The response to the publication of some anti-Muslim cartoons in a French magazine has been swift. The West has quickly condemned the drawings while Muslims are making more threats. France has closed its embassies in 22 countries and the world is bracing for another round of violence in which the hurt feelings of offended followers of Islam will prevail over the right of free speech. But the only proper response to this latest entry in the unending cycle of apologies and atrocities is to say: enough. It is time for the West to stop treating Muslim complaints about their sensibilities as if these were serious arguments. They are not. As even the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman wrote this morning, Arabs and Muslims who are whining about not getting any respect should look in the mirror.
Let’s agree that gratuitous insults directed at any faith are inappropriate at best. At worst, they serve to help stir up hatred against targeted faiths and peoples. But the point of the cartoons published this week in Charlie Hedbo is pretty much the same as the satiric graphics that ran in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005: to skewer the self-censorship of the West in talking about an Islamist world that responds to any criticism with deadly force. That is a very different cup of tea than the vile garbage that emanates from official broadcast media and newspapers in the Arab and Muslim world about Christianity but most especially Judaism, Jews and Israel. It’s time for some Western leaders, especially those whose governments have been bending over backwards to speak of their concern for Muslim sensibilities, to make it clear that they are no longer interested in playing this game.