About 10 days ago I was telling someone about the extremist Muslim response to the cartoons of Muhammad. They weren’t particularly familiar with what was happening but said, “It will go away soon.” I agreed, but my point was it showed the tremendous gulf between the west and radical Islam. Later, at lunch with a friend, I repeated, “It will go away soon.” He disagreed, “The only way I see to get to the other side of this is over a pile of bodies–either theirs or ours.” I realized he could be right but wasn’t convinced. A week or so, I thought, that’s about the typical attention spam for this sort of thing. I had forgotten the length of the French riots (and here, here, here, and here) last fall. That was more like three weeks or a month. This is a bigger and more widespread event. Perhaps this will be the flame that will burn until all the fuel is exhausted. It was over lunch yesterday this same friend told me about the $1 million reward for killing the cartoonist and ended the conversation with, “I feel like I’m living on another planet, these people are a bunch of savages.” I couldn’t disagree.
In our frame of reference this insult is so trivial and their response is so extreme there will be no compromise, no truce, and no ceasefire. As communication and travel have improved we can no longer be isolated from each other on this planet. The publication of a few cartoons in minor newspaper in a small country in Western Europe ignited a violent, worldwide, response. The fuel supply for this flame, this clash of civilizations, has been building for over a thousand years and the flame may not be extinguished until the fuel is exhausted. I see only uncomfortable options; we destroy their civilization, they destroy ours, or we participate, as either victims or perpetrators, in the greatest genocide this world has ever known.