Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Your crazy Uncle Ned

This month's Muslim outrage has been directed towards Scandinavians over the Danish newspaper printing cartoons of Mohammed:
Norway's Foreign Ministry was heeding a warning Monday from Islamic groups that want all Scandinavians out of Gaza. The groups claim the Scandinavians have offended them by printing controversial caricatures of their prophet Mohammed.

One Islamic group burned a Danish flag over the weekend.

PHOTO: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

The first drawing, which showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb, appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten in September and was re-printed in a Norwegian Christian publication called Magazinet earlier this month. Islamic law forbids any illustrations of the prophet Mohammed, so the caricatures have spurred protests from Islamic countries and from Muslims living in Denmark.

One Islamic group demanded on Sunday that all Scandinavians leave the Gaza Strip within 48 hours. Armed members of another group, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, handed out pamphlets in Gaza encouraging Danes and Swedes to leave within three days.

Members of the al-Aqsa Brigade burned a Danish flag, and a Norwegian Foreign Ministry official said the ministry has alerted Norwegians to the groups' threats.

A year ago it was supposed Koran desecrations, the year before that it was supposed Israeli digging under the Temple Mount. There is no end of source for Muslim "outrage", often resulting in riots and deaths.

World reaction to these periodic outbreaks of insanity is interesting. The craziness of the Islamic world is taken as a given in Western reactions.

Geopolitics is partially based on the idea that Arabs and Muslims are completely irrational. Instead of treating them like normal adults who need to take responsibility for their actions, we treat them like your crazy Uncle Ned who makes a scene every Thanksgiving. We smile nervously, say whatever we need to say to calm him down for now, lock up the liquor cabinet and hope he doesn't drive into a crowd. And when he acts sort-of rationally, we fall all over ourselves complimenting him on not setting the table on fire.

So we now see entire nations and former world leaders who publicly condemn the horrible fact that free speech exists in some parts of the world and try to say the right things to avoid a billion Uncle Neds from getting more pissed off. Better to say a little white lie than to risk finding out what Ned could do when he becomes really belligerent. It never works, of course, but what else can we do?

The Arabs have perpetuated this idea of their own mass psychosis when it is convenient for them. How many times have we heard threats that the "Arab street" will rise up unless the West does whatever the Arab world demands this week? Isn't that the same thing as threatening to unleash a few million Uncle Neds?

There is of course a solution. It is to treat everyone as actual mature grown-ups, and when they act irresponsibly they should be punished, not rewarded or coddled. It seems like an obvious point when the Uncle Neds are running nations, but somehow the West can't quite figure this out.

They'd rather condemn the rational parties.