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Kevin Myers: All sides are not equal in religious violence

AN interview on RTE Radio One last week between Pat Kenny and Robert Fisk proved to be a perfect distillation of the moral equivalence and factual imprecision favoured by the liberal left whenever Muslims start behaving irrationally.

The context, of course, was the homicidal hysteria which once again is sweeping the Islamic world over the childishly inept video that is supposedly about Mohammed, but really could be about anything. Early in the interview, Fisk referred to the "Christian version of al-Qa'ida", by which he meant the provocative idiots who deliberately insulted Muslims. But insulting people is not quite the same as flying planes into crowded skyscrapers, or beheading non-believers, or blowing up Shia mosques, or slowly scalding people to death, or cutting their throats, which is what al-Qa'ida regularly did to its victims in Iraq, and its affiliates still do in Afghanistan.

Referring to the murder of the US ambassador in Libya, he described the makers of the "rubbish video" as "two looneys" who had managed to "stir up otherwise quite reasonable people into besieging embassies in Cairo and Benghazi", leading to "deaths". So there we have it: the people who made the video are lunatics; but the people who murdered the US ambassador are usually reasonable people.

But how reasonable could they possibly be if a single video, of quite astounding banality, is able to transform them into a murderous mob? Pat Kenny did not ask that question. But he did ask about the freedom of expression that we in the West cherish. Robert Fisk replied that in many western countries, Ireland included, Jesus Christ, the holy family and the Christian church were still a no-go area. It wasn't so long ago, he continued, that a film was produced showing Jesus Christ making love to a woman. A cinema showing the film in Paris was burnt down, the culprit was a Christian, and a Christian was killed in the fire. "So it's not as if violence is solely and exclusively the territory of one religion."

The only possible incident that fits this description, and which is apparently the evidence that violence is not exclusively the territory of one religion, was an arson attack on a cinema showing Martin Scorsese's 'The Last Temptation of Christ'. Nobody was killed. A dozen were injured, most of them firemen. One "spectator" received serious burns. The attack was roundly condemned by the archbishop of Paris. And far from it being "not so long ago", it happened in 1988: namely 24 years ago, about as much time as occurred between the Easter Rising and the Fall of France.

Moreover, anyone can find on the internet a pornographic cartoon of Jesus, Moses, Buddha and the Hindu god Ganesha engaged in a complex sexual congress. No one anywhere has been killed because of it. No one will be killed. So, far from Robert Fisk's unchallenged assertion that violence is "not solely and exclusively the territory of one religion" being correct, the opposite is true: internationally, almost all religious violence is by Muslims, often for the most frivolous and opportunistic of reasons. Indeed, one can only conclude that many Muslims are fretfully and obsessively searching for a reason to be insulted. Once they have found it, people will be murdered, and violence extolled. And not just in Muslim countries. In Australia, for example, last weekend Muslim protesters rioted in Sydney and at a rally, a little boy held up the placard 'Behead all those who insult the Prophet'.

We're not talking metaphors here: we know from hideous experience that beheading is precisely the fate that al-Qa'ida reserves for its "enemies", from the US journalist Daniel Pearl, to hundreds of unfortunates in Iraq, to the party of men and women recently decapitated in Afghanistan.

Yet the western media continue to indulge the intellectually inane and factually incorrect fantasy that one side is as bad as another in this endless saga of Islamic violence. It was typical of the adolescent level of this self-loathing that Robert Fisk referred to Mitt Romney's recent address in Jerusalem, in which, said Fisk, the US republican candidate "made the extraordinary racist comment that the Israelis were ahead of the Palestinians, i.e, the Palestinians were an uncivilised people, presumably because they had brown eyes and weren't Christian".

But this final absurd extrapolation (as if Israelis were blue-eyed Anglicans) is all the work of Robert Fisk. Moreover, it is not "racist" to say that one society is ahead of another. Is it racist to say that Renaissance Florence was ahead of 16th century Ireland? Or that 21st century Ireland is ahead of modern Malawi? Of course, Kenny did not dispute Fisk's many ludicrous and fantastical observations.

The unassailable fact is that almost every single Muslim society is behind Christian/ secular/Jewish countries; which is why Muslims migrate to them, and not vice-versa, but then, quite remarkably, often complain about the values they find there. But it is these very values -- the tolerance of free speech, artistic expression and intellectual enquiry -- which underlie the success of non-Muslim societies. Why are our media so reluctant to proclaim and defend this most obvious of truths?

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