Letters to the editor

Nothing sacred

Challenge to the secular press: Uncover the source of terror

Editor, The Times:

Protesters in the Muslim world overreacted concerning Danish drawings of the prophet Muhammad ["Why people are fighting and dying over cartoons," Times, News, Feb. 7]. The degree of response is not proportionate to the offense.

Swastikas, burnings of crosses and desecrations of temples, mosques, churches and synagogues should be prosecuted as hate crimes; in the West, rule of law deals with these transgressions.

The movie "The Last Temptation of Christ" and Andres Serrano's depiction of a plastic Jesus in urine are two examples of art that offended many Christians. Yet, how many Christians demanded death to the artists?

Elements of the Islamic world cry Islam is peaceful, while shouting carnage and destruction. Author Salman Rushdie received the death penalty for [his novel] "The Satanic Verses." Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh's film on Islam incited his murder.

As with terrorist attacks, retaliation is often directed at people with little or no link to their supposed antagonists. In the summer of 1997, Tatiana Susskin's leaflets depicting Muhammad as a pig resulted in two suicide bombers with links to Hamas killing more than a dozen people, including two Arabs. Susskin was arrested and sentenced by an Israeli court to two years in jail for her act.

We, Muslims and non-Muslims, must demand the Islamic world repudiate religious chauvinism and violence. This is one of the greatest responsibilities of media, both Islamic and Western.

— Caleb Powell, Seattle

Drawing lessons

Cartoon character: There's nothing amusing about dehumanization

There has been a brouhaha lately about the freedom of speech and about fanatical Islamists inciting hatred against Western values ["Cartoons turn ugly," editorial, Feb. 7].

What is often overlooked is every human being's equal right to practice their religion and the equal expectation that the basic tenets of their religion will be respected.

This is one of the fundamental assurances of being a citizen of this world. Just as oppressing people due to their race, gender and sexual orientation is not kosher, disrespecting someone's religion is a form of oppression and equally unsanctioned by human-rights laws.

— Sonali Sikchi, Issaquah

The thought bubble

Willfully ignorant religious fundamentalists (of every persuasion) are easily manipulated by devious leaders who inflame their passions.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims live in cultures where independent, critical thinking is discouraged, if not prohibited. Thus, they are reliable fodder for duplicitous mullahs, sheiks, emirs and presidents-for-life who encourage and depend on the violent protests as cover for their chronic abuse of power.

These wildly overblown protests serve only to reinforce an increasingly cartoonish image of Islam itself as a religion of ignorance and intolerance.

Is there a leader in the Muslim world who can enlighten the masses to the folly of this game?

— William Valenti, Seattle

Face without a mouth

I'm a civilized person. I treat people with dignity and respect, and as such feel worthy of feeling outrage when I'm not treated with dignity and respect.

If, on the other hand, I were rude and coarse, I wouldn't really be worthy of feeling outrage if I were treated with indignity or disrespect. This is justice, and seems self-explanatory to me.

So, how is it that many in the Muslim world, who say little if anything in outrage when innocent people are slaughtered by suicide bombers as they shout "God is great," or when Jewish cemeteries and synagogues are defaced, or when grossly insulting images of Jewish people and symbols appear in their children's textbooks, are worthy of outrage when "insulting" images of their religion are published?

I believe that most Muslims are as civilized as I am. But neither do I hear them pointing out the hypocrisy of those who commit atrocities yet rile at insults.

While I personally wouldn't publish such images, because I'm a respectful person, this seems like a very dirty pot calling a kettle black.

— Ben Schrenzel, Renton

Intentional blots

If there is one thing you are not going to see printed in any newspaper in the world, it's cartoons depicting Jesus (for Christians) or Moses (for Jews) in the same way Muhammad was depicted in those Danish cartoons. It doesn't take much to wonder why.

If Muslims want the Western world to change its views about their culture, they are going to have to start changing their image of their "Religion of Peace" from within.

Also, I would consider the protests against the Danish and other fellow European countries about their portrayal of Muhammad legit if it were just limited to the flag-burning of those countries whose newspapers where involved. However, I see this as an excuse for violence when I see American flags being burned.

Last time I checked, I didn't see those cartoons being published by American newspapers as an act of solidarity with the European newspapers.

— Anthony Mohr, Kirkland

We have met the enemy and it is not us

I'm puzzled. If all of Islam is upset about those Danish cartoons making fun of Muhammad, so mad in fact, that the Iranian press has announced a retaliatory cartoon contest against these Danish cartoons using Jews and the Holocaust as a target ["Politics, cultures: How cartoons of prophet turned into 'a volcano,' " News, Feb. 8], shouldn't the Iranians just be making formal cartoon-contest fun of specific Danish cartoonists?

Why are they dragging the Jews and the Holocaust into this Iranian cartoon contest when [the offense] is due to the humor tastes of Danish cartoonists?

— J. Scott Taylor, Everett

Gasoline rally

I can't believe World War II is starting over [the equivalent of] "Marmaduke." Cartoon jihad? Enough is enough. The Middle East and the West are not compatible.

I am so tired of hearing people say that we need to understand Islam. How about Islam trying to understand the West? Not going to happen.

What is happening in Europe could easily happen here in the U.S. Europe's Muslim immigrants are trying to change their adopted countries' traditions and freedoms. They do not want to assimilate. Where they get this arrogance, who knows.

If Muslims like restrictions on freedoms that we in the West embrace, I say go back to the Middle East and enjoy!

We need to stop buying oil from these countries. It will hurt at first, but I think that is our only option. The sooner we have no need to deal with countries that insist on living in the 7th century, the better.

— Bob Robatzek, Seattle

India inklings

The three of us, a rabbi, Christian pastor and Muslim teacher, are close friends who meet regularly and work collaboratively.

Since 9/11, we have deepened understanding between our communities. On an interfaith journey to Israel, we celebrated one another's holy places in order to deepen our own faith.

We would like to invoke the wisdom of Gandhi to help us in these times of inflamed passions. Repeatedly, he made three points:

First, it is the sacred duty of every individual to have an appreciative understanding of other faiths. Compassion and love are at the heart of each of our traditions.

Second, it is important to acknowledge that every religion, including our own, has truths and untruths. Verses from every holy book are open to interpretation.

Third, if someone commits a wrong in the name of religion, Gandhi urged us not to criticize the person's faith, but, better, point out to the person verses of beauty in his or her tradition. Help the person become a better Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Jew.

We must invite each other into deeper dialogue, connect to the wisdom in our respective faiths and become more sensitive to the things that frighten us and hurt us. We need to talk and listen.

— Rabbi Ted Falcon, Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue; Pastor Don Mackenzie, University Congregational United Church of Christ; Jamal Rahman, Muslim Sufi minister, Interfaith Community Church; Seattle

Toons buried

The author of "Ink" [editorial cartoon, Feb. 9] must be suffering from an advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome. He states "INK. Warning: Contents highly incendiary. Keep out of reach of irresponsible cartoonists."

Journalists are not children needing supervision from parents before unscrewing child-proof caps on their inks, pens and word processors. Who does the artist suppose will confiscate the ink? And who will decide just which cartoonists are irresponsible?

Shall U.S. journalists now obtain a federal license certifying their responsible and approved opinions? What will happen when this artist finds his own ink supply blockaded by a violent, offended mob, or by a quisling government cowardly enough to submit to the mob's demands.

It is nothing short of shameful and embarrassing that any American journalist, protected by the First Amendment, would use his own freedom of speech to advocate the muzzling of others with different opinions.

As I recall, that "Don't tread on me" flag was mighty offensive to King George III and the British street; shouldn't we have nipped that irresponsible image in the bud?

— Steven Adler, Seattle

The fair side

Regarding Bruce Ramsey's "Free speech leavened by a thing called judgment" [editorial column, Feb. 8]: If the [Danish] cartoons were sent to The Times out of the blue by a reader, or if an editorialist drew them for no good reason, the paper might simply decide to not print them for reasons that are obvious.

However, at this point, the cartoons have been pushed by the radicals themselves, into the realm not of editorial opinion or a reader's desire to insult Islam, but into that of news. It is pertinent to the issue to show the pictures, or at least a few representative cartoons. It would be especially so to show the ones touted by the imams that were not even part of the original 12; their desire was to simply create this unrest over cartoons published months before the violence started.

Additionally, I believe this is a means of testing the resolve of the Western media and governments; who will be cowed and who will not be. I believe The Times is being cowed.

Finally, just the other day, Feb. 7, The Times itself published a cartoon insulting Jesus, St. Peter, the Christian belief in Salvation and the propitiation of sins by the blood of Christ. I have not seen any torches taken to its building, nor do I expect any apology from Ramsey or The Times.

— Rick Sell, Seattle

Apocalypse plow

Clear today gone tomorrow

With the Muslim world in a tizzy over cartoons of the prophet, and Iraq close to having nuclear weapons, perhaps the Global Pastors Network ["Pastors hope to spread Gospel, hasten End Time," News, Feb. 8] should table its "Billion Souls Initiative" for building 5 million churches worldwide and just wait on events like the rest of us.

— Susan Beverly, Newcastle