CNN is reporting this morning that:

A prominent Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide against Jews as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

How sad that a prominent Iranian news agency responds to the publication of cartoons about Mohammed with its own insensitive disinformation and propaganda campaign. How unfortunate that “hundreds of Iranians” (according to the article) took to the streets of their capital city to wreak violence upon the embassies and diplomatic representatives of the nations perceived to “support” the publication of these cartoons.

A couple of weeks ago the International Cultural Center Texas Tech at Texas Tech co-hosted an event with the US Holocaust Museum and others focusing on the roots of the Holocaust and ongoing genocide in Darfur. Every time I have heard a holocaust survivor speak I am struck by how important it is that the history of this era be communicated and preserved for posterity, so it will not be repeated.

Portraying “the West” as supporting caricatures of Mohammed is such an off-base accusation, I think. I wish when faced with a situation like this, people could respond in ways that are respectful and tolerant. No, I am not a Muslim, but I certainly do respect the right of Muslims to practice their faith. And I also think it is unfortunate that some people choose to insult the faith and the religious leaders of others. But I also support free speech, and clearly the individuals involved in these protests give the impression they would rather censor than listen or even just ignore.

Just as “we” in the West would hope other global citizens would acknowledge that these statements and acts by a few Danish newspaper artists and publishers do not speak for us all when it comes to our views of Islam and Mohammed, so also should we recognize that these few Iranian protesters and press representatives do not represent a monolithic view of Iranians or Muslims in general.

Don’t settle for a mainstream press view on this issue! Check out what Global Voices are saying about the situation! Jordanian blogger Lina writes:

May be the solution is not a short-term action that we take in direct response to this, but a continuous effort to build our societies, to work for more awareness, more openness, more cultural and political development, to have a generation of young people who are not just either apathetic or reactive. I know that “freedom of expression” is not exactly the favorite term in this part of the world these days, so I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to bring it up now, but can we at least not pretend that everything is perfectly ok in our countries and our societies and that we are above everyone else! Today, more than ever, we need change, and we need change that’s from within!

Rather than view this situation as a negative, classroom teachers and students should seek to turn this into a positive by listening to and interacting with the global voices who are also speaking out. Don’t just listen to the CCN/AP/FoxNews/MTV/BBC view of this. Listen and interact with the global voices of the blogsophere. We live in the 21st Century folks. Let’s act like it.

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