Friday, February 10, 2006

The combustible cartoon war quickly became shorthand for what radical Muslim clerics had been planning for months — a clash of civilizations. The offending Danish cartoons, first published almost five months ago, were mild compared to how some cartoonists in Western democracies slash and singe organized religion.

One late-night comedian did a skit of a TV news anchor announcing Moses had just come down with the Ten Commandments. “And now to Sam Donaldson in the foothills of Mount Sinai to report on the three most important ones.”

As for Prophet Muhammad wearing a smoking, turban-mounted bomb, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, and their Islamist terrorist fan club the world over, invoke and hail his name five times daily as their leader in their war against the “crusader infidels.” That’s us Judeo-Christians

The countless millions of Muslims in some 50 Muslim countries who tell pollsters bin Laden is more trustworthy than President Bush are deeply religious. They scoff at the widely held notion in the U.S. that a tiny minority of terrorists has hijacked Islam.

These same Muslim faithful approve of Islamist terrorist leaders who promise brainwashed volunteer suicide bombers the reward offered by the prophet — the keys to paradise and 72 virgins to keep them busy for a while, if not eternity. The Danish cartoonist elicited a few chuckles with his drawing of tattered suicide bombers, bits of clothing still smoking, greeted at the Muslim pearly gates by a frantic gatekeeper waving them away and shouting — “Get lost, we’ve run out of virgins.”

More seriously, the “spontaneous” protests and riots that ricochet throughout the Muslim world from Iraq to Indonesia and on to Denmark and Norway, peaceful countries that give a wide berth to international rumbles, were carefully prepared over several months. Following publication of the cartoons in a Danish newspaper last September, a group of fundamentalist clerics flew to the Middle East to arouse indignation and anger among other radical imams and mullahs in both Sunni Islam and Shi’ite Islam, from Cairo’s al-Azhar University, Islam’s oldest, to the holy cities of Najaf in Iraq and Qum in Iran.

The delegation of Danish Muslim clerics was led by Ahmed Abu-Laban, a fundamentalist Palestinian preacher expelled by the United Arab Emirates for his vitriolic Friday sermons. They got a hearing with Arab League chief Amr Moussa at his headquarters in Cairo and persuaded him to move the issue onto the agenda of a December meeting of several Arab heads of state. Next came a fatwa, or religious edict, from Cairo’s senior Muslim cleric. The fatwa became a signal for global demos.

Meanwhile, back in Denmark, Flemming Rose, cultural editor of the newspaper Jyllands-Posten that published the cartoons critical of Islam, which included the forbidden face of the prophet, was warned by a counterterrorism informant there was now a “halal” decree against him. Islam had sanctioned a contract on his life.. Mr. Rose now moves only with bodyguards.

When Iran’s firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Holocaust never happened and Israel should be made to disappear from the map, there are just as many millions of Sunnis as there are Shi’ites who nod their heads in agreement. So all it requires is a match to light the fuse of Islamofascism, much as Adolf Hitler’s Brownshirts in the 1930s got an eager populace to demonstrate against Jews — and ransack their stores. The moderate Muslim majority was again spooked, as it doubtless will be again when another fatwa emanates from Iran authorizing the use of a nuclear weapon against Israel.

The cartoon war could be seen as a limbering exercise for a global intifada. It would be a miracle if the Wahhabi and Salafi and Deobandi and Shi’ite clergy leaders didn’t see it that way.

Iran’s Mr. Ahmadinejad, surveying the global cartoon thunderclaps, must have concluded the return of the 12th Imam, known as the Mahdi, is drawing nearer, which means world chaos, death and destruction, before a new era of world peace under Islamic rule.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large for United Press International and for The Washington Times.

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