The world could use more empathy. People in the West do not understand Moslems who were raised with a worldview shaped by the Koran, poverty, and American military and political domination of their homelands. Many Westerners therefore do not understand how some cartoons about the prophet Mohammed
can provoke rage in the Muslim world. After all, Christians don't get violent when their faith is offended, so why should Muslims?
But one wonders: if these cartoons were published in a Danish newspaper ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, would we have seen this reaction? Unlikely, even if they were readily accessible to the world, as they are in our Internet age. Tthe rage provoked by the cartoons should be seen in the context of a long train of Western insults against the Moslem world. The recent release of additional Abu Ghraib photographs of prisoner abuse should remind us that many Muslim complaints against the West in general and America in particular are legitimate. Even if the complaint against the cartoons is not, by itself, a cause for outrage, it could be seen as a "last straw."
To be frank, however, I suspect that much of this crisis has been manufactured by governments and spies. A lot of politicians can gain from this, and government thrives by manufacturing and perpetuating crises, not by ending them. But even were this not so, we should ask if the West, and the United States in particular, is going about Islamic relations the right way.
For the first thing we must insist is that publishing these cartoons is entirely within the bounds of a free society and a free press. A government that would censor them is hostile to Western liberal values. Indeed, a government that would even pressure or discourage their publication is hostile to these values. And it is here that empathy with the Moslem worldview must end; our laws and freedoms within our own borders must trump the sensitivities of both Muslim minorities in our country, and of Muslim opinion worldwide. If ever there was a time to tell an immigrant, "If you don't like it, go back where you came from," it would be to a Muslim immigrant in Denmark offended by these cartoons.
Unfortunately, the West has a lot to live down. We have over-compensated our history of Negro slavery, anti-Semitism, and colonialism with Political Correctness. To even speak honestly or frankly about issues of race, religion, and immigration enrages the multiculturalists. When minorities riot, it's always the government's fault. When they are disproportionately poor, it's because of bigotry. And so the French government surrendered to rioters, when it should have bashed their skulls. But Political Correctness may well become the death of Europe. As Europe invites Moslems in while the birthrates of the native white population falls, we could see Islamic domination of the entire continent within a century. Only when Political Correctness is replaced with Shari'a law, will we conclude that Political Correctness was a bad idea.
Or maybe not. If something good can come out of these riots, it may be a sense of solidarity created in Europe on behalf of free expression. A dozen more newspapers have published the cartoons, although as far as I'm aware only one American newspaper has had the guts to do so. If there is one confrontation with the Moslem world that is actually justified, this is it. The West should not take orders from Muslim clerics. And if Moslems have a problem with that, then the West should cut off Moslem immigration and encourage Moslem immigrants who are already here to leave. This, by the way, would also make it harder for Moslem terrorists to enter and attack Western countries.
At the same time, just as the West shouldn't cater to the demands of the Muslim world, the West shouldn't interfere in the Moslem world either. If we export "democracy" only to see Hamas elected in Palestine and Islamic theocrats elected in Iraq, and if tens of thousands of Moslems march against freedom of expression, then how can the West possibly use force to conform the Moslem world to its values?
The nations of Europe and North America would do well to pursue pretty much the opposite course of what they are now doing. Withdraw aid, arms, and troops, and declare neutrality in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Moslem world. Take away their wholly legitimate complaints against us. See incidents of terrorism drastically fall. At the same time, western countries should repeal their Politcally Correct laws, beginning with immigration policy. The Moslem culture isn't just significantly different from, but also opposed to, Western culture. This is what these protests illustrate the most. With a large enough population, Moslems will seek political and religious domination. Countries have a right to discriminate in their selection of immigrants, and have an obligation to do so if a foreign people pose a threat to its laws and institutions.
The world is big enough for both Western liberalism and Islam. They can co-exist in peace. But aside from trade, I think it is best that the two be separated from each other, and have as little to do with each other as possible. For where they mix, there is conflict. And that's a conflict that the West can't win.