Cartoon Violence or just Religious Violence?

This horrifying Washington Post story shows an instance of Danish newspaper cartoon related violence, this time in Nigeria, degenerating into regular religious violence.

As the city’s thousands of surviving Muslims struggled to return to their northern homes or huddled as refugees at police stations, Christian residents expressed little remorse for their role in five days of religious violence sparked by anger over the publishing of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

Apparently there were Muslim attacks on churches and Christians over the cartoons, and then retaliatory attacks against Muslims and Muslim-owned businesses. They are still counting the bodies, but the death toll appears likely to top 50. To what extent is this tragedy really about the cartoons though? Here’s an enlightening quote:

“We have to retaliate,” said Justin Ifeanyi, 24. “It is a shame to us if we don’t kill them.”

He also expressed amazement that cartoons published in Europe could set off violence in Africa.

“This thing happened in Denmark,” Ifeanyi said. “How could that be causing havoc in another part of Nigeria?”

I don’t think that the cartoons’ publication did cause this. Various anti-Denmark or anti-Europe campaigns in Arab nations, I can see being related. But this? I think this is violence that results from two religions existing intermingled with each other, two religions that each tell their followers that their way is the only correct way, and that followers of other ways are at best misguided and at worst enemies.

At Onitsha’s ruined central mosque, one of two reportedly destroyed on Tuesday, Ifeanyi Eze, 34, picked up a piece of charred wood and scrawled on a low wall: “Muhammad is a man but Jesus is from above.”

On the blackened walls of the abandoned mosque, where rubble and sheets of rusty tin roofing lay on the floor, others had written “No Muhammad, Jesus Christ is Lord” and “As from today know [sic] more Muhammad.”

In an interview afterward, Eze expressed anger at Muslims for last year’s terrorist attack in London and other troubles. “We don’t want all this mosque any more,” he said. “These are the people who cause problems all over the world . . . because they don’t fear God. We don’t want Muhammad anymore.”

This tragedy is the result of religious fundamentalism on all sides, and shows us how important it is to stress our common humanity above our personal beliefs in every instance–something that gets forgotten here at home sometimes as well.