That Swedish Cartoon of Mohammed Was Offensive ...

March 11, 2010

To dogs. Why should our canine friends be demeaned by being conjoined -- even figuratively -- to the head of someone such as Mohammed?

I am referring, of course, to the 2007 cartoon by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, which depicted the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog. Vilks has received numerous death threats since the cartoon was first published, and in the last couple of days an arrest was made of a person involved in a new, bizarre plot to kill him. The person arrested was an American, Colleen Renee LaRose, a/k/a Jihad Jane, who allegedly was conspiring with some terrorists in Ireland to assassinate Vilks.

Congrats to the three Swedish newspapers who republished the Vilks cartoon after the latest conspiracy came to light. The papers noted that the threat to Vilks constituted a threat against one of the most fundamental human rights, namely freedom of speech. Bravo. Their actions in supporting Vilks and republishing his cartoons contrast sharply with the craven, apologetic attitude adopted by some after the furor over the 2005 Danish cartoons. Maybe the West has some backbone after all.

My only quibble with the cartoon is that it may be a bit unfair to focus only on Mohammed and, by extension, Islamic fundamentalists. Sure, the Koran is suffused with incitements to violence, and we are all too familiar with contemporary Islamic terrorism. But Judaism and Christianity don't exactly have clean hands. (Hence my three-headed dog.)

There probably never was a Moses, but the actions attributed to him in the Bible portray him as a murderous, genocidal fanatic, willing to slaughter his own people for almost any faux pas in matters religious and positively eager to exterminate anyone who was not a Hebrew. We are often told Moses should be honored as a law-giver and role model in matters of morals. Excuse me? Perhaps his desire to ethnically cleanse the Promised Land made him a role model (ironically) for those Germans who dreamt of Lebensraum , but I fail to see any basis for revering him.

Jesus is a more ambiguous figure. The New Testament does refer frequently to peace and love, but it also attributes to JC the assertion that he came not to bring peace, but a sword. And the book of Revelations does not exactly portray a gentle, forgiving Jesus. What is certain is that Christianity has inspired as much violence and bloodshed as Islam. If we didn't have suicide bombers during the centuries of warfare between Protestants and Christians, it's only because the technology was not available.

So sharp criticism of Islam is appropriate, but let's not forget that almost all religions have been the enemies of religion and the midwives of mindless violence. There are, of course, many believers who are agreeable, responsible, moral, wonderful individuals. But they don't get that way by allowing their lives to be dominated by religious dogma. Slavishly adhering to the supposed teachings of semi-legendary figures who (may have) lived long ago, in conditions starkly different from our own, is not a recipe for an informed, fulfilling, morally laudable life. If you rely solely on religious dogma as your guide to life, you're likely to end up with a dog's breakfast.


#1 gray1 on Thursday March 11, 2010 at 7:23pm

Interesting dogma/dog connect here.  Speaking of cartoons and their possible subliminal messages, I felt the dogma thing was at work in Disney’s recent “Up” movie with the usage of the established pack of misled if not altogether evil dogs versus the new, naive and somewhat dopey new hero dog “Doug” who ultimately becomes the alpha dog simply after putting the “cone of shame” on the dobie who was playing the heavy, so to speak. 

We might note some not so subliminal religious imagery at work in this movie along with the search for the ever elusive “snipe” that the old school dogmas are all seeking to capture.  Ironically the snipe resembles nothing so much as an early Disney animatronic bird you might see in the tiki house complete with glazed over, soulless eyes. Ha! Religion can be so much fun!

#2 Ronald A. Lindsay on Friday March 12, 2010 at 9:11am

gray1, thanks for the observations on “Up” I may be the one person in the U.S. who has not seen the movie, so your explanation and link were helpful.
Disney has been known to pitch religion subtly and/or twist plots to avoid giving offense to religious viewers. The most egregious example may have been transforming the evil priest, Claude Frollo, in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” into a judge.
I guess everyone hates lawyers.

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#4 oldebabe (Guest) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 at 10:52am

# 2. Nope, you can’t have the credit of being the only person not to have seen `UP’.  In fact, I’d not even heard of it… The last Disney-ish film I remember seeing was `Fantasia’, but there was the `demon’ etc. of course, and perhaps a good-over-evil theme to the `A Night on Bald Mountain’ music… I didn’t think about it one way of the other at the time - it was a fantasy… loved the music.  Dogs and mice seem a funny way to tout religion, tho…

RAL - Interesting article.  I continue to marvel at how/why etc. some Islamists get so (got so) crazed about a cartoon… or cartoons.  The anger/outrage is out of proportion, and potential incidents seem to be sought and enhanced - deliberately misunderstood or skewed, their specialness exalted, and shouts of being insulted, followed by threats, violence, etc. tho’ the media can’t get enough of it. It’s bizarre, and what seems a sort of insanity to many, and serves as a total turn-off, IMO. This trend, hopefully, like the plane highjackers of the 60s tho’ more deadly, will be put to an end soon.

#5 Alma Rosa Lujan (Guest) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 at 4:42pm

I would like to receive information regarding Swedish cartoons, especially for kids and youngsters.  I am a teacher at the Williams School in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
My students would love to read about a very well-known magazine or film.  Thanks a lot, Alma

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