Sen. Schumer Reacts to Iran's Holocaust Cartoon Contest

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," February 7, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: Denmark's prime minister calls the protests that have erupted in the Muslim world a "growing global crisis" as another day of violent demonstrations sparked by a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, or several of them, has caused rage in several countries.

And what's Iran's response to all of this? Get this. A newspaper in Iran that's tied in with the government decides it's going to hold its own drawing contest for cartoons depicting the Holocaust, if you can imagine. It's making a lot of people very angry.

Joining us now is Sen. Chuck Schumer. He's a Democrat from New York. Senator, thanks for coming in.

Look, before we get to the specifics of what's going on with Iran in this Holocaust cartoon thing, what does all of this — the cartoons, the reaction to the cartoons and then the Iranian reaction — what does all of this say to you about where we are now in the world?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-NY: Well, I think it says that we're dealing with a world that sometimes spins out of control. And it also deals with a lack of tolerance, a lack of understanding and, you know, where sort of the most ridiculous and the most absurd, the most patently despicable seems to be, you know, tit for tat, quid pro quo. It's very, very troubling.

ASMAN: Well, you know, we have kind of a split here at FOX, too. Some hosts will show at least one of the least offensive of the cartoons about Prophet Muhammad, others won't show any. What do you think the proper protocol would be as far as showing those cartoons that have sparked these riots?

SCHUMER: Well, the less seen, the better. I mean, obviously, these cartoons are very offensive to people. And when you take someone's God and belief and life and ridicule it, it is a very bad thing to do.

Having said that, this was one cartoonist. It's not a government agency as it was in Iran. It's not a government that spreads lies and propaganda. The Danish government is known to be open. The people are known to be open, and there's been mass condemnation. In Iran, the people couldn't condemn this even if they wanted to.

ASMAN: Right. And, in fact, you know, the other glaring fact about what's going on is that women and children all over the world have been slaughtered in the name of Allah, of course, right here in New York and in the Middle East, etc., and it hasn't given rise to any of the kind of protests that we've seen in the Muslim world. Does that frighten you?

SCHUMER: Yes. Look, I mean, here in the West we have a basic tolerance. We try to accept and understand one another as to who we are and where we come from. That doesn't mean everyone has to be the same or conform.

It seems in large parts of the Islamic world, particularly those with dictatorships, that kind of tolerance is not even part of their credo. And what's bothered me all along is not just that they're extremists, and in this case almost a derangement in that world, but where is mainstream Islam speaking up against this kind of thing?

ASMAN: Well, in fact, one Jordanian editor did speak up against it, said that, you know, it's terrible that we don't condemn suicide bombings but we put all of our energy into protesting these cartoons. He was fired by his editor.

SCHUMER: Well, that's exactly it. There is no feeling of tolerance in free speech. When an extreme Christian makes a statement, an extreme Jew makes a statement, it's usually the mainstream of those religious who will speak out against them.

And what we really need in the Islamic world is the mainstream and I hope it exists — you would think by logic it exists — would get out there and speak up. But it really goes to the root — and this is one place where I would agree with President Bush — of freedom and of democracy.

In the Arab world there is not a single democracy and so the average voice never gets heard. It's simply the government's — even if they don't believe this kind of despicable nonsense in Iran, obviously they do. The president there has said some things that are just totally off the wall.

But even if mainstream doesn't, they can't speak out and the governments manipulate the people in this way, and the ultimate antidote, I believe, is democracy, is freedom. And until then, we just have to be vigilant because we're dealing in a world that spins out of control.

ASMAN: We've got to leave it at that. Sen. Chuck Schumer, thanks for coming in.

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