We're all so ignorant
There’s a letter in the Chronicle today sort of defending the Muslim response to those cartoons:
Mr. Martens’s (Feb. 8th) letter about the Danish cartoons is an excellent example of the lack of knowledge and understanding in this country of Islam and the Arab culture. He sees no justification for the reaction to the cartoons. However, as an analogy, what would happen if Mr. Martens went into one of Bozeman’s livelier bars and started telling some of the patrons they were drunken bums. Quite likely he would suffer a good deal of violence to his face because Bozeman bar patrons have their own way of reacting to disparaging remarks.
So…all the Muslims rioting were drunk?
This brings up a distinction that some have missed, I think. Whether the response is unexpected or not is different from whether it is justified. Notably, it’s a distinction some conservatives have missed at times when some on the Left have claimed our foreign policy is responsible for terrorism. I’m not surprised that Muslims are rioting. I wouldn’t be surprised if the letter writer’s hypothetical bar provocation resulted in violence. In neither case is violence justified, however.
Still, what does this have to do with understanding Islam? We’re all aware now that graphical depictions of Muhammad are forbidden in Islam. However, there’s no way an understanding of Islam can lead us to excepting the rioters from the requirements of civil society.