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Journal 11 - The Cartoon Crisis

February 08, 2006

Here in the Cruz Blanca there are about as many Muslims as there are Catholics. For the most part, they work side by side without any trouble. It seems like ther are lots of arguments about little things, but they happen between everybody. Many mornings we hear big discussions about who's turn it is to wash the breakfast dishes. There's one ongoing argument I've been hearing over whether Ceuta was ever under Muslim control. The Spanish insist that it has always been a European territory.

I read on the BBC news a number of days ago about the political cartoons that were drawn of Mohammad as a terrorist. It wasn't for another day or two until I started to hear more and more about it here around the Cruz Blanca. The real discussion came a few days ago at breakfast. There were the loud voices in all directions as normal, but this was probably the most divided and deeply-felt discussion that I've seen at the table.

There were a few issues in the discussion. First, the Muslims don't like people drawing images of the prophet. The Catholics wanted to make the point that, if no one knows what Mohammad looked like, then it shouldn't be offensive if someone tries to draw a cartoon of him. It doesn't make much sense to Catholics who really appreciate the value of icons and images. Second, the Muslims couldn't tolerate that people would equate terrorism with Islam. Yousef made the distinction repeatedly throughout the meal, "That's not Islam, that's terrorism!" The Catholics were full of questions about how Islam teaches that if someone dies in some sort of jihad they receive their reward of Paradise automatically. Yousef wanted it to be clear that no one knows destinies for sure, only God.

A few days later the BBC said the cartoons had become a "global crisis." I certainly had seen how the discussion escalated within a few days and really polarized people. It was interesting to see how religious tension can develop on a smaller scale. It seems to be increasingly important in our world today to be able to sit at the same table and talk until we find some understanding. What looks like an argument between groups here at breakfast may actually be a healthy thing in the long run.