On the morning of September 11, 2012, I pored over various websites where I typically get my morning news. At one of them, I read about the latest so-called artistic expression given to this culture by the secular elite: It was a woman doing sexually indecent things with a crucifix. “Oh, well,” I muttered to myself, “nothing new here. Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do.”
I moved along, saddened by what I just read, but certainly not surprised. But note what I didn’t do: I didn’t stand up and start screaming at my computer that this person should die. I didn’t start searching for the art gallery or building where the so-called art was displayed, so I could rush there with plans of violence. I didn’t start emailing fellow Christians to organize a demonstration.
By the end of the day, however, I was witnessing just that on my television from the Arab-Muslim world, beginning in Cairo, Egypt and spreading like wildfire. They were reportedly enraged (in part) over an offensive video about the prophet Mohammed. Their outrage is nothing new, of course. They do this all the time, ordering fatwahs and death threats against everyone from Salman Rushdie to a Danish cartoonist. Just last week, the French government closed embassies in 20 Arab countries because a French newspaper ran an unflattering cartoon portraying a naked Mohammed.
Christians, on the other hand, at best merely complain when staring aghast at a piece of alleged art like “Dung Mary,” or “Piss Christ,” or a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine.
And yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard secularists claim the problem here isn’t Islam but religious intolerance generally. No, it isn’t. The Muslim world has the tolerance problem. I know our Muslim friends don’t want to hear that. Indeed, not all of them are intolerant. But if they don’t like being perceived that way, then they need to take effort to clear up these perceptions, to clean up their own house.
For Catholic Exchange dot com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.