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Saturday, February 11, 2006

It's About Culture

Leonard Pitts writes one of the most succinct and intelligent commentaries regarding the cartoon controversy and Muslim rage: The argument is not about religion, but culture. Note that American Muslims - surely as offended by the cartoons as Muslims elsewhere - have felt no need to riot. They are writing letters to editors and holding peaceful rallies while their co-religionists are burning embassies down. No, the argument is about what happens when any culture anywhere is so bereft and so closed that its people have no way of comprehending or even imagining lives and beliefs beyond their own. That is precisely the point. The civilizational clash is not simply or merely about religious differences, but how those differences--when they brush up against each other--are viewed by the co-religionists. In cultures that spawn violent reaction to perceived religious affronts, we are dealing only in matters of degree. The response to the affront will be violent, the only question is how severe and drawn out that violence will be dependent upon how significant the affront. Religion may be at the top of the list, but in cultures that are based upon honor and face (or, ironically, western liberal theory), there seems to be a bottomless well of items to which offense is taken. My theory has always been that if a person, or group, has such a wildly different response than you to a given situation or set of facts, it is more likely the tip of the iceberg of differences rather than an anomaly.

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