Cal  Thomas

New York - At the National Black Fine Art Show, a painting by Harlem artist "Tafa" depicts an upside down "Christ-like" figure with a face that resembles Osama bin Laden. No Christians have threatened the artist, or bombed the building where it is displayed, or attacked the city government.

Throughout the Middle East, state-controlled newspapers regularly depict Jews and Israeli leaders in despicable, stereotypical and anti-Semitic caricatures. These cartoons show Jews with hooked noses; Stars of David morphing into swastikas; Palestinian and Arab blood drips from Jewish hands and Jews are blamed for creating AIDS. Neither those newspapers, nor Arab embassies have been attacked by Jewish mobs.

When a Danish newspaper publishes several political cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, riots ensue and the artists and newspaper receive death threats. When newspapers in France and Germany courageously (and unexpectedly) reprint the cartoons as a demonstration of their right to free speech, further demonstrations occur and threats are made against those newspapers.

Occasionally moral clarity comes with something quite simple, like political cartoons. These riots impress upon us an objective truth: the "clash of civilizations" is more than a conflict between peoples; it is between the 21st and the 7th centuries; between a God who has "commissioned" his followers to exact judgment on the world, according to their narrow interpretation, and a God who offers man grace, along with the freedom to choose or reject it, reserving judgment for Himself on another day.

Many American newspapers and some television networks have declined to publish the "offending" cartoons, thereby playing into the hands of the rioters. CBS News has reported on the rioting, but says it will not show the cartoons because they cross a line. That CBS has a line will surprise some.

Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of the Washington Post, told Editor and Publisher magazine, "(The cartoons) wouldn't meet our standards for what we publish in the paper." The Post's standards apparently were met when it published a Tom Toles cartoon Jan. 29, depicting an American soldier without arms or legs. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stands beside his bed declaring, "I'm listing your condition as 'battle hardened.'" Some critics contend the cartoon slanders the military.

A free press is so critical to freedom itself that America's founders wrote it into the First Amendment as one of our fundamental rights. If intimidation limits press freedom, our other freedoms are in jeopardy.

Cal Thomas

Get Cal Thomas' new book, What Works, at Amazon.

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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