The Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, has begun a contest to the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten's publication of a dozen cartoons of Mohammed that spurred deadly violence by Muslims in several European and Mideast countries. The Danish paper commissioned depictions of the alleged prophet of Islam, Mohammed. The Iranian contest, in reply, is seeking Holocaust cartoons -- and daring western newspapers to print them the way they have printed the cartoons of Mohammed.
There's an easy way to respond to the seeming quandary of Iran's bluff.
Print the Holocaust cartoons.
Better yet, reprint the most famous Holocaust cartoons: The Pulitzer-Prize-winning Maus.
The dare is, of course, disingenuous. As Maus so ably illustrates, there is no western or even Jewish prohibition against depicting the Holocaust. Remember, the Danish cartoons did not run afoul of Islam because of HOW they depicted Mohammed, but because they depicted him at all. Liberals will be making a big mistake if they don't side with conservatives on this one: Any version of Islam that endorses bans on OTHERS depicting Mohammed is fundamentally in conflict with basic tenets of western civilization. Just as are those versions of Christianity that, based on literal readings of the Bible, forbid any "graven images" of god or anything else.
The American and western media outlets that cover the cartoon controversy without showing the cartoons are cowardly, hypocritical, un-American and sometimes all three. The notion that they might cause offense is, itself, offensive. As Tucker Carlson correctly pointed out on MSNBC today, lots of things in the news might cause offense. What makes the media honor this potential offense? Is it the number of adherents? Is it the violence they might do in response? If so, then any journalistic outlet hiding behind this rationale ought to be clear about what its policies are:
How many adherents must a religion have in order to have its prohibitions followed by the particular media outlet?
What level of violence will be sufficient to cow the particular media outlet into observing a religion's teachings?
Better yet, what is the ratio? For instance, if 1 billion Muslims oppose depictions of Mohammed, and 10 people will die in anti-Mohammed-depictions-violence, is that a sufficient ratio to make ABC, CBS and NBC observe Islam's ban on depictions of Mohammed?
If so, does that mean a religion of only 100 million adherents only needs to kill 1 person to get its bans followed? Or does it work in reverse, that if I only have, say, 10 million people in my religion, I'd have to up my violence quotient to compensate?
Any allegedly journalistic outlet that doesn't have the balls to show the cartoons at the root of this controversy ought to make clear what its policies are about which religions get to determine their editorial coverage, using how much violence.
Conversely, those journalistic outlets -- such as Fox News and the Philadelphia Inquirer -- ballsy enough to display the Mohammed cartoon ought to send an equally clear message by printing Iran's Holocaust cartoons. The best way to prove that we really do have free speech is to exercise it. The best way to demonstrate that bad ideas are best defeated by exposure, rather than suppression, is to do it.
Oh, and before I forget, here, in flagrant defiance of the Koran, are my own depictions of Mohammed, in two very different moods: