The heading of Ben McDonalds column, On the Muslim Response to the Danish Cartoons, immediately raises the questions how anyone could generalize about the Muslim response to the Danish cartoons satirizing Muhammed. Muslims are as diverse a group as Christians are, but his column does not recognize such nuance.
The followers of Islam worldwide, McDonald writes, have taken to the streets in violent protests, which cost more than a hundred lives. Yet in the very next paragraph he quotes Mustafa Dualeh, president of St. Olafs Muslim Student Association (MSA), who wrote in the Manitou Messenger that MSA does not believe that harming people or vandalizing peoples offices and houses is an Islamic response. MSAs position, McDonald tells us, shows an uncommon level of civility. Indeed, the more universal Muslim response has been quite different, because Muslims choose to protest their illustrated connection to violence [sic] by burning innocent people alive and the violence perpetrated almost universally by Muslims poses a serious challenge to the claim that Islam is a religion of peace.
Almost the entire Muslim world has erupted into a deadly rage that has killed scores of innocent people, McDonald writes. Presumably he knows that a score is twenty. Every one of these deaths was a tragedy. (Most of the victims, incidentally, were Muslim.)
Its important to keep a sense of scale. There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and few had any responsibility for the hundred some deaths that occurred. Nearly all Muslims, like the members of MSA, had nothing to do with these violent protests. More than a billion Muslims went on peacefully with their lives and never made it into newspaper headlines. But they are much more representatives of Muslims worldwide than the infinitesimally tiny minority who protested by burning innocent people alive. McDonalds generalizations about Muslims are inflammatory and indefensible.
It is true that some Muslims are narrow-minded and intolerant, holding simplistic and hateful stereotypes about people who are different. The same holds true of some non-Muslims, as this column of the Counterweight demonstrates.
Robert Entenmann, Professor of History and Asian Studies