on state governments and the state governments had to sit still and take it.

I'm not saying the Fourteenth Amendment was a bad idea. Even the founders recognized that slavery was going to have to be outlawed at some point. I'm just pointing out that, until the Fourteenth Amendment, the Constitution was not seen as having any necessary applicability to states.

So, no, despite the best efforts of Catholic settlers to create such a principle, our country was not founded on respect for religious freedom. It's a happy myth we maintain in the 21st century, but it is a myth. And, to be honest, even Catholics don't follow the whole "religious respect" thing.

We don't have respect for a religion that performs human sacrifice. We crushed the Aztecs and the Incas because they performed ritual human sacrifice. Muslims have a tendency to do the same, and Catholics do not respect that aspect of Islamic faith. We don't have any respect for a lot of stupid ideas in other religious traditions, nor does our Faith require that we do.

As Catholics, we are required to respect ONLY those principles in other religions that reflect Catholic principles. It is our duty as Catholics to at least studiously ignore anything that does not resonate with Catholic principles while we educate the heathen in Catholic ways, and - if necessary - actively outlaw and suppress those aspects of any belief system which egregiously violate Catholic principles. Thus, the conquistadors and the crusaders were perfectly right to take up the sword against the practitioners of human sacrifice.

Pamela Geller's critics need to stop their hypocrisy, stop trying to pretend orthodox Muslims espouse Christian beliefs. They don't.


Ann said...

I would say that they commentators who are upset about, (1) Geller's free speech rights are under attack or (2) no one should disrespect the Islam faith, are being hypocritical on another front. They don't mind anyone making fun or disrespecting the Catholic Faith, i.e. calling a Crucifix in a glass of urine art, showing paintings of the BVM with feces on them, or regularly making fun of the Blessed Sacrament, the Pope, or any other part of our Faith. The hypocrisy of the media is rampant on many levels, including this particular issue of the Geller exhibit.

Mike Petrik said...

But Catholics are not being hypocritical in expressing outrage at gratuitous sacrileges aimed at them (such as Crucifix in urine and molestations or the Blessed Sacrament)? In my view, all these sacrileges are and should be perfectly legal, and all are gratuitously wrong and rightly subject to outrage. None justify violence.

Ann said...

I agree with free speech rights. I don't think offensive remarks or images are a death penalty offense. Having the legal right to make stupid and offensive statements ridiculing religions does not excuse the insensitivity and hatefulness in doing it. But, you're right in that Catholics do not go around killing people because our religion has been made fun of. If that were the case we would have to target every late night comic and most liberal media outlets. My point is not the reaction of Catholics, but the hypocrisy of the media in picking and choosing which things they think are OK to demean and ridicule and those that are off limits. And, Islam is just one in the long list of things no one can say anything about. Conservatives and Christians are at the top of the hit list for liberals and the main stream media to target and nothing is done about it. It's only when one of their protected groups is offended that they are all up in arms.

Mike Petrik said...

Ann, we are in complete agreement.