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Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, answers what GetReligion finds to be a revealing litmus test: “Would the powers that be in mass media have dared to approve x, y, or z if this particular advertisement, comedy routine, cartoon, Broadway show, movie, music video or whatever had focused its attack on Muslims?”

Thompson begins his answer: “Without question, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms,’ is different from, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write.’” But Thompson also attributes much of the media’s hesitation to the simple fact that faiths other than Christianity have a “very close identity with ethnic minorities,” and that their beliefs deserve to be treated with special care. The upshot is that Christianity is a “broad-shouldered,” established religion that can bear the blows, and its members shouldn’t be surprised or too offended when its beliefs and institutions are satirized.

Thompson may have thought he was giving Christians a compliment: Here is a long-standing, majority religion that has withstood far worse than blasphemous satire. But Islam is hardly a minority religion, if its adherents represent an ethnic minority in particular countries. And diversifying the ethnic representation of Islam would probably not result in the the media blaspheming Muhammad more often.

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