On the 17th of February, the Catholic League issued a press release on the suspension of two editors of the Daily Illini student newspaper at the University of Illinois.
The February 9 edition of the Daily Illini, the student newspaper at the University of Illinois, republished cartoons that made fun of Muhammad. Those responsible for doing so, the editor in chief and the opinions page editor, have now been suspended.
The response of school officials to this incident is the subject of Catholic League president Bill Donohue’s news release:
“Richard Herman, the chancellor of the University of Illinois, is critical of the decision to reprint the anti-Muhammad cartoons. He maintains that a discussion about the controversial Danish cartoons could have taken place without republishing them. He’s right, but that is not the way the university treats anti-Catholic fare on campus.
“In March 1997, the same Urbana-Champaign campus displayed drawings by Michele Blondel that showed red glass vaginas hanging inside European Roman Catholic cathedrals; two of them had red glass holy water cruets with crosses on them. I wrote a letter to the president registering my objections, and received a reply from the chancellor, Michael Aiken.
“Aiken said he regretted that the art ‘disappointed’ me (flat beers disappoint me, not lousy art). He instructed, ‘Most viewers find Blondel’s art to be quite subtle as it invites the viewer to contemplate and reflect on topics as diverse as the body, the church, and architectural and religious symbolism.’ Stupid me—I thought it was Catholic-bashing porn. His closer was precious: ‘The University believes that true intellectual discourse extends not only to written communication but also to the visual.’ Except when Muslims get angry.
“So what’s changed? Do Catholics have to call for beheadings to get respect? How else to explain the condescending response I got, and the sympathetic response afforded Muslims? Similarly, nobody was disciplined for offending Catholics, but two kids have been suspended for offending Muslims!”
Of course, instances like this are the Catholic League's forte. Alejandro Bermudez at Catholic Outsider brings to his readers' attention the infamous South Park episode where a statue of the Virgin Mary bleeds, etc. In his post, Bermudez explains the latest flashpoint.
Despite the protests of the seven Catholic bishops of New Zealand, the station will transmit an episode in which a cardinal sees an image of the Virgin Mary bleeding and calls Pope Benedict XVI, who finally decides that the Virgin is having her menstrual period.
Of course Rick Friesen, spokesman of the TV station came with the same “you Catholics get the beating and shut up” argument: “There are so many other issues in the world about which Catholics and members of other religions should worry instead of a half an hour satire. This is just television. It is nothing important.”
The bishops have called the 700,000 Kiwi Catholics to boycott the TV station. But some wonders if Catholics would not get more respect by torching the TV station a-la-Muslim.
Nevertheless this episode made my point about why we should not rush in support of the newspapers and media ridiculing Mohammed. There is, without doubt, something wrong with the Muslims, but there is something even worst with the anti-religious sense of humor of the Secularists.
Torching embassies is obviously not the Catholic way. As Bermudez affirms in his post, "We believe in a God that was crucified." Amen to that. His final point about how we should not so quickly be supporting the secular media is quite valid. However, I do think that in cases like the Daily Illini, (self-)righteous college newspaper editors deserve our support. I don't get a daily copy of the Daily Iowan anymore, but I would bet a buck they've not printed the cartoons. Let's remember one fact. The Daily Illini printed the pictures on February 9th. By then, the cartoons were no longer political statements, but images at the center of worldwide news. All the media outlets around the world who still have not printed the cartoons are may not be cowardly or hypocritical, but they sure are failing to report the news.
A columnist at the Daily Illini seems to agree:
The New York Times decided they would not publish the cartoons. This is an understandable position, seeing as how the cartoons are very offensive. However, the Gray Lady rarely leaves itself in an understandable position.
One of the articles on the cartoon controversy in the Times examined past artistic works that have evoked passionate opposition, including Ofili's piece, and lo and behold, the Times decided they would publish a picture of this piece just to remind readers what they were talking about. The hypocrisy is blinding.
Most anyone looking at this situation would see a huge problem here. Maybe I'm just not as enlightened as those brainy editors at the New York Times. Of course, it's considered fashionable and intelligent to sling mud at the Catholic Church, but offenses against other religions and ideologies are bigoted and completely unjustified. So goes the logic at the paper of record. Here's hoping they can one day deserve that nickname.
John Ostrowski is a junior in Communications. He would like to note that he is, in fact, as enlightened as those brainy New York Times editors. His column appears Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.