All the talk about the recent cartoons that have offended Muslims has missed what I think is an important point. Sure, maybe the newspapers that printed the cartoons were just being provocative, which they probably shouldn't have done. Or maybe they had been censoring themselves for years, which they also shouldn't have done. And the protesting Muslims who are setting churches and embassies on fire, should definitely also not be doing that.
But this is what worries me: The protesters are shouting, "Death to Denmark" and demanding apologies from the Danish, French, and Norwegian governments. And the governments keep saying, "It was an independent newspaper! We think they were idiots to print those cartoons, but we can't speak for them!" And the protesters keep shouting, "Death to Denmark" and demanding apologies from the Danish French and Norwegian governments. And the goverments keep saying, "Uhhhh, it was stupid, but uhhhh it wasn't us." And the protesters keep shouting, "Death to Denmark" and demanding apologies from the Danish French and Norwegian governments. And the governments keep saying, "That's not how a democracy works, guys." And the protesters keep shouting, "Death to Denmark" and demanding apologies from the Danish French and Norwegian governments.
Now, I know that the fundamentalist protesters don't represent all or even most of the Islamic world. But they speak so loudly with their actions that they become the de facto voice of Islam. And that voice is currently saying that Islam doesn't recognize the difference between the government of a country and its other institutions (like the press). And this confirms one of the worst fears of the West, which is that the nations of the Middle East will hold free and fair elections, and willingly elect governments that do not recognize the difference between themselves and the other institutions of the country (like the press and the mosque).
It just convinces us more that democracy as we know it just a poor form of government for that part of the world. I don't know if that's true or not. If it is true, it's not because they're "not ready for democracy yet"—I find that horribly condescending (what makes us so sure that democracy is a "higher" form of government?). Rather, I think that that if democracy can't work in the Middle East, it's simply because the fundamental tenets of democracy and the fundamental tenets of their brand of Islam just don't mesh. So fine. But if that's the case, then the current U.S. military operation is doomed to failure, whether you think they should be there or not.
I don't think I have a logical conclusion here. But I do think that this conflation of a government with its country's press is a disturbing one. This fundamental difference in how the protesters and the West view the press feels like a major obstacle to resolving this and other future potential problems. Any thoughts?