Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ralph Kostant: Rare Applause for The L.A. Times

Although I hate to say something nice about the Los Angeles Times, I was impressed by Tim Rutten’s column on February 4, regarding the Danish Cartoon controversy. Rutten not only takes the long view—about 1000 years--in his historical analysis of Islam’s discomfort with the modern world; he also challenges the hypocrisy of the Moslem charges of religious bigotry, and questions why Western governments have given the Islamic world a free ride on their own intolerance for so long. Here are some excerpts:

All this would be slightly more edifying if it didn't reflect the destructive and dangerous double standard that the Western nations routinely observe when it comes to the government-controlled media in Islamic states. There the media is routinely rife with the vilest sort of hate directed at Jews and, less often, Christians. The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" remain widely available in countries where nothing is published without government permission, and quotations from that infamous forgery are a staple of commentaries published across the Middle East. In recent years, government-owned television stations in Egypt and Syria have broadcast dramas that repeat the blood libel.

Where were the united and implacable Western demands for apologies?

The decent respect for the opinions of others that life in modern, pluralistic societies requires is not a form of relativism. It will not do, as Isaiah Berlin once put it, to say, "I believe in kindness and you believe in concentration camps" and let's leave it at that.

The proof of this is written in the facts on the ground. Across the United States, there are Saudi-funded mosques, teaching that nation's particularly intolerant brand of Islam. There are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia; they're against the law. In Iraq on Friday, the country's dwindling community of Chaldean Catholics prepared for more of the terrorist attacks that have become routine; there were no reported attacks on Muslims in any of the countries where the Danish caricatures were republished. Muslims in those places may have been affronted, but they are not in fear for their lives. No Western leader claims that Ferdinand and Isabella did not expel the Moors from Spain or that there were no massacres during the Crusades. If they did, they'd be howled off the podium and ridiculed into obscurity. The president of theocratic Iran claims that there was no Holocaust and people across the Islamic world applaud.

The European media may have behaved in a provocative fashion this week, but it was provocation in a good cause. The Western governments — ever mindful of their commercial interests — aren't required to endorse what their press has done, but they do nobody a favor when they apologize for it.

Ralph B. Kostant


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