A fabulous piece of writing. And thought.
Khawaja asks that we pause over this editor’s phrasing—a phrasing so familiar it might pass us by. She asks us to think about what it can mean not to intend offense. Using the writings of a Kierkegaard, Khawaja demonstrates that the editor is showing a failure of understanding in this moment. As Khawaja says, cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad cannot be absolved of creating the possibility of offending. They offend precepts central to Islam. Certain practices of apparently secular freedom or reason are, by the very definition of their secularity, offensive. Kierkegaard asks us to understand offense not as a sign that something wrong has happened, but as an indication the truth is beginning to be identified. In our effort to avoid the hurt that offense produces, we may also avoid the foundational claims exposed in its production. “The point is simple but astonishing,” Khawja writes. “Being a Christian means not to reject the world but to employ the world—indeed, actually to need the world—as that toward which one’s conduct may be understood as offensive.” Kierkegaard says that being Christian is itself a posture of offense toward the world. Although the word “Christian” is especially important to Kierkegaard in that sentence, Khawaja’s demonstrates the extent to which secularism represents another idiom of the same form.