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The right to blasphemy

by Sirocco Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 04:55:23 PM EST

Cross-posted from my blog. Promoted to the front page by Jérôme.

As discussed in this previous story, there is global outcry over the publication in a Danish and a Norwegian newspaper of satirical cartoons on the Prophet Muhammed Mustafa. Everybody who's anybody in the Islamic world, from Chechen rebel leader Sjamil Basajev via the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to the Indonesian foreign ministry, is jumping on the bandwagon. Even the offically secular Syria has recalled its ambassador from Copenhagen.


Gaza protest

Anti-Danish demonstration in Hebron.

On Tuesday, seventeen Arab interior ministers demanded that Danish authorities punish those who drew the cartoons, as well as ensure it doesn't happen again. The limits of their jurisdictions seem to have eluded these dignitaries. Have they perchance bought into US wingnut blather about "Eurabia"?

And isn't it faintly incongruous to have countries like Saudi Arabia, where owning a Bible can relieve you of your head, bidding to school Scandinavia in "being respectful of other religions"?

Now, here's an idea that needs to be voiced more often: too much pious lip-service is paid to the supposed obligation to respect the beliefs of others. From the canonical liberal viewpoint, there is no such thing. Instead, there is a duty to respect the right of others to believe what they damn well please and to observe those beliefs unless demonstrably harmful to others. With H.L. Mencken, "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."

No doubt, westerners easily fail to realize how offensive to muslim sensibilities is any caricature — let alone a mean-spirited such — of the Prophet. In Sunni tradition he is not to be depicted at all, to avoid idolatry; in no strand of the religion can he be insulted, either in words or imagery. True, we non-muslims have no religious reason to honor these strictures. But we have a secular reason to do so: the virtue of plain old-fashioned civility.

Then again, a virtue does not a duty make. I have no duty to withhold my dim view of the other fellow's family, especially not in my own home. If he insists otherwise, I may be tempted to speak my mind just to make the point that I'm entitled to it. If he backs up his demands with threats of violence, the temptation will grow.

Which, by rough analogy, is how this saga began half a year ago. In light of the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, and an assault on a History professor in Copenhagen, the author of an illustrated children's book on the life of Muhammed couldn't find an illustrator willing to work under his or her own name. The Danish quality daily Jyllands-Posten got wind of this and, to provoke debate about potential erosion of the freedom of expression, commissioned drawings of Muhammed from a number of cartoonists, printing the ones it received on September 30.

On October 19, ambassadors from eleven predominantly muslim countries requested a meeting with the Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, seeking an official condemnation of the incident. The cocky Fogh Rasmussen refused to meet with them, confident — mistakenly, as it turned out — that the principle of freedom of the press was "crystal clear." Subsequently a delegation of Danish Islamic leaders toured the Middle East, telling the tale to all who would listen. Many would.

Finally, on January 10, a small evangelical journal in Norway fanned the flames by reproducing the material for reasons ostensibly similar to Jyllands-Posten's. Upon this the uproar has swept the Islamic world like wildfire, following denunciations by its foremost religious authorities such as Saudi top cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh and the leading Egyptian scholar Sheikh Yusef al-Qardawi.

Yemen demonstration

Anti-Danish demonstration in Yemen.

It has lately turned violent. Employees of a Danish dairy company were beaten up in Riyadh; Scandinavian aid workers have been chased out of Gaza; bomb threats are being phoned in against Danish embassies and Jyllands-posten; terrorist websites call for strikes against Denmark and Norway.

In defiance of such intimidation tactics, newspapers across Europe have now published the cartoons. Among them is the France Soir, whose Egyptian owner promptly fired the editor and apologized to muslims everywhere. The soon-to-be-jobless editor declared on the front page of the February 1 edition: "Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God."

That headline returns us to the core of the matter: the distinction between the commendable and the permissible. Insulting the other fellow's family to his face may not be the former; it does fall within the wider scope of the latter. And, when the principle of free expression is challenged, speech acts may become commendable that would otherwise be merely permissible.

In that spirit, below are the by now notorious cartoons — which, as it happens, strike me as neither profound nor funny. If this ticks off higher powers, they know where to find me.

Anyone else will have to blame himself for scrolling down.

Warning: Potentially offensive images below!























Display:

(it says "I must not draw Muhammad" everywhere)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:07:57 PM EST
Hehe.

A propos, one unfortunate side effect of all this is that even the most clueless high school drop-out neo-nazi now knows what get the muslims' collective goat. For instance, a Swedish extremist magazine is inviting its readers to submit their own Muhammed drawings. We can also, I'll wager, look forward to a wave of Muhammed grafitti.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:14:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's just what we needed at a time when more and more muslims think that the "global war on terror" that our governments are waging is just an excuse for an anti-muslim crusade.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:08:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely.  That is such an important point, and I'm honestly surprised that more people don't see it.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:32:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's more than 'unfortunate side effect' - more like predictable and more dangerous result.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 07:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to respect the wishes of the host. That is, I'll say and do what the hell I want in my own house. but obey your rules when I am in your house.

That idea seems to have an ancient lineage.

The question is, in that case, who does the European house belong to?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:24:28 PM EST
Yes - some basic symmetry and some basic fairness.

I've always noted when Arab leaders come to Paris that they are outraged (or pretend to be) because there is wine on the dinner table and it is incompatible with, or even insulting to, their faith.

I understand them not offering wine in their countries, if that's the rules they live by, but imposing these rules elsewhere as well? Don't drink the fucking wine if you're invited to dinner and shut the fuck up about it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:42:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, on the conventional view it belongs to the citizens of European territorial states, who - at least for the time being - have seen fit to have a public sphere with a high degree of constitutionally protected free expression.

However, this condition is historically and geographically quite a rarity, even exotic. It may well prove out to be a transient paranthesis. Judging by the debate up here, surprisingly and chillingly many are prepared to sell it down the river by issuing an official apology from the gov't for what a private magazine has printed.

WTF? If European civilization has a founding father, it's either Jesus or Socrates, depending on your point of view. Both were executed by the state for subversive blasphemy. In the meantime we have had the so-called Middle Ages, the Reneissance, and the Enlightenment, followed by renewed onslaughts of oppression, and finally, the freedom we enjoy today. Surely we haven't come all this way just to sell out the saving grace of European culture for temporary convenience and the privilege of selling dairy products to despicable dictatorships.

Sorry if I sound high-strung.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:45:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From across the Atlantic it is good to see a continent's newspapers standing up to an onslaught from religious fundamentalists, I wish ours would here against our own fundamentalists.  I think this is an excellent post and admire the strong stand in the defense of freedom of speech.  We are having a bit of trouble hanging on to our freedoms over here and are hoping to get back in control of our senses and make some amends.

I've been lurking here for a while and this is my first post so let me say that myself and many of my friends look to Europe for encouragement and admire the freedoms you enjoy.  Not to mention the train system.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 01:03:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However taking my daughter to the train this morning at 07.15 in minus 18 centigrade  was not much fun...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:44:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can have whatever rules you want in your house, but we live in a small global village together. I suppose you have the right to draw posters which you know your neighbours find offensive and affix them on your house's windows facing outwards.

So, we know what the rules of the house are. What are the rules of the village?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:10:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hear, hear! Some stands just have to be taken. And this is a question of sacred, to use that word, principles, in my opinion.

Sirocco, would you be willing to submit this story to Bitsofnews.com too? If so, it's a good idea to register before submitting, or else the story comes out as "Contributed by Anonymous".

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Alexander G Rubio (alexander.rubio@gmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:53:06 PM EST
Sure, thanks. Will do before I go to bed.

But first, Burn it is coming up!

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 06:09:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you so much. Let me know if you run into any technical difficulties.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Alexander G Rubio (alexander.rubio@gmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 06:20:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There comes a time when the requiresments of politeness deman that you not shit on your neighbour's face and demand they not object because of your right to free expression.

For the most part this is not an exercise in free speech but a deliberate and calculated insult to the deepest sensitivities of our fellow citixens. Can I shout "fire" in a crowded theate as a joke? Could I drag apig's head through a synagog? Can I draw yellow stars of David on Jewish owned shops? Can I demand the right to daub swastikas on the gates of Auswitz?

Can I interpret the Trinity by stating that Jesus fucked his own mother? Can I publish a comic strip of Jesus descending from the cross to rape a baby and shout in lust "Suffer little children" and deliver copies to the Vatican and every convent and monastary in the EU?

Why should you be so arrogant as to demand free expression of our opinions when you denegrate the objections of those these insult? If a newspaper in the north of Europe demads the right to print something that is then used by a French newspaper to incite violence against  Muslims (and indeed, because of the degree of insult, commit violence against Muslims in France) WHY do you object when there are demonstrations by those who feel insult? Do you deny them the right to express their opinions? How dare you deny them the right to boycot Danish goods in protecst at a government policy decision (now reversed) not to speak to Ambassadors? Why do I object to that? Because by denying them that right you would have denied me the right not to buy South African fruit during the Apartheid regime.

Yes there have been isolated incidents of actual violence against Europeans. Thankfully that was a few, rather less one must add than the equally few attacks on dark=skinned residents of Britain and I suspect Spain after the bomb attacks.

by Londonbear on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:06:29 PM EST
WHY do you object when there are demonstrations by those who feel insult? Do you deny them the right to express their opinions? How dare you deny them the right to boycot Danish goods in protecst at a government policy decision (now reversed) not to speak to Ambassadors?

If you read a little more carefully, you may discover that I haven't denied anyone the right to protest. Anyone is entitled to demonstrate, boycott, and even burn flags to her heart's content.

What I do deny is the reasonableness of the demands made in these campaigns, including some or all of the following:

  • that the Danish (and Norwegian, etc.) government officially apologize for what private publications have chosen to print;
  • that the Danish (and Norwegian, etc.) government punish the editors and cartoonists in question;
  • that the Danish (and Norwegian, etc.) government make sure that such incidents do not reoccur.

These demands are unacceptable in themselves, but I  especially object when they are issued by foreign governments, which for good measure happen to be among the most repressive and intolerant dictatorial regimes in the world.

Clearer now?

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:31:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see londonbear and I were thinking along similar lines, sorry I did not read your post LB before composing my own mini-rant.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:35:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not at all, I think this is the subject that should rightly be discussed. As you will realise I was being deliberately provocative in trying to get a visceral response to my post to make the point that speech can sometimes be hurtful. In fact I regularly post here, on Booman and Kos and I am half hoping that the post will prove to be so objectionale I am banned.

In the UK Sky have done a survey of the nationals and none are printing the cartoons but some have confirmed they are to print editorials. The BBC covered it but panned over the page quickly and out of focus. I note CBS (the reason I had Sky on) decided not to show them at all.

by Londonbear on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 08:29:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
when you talk about being banned?

Why on earth would you be banned? You make reasonable, argued, cogent points in a polite manner. That I disagree (and that I express that disagreement forcefully) doesn't mean that I don't respect you and your point of view and that I don't listen to it - and I expect it is the same for others on this side of the debate.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 03:55:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That I disagree (and that I express that disagreement forcefully) doesn't mean that I don't respect you and your point of view and that I don't listen to it - and I expect it is the same for others on this side of the debate.

Thank you.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 09:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...is still upheld on those boards, you won't get banned by a longshot. You'll need to stop bringing smart arguments, sorry.
by Nomad on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 07:51:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]

There comes a time when the requiresments of politeness demand that you not shit on your neighbour's face and demand they not object because of your right to free expression.

You are right about that. The problem is that we are not talking about objective facts about "shitting in someone's face". We are talking aobut someone's subjective definition of what is 'shit' and of where their 'face' is. They have no right to impose their artificial definition of 'shit' and 'face' in our countries. Full stop. They are being absolutely intolerant in trying to give a universal value to their very narrow rules that they are free to apply in their countries or their homes but not in ours.

My tolerance for their values will not extend to their attempts to impose on us (supposedly in the name of freedom) those values that do not respect such freedom for me. They are trying to stifle our freedom, and using our tolerance as a weapon to do so.


Can I interpret the Trinity by stating that Jesus fucked his own mother? Can I publish a comic strip of Jesus descending from the cross to rape a baby and shout in lust "Suffer little children" and deliver copies to the Vatican and every convent and monastary in the EU?

Yes. Happens all the time.

Hell, the most famous TV comedy show in France has made fun for years of the Catholic church and its apparent appetite for young boys, with daily doses of fairly outrageous jokes, and I think I have heard the same on US comedy shows. Is TV a wide enough "delivery" channel? I am sure it doesn't go down too well with catholics, but that's how it is. I do note that the only institution that supports the muslims in Western Europe in this conflict is the church, which should tell you something.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:35:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why should you be so arrogant as to demand free expression of our opinions when you denegrate the objections of those these insult?

Did you watch "Life of Brian"? Did you laugh about it? There sure were a whole lot of Catholics/Christian who didn't. There was never anything arrogant about that. And although part of the Christian community was mightily displeased, possibly frothing, I don't recall that they began assaulting embassies of the UK, trying to force apologies from the UK government. Although I'm not sure about it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they boycotted the movie. But I think Monty Python already had expected that. And I don't think anyone cried foul about Christians boycotting then.

Calm down. It's not about the boycott or that they want to express their displeasure.

by Nomad on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 08:09:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can I shout "fire" in a crowded theate as a joke? Could I drag apig's head through a synagog? Can I draw yellow stars of David on Jewish owned shops? Can I demand the right to daub swastikas on the gates of Auswitz?

No, you cannot shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater, because you would be putting other people's lives in danger, thus violating their rights.

You can, however, drag a pig's head through a synagog, if you own the synagog.  That would make it your property and not that of the followers.  You cannot draw yellow stars on Jewish-owned businesses, because you don't own them and, if you did so, those Jewish people would have the right to sue you and possibly seek prosecution.

Again, you, of course, cannot daub swastikas on the gates of Auschwitz, because you don't own it.  It does raise an interesting question, though:

Can I paint offensive material on the outside of my own house?  My answer is a resounding "No!"  Here's why:

Even if you were doing so on the walls of the outside of your own home, you would still be violating the basic rights of others, because you would then have assaulted others by dragging down their property values, to say nothing of the possible prosecution for inciting violence (in the case of swastikas).

You're more than welcome to argue that Jesus fucked his own mother, and I'm sure it would be used by many Southerners to justify sleeping with their cousins.  (I know, I know.  Low blow.)  And I encourage you to publish a comic showing Jesus raping small children.  That is most certainly free speech, and the rise you would get out of the Vatican would keep me entertained for weeks, I can assure you.

No one, as far as I can tell, is denying Muslims' right to protest.  As I said in a comment on my diary, I'm happy -- "thrilled" was the word I used before, I think -- to see them involved in politics that way.  I am, however, furious about the threats that have been made against Danes in Saudi Arabia, EU officials in Palestine, and the newspaper staff.  If someone pulls a gun on me, and offers a credible threat to kill me (and/or my family), I'm going to do everything in my power to kill that person first.  Everyone has the right to defend himself or herself, and the Palestinian gunmen were lucky that the EU showed restraint.

Being offended by a cartoon is no excuse for threatening to kill innocent people -- most of whom were not even involved.  All that those who have threatened violence have accomplished is to alienate even more people and provide more ammunition to those who hate them.

I don't hate them -- I'm all about the Love-Thy-Neighbor-ism of Jesus, even though I'm not a Christian -- and I completely understand why they are so offended by these cartoons, but this is bullshit, and it is exactly why I wrote the column on the insanity that the faithful are led to when they get too deep into their religions.  And, frankly, any god who would have his followers kill those who insult him is no better than Stalin or Mao, as far as I'm concerned.  And anyone who takes their god that seriously needs medication and a psychologist.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:27:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are a property rights fundamentalist :-)

Have you read John Stuart Mill's discussion of property rights?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:34:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am, in that "property rights" does not refer only to (say) my house or my car but also to my body and my fundamental rights as an individual.  People -- not you -- sometimes get too caught up on the word "property".

I read Mill a long time ago, so I'm sure I would remember what he said if I read it, again.  What'd he say?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:40:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, I was struck by the fact that your objection to posting antisemitic slogans on my house stemming from the fact that it lowers the property values of my neighbours' houses. I'll quote Mill when I get home.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:47:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What did Mill say... Well, about 20 pages at the beginning of Book II of his Principles of Political Economy.

I was thinking of the part where he says, after considering how Communism might work, the principle of Private property has never yet had a fair trial in any country; and less so, perhaps, in this country than in some others. The social arrangements of modern Europe commenced not of just partition or acquisition by industry, but of conquest and violence: and notwithstanding what industry has been doing for many centuries to modify the work of force, the system still retains many and large traces of its origin.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:17:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
despite being a staunch EFF, freedom of info/press zealot, I am going to put on the devil's advocate hat for a moment -- 'cos I have a feeling we are verging here on the defence of the right to shout "Fire" in a crowded theatre...  

the Arab/Muslim world has had to sit helplessly through decades -- over a hundred contiguous years now even if we don't drag in the Crusades -- of colonialism and conquest by Anglo/Euro/American power, most recently the propping-up of despots and monarchs by the US, the repeated savaging of Iraq, and the neverending canker of the expropriation of Palestine.  is it surprising that tempers are on edge?  is it wise to go on baiting and needling [figuratively] someone who has already been beaten, humiliated, deprived of land and liberty, mocked, etc?  is an irrational or rage-filled response not perfectly predictable?  and is it responsible or defensible for the gloating winners of the Great Game deliberately to issue such provocations?

the tone of some of the absolutist defences of these (mostly puerile, ignorant and crudely offensive) drawings reminds me of the class bully who has finally pushed the class underdog a bit too far, and then proclaims triumphantly when Teacher rushes over, "But all I said was..."  are we not wrapping a noble principle (freedom of speech and press) around an ignoble sport (baiting, hazing, humiliating, insulting those who have no real-world power to retaliate)?  boycotting Danish dairy goods may seem a bit silly, but  did the US look any more dignified when its jingo merchants started insulting everything French and boycotting French products, when the govt of France did not kowtow with sufficient alacrity to the Emperor W in the small matter of an illegal invasion?  boycotts and ambassadorial hissy fits are surely preferable to war or terrorist assault;  but preferable to both imho is not provoking an incident in the first place.  [is the Bush cartel deliberately trying to provoke another terrorist event (or to make an engineered one more credible) in time for the 2006 elections?]

seems to me that in our current parlous times, the art of de-escalation is more important than the art of yapping loudly over metaphorical lines in the sands of ideology.  the apology from the west to the arab/muslim world is long overdue -- it should really be for the ruination of Iraq, for the 20 years of horror in Iran under the western puppet Shah that set the stage for the also-terrible reign of ayatollahs, and so forth;  but if the pretext is to apologise for the rudeness of a few stupid drawings, why not?  why not apply salve rather than salt?

there is a crucial concept in civility and diplomacy, called "saving face" -- to allow others the illusion, at least, of respect.  the deeper the loser's condition of disempowerment or defeat, the more crucial is the wisdom or generosity of the victors in not rubbing salt in.  many historians still insist that if the Allies had not been so bound and determined to humiliate Germany utterly after WWI, the political/emotional soil would not have been so fertile for invasive species of fascist and racist politics...  again, is it really wise to kick a man [sic] when he's down?

what I seem to hear in the enthusiasm with which the Western press reprints these mocking 'toons is not so much the courage of paladins of free speech, as the jeering of the powerful at the futile rage of the powerless -- neener neener neener, 'because we can, and you can't stop us, so there!'  seems to me if the western press really wants to test its freedoms, it might better lampoon a genuine threat to its civil liberties and democratic traditions -- King George of the USA, to whose nuclear arms and trade sanctions most of their government and industry is held hostage.

I do not much like to witness this taunting of people who are already at their rope's end.  as my old Mum would say, "you mark my words, it will all end in tears."

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:33:14 PM EST
boyoboy, that third para is a mess, even to its own author :-)

I do not mean to suggest that France should have truckled to the US;  my point was that a kneejerk boycott as an expression of anger (with or without calculated s**t-stirring by politicians and elites) is hardly an Arab-specific phenom.

the point about avoiding provocation is supposed to be connected to the later paras on face-saving etc.  sorry about the clumsy composition... writing in haste as all too often I am.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:39:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have finally found a topic to disagree upon! We should celebrate this!

::

It is only taunting because we accept their definition of what "taunting" is. This is not about crying "fire" in a building. There is no "objective" danger, only a very subjective one, and I deny to them the right to define what the danger (in terms of what is offensive or not, and whether anything offensive is 'dangerous' or not) is in my country.

The monotheist religions are totalitarian ideologies. They have more blood on their collective hands, more savagery and more hypocrisy than anybody else in the history of man. They feel insulted? Boo fucking hoo. I feel insulted by their very existence. Do they really think man is so stupid? That I cannot have values outside of religion? That I need the crutch of an imaginary being to live? That I am bad or evil or worthless for not following them? They are a permanent insult to the rest of the world.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:48:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could not agree more.  That's why you and Sirocco are the front-pagers, instead of babbling dopes like me. :)

I really and truly believe that governhments of the West need to take a stand here.  This is critical -- to our economic success, to our scholarship, and to our very existence as liberal democracies.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 08:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
woo hoo!  Jerome takes the gloves off!  [raises foil to forehead, taps foot -- en garde...  sorry about the mixed metaphor]

in actuality as a lifelong nonbeliever, I share your mistrust of, and alienation from, the whole monotheism trip.  the world would be better off, perhaps, without it -- though the Soviet flavour of thug managed to do some pretty awful deeds in the name of an allegedly rationalist and atheist ideology, which imho just goes to show that you can have a murderous cult without a god.  true confession: I spent much of my high school lunch breaks baiting evangelicals (in order to do this effectively I had to read quite a lot of their Bible!)...  that said (i.e. we are on the same side of the net ideologically here)...

I note that Christian demagogues adduce the Soviet  government's crimes against the people as evidence that atheism itself is brutish, cruel, stupid, wicked and whatnot -- much as we who dislike/distrust religion adduce the crimes done in the name of various gods as evidence that religion itself is brutish, cruel, stupid and wicked.  I am not sure either argument stands up better than the other, though one is of course more congenial to my own belief system :-)  maybe what we should say is that sociopaths are an enduring reality, that power corrupts, and that even the most idealistic ideology can be used as a stalking horse by sadists and bullies.  name me one, just one, major ideology -- religious or not -- that hasn't been used as a flag to wrap cruelty in...?  is "religion" really the problem, or is it human beings?  the latest neuroscience disturbingly suggests that even when we think we're being rational, we're not...  so how much high cranial ground can we nonbelievers really lay claim to?

I think when we picture ourselves (or the taunting cartoonists) as Davids of rationality contending with lumbering, brutish Goliaths of monotheism, we leave out the other side of the picture that I was trying to paint in -- ourselves (the West) as gloating conquerors dragging the toppled idols of their colonised victims through the mud.  every imperial power has done this -- the literal or figurative pissing on the losers' gods, the profanation of the temple, whatever.  and as a gesture of colonial contempt I do dislike it and feel that, as with repeated Israeli provocations, vandalism, crop destruction in the OT, it only deepens the wound and postpones any possibility of making peace.

and let us face it, the feelings that are being stirred up in the proletariat by this type of cartoon are not about a lofty Voltairian disdain for doctrinal religion per se, they are about making fun of Arab-looking people with a "weird foreign religion".  they are playing to xenophobia, ignorance, BNP-like tendencies all over Euroland.  in that sense a present danger does exist, since Muslims are a small minority embedded in a large population during a time of economic instability (which is about like being committed to a land war in Asia, in the catalogue of unenviable strategic situations).

on momentary reflection I think it's indefensible to suggest that the person doing the taunting is the one who gets to define what taunting is!  that would be like... well, like a white person getting to decide there's nothing wrong with the word "n*gger", or a chain smoker getting to decide whether cig smoke is legimately annoying to a nonsmoker.  if someone is offended or insulted by a behaviour and we deliberately flaunt it in their face -- puffing smoke at them after they have asked us not to smoke, for example? -- I don't think it gets us off the hook to say "well, no reasonable person [as defined by me] would object to that behaviour, therefore my behaviour is not annoying and I am not taunting."   what is indisputable is that the intent is to provoke and offend.

is there really no "objective" danger in the public expression of contempt and scorn for an entire race and religion, when Anglo/Euro/US troops are in Iraq right now shooting "sand n*ggers" on sight, and when half the US public believes that the Koran is a bomb-making manual?  when persons whose only offence is having an Arab-sounding name are put on watch lists, when Muslim men are "disappeared" and held without trial for years, flown secretly to black gulags in Eastern Europe, tortured -- and when the majority of the AngloChristian world appears to accept these abuses tamely or even with approval -- Muslims are unreasonable in feeling endangered?

all cultural products must be seen in context, and the current context is a resurgence of the Anglo/Euro drive to control and expropriate the Arab/Muslim world, and a focussing of the xenophobic/racist tendencies in the US and Euroland on the new "enemy du jour," the Arab/Muslim stereotype (as it was on the "Japs" in WWII, and so forth).  I think we have to view this incident within that context, as part of a pattern of historical events and not an ahistorical textbook case of absolute free speech principles.  

one of the basic principles of a civil society, it seems to me, is to extend courtesy even to the habits of mind which one cannot understand or genuinely respect, i.e. for me to refrain from shouting "what utter nonsense!" when my Jewish friends keep kosher and attend Temple, and to keep a straight face and not mock or hoot when a Christian friend tells me she has asked God for advice on a difficult matter.  do we want to be Right, Right, Right, or do we want to stay friends?  must everyone think exactly as you and I do, before we will extend them respect or courtesy?

it is a thorny problem -- absolute principles vs good manners and practical peacemaking.  I have not solved it.  but I continue to assert that the motives behind this propagation of a set of banal racist cartoons are not as disinterested or principled as they are made out to be.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:12:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Including cartoons and caricature, is one of the democratic tools of our European society. Satire is a means of prodding - poking a stick into the laws, mores and conventions of our society (and especially its leaders) to see what happens. Sometimes the poking provokes a backlash, sometimes it deflates a pompous balloon. The Danish newspaper claims this as its original motive for publication - "to find the limits.."

Satire has a very long history (from the court jester onwards). It is not a democratic tool that I would be prepared to give up. Despots are IMHO consistently humourless, and I am always suspicious of anyone who betrays a lack of humour. But maybe that is beside the point in this case.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 03:27:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...was brought to a computer screen near you by ET's own court jester, Sven Triloqvist, satirist extraordinaire!

;)

by Nomad on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 07:48:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you make cogent and necessary points, some to which I have no obvious answer.

The question about who has the right to define what a "taunt" is is an interesting one - indeed the central one here. The article I quoted in the Breakfast thread from Arab News


The Power of the Muslim and Arab Worlds
Ray Hanania, Arab News

This week, we witnessed the power of the Islamic and Arab worlds to bring a Western nation virtually to its knees. I was amazed at that power. This is over an issue that the nation's government had nothing to do with. All I can wonder is why the Islamic and Arab world doesn't harness that power more effectively and change policies that directly impact our causes and our beliefs?

suggests that the "victims" don't really see themselves as victims nor as helpless, and that it is purely an ideological struggle, where precisely what is a taunt is at stake. Thus the need to take a stand there and to say, "I have a right to say this even if it makes you unhappy".

That it is not courteous is true but, in this instance, irrelevant, because that's not what's at stake. You should not say it, but you have to have the right to do so, however distateful it may be.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:46:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Deutsche Welle" said in its analysis that:

Calculated Reaction

However, the harsh reactions to the cartoon overstep the boundaries of acceptable protests. Even though the Mohammed caricature provokes, it by no means justifies an incitement to murder or a call for boycotts. It is also not reason enough for the Arab world to instrumentalize the protests for political purposes.

...
Islamist groups are attempting to channel the hatred against the West to bolster their own political influence. Through their apparent solidarity with the wave of protest Arab governments can detract from domestic failure and discredit western calls for reform. Most likely they will also take advantage of the situation to cut back on freedom of the press in their countries.

The escalation of events in the Palestinian territories on Thursday is a good example of how political groups have instrumentalized the raging sentiments. It wasn't Hamas or jihad that fueled the violent protests, but rather the militant arm of the secular Fatah party, which lost last week's parliamentary election. For them, the protests offered the perfect opportunity to express frustration over the lost ballot.

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1890725,00.html

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Laws can be changed - but, for the present, freedom of speech in Europe is protected. Shouting 'Fire' in a theatre is not protected speech. Neither is shitting on someone's face. Such things are banned by other laws which protect other freedoms.

Let us keep the argument simple. Is it lawful or not?

Other countries may have other laws, even religious laws - but they do not apply here in Europe. Neither do our laws apply in those other countries.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome, who told you "taunting" is about objective facts? It's all about eliciting inappropriate actions by exciting others' emotions.

Nobody is asking you to accept anyone's definition of what "taunting" is, but to accept their own definition of what offends them.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:14:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you accept in the same vein (imagining for a moment that you are a US liberal) Bushco's definition of what constitutes anti-patriotism or treasonous behavior?

It's the EXACT same debate.

They are using their unlimited capacity to take offense as a political weapon. This has to stop at some point, and we are way beyond that point today.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:24:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, you see, Bush is the president and the constitution is supposed to protect citizens from the government.

Private citizens are free to scream "treason" all they want.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:35:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if some right-wing nut private citizen threatens you because they think you're treasonous, you just take a restraining order on them.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:41:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no idea what your point is.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:55:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what your point about Bush was either. We're obviously talking past each other.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:57:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
okay: my point was that defining was is "offensive" is like defending what is "patriotic". Some of it is obvious, and should not be discussed by anyone in good faith. But after that you enter a grey area where some people are going to have a more restrictive (or extensive, depending on your point of view) definition - and that becomes an ideological struggle.

I am saying that some Muslims are using their "ofenseability" (and the fact that it is something they have the sole right to define) to extract from us behavior which deviates significantly from what our values would suggest.

Bush is  stifling free speech in the name of patriotism by branding people that criticise him as traitors and objective allies to enemies. These Muslims are doing the same - stifling free speech in the name of their religious practise by branding people that criticise them as intolerant and insulting.

Maybe you think that the criticism is unwarranted, in poor taste, or maybe you even disagree with it, but do you deny the right for it to be made?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:21:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, defining what is offensive to me is up to me.

Defining what is patriotic... well, that's probably up to the fatherland or the nation, and then we get into the discussion of who, if anyone, speaks for the fatherland or the nation.

Once I say something has offended me, it's up to other people to decide if they want to accomodate me or not. Maybe we don't want to accommodate muslims.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:31:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And maybe some Muslims are unsure if they should be offended...

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/meinung/archiv/03.02.2006/2328985.asp
(in German I´m afraid)

While we Muslims are constantly demanding equality of rights and accusing the West of applying double standards, we ourselves are turning into fascists who want special rights here, there and everywhere. If caricatures of the Christian prophet Jesus are possible in Europe, then they should also be allowed for the prophet Mohammed. Why should we we granted special treatment: is our blood redder than the others'?

The author (a 29 year old German citizen of Iranian origin) asked his full name not to be published in the internet. I wonder why?

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:49:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a bit of difference in magnitude, though, between the two cases you cite. Bush attempts to label those who disagree with him as traitors, but nobody has been convicted of that and there are plenty of officers in the military who think and say that what he's doing is at least misguided, if not worse.

Meanwhile, the Islamists not only "label" these cartoonists as blasphemers, but follow it up with rifle attacks and physical injury.

by asdf on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 09:10:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Nobody is asking you to accept anyone's definition of what "taunting" is, but to accept their own definition of what offends them.

In that case we have to offer the same to everyone who might feel offended by something. Leaving us, as the lef-leaning "TAZ" in Germany wrote in an opinion piece with:

It is a demand that cannot be fulfilled, unless we all agree that priests, rabbis or imams should decide what we are allowed to read, hear or see. In the end, these religious authorities have for a long time proven to be formidable repressors when it comes to freedom of expression.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:37:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you willing to take this same attitude towards criticism of other groups who have been oppressed by Westerners?  Over the past few years there have been numerous incidents where criticism of Israel or neo-cons has been deemed offensive and racist. In most cases I disagree, in some I don't. Let's take two examples. The Guardian published a cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating children. That was seen by many Jews as an unacceptable reference to blood libel (wrongly IMO). There was also a cartoon in a major Italian paper showing an Israeli tank crushing a baby in a manger entitled Bethlehem. That was seen as an unaccceptable allusion to Jews as murderers of Christ (rightly IMO).  In either case would you have had the same response as now if radical Jewish groups around the world threatened the lives of the cartoonists, if the Italian and British governments were pressured to issue formal apologies and punish the cartoonists and newspaper editors?  Do you want the ADL's definition of offensive to be binding?

As many have pointed out, the cartoons were a provocation and were rude.  OK. Write letters to the editor, organize boycotts of the paper and its advertizers. I'd be fine with that - the normal rough and tumble of an open society. But what is going on right now is far worse than the cartoons themselves and constitutes a threat to free speech.

For a good take on it read about the debate within the left wing French paper Liberation: La position de Liberation
Now if you want to see an example which really does constitute 'crying fire in a crowded theater' see the reaction by the head of Hezbollah.
"S'il s'était trouvé un musulman pour exécuter la fatwa de l'imam Khomeyni contre le renégat Salman Rushdie, cette racaille qui insulte notre prophète Mahomet au Danemark, en Norvège et France n'aurait pas osé le faire», a dit depuis Beyrouth le secrétaire général du Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah. «Nous ne comprenons pas la logique des autorités danoises qui refusent de s'excuser invoquant la liberté d'expression (...). qu'elles sachent qu'il y a des millions de musulmans prêts à défendre l'honneur de leur religion et de leur prophète», a-t-il ajouté."
If their had been one Moslem to execute the fatwa of the Iman Khomeini against the renegade Salman Rushdie, these scum who insult our Prophet Mohammed in Dennmark, Norway, and France would not have dared to do so." "We don't understand the logic of the Danish authorities who refuse to apologize invoking freedom of speech when they understand that there are millions of Muslims ready to defend the honour of their religion and their prophet."

Or to put it differently - person walks up to someone in a bar and calls them an asshole, that's being rude, person called an asshole pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot the person who insulted him, along with everyone sitting near him - that's a crime.  If I saw something like that I'd think the insulter is an rude idiot, while the person being insulted needs to go to jail or to a hospital for the criminally insane.

by MarekNYC on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:01:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for your posts on this thread.  I have to admit that I find the general tenor of this debate to be quite depressing, as far as my hopes for cross-cultural understanding go.  (I mean "this debate" in general, not specific to here at ET, although I'm not ruling here out, either.)

I heard something even more depressing from an Egyptian friend today as we were talking about this.  She said, "I love Europe, I love the West, I adore Europe, but with all of this, I keep wondering why do they hate us?  I don't want to think that people would hate me just because I am a Muslim, but that's what it feels like."

I didn't know what to tell her.  Of course "they" don't hate you?  Do they?

Oh, how I hope the answer is no.  But I also cannot answer the "why" question -- why taunt?  Why needle?  Why intentionally inflame tensions that are clearly close to the breaking point to begin with?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 03:40:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can see your point, but I think you are misidentifying where the hate, as opposed to poor taste, which did after all raise a very real problem, reared its head. Not being able to separate the one from the other is relativism of the worst sort.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Alexander G Rubio (alexander.rubio@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:12:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have not seen any evidence to discredit the notion that Jyllandsposten was either ignorant or deliberately insulting. The fact that now, over 4 months later, they issue an apology saying they never intended to offend, means little. What did they say back in October when the outrage was entirely confined to Denmark?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:15:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, most of what I read about the decision to commission the cartoons indicates that the intention was to insult and/or offend.  It seems to me that Jyllands-Posten picked a fight with the local Muslim community, although it may not have expected that the local Muslim community would turn to its big brother for backup....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:49:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would have expected such things from Ekstra Bladet, but then again I don't know much about Jyllandsposten. My girlfriend, way back when, used to read Politiken.

Politiken, by the way, reports today that Flemming Rose of JP and a certain Imam Abu Laban debated the issue on BBC's Hard talk for the first time. There has been a monumental failure of dialogue within Denmark if it takes four months and anti-EU turmoil in the middle east for the protagonists to meet in the BBC.

Wikipedia quotes the test that accompanied the 12 drawings on JP:

The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him.
The timeline is also worth looking at. It includes
28 October - The police are notified by a number of muslim organisations, claiming that the intention of the publication of the cartoons has been to "mock and deride" the muslim faith, something the Danish penal code prohibits (§ 140).


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:17:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Again according to wikipedia:
Despite informing Danish media that he would try to stop the boycotts, the leader of the organisation [Islamisk Trossamsfund], Imam Ahmad Abu Laban, went on to state during an interview with Al Jazeera that "If the Muslim countries decide to boycott and if the Muslim citizens feel it's their duty to defend the prophet, then it is something we can be happy about".[51]. In a press release dated February 2, 2006, Abu Laban said that during the interview he was referring to Muslim respect for Muhammed, not the boycotts. [52]. Ahmad Abu Laban has previously been declared officially unwelcome in several Arab states.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:21:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahmad Abu Laban has previously been declared officially unwelcome in several Arab states.

Well now that's interesting.  Wikipedia says he's PNG in UAE and Egypt "because of his Islamist views."

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:38:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many "firebrand" preachers come to the west because they find it easier to practice their religion here than in their home countries. This was pointed out in the UK press after the 7/7 bombings and the deportation hearings of Sheik Omar Bakri, who enjoyed refugee status from Syria.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:40:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, and Egypt has a long time-honored tradition of tossing Islamists in jail and leaving them to rot there for years.  So between the two, I guess if I were Abu Laban, I'd choose Europe too.  Freedom of speech and all... ;-)
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 04:49:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Politiken, by the way, reports today that Flemming Rose of JP and a certain Imam Abu Laban debated the issue on BBC's Hard talk for the first time. There has been a monumental failure of dialogue within Denmark if it takes four months and anti-EU turmoil in the middle east for the protagonists to meet in the BBC.

That is truly shocking.

Also, thanks for pointing out the timeline.  It's certainly important to note that the Danish penal code forbids "mocking and deriding" a religious faith, and that some Muslim groups tried to pursue the matter through legal avenues before turning to protests.  I have not seen either of those facts reported in any of the news coverage on this.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:25:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have not seen either of those facts reported in any of the news coverage on this.

does this seem merely coincidental?  just sloppy journalism?  or selective reporting?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:40:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, good question.  I don't know.  If I'm feeling charitable, I'd say that it's just a complicated story that evolved over many months, and so some of the earlier details get left out of the stories about the latest developments because there just isn't space to go into all the background.  The problem is that the international press didn't much cover the earlier developments.  So the background is virtually unreported.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 04:53:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think the important thing is where I think the hate is coming from.  If a reasonable, pro-Western Muslim Egyptian sees this as Europe hating Muslims, that worries me... for both Europe and Muslims.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:52:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would be more inclined to respect the Muslim World's righteous anger if it was less hypocritical from its rulers.

There are places in the world, Ethiopia I believe, where mosques are routinely desecrated. Do we hear any complaints? No. In fact, isn't the Arab League supposed to hold a summit there?

Then there was the statues if the Buddha being blown up by the Taliban extremists. Protests, anyone? Nary.

(And I'm only talking official protests, I don't expect the man-in-the-street to get it, considering their lack of information.)

Let's not even dredge up the Salman Rushdie fatwah.

The most intolerant religion in the world gets kicked in the groin. Good.

All religions should enjoy the same fate.

by Lupin on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 01:50:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rulers are by nature hypocritical, whether they are Muslim or not.

Ethiopia is neither an Arab country nor a member of the Arab League.  You are probably thinking of Sudan, where the desecration of mosques has been reported in Darfur.

Since this isn't a Darfur thread, I'll keep my comments on that to a minimum and just say that of all the abuses in Darfur, desecration of mosques is not top of my list of things to worry about, nor is it the top of anyone else's list, including the people whose mosques have been desecrated, who are more concerned about, oh, stuff like death and rape.

The Arab League is a political organization like any other, and we don't know what its members say to each other behind closed doors.  The African Union (AU) also had a summit in Khartoum recently and, although it has a (rather anemic) peacekeeping force in Darfur, it could also be accused of not doing enough.  So could the United Nations.  I suspect the AU used the summit to increase pressure on Khartoum, because the location of the summit focused attention on that issue in a way that a summit in Bangui would not have.  It is possible that the AL summit will do the same, we don't know yet.

As for the Buddha statues in Afghanistan, you are wrong, there was a lot of criticism  from the Muslim world, including appeals from the governments of all 22 members of the Arab League.

My new proverb:  If you try to kick someone in the groin, make sure you aim well, because if you miss, you're in trouble.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 04:37:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I stand corrected on the statues issue. Definitely wrong there. My bad.

Yes I was thinking of Sudan. There, I believe that nothing in what you said (and thank you for correcting and expanding my point) has changed my views: the desecration of mosques is, or should be, a more pressing issue than infidel cartoons.

I think the kick in the groin was well aimed, and frankly   from the very start I supported cultural, not military, war against radical islam.  

by Lupin on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 12:28:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a fair number of Muslims would agree with you that there are many more pressing issues than the cartoons.  Mona Eltahawy is one of them:
Of all the issues that plague the Muslim world today, are our priorities cartoons published in a newspaper in a country inhabited by less than 6 million people? If we really want to pick a fight with the West, have we forgotten that 500 Muslim men continue to be detained without charge at the makeshift prison run by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which last week marked its fourth anniversary?

The problem with this particular situation is that it is being seen in the Muslim world not as a battle against radical Islam, but as a battle against Islam, full stop.  Our Western self-righteousness on this issue is alienating moderate and liberal Muslims who, as others have pointed out here, should be forming the bridge between our cultures.

Personally, I wish everyone would just get over it already.  It's giving me headaches.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 12:54:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, Sirocco, for making the point more eloquently that I was capable of doing.  Excellent diary.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 08:26:06 PM EST
Thanks. I enjoyed your diary entry, and at least in some moods, fully agree.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 08:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One might take the view that freedom of speech is all about words (or pictures in this case). If that's so, then why do we get worked up when Iran says that it's going to blow up Israel? Aren't those just words too?

Moslems have decided to disagree with Denmark on the point of cartoons, and are boycotting Danish products. Meanwhile, Westerners have decided to disagree with Iran on the point of Israel, and are planning Iran's global economic isolation.

I don't actually agree with this, but I'm trying to come up with a comparison...

by asdf on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:09:45 PM EST
Iran has entered agreements to abstain from nuclear weapons (the NPA) and from aggressive warfare (the UN pact). Denmark hasn't entered an agreement to abstain from freedom of speech. If anything, quite the contrary (the ECHR).

Also, the boycotts of Danish products in the Middle East are to a large extent government-driven: the Saudi gov't has removed the wares from supermarkets and the Egyptian Parliament unilaterally voted to encourage the boycott, etc. In the latter case, the EU is threatening to bring the matter before the WTO.

However, consumer boycotts as such are of course legitimate. In my lingo above, they may or may not be commendable - cf. this debate - but they are permissible.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:32:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:33:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And for 'unilaterally', read 'unanimously'. Hell, I should go to bed.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:36:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Similar thread is going on over at the Moon and I suspect at many other blogs and fora.

I've been mulling it over on the ride home and what I'm thinking (more concisely than my last 2 sprawling posts, I hope) is that what's missing from many of these "free speech debates" is the calculus of power.  that is to say:  satire is a weapon, and how I personally feel about the deployment of that weapon really depends on how the deck is stacked.

when satire is used to "speak truth to power" or to mock those in power (like the spoof website gwbush.org run by the Yes Men, or the spoof Monsanto site that once existed, or cartoons lampooning Cheney or Trump or other ultra-powerful rich white guys) then I find it laudable and think that freedom of the press should absolutely be invoked to protect it.  what I find harder to defend is when "satire" is being used by the party (or nationality or ethnicity or whatever) of the powerful to mock, belittle, and shame the less powerful -- as in the vicious "political cartoon" caricatures of Blacks, Native Americans, Asians and so forth that litter US newspaper history in various eras.

I'm not sure that an absolute standard of behaviour can be defined and enforced without any reference to this calculus of power.  we implicitly acknowledge this when we state that children cannot enter into legal (or sexual) contracts because they do not have the knowledge, wisdom, experience (worldly power) to make informed decisions.   another instance of this difficulty is in the history of court decisions regarding domestic violence;  often a far more serious penalty is attached to violence involving a weapon than to bare-hands assault, but what if a 120 pound woman picks up a frying pan and whacks the 240 lb husband who has been battering her for months or years?  is her "offence" really far more heinous than his, or is she merely using an "equaliser" to compensate for a gross imbalance of physical strength, reach, weight, etc?

early legal decisions based on the "rational man" principle of one approved code of conduct for any human being in any situation, would penalise the woman in such a situation for using disproportionate force or committing an aggravated assault.  but more recent legal decisions informed by a growing itch for social justice, would try to take into account things like a history of being battered or terrorised, disparities of age, strength, training (what if the batterer is a cop or a boxer, with special training in hitting people?), and so on.

I think that free speech debates have yet to find a way around the problem that satire (including the giving of offence) can be used by the powerless to cock a snook at the powerful, mock the overlords, and that kind of thing;  or it can be used by the powerful against relatively powerless targets, to stir up ethnic hatreds, promote and preserve popular bigotries, or set the stage for persecutions, invasions, and wars.  the archetypical case of the latter I guess would be Streicher and Der Stuermer.  the freedom-of-press argument did not suffice as a defence in his case.

further complicating the matter is the indisputable fact that being on the losing end of a power struggle does not necessarily make people nice, good, kind, or lovable.  in fact the bitterness of daily humiliation and defeat tends to make people angry, vindictive, vicious and self-pitying.  the more they are ground down and humiliated, the more vehemence, extremism, zealotry and all the rest are bred from this misery.  which to me makes it kind of silly, to heap more public humiliations on the Arab/Muslim world (losers in the Great Game as of the current innings) and then complain that their response is shrill, unbalanced, overwrought, and all the rest.  of course it is.  what the heck else would we expect?

religious extremism, zealotry, and intolerance are on the rise in the US precisely in areas of the country gutted by outsourcing, disinvestment, unemployment, loan sharking and all the other ways of engineering poverty and unemployment.  evangelical xtianity of the rightist revivalist flavour is on the rise in Mexico, so I am told, and it accompanies a decline in living standards, economic troubles, and all the rest.  people living in poverty and insecurity, without hope, tend to cling harder and harder to simplistic faiths that promise deliverance (or better yet, vengeance on those who have wronged or are believed to have wronged them).  American nutjob evangelicals believe in a vicious version of Revelation prophecy in which Christ, on rising again, will promptly dismember and torture all the people who disagreed with them -- godless wealthy gay liberals from Hollywood and New York in particular (this is the wacko theology purveyed by the Left Behind books for example).  if things get bad enough for the lumpenproletariat and the ravaged peasantry in the US, I wouldn't be surprised to see more McVeigh incidents.

in other words, I think the stand-down of religious extremism in Europe has more to do with European social democracy, wealth sharing, social safety nets, food security, etc. than with some specific virtue of European intellectual, religious, or political history.  imho it's hard to get that het up about your invisible friend in the sky (het up enough to kill people over doctrinal matters, that is) when you're well fed and secure from arbitrary detention and torture or expropriation, your children have decent schools and the prospect of a good job, you have a roof over your head and basic medical care, etc.  Euroland has been providing this kind of security for some time, and I think one of the many benefits of this policy is a relative paucity of dangerous zealots.  in times when the Dar al-Islam was a secure and wealthy polity, there was more freethinking, a relaxation of religious zealotry, and greater religious tolerance than in the desperate and marginalised "Arab street" today.

whereas current Anglo/US/Euro policy in the Arab/Muslim world is -- with or without malice aforethought -- creating precisely the conditions optimal for the kind of desperate zealotry that we observe in these vindictive fatwas and intemperate demands in response to the offensive toons.  and as to fears that we all stand to "lose our freedoms" if we are expected to show a little courtesy or sympathy towards people who have been deeply injured by our own governments and policies... ummm, I haven't noticed a pan-Arab army overrunning France, bombing the water treatment plants, looting the Louvre, and so on.  not lately.  the occasional mad bomber, but nothing sufficient to shut down the Enlightenment (except where our own politicians are looking for an excuse to do so, of course).  whereas the whole pan-Arab world knows what has happened and is happening in Iraq and Gitmo...

well, I'm going on far too long as usual.  this issue of the calculus of power is key to many ethical dilemmas so it interests me.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 01:16:20 AM EST
You're obviously a very intelligent person, and a deep thinker. But I think I see a, not uncommon by any means, tendency to get so tied up in the whys and wherefores and the knotted equation of tits for tats, injustices and retributions and multiple motives of this imperfect world of ours, that one loses sight of the simple things.

On the one hand we have caricatures, arguably unfunny and in poor taste, but still within the bounds of legal free speech. On the other we have people who not only want that free speech muzzled, but are threatening, with all too much credibility, to kill to make it so.

Now one can understand why they'd react, understand their past grievances, one can do all of that, but still not condone, or lose sight of what is at heart a pretty simple case of people threatening murder to quell free speech. If there's a case that should be easy to take a stand on for the left, unpretty in its details as the case may be, this should be it.

How many freethinkers in our own culture have not only been threatened for ridiculing, often in bad taste, our own prophets of right religious thought through the years when they still wielded power, but even paid with their lives for it? And can we now condone those who would mete out the same punishments, no matter what their background and just grievances in other matters?

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Alexander G Rubio (alexander.rubio@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:23:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So ummm, where was all the fuss when Evans was fired?  Fired, btw, without any international spotlight or boycott threats or ambassadorial visits, on the basis of the kind of local protest and upset that the Danes ignored for months from their Islamic residents.

I personally don't like the Evans toons either.  imho they were crudely drawn, leaning lazily on anti-semitic stereotypes -- again conflating an anti-semitic emotional buzz with his legitimate (imho) criticism of Israeli policy and the Occupation.  But not much worse or better than the 'Mohammetoons' to my eye, so where was the worldwide rallying to his defence, or the taking-up of his toons by a dozen papers in hot defence of sacred free speech and Enlightenment/democratic values?  The debate over Evans' firing was limited to NZ, I believe, and his only defenders appear to have been unsavory white supremacist types.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:54:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well first off, I had never heard of the guy, so could personally hardly have rallied to his cause, if indeed there's a just cause to rally to.

And second, are you seriously comparing someone getting fired for drawing anti-Semitic cartoons to threatening to kill cartoonists, newspaper staff, and people wholly unrelated to the matter other than being from the same country? Is that what you're saying here? 'cause I think my eyes must be going. Who spiked my drink with methanol? Was that you, Sirocco?

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Alexander G Rubio (alexander.rubio@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
afaik the original demands were for formal apologies, retractions in print, and some calls for penalising or firing editors or cartoonists.  but this was considered "unthinkable" or "ridiculous" or whatever, and the grievance has escalated as grievances do when met with stone-faced obliviousness and disregard.  second to being actively insulted (or perhaps even worse) is being treated as irrelevant and ignored;  it causes fury and, I think, was calculated to cause fury.  have you ever gone to a customer complaint counter and had the clerk pointedly turn his back and continue a casual conversation with a co-worker while ignoring you?

anyway, the Evans case is of interest merely as suggestive evidence that the "civilised world" is rather selective when it comes to zealous defence of press freedom and the "right to offend."

do I have to keep repeating that I don't condone death threats, defend them morally or even find them strategically wise?  however I also don't find waving red rags at bulls to be strategically wise.

I think Malooga's comments over at the Moon are insightful:

Again, who profits from all of this? Centralized Governments, Religions, Corporate Media, and a few bad artists. All of this is almost comic relief--more "buffo caricato", than "buffo nobile,"--from the major issues of war, poverty, imperialism, resource depletion, and ecologic catastrophe confronting mankind.
[...]
Each time the media has been breathless in fanning the flames of rightgeousness and indignation. It's a circus that has never brought people closer to understanding and respecting each other. Rather, it is more an idealization of a certain puerile adolescent state when one simply must break away from all authority figures, and indeed, the whole world [...]
It should be obvious to all that corporate media has no real interest in exercizing any particular freedom to tell greater truths, and that intelligent, thinking and feeling Muslims these days have far more on their plate than taking the bait and thrashing around like a hooked fish on an issue that was not of their framing, and not essential to the greater struggles they face.
[...]
What I am attempting to do, is comment upon a culture that holds subversion of convention, provocation, and intellectual tittilation above human values such as the universality of suffering, and the longing for social justice. That's the greater frame into which this discussion should be placed. (It seems almost unnecesary to point out how difficult to craft, and rare, good art--representational or modern--that upholds these human values, truly is. Picasso, usually an extraordinarily quick worker, spent months of studies tweaking and retweaking the emotions and symbols of suffering in various ways before painting "Guernica.")

The boldface text for me is the "moi aussi" bit, so the boldfacing is mine not M's.


The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:37:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quoting from the BBC...

There is no specific, or explicit ban on images of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad - be they carved, painted or drawn.

However, chapter 42, verse 11 of the Koran does say: "[Allah is] the originator of the heavens and the earth... [there is] nothing like a likeness of Him."

This is taken by Muslims to mean that Allah cannot be captured in an image by human hand, such is his beauty and grandeur. To attempt such a thing is seen as an insult to Allah.

The same is believed to apply to Muhammad.

Chapter 21, verses 52-54 of the Koran read: "[Abraham] said to his father and his people: 'What are these images to whose worship you cleave?' They said: 'We found our fathers worshipping them.' He said: 'Certainly you have been, you and your fathers, in manifest error.'"

From this arises the Muslim belief that images can give rise to idolatry - that is to say an image, rather than the divine being it symbolises, can become the object of worship and veneration.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 03:11:29 AM EST
defend freedom of speech for anti-semitic statements of holocaust denial? If the answer is no, then what they do now is not only hypocrisy but racism. If the answer is yes, then they truly believe in freedom of expression.
by observer393 on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:14:52 AM EST
They could in the US. In many European countries, holocaust denial is illegal.

As it were, some of these forms of disrespectful speech are considered as illegal. Not long ago, an ad campaign using a parody of da Vinci's La Cene (the last supper) was deemed illegal and forbidden in France.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:48:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what worries me about the current controversy being argued as a defence of freedom of expresion when many countries do not have the said freedom.
The whole arguement leaves me with a bad feeling.
by observer393 on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 08:39:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What makes me suspicious of motives is how the whole thing got started:
Last year the Danish writer Kaare Bluitgen was putting the last touches on a book about the prophet Muhammad aimed at children. In spite of the prohibition on portraying the prophet in Islam, Bluitgen decided that he would like his book to be illustrated. In the wake of the murder on Theo van Gogh, and an attack on a professor in history at the University of Copenhagen, Bluitgen felt that it was wisest to keep the illustrators anonymous because of fear of reprisals from fundamentalists.

Danish newspaper "Jyllandsposten" picks up the story about Bluitgens choice to keep the names of the illustrators secret, and to demonstrate that Denmark has freedom of speech, the newspaper commissions 12 cartoonists to make a series of satirical drawings of the prophet Muhammad. The cartoons appear in print September 30 2006. They are immediately met with outrage from Muslims in Denmark and even gets noticed outside Denmark.

(from BobFunk's diary)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 08:52:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I´m not sure about the right version.

http://www.signandsight.com/features/588.html

Last summer it was made known that Bluitgen was having trouble finding an illustrator for his most recent book project: the life of the prophet Mohammed, told for children. Islam forbids representations of the prophet, but Denmark is a secular country and Bluitgen had the best of intentions. Nonetheless, the illustrators he approached were wary and turned him down. The murder of the Islam-critical film maker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic fundamentalist had shaken up the Danish arts scene. (news story)

If this version is true, he didn´t try to keep the names secret, he didn´t find any who were willing to do it. Out of fear.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:26:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That would explain why one of the 12 JP cartoons depicts a fearful artist hiding his drawing of Mohammed.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:34:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sirocco, when you say "potentially offensive images below", are you discounting the fact that they have actually (not potentially) been found offensive by a great many people? Or are you just being flippant?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:57:12 AM EST
No, I was referring to the fact that only a subset of readers would be disposed to find them offensive.


The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 11:01:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Suppose that a mainstream newspaper decided to take the opinion (expressed by a US senator in an interview) that homosexuality is akin to bestiality or necrophilia, and run with it, commissioning 12 cartoons to illustrate the point.

Suppose then that a boycott was called of the newspapers, with street protests in cities with large gay communitites.

Suppose then that he rest of the press said "oh, you find those cartoons offensive? Well, you obviously don't understand freedom of speech. Have some more cartoons, they're on the house!".

Suppose someone got so enraged by the whole thing that they ended up getting into a fistfight with one of the cartoonists, and subsequently found guilty of assault. Free speech would have been vindicated!

We have laws against antisocial behaviour. We have laws against harassment. If A says someone to B and B says "A, I find that offensive, don't say it again", and A continues to do it, B might even be able to get a restraining order on A on the grounds of psychological harassment, freedom of speech notwithstanding.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:04:09 AM EST
Migeru

I don't get your comparison.

Confer se Jerome's comment above. The issue is not what private citizens do out of the cartoons. Any iman can tell his congregation how evil it is and organize a boycott or protests in front of the newspaper office. Fine. It is his freedom and it should and would be respected.

The issue is here two folds:
  • Use of violence (and not just a fistfight, which would a misdemeanor or a felony and treated as such, by the way) and death threats.
  • Islamic governments asking the Danish government for apologies, sanctions against the newspaper and changes in Danish laws to, essentially, make blasphemy against Islam a crime.

Not much to do with, say, the recent drubbing Ford got from people like John Aravosis (AmericaBlog).

And no, in the general case, B would not get a restraining order against A unless what A did raises to the level or slander and libel. There is no such thing as a right not to be offended in our societies. Harassment only applies to very specific settings when there is a strong constraint that prevents B from being able of reasonably ignoring A, such as on the workplace (you can't get away from your boss or your coworkers).
by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 03:15:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have said elsewhere that, if someone gets killed over the cartoons and the murderer ends up in jail, at least Jyllandsposten can find solace in the fact that the jailing of the murderer vindicates their right to free speech.

I still haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that JP did not intend the cartoons to be a pure and simple provocation of the people who are now closing down  the EU's offices in Gaza at gunpoint.

I agree the governments of muslim countries have no reason to expect state action against these newspapers, but Anders Fogh Rasmussen had every reason to expect that refusing to even meet 11 ambassadors was going to lead to a diplomatic mess.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:07:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, then that's a mess worth having. Though he should have sent them a confidential letter explaining why he was refusing to receive them and why it would be a bad idea to further press the matter in public.
by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You and Rasmussen can enjoy your mess, then because I have no interest in suffering the consequences.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:33:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, you're correct. Thinking of it, Rasmussen shouldn't have gone on this Middle East tour to show how much he and the Danes really don't like Muslims, should he?
by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:18:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link, but I find no middle east tour by Rasmussen in the text. I do find this, though:
To Muslim leaders in Denmark like Akkari and fellow imam Abu Laban, the images provided evidence of an Islamophobia that they believe permeates Danish society. Worse yet, they felt their protests against racism had been ignored. Newspapers failed to publish their letters to the editor and politicians seemed unwilling to listen. "As a group in society, we've simply been ignored," Akkari told the Aarhus-based daily Stiftstidende earlier this month.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:29:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there's something to that.  If the majority of Muslims in Denmark felt that they had a political voice, we might well not be in this mess.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:40:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Errrhhh, Migeru. It was like, errhh ... sarcasm :>
This affair has been spun of whole cloth by Akkari and Laban because they felt "ignored". Boo hoo hoo, poor little imams. No one in Denmark gives a shit about them. So they went on a tour to whip their coreligionists in a frenzy and hand over a ready-to-use "controversy" for Mid-Eastern governments to placate their own fundies. And now, you're telling me this is Ramussen's mess? Are you kidding me?

I can't remember the last time the Saudi embassy in Paris or Copenhagen was sieged because of an antisemitic cartoon in a Saudi newspaper. Can you?

Ramussen was 100% correct to tell those countries' ambassadors to fuck off.
by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:03:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He told them off 1 month before the tour of the middle east.

Let's just agree to disagree here.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:06:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't agree with the comparison.

Let the muslim associations in France lodge a suit against France Soir or take similar actions as those taken to prevent the ad about Vinci's Last Supper - and frankly, France is a bit behind UK/USA on free speech defense with quite a few over-restrictive laws in my opinion - and maybe they win it and France Soir are fined and have to publish an official apology.

What is going on is just so different: people are being threatened, and grenades thrown at diplomatic representations in Palestine.

And although I can't disagree more with what Jérôme's written on monotheist religions, I do not propose to blow his head off ...

'La fin désastreuse a répondu aux moyens indignes' Germain Tillion

by Rom on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:27:17 AM EST
Please note: everything, no matter WHAT IT IS is extremely offensive to somebody else.

When talking about tolerance, we must first ask to those who damand we tolerate them: do you tolerate us?

In general, Moslems don't tolerate Jews and Christians as equals but as inferiors who are second- or third-class citizens. Remember Judaism is a crime in Saudi Arabia and is very close to being one in many Islamic countries.

The cartoon thing is about the imposition of Shiara law on Western Europe and Christians and Jews as legal dhimmis (second class citizens under shiara law).

by messy on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 03:07:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They didn't even try to go through the legal system to get some kind of compensation, not in France and not in Denmark or Norway. They completely ignored the Rule of Law, and instead appealed to populist movements and pressure. That, in my book, is the BIG mistake... especially so when we have very delicate situations already with Iraq, Palestine, muslims in europe etc. They came out as an unruly and barbaric lot, something that won't help their causes anywhere. Any grievance they have can be ignored on this basis alone.

I might not agree on France Soir or J-P political stances, however if I were a citizen of Denmark I would like my government to flatly refuse any apology as it's not a matter of State. Same goes for any other government or newspaper. You have grievances, you go through the legal system; that's what happens in civil countries, and that something on which I think Mohammad, as the very practical and lawful man he was, would agree strongly.

by toyg (g.lacava@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:42:29 AM EST
What seems to be forgotten in all this debate is that the cartoons have incensed not only extremist Muslims but also reasonable people of that religious persuasion.  These are the very people whose help we need to build bridges between Islam and the West.  By concentrating the debate on the freedom of expression, we may be burning bridges that could bring lead the way to better co-existence and an end to terrorism.
by phdinwaiting (coba.aja@hotmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 08:42:42 AM EST
Those who want a Clash of Civilizations are finally getting one. Please stop the world, I want to step off!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 08:55:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they are incensed, they are not reasonable.

I have yet to hear anyone say:

 "would you please consider taking these cartoons down, I find them offensive, and so do many other people, and here is why? And would you kindly give me an opportunity to write in your newspaper why I think this was only a stunt, and a tasteless one at that, and all you are doing is alienating muslims around the world."

That might actually have shamed the paper - first to print the other point of view, and maybe, after, to acknowledge that it was not such a smart thing to publish these cartoons. Their readers would have learnt something, and seen the muslims in a pretty god light.

No, it was immediately "this is a scandal". Boycott. Threats. Violence. Political blackmail. They did not see any need to explain or to justify their actions. Backing down to such behavior pisses off more people, and the whole thing snowballs.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 10:21:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome, the cartoons were publiched in September to the outrage of local muslims (and I don't remember hearing about it in the international press). Then in October the prime minister refused a meeting requested jointly by 11 ambassadors... It was definitely not immediately that this became a scandal, boycotts, threats, violence... Why on earth would a tiny Norwegian publication pick up the cartoons 4 months later?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 10:28:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But what do the ambassadors have to do in this? Did any muslim write to the paper only to be rebuffed? That would be more relevant information.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 10:44:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, Rasmussen refused to meet them over the issue even to explain what you are saying now. That was a diplomatic blunder on his part and may go a long way towards explaining what's going on now.

But we should maybe ask BobFunk about what exactly happened 3-4 months ago. We have this:

The cartoons appear in print September 30 2006. They are immediately met with outrage from Muslims in Denmark and even gets noticed outside Denmark.

On the 19th of October ambassadors from 11 Muslim countries requests a meeting with the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, hoping to get an official condemnation of the newspapers publication of the drawings. Rather than meeting with the ambassadors to explain the principles of a free press and free speech, the prime minister refuses to meet with the ambassadors at all.

Throughout November and December a delegation of Muslims from Denmark travels all around the Middle East, to raise protests against Denmark and Jyllandsposten.

Obviously whoever decided they needed to send a delegation of Danish muslims to denounce Denmark to their muslim brethren did not think they were getting anywhere in Denmark. The question you are raising is did they try hard enough? and I can't answer that. BobFunk's diary says nothing about the details of the "immediate outrage" in early October.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 10:54:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then an other question.

Why should they expect to be listened to ?
by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:23:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's called diplomacy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:55:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, Mr Smartpants, "Diplomacy" if you wish, or, within a same contry, you would say "Public Relations".

But no, I'm serious. I tolerate religions but I don't feel compelled to express any form of respect for them.

So, why should I listen to those imams?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS: By the way, I believe the Frenchies (aka Jerome) are hitting a serious translation issue. Tolerance does not the same thing in English and in French.

In English, tolerance implies respect. For instance, in the American Heritage Dictionary, the first entry is ...
Tolerance:

1. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.
Go to respect, just in case, and you will find deference, etc.

In French, well, it's a bit, err, different. From the TLF:
TOLÉRANCE, subst. fém.
A. [À propos de pers.]
1. Fait de tolérer quelque chose, d'admettre avec une certaine passivité, avec condescendance parfois, ce que l'on aurait le pouvoir d'interdire, le droit d'empêcher.
[...]
2. a) État d'esprit de quelqu'un ouvert à autrui et admettant des manières de penser et d'agir différentes des siennes. Synon. libéralisme.
[...]
b) [À propos des opinions philos., pol., relig., des engagements soc., etc. d'une pers.] Respect de la liberté d'autrui en matière d'opinions et de croyances.
[...]

My translation (and inevitable ambiguities):
TOLÉRANCE, name, female.
A. [About persons.]
1. Action of tolerating something, of accepting with some degree of passivity, or even condescendence, what one would have the power to prohibit, or the right to preclude.
[...]
2. a) State of mind of someone open to others and amenable to other ways of thinking and doing than one's own.
[...]
b) [About philosophical, political, religious opinions and social stances of a person ] Respect of the freedom of others in the matter of opinions and beliefs.
[...]

So, as the readers won't fail to notice, the French meaning of tolerance has a much, much harder edge than its American counterpart. Tolerance is a right and a given. But, respect, well ... that one, you have to earn it the hard way.
by Francois in Paris on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 12:24:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, I'm still looking for an English word to carry the French meaning of tolerance.

Allowance?
Toleration?

Any suggestion is welcome (and no, Frenchitude won't cut it).
by Francois in Paris on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 12:28:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's try the Oxford English Dictionary:
tolerance 2. The action of allowing; licence, permission granted by an authority.
3. The action or practice of tolerating; toleration; the disposition to be patient with or indulgent to the opinions or practices of others; freedom from bigotry or undue severity in judging the conduct of others; forbearance; catholicity of spirit.
The first meaning is basically endurance (the OED does not sort its meanings by how common they are by by chronological criteria, apparently). I think the Oxford meaning is closer to the French than the American meaning.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 05:42:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, see. Transatlantic rift again. Interesting.
by Francois in Paris on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 02:54:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that my "it's called diplomacy" was a crossover from our discussion on a separate subthread involving the PM and the ambassadors...

All I have to say is that if Jyllands-posten ended up issuing their apology (not a retractation, though) within the last week, they might have issued the same apology back in October. The fact is that it took an international boycott to get Danish agribusiness to put political pressure on JP and the PM, and then they apologized. Fredom of speech? I don't think so. It's all about power.

I acknowledge that our personal attitudes to power are very different, so let's agree to disagree on this one as well.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 05:48:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it seems as if out of all of this there has been a more and clear polarizing of different thoughts within the Muslim communities in many places in Europe as Metatone wrote in his article about Islam.  The moderate Muslims have come out on the non-violent side and although offended by the cartoons they have seen the necessity to distance themselves from violence and violent behaviour.    This polarizing has also happened in the Western world on international politics between the Bush-supporters on one side and liberals on the other side opposing the Bushco foreign policy of active use of military forces as a tool in foreign policy a thing of the past one believed until it surfaced again with the Bush administration.  

According to the biggest newspaper in Norway, Aftenposten (in English), The umbrella organization for Islamic groups in Norway, The Islamic Council, has agreed to help the Norwegian government calm down a diplomatic crisis over offensive cartoons by contacting Muslim leaders and scholars and Arab media.  In Denmark it has been a split between the militants and the moderates over this issue to. As someone said in a thread here once, this is not a clash of civilisations at all, but rather a clash of extremist views.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:06:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same in Germany. It stayed pretty quiet here.

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1890164,00.html

The leader of Germany's Turkish community on criticized Islamic extremists who have urged retaliation against Europeans after newspapers published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:11:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's hopefully a clash of fundamentalisms, not a clash of civilizations, but we keep allowing the extremists to speak for our communities, among other things because moderates seem not to have such strong emotional identifications with their race, religion, nation, you name it, as the extremists.

This ties in with my little exchage with Jerome on who if anyone speaks for the nation or homeland?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:14:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just hope that we will not be hijacked by the extremists in the process.  That is why, although it is important to emphasize the importance of constitutional freedoms and a stance against violent behaviour, I hope that people calm down and follow the example of cooperation between the moderates on both sides of the ailes.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:42:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Counterpunch: Cartoons and Hypocrisy (By Rachard Itani, February 2, 2006)
There are two ways for Europeans to redeem themselves: the immediate temptation would be to call on their national parliaments to extend the protections of the laws against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denying to Islam and Muslims, as well as any other religious group. That would be the wrong recommendation however. The right recommendation would be to repeal the laws that govern holocaust denying and other laws that favor one group over another, so that the issue truly becomes one of free speech. And if Europeans are the civilized people they claim to be, then their politicians and newspaper publishers ought to find it easy to immediately apologize when they have unwittingly offended the taboos of any human community, be it religious or otherwise.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 10:25:28 AM EST
In Germany, the primary reason Holocaust-denial and anti-Semitism are not protected speech is not because modern Germans have a unique, deep love for Jews - it's for the prevention of Third Reich, Part Two. That's why flying a swastika flag is also illegal.

I'd like to think German democracy is solid enough now that a few idiots babbling about the Holocaust being trumped up or how "The Jews" run everything would just make the vast majority of Germans roll their eyes. From my very American point of view, I think they should re-think these laws. Then again, I'm American and not a mere 70 years ahead of my country going about as wrong as a country can go.

by Texmandie on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Norwegian law we still got a blasphemy paragraph something few Muslims might know, so the tools are there ready to be used.  Still, it is rarely used very much because most religious congregations here are used to religious satire and what would constitute blasphemous behaviour.  That said I do think it would be very hard for anyone to be convicted on that paragraph today.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:57:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Should blasphemy be treated the same way racism is? Poland has a law making it illegal to offend people's religious feelings. Serrano's Piss Christ would be a crime in Poland, insulting cartoons of the Pope are prosecutable offenses, artists have been convicted for satirical and/or eroticized images of Christ. Should Martin Scorsese have been considered a criminal for the Last Temptation?  I seem to remember that Spain has a long tradition of anticlericalism. Some of that anticlericalism even led to some pretty horrific crimes during the Civil War.  Do you want a Polish style law in Spain?
I also find it strange that Counterpunch of all places is saying 'politicians and newspaper publishers ought to find it easy to immediately apologize when they have unwittingly offended the taboos of any human community, be it religious or otherwise.' If they are to live up to this they're not going to have much time for anything but apologizing.
by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:17:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I don't want a Polish-style law in SPain. The point of the Counterpunch commentator is precisely that such laws should be stricken off the books, not extended to criminalize more and more speech.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:33:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, but apart from the legal aspects, do you think that morally there is no difference between hostility to a religion and racism?  Should we see the pushing of anticlerical laws by the center and left of the Third Republic the as the moral equivalent of the founders of apartheid and Jim Crow, albeit in a milder form?  That is the way many Catholics in Poland see things. When looking at Spanish history they quite logically conclude that on that basis Franco was a lesser evil than the Republic.
by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 02:52:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the difference between persecuting people on the basis of their ethnicity or on the basis of their religion? And, even there, since historically people have by and large not been able to marry outside their religion, religious differences lead to segregation into ethnic groups, and the differences between the two classifications get quickly blurred. In the case of antisemitism it is particularly hard to separate ethnicity and religion.

I don't know what anticlerical laws of the Second Republic you are referring to. Unless you think that enforcing separation of church and state for the first time is akin to Jim Crow or Apartheid. To think of the Spanish Catholic Church as oppressed is too ludicrous a concept to consider, and if the Poles like Franco they can have another 40 years of dictatorship for all I care.

As for the opinion of Polish Catholics, one of the appaling things about post-communist Poland seen from Spain is how strong the grip of the Catholic church is on the country's politics. Spain's anti-clericalism was a popular movement stemming from centruries of stultifying and oppressive collusion of priests, landowners, and the apparatus of the State. Spain has suffered immensely from the Catholic zealotry of its kings (starting with the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando, and Spain's leading role in the Counterreformation under their Grandson Emperor Charles V and his son Philip).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:02:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what anticlerical laws of the Second Republic you are referring to
Confiscation of property, mass murder of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns, destruction of churches and monasteries, de facto barring of religious practices.  I'd say that goes a little beyond the separation of Church and state.

As for the opinion of Polish Catholics, one of the appaling things about post-communist Poland seen from Spain is how strong the grip of the Catholic church is on the country's politics.

I'm not too fond of it myself. However, it is the result of factors very similar to those that caused Spain's anti-clericalism. During the Partition period the Prussians and Russians oppressed the Church partly out of religious reasons, partly out of a desire to supress Polish national identity, of which the Church was a symbol. During the communist period the Party also persecuted the Church and Catholics.  The result was the reverse of what they had hoped for. During the Partitions peasants who had a hazy national identity at bes (it was associated with the gentry and the urban population) suddenly felt a lot more Polish and anti-German and anti-Russian when their parish priests were put in jail because of their Polishness. During the latter stages of the Communist period even athiests would go to services as a way of demonstrating their rejection of the dictatorship. That identification with the Church was strengthened by the policy of the liberal wing of the Polish episcopate, led by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (aka John Paul II) to offer help to the secular left wing opposition.

As to the comparison of anticlericalism with racism, I do consider it absurd, that's why I'm disagreeing with your take on the attack on Islam issue and pointing out that you're putting yourself in some surprising political company. Note that the official Catholic position tends to be pretty consistent on this, expressing solidarity with Muslims with respect to the caricatures, as they did earlier during the Salman Rushdie affair.

I do agree with you that attacks on Islam can and do serve as a cover for racism, adding complexity to this issue.  The same objections can be and frequently are made to criticism of Israel and Zionism. Life isn't simple, nor is freedom of speech. But the protesters have simplifed the question for us by framing their protests in terms of blasphemy rather than racism.

by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 09:09:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven,
Thank you for the welcome.  The temperatures remind me of my youth in the midwest.  It is much warmer here in California, but warm or cold it is always hard to see a daughter off.  My younger daughter lives in Chicago so I see her only infrequently.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:59:37 PM EST
Ironically the confusion of race, ethnicity and religion is as complete wrt to bigotry against Islam and Arabs as it is wrt bigotry against Judaism and Jews.  Is Jewishness a race or a religion?  Is scurrilous mockery of Torah or rabbi mere freethinking religious satire, or an ethnic slur?  I know what AIPAC and the ADL would say about that :-)  I think the muddling of these issues -- on all sides -- is one reason why this controversy glows so hotly.

To me -- personally, my reading -- the essence of these cartoons is racist, and the essence of the reason why these cartoons were commissioned is racial/nationalist provocation and mockery;  the essence of their offence is not just that they seek to provoke an already-bleeding underdog (or to pour flaming gasoline on troubled waters) but that they are quite simply racist... and almost certainly similar caricatures of racial groups not currently selected as official Enemies of the West would not be found "funny" or defended so hotly.  They definitely do not read to me like good-humoured persiflage.

But because of the ambiguity of race and religion in Islamic/Arab identity (and recall that in the US, most non-Arab Muslim converts are Black), the racial/ethnic insult can be camouflaged as a satirical attack on religious conservatism (a big juicy target thanks to the fundie element in contemporary Islam), and defended by liberal intellectuals as such.  There are Polack jokes and there are Catholic jokes, both offensive in many cases, but at least you can tell 'em apart.  In this case the ethnic and the religious provocation are inseparable.

...and again, though I am at risk of prosecution for cruelty to dead horses...  I revert to context, historical context...

Obviously (doh!) the violent responses are inappropriate, the threatening of Danish citizens and UN workers, the thuggish "tit for tat," the stupid testosterone-poisoned escalation.  But can we remember please for one moment that "the West" (that abstraction which CivClash pundits try so hard to keep inflated) has killed a half million Iraqi kids via blockade and sabotage of water and sewage facilities;  has invaded, occupied, looted and wrecked a sovereign nation, killing perhaps 30 or 50 thousand more civilians in the process;  has fired on the offices of Al Jazeera, the Arab-language news agency;  has installed its own tame propaganda media;  has planted false information throughout the almost-equally-tame Western Press;  has shot journalists and cameramen trying to report from the war zone;  has conducted collective punishments;  has randomly detained and tortured innocent civilians, sometimes for entertainment -- and so on, and so on.  And the same engines of militarism and propaganda are now ponderously turning to point at Iran, the power centre of Shi'ite Islam.

Can anyone imagine, for a moment, from a pan-Arab or a devout Islamic point of view, how utterly hollow must seem these Western preachments on the sacredness of moderation and non violence, of proportionate responses, of freedom of speech?  [One word:  Falluja.  Two words:  Abu Ghraib.  Three words:  Downing Street Memo (or New York Times, take your pick).]  How on earth can anyone expect any halfway informed person on the Arab street to take seriously anything any ferengi says about Enlightenment values...?  Do as we say, not as we do, eh?

I'm reminded of the old British road safety campaign poster.  iirc it was a cartoon showing a dead guy being pulled from the smoking wreck of his car, and the caption read "He was right... dead right." The moral as I read it, was that even when you have the right of way and convention and law on your side, there's also judgment, wisdom, caution, reason... negotiation, compromise.  

But then I thought the Waco incident coulda been handled a lot better, too.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:08:30 PM EST
Totally agreed. In Spain we should know better, and still Arab, Moor and Muslim are used interchangeably. In fact, we just use moro (which basically has the overtones of a slur) to refer to all three.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Jewishness a race or a religion?

It is both, and has been for thousands of years.

by messy on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 09:07:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW I think this thread should be moved to the Debates box!  it is clearly an engaging debate and could go on for some time yet...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 05:12:12 PM EST
which I wish I had thought of first :-)

Debs-is-Dead  comments at MoA:

Here's a thought: We've all seen those articles where some local merchant like Peter MacDonald opens a restaurant called McDonalds and get sued by the poison purveyors especially if he puts a big yellow "M" at the front door.

Or the guys who used to screen T shirts with 'Enjoy Cocaine' drawn in traditional copper plate script get chased by lawyers and the media just prattles on about intellectual property.

Few years ago Lego toys started churning out action figures (dolls for boys) called Bionicles that were meant to be a mixture of hi tech and primitive. Their names were all the same as well known polynesian particularly Maori, chieftains. The facial and clothing designs were close to many traditional Maori patterns.

When the NGO set up to protect indigenous artworks in this part of the world dragged Lego into court the NGO got its ass kicked in a way that MacDonalds and Cocoa Cola never have.

So if intellectual property laws aren't censorship, why is not wanting a human to try and replicate the image of that which billions of people hold dearest considered to be censorship?

Oh No! Can it really be true that the laws consider money more important than human emotion? Tsk Tsk Who would have guessed?

It's an interesting problem.  If the Imams founded a corporation and copyrighted the image of the Prophet, would they be on sturdier ground with their repressive effort?  Why is it perfectly acceptable for intelprop laws to be invoked to enforce strict centralised control of the appearance and dissemination of a visual image (like a Disney character for example), while the same kind of control attempt by a religious faction elicits outrage and nyah-nyah baiting?  Are we, like the US army, fighting yesterday's wars?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 07:45:03 PM EST
The analogy is actually false, because trademark protection or copyright infringements deal with commercial issues.

I'll go on a limb and say that, an an artist, you have the right under the first amendment to paint a picture ofd a man pissing on Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald.

You should also be free to figuratively picc on Allah, Mahomet, Jesus, Pope John Paul, Buddha, Wotan, Moses, etc.

It may not win you any friends, and I certainly respect the right of others to protest and make their feelings known, but we, in presumably enlightened societies, have learned (or should have learned) to NOT persecute artists.

by Lupin on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 01:44:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not so entirely commercial in intelprop cases.  As I recall a C&D from Disney was delivered to a school in the boonies of NZ or Oz where the kids and teachers had painted Disney characters on the playground fence.  They were instructed to paint over the "stolen" images or be sued.  Hardly a dispute over commerce.  It's about control and enclosure [I should add that to the "seven" things I always say...]

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 08:23:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Soon we'll be back into the trees delousing each other.

In 1972, my friend the renowned French cartoonist Marcel Gotlib (I'm not name-dropping) drew a strip entitled "God's Club" in L'ECHO DES SAVANES.

In it, he ridiculed Jehovah, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Krishna and Wotan by showing them getting drunk, squabbling, telling smutty jokes, masturbating and reading porn.

L'ECHO was a best-selling magazines and I'm sure the story offended oodles of folks, within France. I know for a fact the mag got a cartload of letters.

Yet the world didn't come to an end, surprisingly. The story is still in print in RHAA LOVELY volume 2.

Despite our own brands of fanatics, Europe, for the mosdt part, has moved on.

The Arabs were once a great people who were ahead of the West in virtually every scientific area: chemistry, maths, etc. Sadly they allowed religion to turn them into a static society. I think the same thing would have happened vis à vis the Catholic Church in Western Europe had not there been the Reformation.

(Read Keith Roberts' PAVANE for a fascinating view of a dystopia where the Reformation was crushed and the Church continued to hold sway until the 20th century.)

The real conflict here, even within Islam, is between progress (for better or worse) and status quo.

Art, as always, is the flashpoint for the confrontation.

by Lupin on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 01:33:35 AM EST


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 09:05:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am a lifelong atheist. I insist on the freedom of art and argument against religions, be them misinterpreted as blasphemy (Rushdie's Satanic Verses or Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ) or true attacks on religion and religious people (Life of Brian, meteor-stricken Pope etc.). I also agree that the publication by Jyllandposten and all re-publishers including Sirocco is permissible. But I don't think any of it is commendable.

While Jyllandposten framed its original provocation in terms of fighting for freedom of speech, I don't think it was really that. And I don't think this started half a year ago, either.

First, the cartoons weren't merely blasphemous, and not just distasteful, but as DeAnander and some others argued, they were borderline racist.

Jyllandposten took the freedom of speech as a superficial excuse to 'stand up to the Muslims'. I see this primarily in the framework of the six-year-ongoing anti-immigrant 'debate' by the Danish Right - which is also the reason behind the three-year-ongoing Danish majority support for the US neocon fight against the 'Islamofascists' in the Middle East, in particular Iraq. 'Stand up to the Muslims' is not at all anti-authoritarian but a big 'fuck you' to all those nasty suspicious immigrants, whether they issue death threats or not, going well beyond the intentions of the children's book publisher taken as ocassion.

In this light, I found the tone of some posters, especially in response to what Migeru digged up on the pre-internationalisation history of this affair in Denmark, truly sickening. The defense of freedom of speech has become an acceptable form of open xenophobia.

But I feel equally bad about the response of newspapers and diarists here, who think permissible becomes commendable just because there are radical forces who used this semi-racist bile for their own propaganda on the opposed side, and other, in-government forces made demands beyond their juridiction which weren't followed upon. This entirely misses the point, constitutes joining in in a cultural war, and only gives food for the racists.

A true fight against censorship would be to publish something that was actually subject to censorship-by-threats, or publish something in similar vein (which Jyllandposten's caricatures weren't), or to fight actual attempts of censorship by your own state. Neither the original publishing of these caricatures, nor any of the re-publishings were examples of this. Newspapers across Europe weren't boldly defying intimidation tactics, they were posturing and confirming perceptions of a broad Islamophobia, racism and ignorance.

At least this is my opinion.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 05:47:54 AM EST
Thorough comment, as always. I've been chewing on the racist argument since I read DeAnader's postings in this thread. I think you're totally correct in that we should take care that our freedom of speech doesn't get hijacked by xenophobes for nationwide indoctrination. History has been there before and it didn't end so well. And even although xenophobia appears to be on the march in Denmark, I don't agree that the cartoons were intended as a 'fuck you' to their Muslim minority. In fact, that would also undermine the racist argument, since there are plenty of Muslim minorities which are NOT Arab. Given, the Arab/Turk/Persian minorities are the largest ones. If I take the gist of this it is partly about the rise of fundamentalist Muslim regimes like Saudi Arabia and their dangerously narrow vision, reminiscent of Christian imperial times. It all comes back to oil again, BTW.

And the violent responses to the cartoons argues against the racism issue as well, since all the violence was especially founded on the blasphemous content of the cartoons - not the caricaturing of the people an sich. If there were protests on that, perhaps they went through official channels as well, I don't know. Fact is, the demands of the fundamentalists is not based on contempt of race - so right now, I see it as a side issue. One we should be watchful for, but not the one that's at hand.

by Nomad on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 07:42:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe I should have said "reasonable objections". I the context of these cartoon, they were originally commissioned after news that a childrens's book in Danmark illustrated the life of the Prophet with drawings of Mohammed (I believe the first one above is from the book). They decided to see how far they could take representations by asking the cartoonists to produce these works. For the most part they explored the Islamic prohibition without actually depicting the prophet. One for example showed that you could depict a schoolboy called Mohammed. Similarly some of the cartoons in the French press have been very erudite. The empty frame with the legend "This is not a picture of Mohammed" both explores the issure, respects Islamic tradition and refers to an icon of modern European art.

Others have been quite rude about Islam such as the Imman (if it was supposed to be Mohammed there are inconsistencies in the dress) on a cloud outside Heaven  saying "stop we have run out of virgins". Apart from the cultural misreference as most Muslims would envisage Heaven as a garden, it does link Islam to terrorism. I could see however that it would be far less hurting to Muslims than the particular "bombhead" depiction in the Danish cartoon. That one directly links the basis of Islam as terroristic rather than ther French one which criticises one particular interpretation of the reqard for those who engage in Jihad and indeed a limited interpretztion of "religious struggle" as solely being violent.

Let's look at the example you gave and another where Christians have objected to theatrical works. In "The Life of Brian", the satyr is of mistaken followers and indeed at one point Terry Jones as Brian's mother shouts at the crowd "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy". The Christian objection was that the film depicted Christ. More recently the religious ferverts at "MediawatchUK", the obastard offspring of Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association and the "Festival of Light", objected to the BBC showing a film of the theatre production of  "Jerry Spinger- the Opera". Those were based on the false assertion that "Jesus is shown in a nappy". The truth was the same actor who played a "baby" fetishist in a nappy in the first half depicting a Springer show also appeared as Christ in the second part set in Hell wehere Springer mediates between God and the Devil. In both of these the objectors deliberately chose to misrepresent the works in order to fire up their followers to protest.

Now the newspaper may have been tasteless and blasphemous in the commisioning and original publication of the frankly not very good cartoons but I agree they had the right to do so. In fact they have apologised for the offense they caused as has the Prime Minister of the country. The the inital publication to reprint them was owned by a Christian fundamntalist is evidence that disseminating them further was prompted by something more than "freedom of speech". Look at this in the context of the blood libel on the Jews and the fake book (I cannot remember the full name but it is something like The Chronicles of the Elders of Zion) Would the newspapers in France, Italy, Germany and Spain reprint these or extracts from a book denying the Holocaust? At a time when fundamentalist muslims are deliberately misinterpreting the Koran or only quoting selectively like fundamentalist Christians do to the Bible to condemn homosexuals, pandering to the prejudices of the majorities in these countries is dangerous. Having known the considerable upset the original publication caused, they could have published the commentary cartoons. Reprinting the originals was bound to throw petrol on the fire.

Now this also raises the question of whether we should have greater sensitivities to the minorities in our country who already feel discriminated against than the majorities or larger minorties who are already used to robust criticism. I would suggest we have something of an obligation to do so in the same way as we set out to give special protection to children (and this does not characterise muslims as in any way incompetent to protect themselves)

 

by Londonbear on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 03:50:57 PM EST


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