Fire: Meet Dry Gunpowder

Aside from a post last week, I haven’t been commenting on the Danish cartoons controversy very much. I have been far too busy reading the press in the U.S., Europe, North Africa and the Middle-East, and comparing their responses. In North Africa and the Middle-East, the response has been far more nuanced than the press in the West has let on. Several newspapers have written editorials denouncing the caricatures, but they have also pointed their anger at those among Muslims who blaspheme the Prophet through their actions. And in the West, there’s been a healthy debate over whether freedom of the press means gratuitously offending people, a debate that hasn’t always been reported about in the Muslim world.

I’ve also been waiting for the inevitable: For blood to be spilled about some stupid cartoons. And now it has.

Four people died in Afghanistan today, during a protest outside the American base at Bagram. They were shot dead by Afghan police, who were trying to quell the demonstration. There are so many layers to this story: Why were the protestors gathering in front of a U.S. base? After all, the U.S. has stayed out of this conflict, and has called for calm. The answer must be that it’s because the protestors clearly view the cartoons (which, it should be pointed out, none of them could have seen unless they had access to the Internet) as an East-West battle. And so they turned against the representatives of the West in their country. The same could be said for the right-wing Danish youths who had threatened to burn copies of the Koran in Copenhagen. They, too, see the response in some parts of the Muslim world as a threat against their own way of life. Given this, it’s easy to imagine how explosive the situation can become unless governments and leaders step up their calls for more responsible behavior, on all parts.

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