Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Of Mannequins and (Some) Muslims

Today's Star Tribune contained a story about a mannequin and the outrage its outfit seems to have generated with some Muslims in Rochester and in Washington, DC. The gist of the tale is that Steve Lewis, a used car dealer in Rochester, has a mannequin dressed in what appears to be crude imitation of a suicide bomber, including fake explosives made from toilet paper rolls and a red scarf with a profanity written on it (alas, the picture that ran with the story was not detailed enough to determine the exact words, and the Star Trib declined to report them). This thing had been sitting in guy's office for two years without the any sort of controversy, until a couple of Muslim customers happened to see it and were insulted. They proceeded to report this horrible insult to the good offices of the Council on American/Islamic Relations (CAIR) which, in the words of Rabiah Ahmed (communications coordinator for CAIR) found the display to be 'clearly offensive and insulting", as well as damaging to "relations between cultures and community'. I presume this is a prelude to a request to remove the display.

I have some advice for the offended parties in Rochester and for CAIR: grow a thicker skin. In this country even if Mr. Lewis' display is lacking in taste and even offensive to some, he has every right to express himself that way if he so chooses. The Constitution does not include protections against being offended, but it does guarantee freedom of speech. If you don't the like the stereotype expressed by the mannequin, how about persuading your misguided Muslim brothers and sisters who have revived the idea of the kamikaze to change their mode of political argument. In the meantime if you don't like Mr. Lewis' dummy, don't buy a car from him.

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