The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano ran a piece with the subtitle, “Shooting in Texas at an exhibition of blasphemous cartoons.”
Blasphemous? They’re blasphemous according to Islamic law, because Islam asserts that Muhammad is a prophet. So is the Vatican now submitting to Islamic law? Merriam-Webster defines “blasphemy” as “great disrespect shown to God or to something holy.” So does the Vatican now think Muhammad is holy? Has L’Osservatore Romano converted to Islam? Is Muhammad now considered a prophet by the Catholic Church, like Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel? Will he get a feast day on the Roman Catholic calendar?
They could have used any other word — offensive, tasteless, odious, whatever. But using the word “blasphemous” sends a hugely misleading message.
Meanwhile, here is an excellent evisceration of the idea that L’Osservatore Romano also puts forward — that our free speech event was needlessly provocative, throwing gasoline on the fire: “Do I Have to Draw You a Picture? The Cartoon Wars Come to America,” by William Kilpatrick, Catholic World Report, May 6, 2015:
…That brings us back to the L’Osservatore Romano article. Its authors decry provocation—“wanting to throw gasoline on the fire”—but have they paused to consider that many Catholic beliefs and practices are also provocative to Muslims? In Saudi Arabia, Bibles and rosaries are considered provocative and no churches are allowed. In some Muslim countries, ringing church bells is considered provocative. In other places it is provocative to rebuild a church that is falling down—so provocative that Christians have lost their lives for the offense. In still other Muslim areas it is considered provocative if a Christian won’t pay the jizya tax, and he can be killed in consequence. In some parts of the Muslim world, simply being a Christian is sufficient provocation for murder.
A large part of the “provocative intent” of the Garland exhibit is to prevent such things from ever happening here. It’s a reminder that the sharia ban on blasphemy is meant to apply not just in Iran and Arabia, but everywhere. Everyone is expected to submit. The event and its aftermath also serves to remind us that it’s not a good idea to let the most violent among us determine the limits of free speech. If the Muhammad Art Exhibit is dismissed as incendiary and needlessly provocative, it means that Muslim extremists get to call the shots about what is and is not a permissible form of expression in America. Today it will be Muhammad cartoons that offend. And tomorrow? Well, it could be anything, because Muslim radicals seem to have an unlimited capacity for being offended. It could even be church bells or rosaries.
Some will say that Geller and Spencer are needlessly stirring up trouble. In reality, they are saving us from much greater trouble down the road by flushing out the danger we face while there is still time to face it down. If Americans don’t pay attention to wake-up calls of the drive-by-jihadist variety, they will wake up someday to find that the time for defending their freedoms has already passed.