The Rottweiler Pope, the Danish Cartoon, and Muslim Moderates

It’s now a couple of weeks after the pope made his speech. A few days ago I listened to an interview with Clinton (former American president, in case anyone has forgotten). His view on the pope’s remarks and the Danish cartoon: they make it more difficult for Muslims moderates.

I thought about Clinton’s evaluation (he’s not someone I dismiss casually). And my thinking brought me to remembering what I’d heard about the impact of the Danish cartoon on Danish Muslims. According to that report, the discussions sparked by the cartoon moved the Muslim community forward by at least three centuries – because before that, the Muslim views were not challenged and until that happened, they could not be changed.

So have the Danish cartoon and the pope’s remarks hurt or helped Muslim moderates?

First, the cartoon and the remarks are not one and the same.

The Danish cartoon (to these nonMuslim eyes anyway) is a small mild portrayal of a grizzly truth – the use of the Muslim prophet as justification for bombings and other violence against innocent civilians, including Muslims. The pope’s remarks are more blunt and directly confrontational: violence done in the name of religion is against the nature of god. He was called a Rottweiler long before he made these remarks. His remarks – deliberately forceful, provocative – did bring to mind the image of a Rottweiler. Big teeth. A strong bite. One often has to be careful around Rottweilers.

That brings me to a question. Why did the Danish cartoon spark greater protest?

Well, a cartoonist is a more vulnerable target, doesn’t have the authority of a huge organized religion behind him. Also, the cartoon came first. Plus, there is the question of whether anyone can make an image of the prophet. Masses of Muslims acted in outrage that anyone dared to make such an image – and totally ignored the message of the cartoon. (The offended chose to ignore that there are numerous other images of their prophet, against which they have not protested, and that the violence done in the name of the prophet creates a very vivid image in people’s minds.)

But I still haven’t answered my own question. Have the cartoon and the pope’s remarks hurt or helped Muslim moderates.

My guess is they’ve helped. Someone had to do this work. The Danish cartoonist and the pope have drawn a lot of fire and anger away from Muslim moderates. More of them may actually have gotten more courage to speak out. Plus moderates may have moved further in their thinking in response to the cartoon, the pope’s remarks, and all the discussion this has generated. In fact, another guess I have is that there are more Muslim moderates than before. (That remains to be seen.)

So far I have no evidence – but I do know that Christians have become increasingly moderate over time, as the Christian fundamentalists have been challenged over and over.

Of course irate fundamentalists (Christian and Muslim) may be ever more allergic to the moderates. But at least in Canada, the very conservative Christians are much more moderate than a generation ago. A similar shift may take a couple of decades in the Muslim world, but that’s what I see happening.


In the short run, what would I see?

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” – so said Shakespeare, or perhaps it was some other famous British writer. I think the comment popped into my mind becuse people who are losing may get ever more angry. It doesn’t mean they will win, or that they should win. A spurned woman doesn’t increase her chances of winning back her beloved if she rages. On the contrary. And eventually a lot of spurned people learn.

I’m back to a central point. The more that people around the world do to break the shell of Muslim self-righteousness, the better.

So for now at least, based on my own assessment and knowledge, I will disagree with Clinton, though our goal is the same – the success of Muslim moderates.



“It is a fact readily acknowledged, that for humans, an idea is much more powerful than a fact.” I don’t know who said that – but I remember how those words struck me when I read them. One idea: just as ideas can close our minds, they can open them to new worlds and visions. Ideas pull things togheter or keep them apart. They help us organize experiences, help us make sense of things – or block us from making sense of things. So I hope you got something from what I’ve written. Comments and further thoughts welcome.


For more thiinking of the rage of the righteous – how it works and how one might counter it – there’s much more on my site:


Questions. Why so much Muslim rage at a Danish cartoon? Why so much rage in people in general? Narcissism. Hate. Illusions. The Idea Emporium – facts, ideas, conclusions. Plus stupid opinions exposed – such as the opinion that all opinons are equal.