Roger L. Simon

Civilization and Its Discontents

In The New Republic (subscription only, lo siento) Peter Beinart has written an oh-so-moderate piece on the cartoon controversy that contains a great obfuscation or perhaps wishful thinking:

And, since the cartoon wars broke out, some conservatives have suggested that, since Islam is not a peaceful religion like Judaism or Christianity, there’s nothing wrong with depicting Mohammed as a terrorist. As one article in National Review put it, the violent protests in the Islamic world proved that the “cartoons depicting Muhammed as a dangerous man of arms … had a good point.” On Fox News, Fred Barnes declared that many “Muslims all over the world are certainly enemies of Western civilization.” Fox and conservative bloggers have been more willing to show the cartoons than their liberal counterparts.

Indeed, despite Bush’s universalism, clash-of-civilizations thinking is deeply ingrained on the American right.

Leaving aside that it isn’t only conservatives who feel this way (unless Beinart wishes to lump this blogger who is pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, anti-death penalty and an agnostic with conservatives – fine, then), there really is a “clash-of-civilizations” going on, even if it makes Beinart uncomfortable (as well it might – it makes us all uncomfortable). And the clash is about something very simple and very clear: Jesus said “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Mohammed said and acted precisely the opposite. If this isn’t a clash, Mr. Beinart, what is? Even with the natural caveats – not all Muslims feel this way, etc., etc. – it is the heart of the matter. We have to look at it with a clear eye and go on from there.

UPDATE: No surprise at who really wants to avoid a clash at all costs.