Friday, February 24, 2006

The Silent Majority

Let's take a break from serious topics for a bit and talk about something a little more fun...

One thing I have noticed is that over the past few months, this blog has gotten more visitors, and my visitors have been getting more diverse. A few months ago, almost all my visitors were from the US and Canada, while these days, I have regular readers in the United States, Canada, Britain, Iraq, Finland, Israel, Palestine, France, Russia, Iceland, Australia, Libya, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, and even Iran.

The picture at left shows a typical snapshot of one page of 20 visitors from yesterday. For me, it is interesting to see all the different colored flags of people from all over the world and know they've all come by to read what I've written.

Of course, most visitors here (like any blog) never leave comments, and so I only know them by IP address. I don't know anything else about them. So, if you're part of the "silent majority" here, the ones who come and read, but don't comment, this post is for you. Please click on the "comments" button and tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from, and what do you like (or hate) about my blog?

I'm curious to see what kind of responses I get on this post...


Add Taiwan into the list of countries I mentioned above. "Trebuchet" - thanks for the link!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Al-Aksari Shrine Destroyed in Samarra

Question: What's the difference between an insurgent and a terrorist?

Answer: This...

Early this morning, a group of terrorists blew up the al-Aksari shrine in Samarra, Iraq, one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Now today, many people are wondering if this event will trigger a civil war in Iraq between Shia and Sunni. Shia Iraqis reacted angrily today, torching 29 Sunni mosques in Baghdad and murdering three Sunni imams. In Basra, Shia militias broke into a prison and took away ten Sunni militant prisoners whose dead bodies were later found tortured and riddled with bullets.

I had conversations today with three Iraqi friends of mine, all Sunnis, who spoke with a sense of nostalgia when they described the al-Aksari shrine. Driving from Mosul to Baghdad, they used to enjoy looking at it. The beautiful golden dome was visible from the road and served as a landmark that the car was almost in Baghdad. To the people of Samarra (a predominantly Sunni city), the golden dome probably had more nostalgic value, even for people who are not Shia. One does not have to be a Shia, or even a Muslim to appreciate the beauty of this building.

Which leads one to question whether any Iraqi in his right mind would blow up such a beautiful and historic building. This seems to suggest the attackers may be foreign terrorists who care little about Iraq's history and care more about the pursuit of their own goals.

The al-Aksari shrine bombing bears the hallmark of an al-Qaeda attack. In particular, the strategy behind the attack seems to be taken straight from the letter Zarqawi wrote to senior al-Qaeda leadership in 2004, and which was intercepted and published by the US. In that letter, Zarqawi describes Iraq's Shia majority as "the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom." He outlined the following strategy on how to deal with Shia:

These in our opinion are the key to change. I mean that targeting and hitting them in [their] religious, political, and military depth will provoke them to show the Sunnis their rabies . and bare the teeth of the hidden rancor working in their breasts. If we succeed in dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger and annihilating death at the hands of these Sabeans.

In other words, Zarwaqi was suggesting the best way to solve the Shia problem was to provoke them into fighting back, to try to setup a larger sectarian conflict between Iraq's Sunni and Shia, so that the Sunni (who Zarqawi seems to figure as better fighters) would destroy the Shia.

This letter was written in 2004. Now, in 2006, Zarqawi, or someone following Zarqawi's game plan seems to have struck a decisive blow in the pursuit of its diabolical goal. Whoever blew up the al-Aksari shrine was trying to provoke a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq.

The long-term result of today's destruction will really depend on how Sunni and Shia religious leaders in Iraq handle the situation. This attack will either provoke a major round of violence between Sunni and Shia, or may actually have the opposite effect, unifying the Iraq Sunni and Shia against the foreign terrorists who likely perpetrated this act.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fixing America's Oil Dependency

The United States economy is like a drug addict, whose body has become so dependent on the substance it craves that it will do almost anything to get it. The drug of choice for the American economy is not cocaine or marijuana, however, it is oil.

While the United States does produce some oil domestically, it imports far more, and a key problem is the countries from which the US imports oil. Much of the world's most readily available oil sits in countries whose policies are not well aligned with those of the US: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, etc. America's dependence on foreign oil is indirectly funding Iran's nuclear program, just like it indirectly funded the 9/11 terrorist attacks on its own soil.

The need for oil has sometimes caused the US to take short-sighted actions, propping up undemocratic regimes in order to protect its oil supply-chain. How different would world politics be if there was no oil in the Middle East?

Successive US presidents have articulated the need to wean America from its dependency on foreign oil, but none have articulated an effective way to do it. Perhaps simple economics is the key...

What many Americans do not realize is there are commercially viable alternative fuel sources today. One of these is synthetic gasoline, which can be made from coal using a method called the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) process. The F-T process was originally developed in Germany in the runup to World War II to produce a ready supply of gasoline in the coal-rich but oil-poor nation, and was used to provide fuel for the German and Japanese military forces. In later years, companies in South Africa, most notably a company named Sasol, continued work on the F-T process and built a number of coal-to-oil plants. Other companies, including Mobil, Shell, and Exxon have also conducted research into F-T chemistry and have built some limited-scale synthesis plants.

Another alternate fuel source sits north of the border, in the Canadian province of Alberta. Yes, Canadian oil is "foreign oil", but Canada's policies are much more closely aligned with the United States than Saudi Arabia or Iran. It is estimated that the tar-sands of Alberta hold over a trillion barrels of oil, more than the combined reserves in all of the Middle East. However, while the oil in the Middle East flows readily from the ground, tar sands must be dug up, taken to a processing plant, and the oil extracted. In addition, the tar-sands oil is "heavy oil", which requires more refining to achieve gasoline and other useful products.

The key problem with both of these technologies is the cost. Until a couple of years ago, oil was hovering at about $20 a barrel, rendering synthetic fuel and tar-sands oil unprofitable However, with oil hovering over $50 a barrel, these types fo technologies can become more commercially feasible.

If the US government wants to accelerate the process of weaning the US economy off foreign oil, the key would be to shift the financial balance, making foreign oil uncompetitive, while making fuel from alternate sources more so. One way to do this is through import duties. By slapping duties on oil imports, and using these duties to subsidize fuel from alternate sources, the US can make itself more self-reliant for its energy needs.

Of course, these import duties would probably not be popular, as they would undoubtedly result in a price-spike at the gas pumps, and so it would take a brave politician to attempt to implement them.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cartoon Violence: is the sky really falling?

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about the spiteful Mohammed caricatures that were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and the resulting backlash. As I explained, the cartoons were a deliberate insult by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper against Islam and Muslims in general, and I can easily understand their outrage at them.

However, this does not explain or excuse some of the nonsensical violence that has taken place over the past few days. While the bulk of the protests around the world have been peaceful, some hooligans and warmongers have channeled the anger resulting from the cartoons into a backlash against local Christian communities (none of whom had anything to do with the cartoons), or against other interests.

In Lebanon, a week ago, the violent protest that resulted in the torching of the Danish embassy in Beirut also resulted in a rampage of destruction through a predominantly Christian neighborhood surrounding the Danish embassy. Fortunately, in that confrontation, nobody was killed, however many innocent people had their homes and property damaged or destroyed.

In Libya yesterday, ten protesters were killed in a violent protest at an Italian consulate in Libya. They were protesting the actions of Italian cabinet minster Roberto Calderoli, who had worn a T-shirt displaying the offensive drawings under his suit to a television interview, and unbuttoned his shirt the interview to reveal it.

And today, in northern Nigeria, according to news reports, an anti-Christian riot resulted in at least 16 people being killed (most of whom were Christians beaten to death in the street), and 10 churches burned, along with at least 20 businesses and 10 automobiles.

What is truly sad about all three of these incidents is that the targets of the violence had nothing to do with the cartoons at all. In the case of the Italians, even before the violent protest, the Italian prime minister had called for Calderoli's resignation. And, in Nigeria and Lebanon, the local Christian community had absolutely nothing to do with the Danish cartoons, and in fact many of them found the cartoons completely distasteful.

To understand the real cause behind some of this violence it is necessary to look beneath the surface, at the seething anger that existed in each of these locations long before the offending cartoons had even been drawn. Like a pot of water, the cartoons may have caused it to boil over, but if the water was not already at the boiling point before the cartoons came along, nothing much would have happened. In the case of Libya, it was a colony of Italy for dozens of years preceding World War II. In one of her earlier posts, Highlander, a Libyan blogger, holds little back when describing the Italian colonial period:
The Italian aggression and terrorism against Libya was extremely brutal. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed. Their homes were burnt down, their crops destroyed, their wells filled with cement, and copies of their Koran stepped upon. Many women were raped. Thousands of other Libyans were detained in concentration camps in the hot desert. Their properties were confiscated. Others perished under the most repressive conditions. Furthermore, the Italians, had laid about 170,000 landmines all over the country. These landmines have killed and are continuing to kill and maim many Libyans.
How much of the anger vented at the Italian consulate in Libya was about the cartoons, and how much of it was pent-up anger at Italy's colonial legacy in Libya?

The violence against Christians in Lebanon and northern Nigeria is disturbing, but it is also worth noting that both of these countries have had a painful history of violence between Christians and Muslims. In the case of Lebanon, the country was decimated by a 15 year civil war between these groups, which ended only in 1990. And, in the case of northern Nigeria, tit-for-tat violence between Muslim and Christian militia groups, like this, this, and this, has been simmering in this area for over two hundred years. The violence in Nigeria goes beyond inter-relgious rivalry, and includes both tribal and political dimensions. How much of the anger that was directed at Christians in Lebanon and Nigeria was caused by these cartoons, and how much of it was pent-up anger from prior causes?

I expect many bloggers today will latch onto these Nigerian riots and, like Chicken Little, will tell us all that the sky is falling; that the riots in Nigeria are a case in point that we are faced with an imminent clash of cultures between Islam and Christianity. I do not subscribe to this theory, and if you take these three episodes of violence in the local context, you will easily realize they were just the latest chapter in a long history of conflict in each of those areas.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mohammed Cartoons: the children's book

The whole cartoon controversy that I wrote about a few days ago was sparked after Danish author Kaare Bluitgen had difficulty finding an illustrator for his book, "The Koran and the Life of the Prophet Muhammad". This book, which has reportedly been "flying off the shelves", was written "to explain Islam to Danish children."

Bluitgen's book was published a month or so ago, and here is a link to the illustrations of Mohammed out of it. The illustrations include a couple of battle pictures, including one showing a warrior being impaled by a spear through the neck, and another picture showing Jews being beheaded with swords and impaled with spears.

Isn't this is supposed to be a children's book? Do little children really enjoy books showing beheadings and impalings in gruesome detail? Or, was this book written more for adult consumption and to kick up a fuss?

Update: February 14

Some people in the comments section don't seem to understand my point here. My point is not what is historically correct or not. My point is what is appropriate to be included in a children's book.

If I were writing a children's book about Christianity, there are a few paragraphs I would definitely not select to illustrate in graphic detail:

Joshua 6(20)
20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets sounded. When they heard the blast of the trumpet, the people gave a great shout, and the wall collapsed. (E) The people advanced into the city, each man straight ahead, and they captured the city. 21 They completely destroyed (F) everything in the city with the sword—every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox, sheep, and donkey.

Matthew 2(16-18)
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years [g] old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. (L)
17 Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18 A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, [h] and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled, because they were no more. (M) (N)

Numbers 25(6)
6 An Israelite man came bringing a Midianite woman to his relatives in the sight of Moses and the whole Israelite community while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw [this], he got up from the assembly, took a spear in his hand, 8 followed the Israelite man into the tent, [c] and drove it through both the Israelite man and the woman—through her belly.

Judges 19 (23-25)
20 "Peace to you," said the old man. "I'll take care of everything you need. Only don't spend the night in the square." 21 So he brought him to his house and fed the donkeys. Then they washed their feet and ate and drank. (I) 22 While they were enjoying themselves, all of a sudden, perverted men of the city (J) surrounded the house and beat on the door. They said to the old man who was the owner of the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him!"
23 The owner of the house went out and said to them, "No, don't do [this] evil, my brothers. After all, this man has come into my house. Don't do this horrible thing. (K) 24 Here, let me bring out my virgin daughter (L) and the man's concubine now. Use them (M) and do whatever you want [h] to them. But don't do this horrible thing to this man."
25 But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and took her outside to them. They raped [i] her and abused her all night until morning. At daybreak they let her go. 26 Early that morning, the woman made her way back, and as it was getting light, she collapsed at the doorway of the man's house where her master was.

Are these valid Bible quotes? You bet! Would these be ones I'd want to illustrate in graphic detail for a children's book about the Bible? Definitely not!

Just because something is historically correct doesn't make it suitable for children. After all, the purpose is to provide information to children about a topic, not make them have nightmares for a week about it. Some of the illustrations in this "children's book" seemed far too graphic to me for a normal children's book.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blizzard of 2006

Today was a nice day to stay indoors. Consider these two pictures, taken at 3:00 PM yesterday afternoon here at my home just outside New York City....

And contrast against these two pictures taken today at about 12 noon today. It's hard to believe it was less than 24 hours between the time these pictures were taken.

Of course, the biggest problem here in the New York City area is that people here have NO IDEA how to drive correctly in snow. You see them slipping and sliding and slamming into each other when weather like this comes around. If you go to areas like Buffalo, New York or parts of Canada, where they get snow all the time, people get used to it, but here, you see a lot of accidents in weather like this as people fail to adapt their driving habits to the road conditions and lose control of their cars.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Jill Carroll Video: reading between the lines

On a number of occasions I have been on farms, and it is interesting to observe the difference between the way the farmers treat horses versus the way they treat chickens, cows, etc. A horse is typically a pet - an animal that is kept at the farm for companionship and enjoyment. The farmer may ride the horse, but will spend hours cleaning the horse's stable, grooming the horse, petting the horse, giving the horse treats, and will give the horse a name. A cow or a chicken, on the other hand, may live on the same farm as the horse, and the cow may even graze in the same pasture, but it will not be groomed, petted, or given treats, and will not even be given a name.

There is one main reason for this: the horses are being raised as pets, the cows and chickens are being raised as food. And, when the farmer sends the chickens and cows off to slaughter, he doesn't want to feel bad about it. So the farmer never allows himself to get too close to the cows or chickens, or to develop any sort of emotional attachment to them.

There are some interesting parallels between life on the farm and the Jill Carroll video that came out on Thursday. The video of Jill was delivered to Al Rai, a Kuwaiti TV station, along with a letter. CNN reported yesterday that Jassim Boodai, the chairman of Al Rai, had obtained "fresh" information about Jill from the same source who had provided the tape. Boodai reported that Jill Carroll was being held in a "safe house" in central Baghdad, owned by one of the kidnappers, where she was living with several other women, and "sharing the house chores."

There are a few interesting things to note here:

The "safe house", owned by one of the kidnappers, is presumably his own house, and the "several other women" are presumably female members of the kidnapper's own family: his wife, daughters, sister, mother, etc. Jill Carroll is not just locked up in a room somewhere, she is "sharing the chores" with the other women in the house, and in that context, Jill's fluent Arabic would mean there would be no barrier to her mingling and interacting with those women, and perhaps even being friendly with them. To those women, Jill is no longer a nameless American, she is Jill Carroll - a woman who has been living with them and sharing meals with them for over a month.

In fact, Jill's attire in the latest video suggests that she may have befriended at least one of the women she is staying with.

When Jill was kidnapped, she was wearing an all-black abaya (see the top picture above). In the latest video, Jill is shown wearing a pretty green and black patterned one-piece hijab (headscarf), seen at left, which she is wearing folded in just the right way over her head. A hijab is a very personal article of clothing, much like a blouse or skirt. It can be plain and ordinary, or can be colorful, and a fashion-conscious Muslim woman may spend hours shopping for one, and color-coordinating the hijab with her other clothes.

This particular hijab looks like one that someone took some time shopping for and selecting. Either this hijab was loaned to her by one of the women she is staying with, or it may even be a gift that one of them bought for her.

The fact the hijab is a one-piece hijab and worn correctly is also evidence she may have befriended one of the women she is staying with. Jackie Spinner, the Washington Post reporter who recently returned from Iraq and who knew Jill recently commented, "Jill and I both wore headscarves, two-piece things that you don't really have to hook--it's difficult to get your scarf to look exactly how an Iraqi woman wears her scarf if you haven't done it since you were an adolescent. So you can cheat and use these two-piece things that you just flip over your head." The hijab Jill is wearing in the video is the one-piece type, which she may have needed some help getting right

It is also important to note that Jill looked well rested, well fed, and in good health, all signs that she has been well looked after by the people she is staying with.

While it is impossible to be certain, all of these things seem to suggest the kidnappers may not be planning to kill Jill. If they were, they would be keeping her locked up somewhere by herself, and would certainly not be exposing her to one kidnapper's family members and allowing the family members to develop an emotional attachment to her. Now that the kidnappers have housed Jill this way for a month, it would be much more difficult for them to kill her.

Try to imagine that kidnapper, making a decision that it's time to kill Jill and, being bombarded with cries of "Daddy, PLEASE don't kill her!" from his daughters and seeing his wife and mother reduced to tears. It would take a truly hard-hearted man to be able to follow through on his plan after all that.

Of course, the big unanswered question is what was in the letter that accompanied the video. The fact that Al Rai declined to report the content of the letter and handed it over to the US military suggests it was something quite sensitive. Al Rai reported that it imposed a new "final deadline" of February 26 for their demands to be met, but did not say anything else. I suspect the letter had an instruction that its contents were not to be published, and listed what the kidnappers real demands were (possibly something quite different from what they said publicly about freeing women prisoners).

I'm sure the next few weeks will be an anxious wait for Jill's relatives and friends, but I would look at this last video as a positive development.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Freedom of Speech and the Mohammed Cartoon Backlash

Scroll down for updates.

Original Post: February 4, 2006

Over the past week or so, many parts of the Middle East have erupted in outrage at a series of twelve caricatures of the prophet Mohammed that were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten back in September. This dispute has been simmering under the surface for some months, but really came to a head last week, with large protests, Danish companies boycotted, and Danish flags burned in the street.

When I first heard about the controversy, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, and even today I remain somewhat ambivalent. On one side, several of the cartoons that Jyllands-Posten published strike me as racist and deliberately insulting, and as such, I cannot blame Muslims for being offended by them. However, on the other side, I think some parts of the Middle East have taken the backlash against Jyllands-Posten and against Denmark too far.

Before I get started, I should point out I'm a strong advocate of freedom of speech. However, it is important to realize that freedom of speech is a two-way street. Freedom of speech protects one's right to express an opinion, it does not protect one against the backlash that may result from doing so. For example, being here in New York, freedom of speech allows me to wear a Boston Red Sox jersey to Yankee Stadium, but I would probably find myself the brunt of jokes, insults, and abuse. And that's just a baseball game...

In the case of Jyllands-Posten, they decided to test the limits of freedom of speech by seeing how much they could get away with, rather like one might test the patience of one's neighbor by throwing a rock through his window or calling his mother a whore. They knew that drawing images of prophets in Islam is offensive, and they did it anyway as a deliberate insult. And if you think this wasn't deliberate, the caricatures were laid out in a full-page spread, surrounding this explanation:

The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him.

According to this background article, Jyllands-Posten invited forty artists to submit drawings of Muhammad, and only twelve responded. Of the twelve carricatures, three of them drew Muhammad in a very respectful light:

  • The face of Muhammad as a part of the Islamic star and crescent symbol. His right eye the star, the crescent surrounds his beard and face.
  • Muhammad standing peacefully with a halo in the shape of a crescent moon.
  • Muhammad as a peaceful wanderer, leading a donkey through the desert at sunset.

If Jyllands-Posten had stopped at these three cartoons, or had published another nine like them to make twelve, there would have been minimal or no controversy. Yes, Muslims consider drawing caricatures of Muhammad to be haram, but it is at least if they were all in good taste, things would not be that bad. But, Jyllands-Posten didn't stop there...

The next five cartoons were blatantly racist and stereotypical, and each seemed to be a very deliberate and calculated insult:

  • Muhammad's head wearing a turban fashioned as a bomb, with a lit fuse and the Islamic shahada (creed) written in Arabic on the front of the bomb. This is the one cartoon that offended many Muslims, since it symbolizes that the entire net product of their religion is evil and murder.
  • An abstract drawing of crescent moons and Stars of David, and a poem on oppression of women "Prophet! daft and dumb, keeping woman under thumb"
  • Two angry Muslim warriors rush in with a sabre and a bomb, while Muhammad tells them, "Relax guys, it's just a drawing made by some infidel South Jutlander" (Dutch slang for someone from the "middle of nowhere")
  • A crazed-looking Muhammad holding a dagger and with a black bar censoring his eyes. He is flanked by two panic-stricken women wearing niqaabs (veils covering all but their eyes).
  • Muhammad standing on a cloud, greeting dead suicide bombers with "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins!"

And then, as if to say to the world, "yes, we know we are stirring up a maelstrom here," the next four cartoons seem to poke fun of the predicament Jyllands-Posten were setting up for themselves:

  • An olive-skinned boy in front of a blackboard, pointing to the Farsi writing, which translate into "the editorial team of Jyllands-Posten is a bunch of reactionary provocateurs". The boy is labelled "Mohammed, Valby school, 7.A".
  • A nervous artist, shakingly drawing Muhammad while looking over his shoulder.
  • The journalist Kåre Bluitgen, wearing a turban with an orange dropping into it, with the inscription "Publicity stunt". In his hand is a stick drawing of Muhammad. An "orange in the turban" is a Danish proverb meaning "a stroke of luck."
  • A police line-up of seven people, with the witness saying: "Hm... I can't really recognise him". The guy on the right in the lineup is journalist Kåre Bluitgen, carrying a sign saying: "Kåre's public relations, call and get an offer".
In short, the entire exercise of Jyllands-Posten publishing these cartoons was a calculated and deliberate insult, which is one reason so many educated Muslims were offended by them. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, even a dog can tell the difference between being stumbled over and being deliberately kicked.

At the same time, I think many of the protests in the Middle East have gone too far. Protesting is okay, burning flags is okay, boycotting products is okay. In fact, all of those things fall within the same protection of "free speech" that protected Jyllands-Posten's right to publish the drawings in the first place. But, issuing death threats is not, and neither is calling for "death to Denmark", imploring al-Qaeda to bomb Denmark, or any other violence. I do hope people are able to work though this controversy without anyone getting killed over it.

Update: February 7, 2006

Unfortunately, since I wrote this post, the lunatic fringes seem to have come out on both sides of this debate. On one side, the Islamic lunatics have latched onto this issue, burning embassies, issuing death threats, clashing with police, trashing neighborhoods, and one alleged murder case in Turkey. On the other side, we have the lunatics in Europe and America who insist on stoking the fire by printing more copies of these offensive carricatures.

To both sides: give it a rest!

To those in the West: As I mentioned earlier in this post, these cartoons are not nice, they were commissioned as a calculated insult to all Muslims around the world (not just the fanatical ones). Jyllands-Posten had the legal right to publish these photos, but did it have the moral right? Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. For other newspapers to go on printing these cartoons again and again is only perpetuating this insult and dragging this whole issue out.

And, to the Muslims around the world: Freedom of speech is a good thing, and just like Jyllands-Posten had the right to publish these cartoons, you have the legal right to express your outrage at it. But freedom of speech has its limits in that it should not be used to foment violence. Freedom of speech is cool; protesting is cool; boycotts are cool. However, burning embassies, calling for the beheading of people, and inciting terrorism are not cool - not cool at all.

It seems some of these protests are starting to get out of hand, and perhaps Muslim religious leaders should be trying to put this issue to bed soon. You've made your point, and with a few exceptions, generally done so peacefully, and shown the world that you can stand together and make a point without large amounts of death, violence, or terrorism. If you call it a day now, and make a peaceful end to these protests, you've proven the cartoons wrong about you. I'd suggest, it's time to call it a day.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sorry for the delay in blogging!

The last week has been insanely busy for me at work - sorry for the delay in blogging! I'm expecting to have a new post up in the next day or so.