March 3, 2006

Letter to the Editor

Cartoons at the U of C

I recently came upon a leaflet distributed by the Ayn Rand-loving crowd (“The Undercurrent”) that prominently features a rendition of one of the racist anti-Muslim cartoons that were printed in the Dutch newspaper Jyllands-Posten. This newspaper is well known for its unabashed support for Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930s. Its support for right-wing ideology (clearly) continues today. However, the ostensible message in the text of the Ayn Rand leaflet was a call to protect freedom of the press and “reason” here and in Europe. In reality, the leaflet, like the original set of cartoons, is a racist attack on Muslims. As I read, I found quotes like this, in reference to the cartoon’s image of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban: “We ourselves do not consider this cartoon to be offensive. We consider it to be an accurate view of the religion of Islam…” The rest of the text, front and back, is mainly a comparison between the pros of Western style “reason” and “logic” against the cons of Muslim mysticism and backward-ness.

Current anti-Muslim racist ideology insists that there is something different about followers of Islam that leads them to be violent. But these violent episodes were not simply about some cartoons. To be sure, these cartoons were used as an excuse by leaders in Iran and Syria to enflame an already angry populace. And they did it in order to strengthen their political stand against Western rivals, not to improve the lives of their people. However, the riots were also the result of decades of exploitation by imperialist governments of the west. They were about the continuing racist treatment that Muslims are subject to in Western Europe. They were about the deplorable conditions that Palestinians are forced to endure by a militaristic and brutal Israeli government. And, perhaps most acutely, they were about the ongoing slaughter in Iraq.

Right-wingers create a straw man by asking if there would be riots and rebellions if there were caricatures of Jesus printed in the Muslim press, in order to justify their racist ideas. In the current conditions, no, there would likely not be riots. However, force Christians to live for decades under Muslim rule, expose them to continuous racist treatment, disenfranchise them politically and economically, and then, to top it off, put the likes of George Bush, Pat Robertson, and Bill O’Reilly in power and you would damn well have riots. This is what racists like those at “The Undercurrent” ignore.

We here at the University of Chicago should stand up against these attacks and make it clear that these ideas are not welcome in our community.

Alexander Wolf

Student in the college