As usual the real point has taken a back-seat, both the debates relating to the facebook ‘draw the prophet Muhammad’ page and Zapiro’s cartoon that appeared in the latest addition of the Mail and Guardian pulled out all the usual debates about freedom of expression. However the issue is not really one of freedom of expression but rather one of religious intolerance that highlights both the worst in stereotyping Muslims and islamophobia.
For many Muslims it would be the same if, during the height of the crusades western Christianity was drawing similar racist depictions of the prophet. We would not see them as neutral and free spirited expressions of speech but rather as a conscious ideological and political tool being used in support of the continuing war efforts in the Muslim world.
As usual jibes against Islam and Muslims are not only allowed but totally acceptable, it is interesting how racism and intolerance in the ‘west’ are limited to not being inciteful against Judaism, homosexuality and sometimes blacks – usually only in the hope to camouflage the continuation of past inequalities -.
As Zizek wrote in his article -http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/11/opinion/11zizek.html-,‘China's State Administration of Religious Affairs announcing a law covering "the management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism."‘
"Culture" has commonly become the name for all those things we practice without really taking seriously. And this is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as "barbarians" with a "medieval mindset": they dare to take their beliefs seriously. Today, we seem to see the ultimate threat to culture as coming from those who live immediately in their culture, who lack the proper distance.