The continuing saga of “Cartoongate”–the publication and republication in European newspapers of cartoons maligning the Prophet Muhammad, and the spasm of anger and violence that greeted it across the Muslim world–is obviously exposing a lot of misperceptions on both sides of the battle-lines. I am hardly an expert on Islam, but do think one important point about the reaction to the cartoons, and the reaction to the reaction in the West, is worth emphasizing: the basic nature of the offense to Muslim sensibilities.About half the stories in the U.S. press solemnly inform readers that the cartoons are considered “blasphemous” by Muslims, on pretty much the same grounds that Christians would consider cartoons mocking Jesus might be considered “blasphemous.” And that’s got it exactly backwards. The Prophet Muhammad warned against physical representations of human beings generally, and of himself in particular, in order to avoid temptations to idolatry, the worship of anything other than Almighty God. That reinforced the radically transcendent nature of Muslim theology–the insistence on strict submission to the sovereign will of God without the kind of human or quasi-divine intermediaries common to both pagan and Christian traditions. Now I don’t think anyone is under the misapprehension that the authors and publishers of these cartoons were trying to promote an idolatrous worship of the Prophet. So while the cartoons did violate a deeply embedded Muslim antipathy towards physical representations of Muhammad, that’s not the source of the offense: it’s the contemptuous misrepresentation of what the Prophet taught in terms of legitimate Western concerns about Islamic Jihadism. And that’s why non-Jihadist Muslims are if anything more offended by the cartoons than anyone else. Maybe this point is of less importance than the free-speech aspects of this saga, but it’s worth keeping in mind, particularly among those who constantly look for Christian or Judiaic parallels to poorly-understood Islamic beliefs.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
The backlash to the Supreme Court’s abolition of federal constitutional abortion rights is having some interesting new consequences, as I explained this week at New York:
For decades, the Republican National Committee has staked out a hard-core anti-abortion position. So now that a Republican-controlled Supreme Court has abolished the federal constitutional right to an abortion, you’d figure the RNC would take a moment to relish its victory. But you’d be wrong.
Instead, the RNC is lashing out at apostates. In response to 2022 Republican candidates avoiding the topic of abortion and to signs of strife in the party’s alliance with the anti-abortion movement, the RNC has passed a resolution scolding its members and urging them to keep the faith. It concludes with marching orders:
“WHEREAS, The Democratic Party and its allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the issue of abortion during the 2022 midterms, concealing their extremism while mischaracterizing and vilifying pro-life Republican candidates; and
“WHEREAS, Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life, thereby allowing Democrats to define our longtime position; therefore, be it
“RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to remember this proud heritage, go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position of supporting abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers, even supporting discriminatory abortions such as gender selection or when the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.”
In states where Republicans have the power to set abortion policy, the RNC doesn’t want any namby-pamby compromises allowing the majority of abortions to proceed (despite its characterization of Democrats as the real “extremists”):
“RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee urges Republican lawmakers in state legislatures and in Congress to pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible — such as laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn — underscoring the new relics of barbarism the Democratic Party represents as we approach the 2024 cycle.”
If you aren’t familiar with the rhetorical stylings of the anti-abortion movement, the “relics of barbarism” business is an effort to tie legalized abortion to the slavery and polygamy condemned by the original Republicans of the 19th century (who would probably view today’s race-baiting GOP with a jaundiced eye). The “beating heart” reference is an endorsement of “heartbeat” bills banning abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detectable, roughly at six weeks of pregnancy or before many women even know they’re pregnant.
The resolution is really the announcement of a new hunt for RINOs on the topic of abortion. Some in the RNC worry that their politicians will become squishy on reproductive rights because their constituents (and many swing voters) don’t favor abortion bans and regret the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, as shown by 2022’s pro-choice winning streak on ballot measures and general Republican underperformance. This pushback by the RNC parallels the anti-abortion movement’s efforts to make extreme abortion positions (such as a national abortion ban) a litmus test in the 2024 Republican primaries, especially at the presidential level.
Will this counterattack stem the panicky retreat of Republican politicians who care more about winning elections and cutting taxes than “saving the babies,” as the anti-abortion activists would put it? I don’t know. But at this point, it’s another sign that the Dobbs decision wasn’t quite the clear-cut victory for the forced-birth lobby that it initially appeared to be.