True to the law of nature that Orthodox Christian priests are always wrong about everything, I met up yesterday with an old friend who's an abune in the Orthodox Church, and he immediately asserted that the Jyllands-Posten cartoons contained such offensive material as an image of the Prophet Muhammad getting a full in-out lapdance from his nine-year-old wife Ayesha. This is from a guy whose parish is in San Francisco, who sponsors all sorts of interfaith dialogues, who has a T1 line in his office. As you can see from the full collection of the cartoons, there is no such image, even among the fake ones. But who am I to argue with Christ's representative on earth?
This brings up another unknowable unknown: How many of the millions of Muslims going ballistic these days have actually seen the cartoons, or at least heard them accurately described? There's no public furor like one about an imaginary offense. Protestors in 1988 claimed the unseen Last Temptation of Christ featured scenes of Jesus having wide-eyed gay sex with the apostles—a claim that was still circulating years after the movie had passed into the DVD twilight, and may have inspired Nick Gillespie's epiphany that the 12 apostles (a stylishly motley collection of carpenters, fishermen, tax collectors, et al) were the original Village People. Deadly riots may ensue when a mosque is demolished, but even deadlier ones result when people only imagine a mosque has been demolished. Moustapha Akkad's The Message landed in hot water because even though it never showed an actor playing the prophet, critics suspected it did. (Having caught a recent Eid-al-Fitr showing of The Message, I'm not sure even blasphemy could have made that movie watchable.) And let's not forget all the Jew-bashing we were promised in The Passion of the Christ, a film that ended up being about as anti-Semitic as Fiddler On the Roof. Hell, I'm still waiting for the Eyes Wide Shut mashup where Harvey Keitel really does blow a load on Nicole Kidman's hair.
All of which leads to one obvious conclusion: The people who are republishing the cartoons are not inflaming the controversy; they're calming it down. Our freedom-loving allies in Jordan should not just release imprisoned editor Jihad Momani; they should give him a medal.