MESA Nostra’s Juan Cole weighs in on the Cartoon controversy in this article from Reuters.
Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, said in a commentary on his Web site that the current controversy “must be understood in historical context.”
“Most Muslim societies have spent the past two centuries either under European rule or heavy European influence and most colonial masters and their helpmates among the missionaries were not shy about letting local people know exactly how barbaric they thought the Muslim faith was,” he wrote.
“Indeed, the same themes of Aryan superiority and Semitic backwardness in the European ‘scientific racism’ of the 19th and early 20th centuries … led to the Holocaust against the Jews. … A caricature of a Semitic prophet like Mohammad with a bomb in his turban replicates these racist themes …
“Semites were depicted as violent and irrational and therefore as needing a firm white colonial master for their own good,” Cole wrote.
John Esposito, a professor at Georgetown University and author of “What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam,” agrees that there is nothing in the faith that makes its adherents prone to reacting differently to ridicule.
Martin Luther King Jr., he said, once called riots the voice of the voiceless.
“From my point of view this is a lot more about the context in which this is occurring than about the blasphemy,” he said in an interview.
“It’s a European context in which you have a growing right wing that is anti-immigrant and a global situation in which mainstream Muslims feel there is a war against Islam,” Esposito said.
At the same time many Muslims around the world feel “a sense of powerlessness both within their own countries and, as well, in the international community that exacerbates the situation,” he said.”