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Islamic Law at Belmont

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Submitted by Chris Bischof (United States), Apr 30, 2006 at 00:25

Mr. Pipes,

I'm with Hobbs. Draw silly pictures to make the point that no central religious figure suffers any real damage from the creation of disrespectful images.

I was raised in a marginally Episcopalian household. My wife and kids are Jewish. Over the years I have observed various religious uproars.

The furor over "The Last Temptation of Christ" comes to mind. There were outcries over the release of the movie which was released in 1988. While widely anticipated, the protests were, in fact, limited and probably gave the movie's distributor more publicity than the marketing budget could support.

Meanwhile, was there an outcry when the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis was published in 1951 (coincidently, the year I was born)? Perhaps. But it was long forgotten by the time the movie was released.

Did Christianity suffer any damage from the existence of the book or the movie? No.

A furor erupted over Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ". Jewish leaders predicted a rise of anti-Semitism following the movie's distribution. Didn't happen.

We're now hearing from the Vatican ahead of the release of the "Da Vinci Code". Leaders are urging a boycott of this movie.

I haven't read the book, though I think I will. However, millions of copies have been sold and the movie will spur more sales, I'm sure.

Meanwhhile, movies portraying major religious figures become pseudo-events in a world with a huge appetite for media content. Yet the movies never have a lasting impact. If the movies are based on books, the books, The Da Vinci Code notwithstanding, have often drifted into obscurity before Hollywood finally greenlights a movie project. Thus, the books have lost their impact too.

On the other hand, the reason controversial books and movies have no power to sway those of various religions is simply that the steady absorption of our persuasions over many years isn't nullified or undermined by a single noisy event flaring up in the media. This point may be obvious, but based on my experience, it appears that Christians and Jews are comfortable enough with their beliefs to give little thought to acts that Muslims would consider blasphemy.

Salman Rushdie and "The Satanic Verses" comes to mind. It seems that despite an indoctrination in which many Islamic children are taught to believe that westerners and Jews are pigs or snakes, there is a terrifying axiety among Muslim leaders that these teachings may not go far enough. That their faith is so fragile that any example of someone taking their eyes off the path demands an intense rebuke, if not death.

Meanwhile, Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper", has been caricatured endlessly. Yet, as far as I know, that has not driven anyone at the Vatican to call the poster shops producing the modified Last Supper images to stop their production.

For the last couple of years the phrase "What would Jesus do?" has circulated. Since its popularization, the phrase has been reworked whenever necessary to include "What would Jesus drive?" and "What would Jesus wear?". All silliness, but somehow I think the same undignified expressions about Mohammed would kindle more violence amnong Muslims.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that very few of the Mohammed caricatures are produced out pure anti-Muslim hate, in contrast to efforts of Muslim educators. I'm with Hobbs. I think most of the Mohammed cartoons were circulated by people driven to remind others that our rights to free speech will not suffer out of concern for another's religion. The circulators may be indulging in teen-age wise-guy-ism, but so what? Since I'm certain Hobbs and others like him would never even think of killing someone for ridiculing Jesus, I can accept a little foolishness.

Lastly, of course you are right. To fire Hobbs is capitulation to Islamic dictates. If his employer had any spine, the episode would have received NO attention from management.

Chris Bischof

Brooklyn, NY

Submitting....

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