(Formerly: The Year the Free World Got A Lot Less Free)

The University of Ottawa is one of Canada's largest universities. During the so-called "cartoon protest" it cancelled of a symposium on these “cartoons” for fear of offending its Muslim students.

Universities that have been the bastion of free speech during the Middle Ages when student and faculty challenged the alleged divine rights of kings, are now cowering before violence-prone fanatics who preach a return to an ignorant time when questioning dogma was punishable by death.

Where is an Erasmus when you need him?

I asked a Sohrab what he thought about the riots over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

“It was all a bit ridiculous”, he said, “when Muslim men get together privately (for other than prayer) they joke about the Prophet all the time.

"We have,” he said “thousands of jokes about the Prophet, mostly bawdy jokes about the Prophet and his 54 wives.”

“I thought that the Prophet had 14 wives,” I said.

“Fourteen officials wives, yes, but if you count all the women in his household it comes to 54”.

We talked a bit more about sex and Islam. He was somewhat perplexed at the prudish face Islam presents to the West.

“Islamic literature contains many explicit erotic writings which leave nothing to the imagination,” he said, “why Muslims would want to appear as complete prudes in public, I do not know.”

I asked him if the cartons had shown the Prophet, not as a terrorist (the cartoon showing the Prophet with a bomb on top of his head instead of a turban) but in sexually compromising poses, meant to be funny, would the response have been the same?

He answered in the affirmative. A bawdy cartoon of the Prophet that gave him human form, he explained, would probably have elicited the same rabid response, not only because of the image of the Prophet having sex, but because, for Muslims, watching someone having sex on paper, in film or in real life is a sin.

The Danish cartoonists inadvertently brought the Prophet down to earth to the consternation of Muslims around the world. In the Free World a small minority of Muslims said BOO, and the Free World got a lot less free.

Bernard Payeur