A jogger looks at a sign in John Caffery's front yard displaying and commenting on one of several editorial cartoons that have inflamed many in the Muslim world as he runs by the Daisy Street home Monday afternoon. (Photo by Scott Eslinger, Beaumont Enterprise)
In other parts of the world, people are killing each other because of an editorial cartoon showing the Prophet Muhammad, but ironically, most of them -- neither killers nor victims -- have actually seen the cartoon. Why? In Arab and Muslim countries, where most of the violent protests are happening, it would be blasphemous to print, broadcast or even show a snapshot of it under Islamic law.
In the USA, where free speech is the basis of our law, a Beaumont man has erected a large sign in his front yard, showing the cartoon that started all this bloodshed.
"It's cowardly for (a) newspaper giving in to the pressure from the Muslims for these so-called offending cartoons," sign-poster John Caffery said. "Most of the cartoons are pretty silly. The one out there on the sign is probably one of the least offending cartoons."
It's hard to disagree. Respect for religion is a good thing, but it's a two-way street. The WTC attacks, kidnappings and beheadings of innocents, the continued threats from Osama bin Laden ... all are more offensive than any editorial cartoon. One reason American newspapers have not generally run the cartoons, despite their news value, is respect for diverse readers ... not a comfortable decision, but defensible for now. When's the last time you could criticize a newspaper for being gracious and tolerant? Have a field day on this one, folks.
My hat's off, though, to Caffery for at least having the stones to say what he believes in big, bold lettering. He's not urinating on Muhammad's hat, or beheading a sweet little Lebanese girl, or torching the Yemeni consulate, or threatening Muslim bystanders with an AK-47. He's speaking his mind. You needn't agree with him, and you needn't worry he'll kill you for disagreeing.
The sooner the Muslim world learns to respect that particular freedom the sooner it will enjoy greater respect from the world. Respect that isn't earned by threat, intimidation and bloodshed.