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02 February 2005


(artist's conception)
Over on Discarded Lies, Hellenic hellkitten zorkmidden posted a link to this surprising political cartoon from an Arab artist. If you have trouble with the link to the image, it depicts a (brown) "Muslim Tsunami Victim" accepting an armful of cash and care packages from a (white) "Western Infidel," while meanwhile an "Arab Muslim," who's hefting a suitcase full of money, tosses a coin over his shoulder as he walks away from the "Muslim Tsunami Victim."

What's surprising about the cartoon, of course, is that an Arab political voice gives some moral credit to the West and criticizes his own society -- it's uncommon enough to see one or the other, but to get both at the same time!

Anyway, there were different interpretations of the cartoon over on the Discarded Lies thread, which you can read for yourself. But I wanted to re-post my own observation about the cartoon, as I think there's a lesson from the Judeo-Christian tradition that we should be quietly soft-selling, in Arabic and other languages of the Islamic world. Islam's apologists like to point out that Muslims revere Isa al-Masih, "Jesus the Messiah," as one of their prophets, yet the Gospels -- along with the rest of the Bible -- are taboo to Muslims, so they seldom get a chance to find out what JC had to say. (If you're a new reader, I should disclose that I'm not a Christian and do not regard Jesus as divine or infallible -- so when I recommend his wisdom to Muslims, I do so in the same spirit that I might urge them to reflect on a particular quotation from Socrates, or Jefferson, or Twain.)

Anyhew, going back to the cartoon:

I wonder if the cartoonist is familiar with Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan -- if not, then he has independently come to the same insight expressed by that parable. A lot of people who know the phrase "Good Samaritan" miss an important point: namely, that to Jews of Jesus' time, Samaritans were (take your pick) "niggers," "untouchables," "kaffir," "heathens," etc.
In the story, after the upright Jewish citizen is attacked by bandits and left to die of his wounds, several pillars of Jewish society notice his plight, but decline to help. In the end, it is the [ptui!] Samaritan who helps the Jew, dresses his wounds, takes him to an inn, and leaves money to cover the man's room and board while he recuperates. "Who was truly a good neighbor to the man?" asked Jesus. Answer: The "nigger/kufr/untouchable."
I'm fairly sure I read somewhere that the basic model of the Good Samaritan story predates Jesus in the rabbinical tradition by a few hundred years, at least -- thus, this meme is shared by Jews and Christians. To all appearences, its lesson is totally alien to the Arab Muslim mindset.

posted by Throbert | 2/02/2005 11:15:00 PM |
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