Cartoon Violence or just Religious Violence?

This horrifying Washington Post story shows an instance of Danish newspaper cartoon related violence, this time in Nigeria, degenerating into regular religious violence.

As the city’s thousands of surviving Muslims struggled to return to their northern homes or huddled as refugees at police stations, Christian residents expressed little remorse for their role in five days of religious violence sparked by anger over the publishing of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

Apparently there were Muslim attacks on churches and Christians over the cartoons, and then retaliatory attacks against Muslims and Muslim-owned businesses. They are still counting the bodies, but the death toll appears likely to top 50. To what extent is this tragedy really about the cartoons though? Here’s an enlightening quote:

“We have to retaliate,” said Justin Ifeanyi, 24. “It is a shame to us if we don’t kill them.”

He also expressed amazement that cartoons published in Europe could set off violence in Africa.

“This thing happened in Denmark,” Ifeanyi said. “How could that be causing havoc in another part of Nigeria?”

I don’t think that the cartoons’ publication did cause this. Various anti-Denmark or anti-Europe campaigns in Arab nations, I can see being related. But this? I think this is violence that results from two religions existing intermingled with each other, two religions that each tell their followers that their way is the only correct way, and that followers of other ways are at best misguided and at worst enemies.

At Onitsha’s ruined central mosque, one of two reportedly destroyed on Tuesday, Ifeanyi Eze, 34, picked up a piece of charred wood and scrawled on a low wall: “Muhammad is a man but Jesus is from above.”

On the blackened walls of the abandoned mosque, where rubble and sheets of rusty tin roofing lay on the floor, others had written “No Muhammad, Jesus Christ is Lord” and “As from today know [sic] more Muhammad.”

In an interview afterward, Eze expressed anger at Muslims for last year’s terrorist attack in London and other troubles. “We don’t want all this mosque any more,” he said. “These are the people who cause problems all over the world . . . because they don’t fear God. We don’t want Muhammad anymore.”

This tragedy is the result of religious fundamentalism on all sides, and shows us how important it is to stress our common humanity above our personal beliefs in every instance–something that gets forgotten here at home sometimes as well.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted February 24, 2006 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Here, here. The more this goes on the worse it gets. It seems like resentmentst are building on all sides, and the more fierce the calls for one side to bend to the will of the other the more resistence and antagonism you see.

    Recently in Australia there have been calls from MP’s (Members of Parliament) to the Muslim community specifically, saying “act like Australian’s or get out” basically. (Sounds an aweful lot like Love it or Leave it.”

    The problem is, when you single out communities/demographics and subject them to broad sweeping statements like that it only serves to stoke the fire that’s growing. Sure if there are terrorists amongst one community or another they need to face justice – but that is as individuals, and it ultimately has nothing to do with their religious believes or ethnicity. Comment’s that effectively say “you Muslims have to make sure the terrorists among you stop resorting to violence” is just a ridiculous thing to do. It’s talking tough to gain political points with the conservatives, while pissing off and further alienating a large segment of the population.

    Along those lines, in my opinion the cartoons in Denmark were more the straw that broke the camel’s back than anything else. It was a symptom of the growing divide that finally cracked the surface.

  2. Posted February 24, 2006 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I agree totally. The only thing you accomplish by singling out immigrant groups is further separating those groups from the culture into which you are ordering them to assimilate. Examination of history shows that, whenever there is a large scale immigration, it produces some rocky times for both the immigrant group and the pre-existing culture. I believe that only by respecting each person’s individual rights will you entice them to think of their new country as their home.

    As for Love it or Leave it, as Howard Zinn said, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

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