OPINION

Distinguishing radicalism from faith

I am troubled by the recent events in Europe and the Middle East regarding last year’s publication of caricatures ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad. As a member of the Greek humanitarian organization Medecin du Monde’s mission to the embattled Sudanese region of Darfur, I have been working in a society I find to be at once very deeply Islamic and at the same time very open to foreigners. Sadly, in recent months the same cannot be said of Europe. Religious intolerance and racism are wrong, whether in the press, on the street or in our living rooms. Europeans are lucky to enjoy the freedoms that many in the world do not, and should exercise them with wisdom and care. Regardless of what we think about the disassociation of the press and the government, what is written in a newspaper in one country is most certainly regarded as that nation’s common attitude and perceptions by others. If the press were Europe’s only benchmark on which non-Europeans based their evaluation of us, then we are certainly to blame if we now find ourselves under attack. But Europe also contributes money, know-how and people to international development in places like Darfur. The work and even the lives of people who work to advance the quality of life in Muslim countries has now been jeopardized because of these caricatures. There have been incidents of stone-throwing and rioting in already-troubled places like Darfur and humanitarian activity has suffered. It is well and good to tout freedom from the rear lines of a free and liberal Europe, but the world has more shades of gray on the front lines of democratization and development. The press should remember that there is no such thing as a local newspaper in this global community. The reverberations of a contentious article or even a caricature can be felt around the world. We certainly felt them here. GEORGE PETROPOULOS, Sudan. This is a good time to recognize the threat of radical Islam. Muslim leaders have made demands on the European Union, literally fearing their own Islamic populations’ reactions to cartoons of Muhammad. These demands are that the European free press have restricted freedom when it comes to Islamic issues so that Muslims will not be offended. The streets of Islam are full of gunmen and flag burners protesting cartoons of Muhammad published in European newspapers. Compare that to the relative silence of those same masses after the September 11 attacks; 3,000 murders carried out by terrorists claiming to be acting in the «sacred» name of Muhammad. Why is there a clear rejection of Muhammad cartoons and no protests of the murders carried out in the name of Muhammad; murder good, cartoon bad? Who has their priorities correct and who should we be listening to? JEFFREY PETER CLAGETT, Virginia, USA.