Last week, the Collection Lambert Art Museum in the Southwestern French city of Avignon, was infiltrated by vandals who attacked and maimed certain pieces of art, and physically threatened the museum's security guards. Throughout the week the Museum employees received death threats and the museum was forced to close when confronted with over 800 protestors outside its doors.
What could have provoked such rage at an art museum? Christian Sensitivities.
This maybe a shock to those who believe Muslims are the only people in the world who react unreasonably when their religion is slandered and defamed, however this Easter week crisis in France helps us realize that people of all faiths can be easily offended (into action) in response to the defamation of their beliefs, and may even object to the "western idea" of freedom of speech.
|Photo from telegraph.co.uk|
The instance in France happened to be another chapter in the life of Andres Serrono and his infamous "Piss Christ" photo exhibit, which includes a photo of the crucifix submerged in the artist's urine. Serrono met similar opposition in the US and across the world. Art museums choosing to host Serrono's work have been vandalized, threatened with burnings, and their staff have been threatened with death.
Glen Greenwald recently exposed the misconception that Islam is the exceptional religion that includes members who react violently to offensive material in an article titled "The New York Times' Muslim Problem". Greenwald helps expose the religious fanaticism that violently demands censorship, and he clarifies that it is not exclusive to Muslims. The article labels those who allege this to be uniquely a Muslim problem as "delusional" and influenced by an Anti-Muslim campaign present in American mainstream.
For instance, we don't think twice about play-writes walking the line between Christianity and homosexuality that meet violent opposition from the Christian right, or the Catholic League. Nor do we consider the numerous artworks that some museums dare to show and many rapidly remove in the face of safety and security concerns after receiving hateful threats from offended Christians.
We are told over an over again that Muslims are too sensitive. That Muslims overreact when their Prophet is portrayed as a terrorist in newspapers, or that Muslims overreact to fringe pastors who burn Qurans, and that Muslims do not understand the "Freedom of Speech". But what about people of other faiths who are offended by those seeking only the publicity of stoking the sensitivities of a religion? Do we notice when museums, libraries, schools, and universities are pressured into censoring artistic expression or speech that offends some Christians or Jews?
And do we chose to ignore the numerous offensive remarks or actions about Islam in American mainstream discourse that are met with civil disagreement, if not ignored completely? Muslims again, like people of other faith, also forgive and turn the other cheek.
Most recently in Oklahoma the Muslim community has experienced more offensive remarks and actions from some of our fellow citizens and politicians than any cartoon or photo exhibit can reflect. Members of our legislature have labeled Muslims as being inherently violent, and abusive towards women (another issue not exclusive to people of a certain religion). The Oklahoma Muslim community also dealt with a man who sent DVDs to Islamic Centers depicting images of pork being smeared over Islamic texts, and visuals of explosions accompanied with a threat. Despite knowing the location of our legislatures, and the address of the film-maker, Muslims did not rally in the streets in anger, or send threatening messages to those who slandered and defamed their religion. Instead they prayed for those individuals, and called on the police department, and the courts to administer justice.
Asking for law enforcement, or the judicial system to protect our rights, is the American way to combat slander, defamation, and harassment- not to be mistaken for a demand of "preferred status" that many Anti-Muslim hate groups claim.
The vast majority of Muslims are not the oversensitive, ticking-time bomb, drama queens that the media portrays us to be. And for those who claim the faith that are, they have good company in the other faiths as well. The vast majority of Muslims recognize that violent and hateful responses to the artwork of a cartoonist, or the publicity stunt of a pastor is the greatest offense. Our faith does not condone nor promote the intolerant and unreasonable reactions that are over-represented in our media.
So the next time we laugh at, or pity those crazy Muslims, and their oversensitive sensitivities, please remember this is not a "Muslim Problem", and that Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths are just as sensitive when it comes to their religion and those who intentionally and insightfully seek to offend those beliefs. It does not make one right, nor make the other wrong, but it may make us all seem a bit more sane.