I find it hard to imagine how cartoons, no matter how crude or offensive, could provoke riots and death threats. But then, I never understood how anyone could call for Salman Rushdie's death for writing the Satanic Verses either. Then again, I'm a Unitarian -- even Garrison Keiller makes jokes about us. But can you imagine me putting out a fatwa on him?
When I try to think of similar situations here in the States, the only thing that comes close is the anger over Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ." A recent Frontpagemagazine.com article, "Piss Christ vs. Cartoon Jihad," compares the Christian response to Serrano's photograph to the Muslim response to the cartoons published in the Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper. And in Peaktalk, blogger Pieter Dorsman also compares the two situations. He writes:
...The ability to apply criticism and ridicule are the basic rights of anyone living in a western democracy. As a society we should expect citizens and artists alike to apply a measure of good taste. It is very hard to argue that the Jyllands-Posten's cartoons were offensive, but a case could be made that Serrano's "Piss Christ" was testing the limits of that somewhat arbitrary 'taste measure'. But we didn't kill Serrano, we didn't destroy his career, we didn't ask him for damages and a rectification, no, we debated it and we are still debating it today, twenty years on. That's freedom, that's democracy.
If you'd like to see more of the cartoons for yourself, follow this link or this one.