WASHINGTON -- Contemplate this: A Danish newspaper in September publishes some cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. Four months later Muslims, mostly Arab, get wind of this event and riot, burning Danish flags and attacking embassies, mostly Danish, but thus far also an Austrian Embassy. Apparently geography is one of the many subjects not studied very attentively in Arab schools. At any rate, as the riots intensify local governments can apparently do nothing. Most of these governments, for instance the Syrian, are famously repressive. Yet in this instance they are impotent against the dirty-necked galoots burning flags and howling in the streets of their cities. Some of the governments issue diplomatic demands to the Danish government.
Now here is the kicker. From Tehran comes word that Iran's best-selling newspaper, Hamshahri, has announced a cartoon competition. The cartoon competition will endeavor to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust. You might well ask: How did the Holocaust become entoiled in this controversy? What do six-million murdered Jews have to do with Danish cartoonists depicting a Prophet who lived 1,400 years ago? Officials at the Iranian newspaper also dragged America and Israel into their rants. Are America and Israel the real powers behind Denmark?
Analysis of this irrational outburst will continue for weeks. Already the point has been made that there are depictions of the Prophet Mohammad in museums throughout the world and that many of the depictions were created by pious Muslims. So the claims that it is sacrilegious to depict the Prophet are nonsense. And the point has been made that throughout Islam's long history Muslims have joked about religion. So the claims that it is sacrilegious to joke about Islam are nonsense.
Other earnest analysts will tussle with the chronology of these events, the persona involved, and their various explications of the cartoons, of the demonstrations, and, who knows, possibly of the attack on the Austrian Embassy. Back in Tehran, editors at Hamshahri might wonder aloud: "Did not the demonstrators know that the Austrian Embassy is sacred soil? Was not the late Adolf Hitler an Austrian before he met his 72 maidens?" But there is a larger matter to contend with as the mobs of young men rage through the streets, even trying to mount their protests in places such as London. That is that Islam, particularly Islam as practiced in Arab countries, embraces a vast number of very angry young men.
The Islamicist agitators have two sources of power: the lone terrorist willing to blow himself up and the mob of young men willing to riot. It is these two instrumentalities that the Islamicist leaders rely on to acquire influence and power. These two instrumentalities are alarming, but take heart. They are also the conditions of a decadent, dysfunctional culture. Death and destruction do not create civilizations or prosperous societies or even a conquering army. Frankly, though I am no theologian, I doubt they can create heaven on earth. They are the death rattle of a dead culture.
Why so many of the countries dominated by Islam are in such a heap is a good question. Economists claim that it is because Islam does not encourage entrepreneurship. Neoconservatives argue that these countries have been denied democracy because of the rule of tyrants. And there are sociologists who perceive a deeper cause, the ancient patriarchy of these countries.
In places such as Syria, which is mostly Arab, and Iran, which is not, old men rule their families and their clans. They keep women and girls in the background. They keep young men in inferior status, despite the young men's talents and energies. The consequence is a lot of angry, frustrated young men. Such young men are available for riot at the drop of a … well, at the drop of a cartoon.
Whether the economists are right in their analysis or the Neocons or the sociologists, or any other gogues that might offer up an analysis, one thing is eminently clear. The peoples in such a rage over Danish cartoonists are a deeply troubled people. They are incapable of reason or even of governing themselves. They are the enemy of civilization, whether it be Western civilization or some civilized order that might emerge in the Middle East. I hope the Europeans who have been so critical of our military action in Iraq and Afghanistan take note. The Islamofascists are as great a danger as was Hitler, who left Europe in the kind of desolate chaos that the Islamofascists adumbrate.