Sep 20, 2012
On Friday, Sept. 14, Pope Benedict XVI began a three-day trip to Lebanon. As he was arriving in Beirut, in 20 countries all around Lebanon, angry extremists were clenching their fists and shouting anti-American protests. Surging mobs were swarming through city streets across North Africa and the Middle East. Enraged demonstrators were breaching the walls of U.S. embassies in capital cities. Many were killed, including the American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
A video clip denigrating the prophet Muhammad ignited this most recent flare up of violence across the Muslim world. For many Muslims, lampooning, caricaturizing and insulting their prophet or their religion is not protected by free speech. Some judge such abuse of speech as a capital offense. Hence, the outrage. Rocks hurled. Fires set. Buildings destroyed. Many injured. Lives lost. Tragically, these are not isolated incidents.
Another chapter has been added to the legacy of hate too often witnessed in our day in the name of religion. British author Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel, "Satanic Verses," outraged many Muslims. The result: deadly riots in Pakistan and India. In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The result: violent attacks against Danish missions in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Lebanon and dozens killed in weeks of protests. In 2011, the congregation of Florida preacher Terry Jones burned the Quran. The result: protests across Afghanistan and the killing of seven foreigners in a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan.
For all religious persons, any insult to their religion is rightly offensive. In our day of instant communication, it only takes seconds for some offensive video or statement to travel around the world. In such a world, it is not only irresponsible but morally repugnant for anyone to deliberately insult the religious sensitivities of others. Extremists delight to polarize political issues along religious lines.