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Danish Cartoons and Islam: Context and Backstory

by Ben P Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 08:46:01 PM EST

The problem with a lot of the people taking the hardline pro-cartoon position is the inability to properly acknowledge or appreciate the larger cultural context within which this event is playing out. And also the exact history of the specific Danish cartoon controversy more specifically.


Basically, as far as I can see from reading a lot of the commentary recently, there seems to be a complete inability or unwillingness to regard the event in any kind of larger context. But the thing is, nothing - no events - occur in a vacuum. And I think with regards to most issues, progressives think context matters. Allow me to begin with analogy.

For example, I would imagine most people on this site would regard the fact that African Americans are disadvantaged - on aggregate - within America society as a whole. A typical right wing response to this is that either a) African Americans are innately inferior, which explains their disadvantage, or that, more commonly, b) their poverty is their own fault and if they just worked hard, they would be equal to white Americans. Now while b) is not a completely illogical or unreasonable point, I also think it is grossly simplistic and willing ignores hundreds of years of racism, apartheid, and systemized government-created, disadvantage, in both obvious forms (JIm Crow in the South), and less obvious forms (FHA housing policy, redlining), not to mention all kinds of subtle private forms of discrimination (bank loan policies, real estate "steering," etc.). To say that these historical and political factors have nothing to do with contemporary race relations strikes me as absurd. Now, of course, this does not thus justify anything African Americans say or do because they have been oppressed.Of course not. For example, gang violence is wrong, regardless of this history. And neither is the idea that book learning as being "white" a sensible or legitimate form of "protest." But to address the question of American race relations (as well as some of its unsavory characteristics) with out acknowledging these factors makes one wilfully uniformed and ignorant, and potentially suggests a way of - perhaps unconsciosuly - justifying one's raacism.

I think a similar dynamic is playing out in some of the commentary I have seen on this website (and of course, elsewhere). Firstly, let us take note of the original context of the cartoon's publication. A populist right wing conservative broadsheet (fairly liberal by US standards) Danish tabloid Jyllands-Posten commissioned a series of cartoonists to draw depictions of Mohammed after a Danish children's book about Mohammed could not find an illustrator because prospective illustrators did not want to depict Mohammed, fearing a personal backlash, as any depiction of Mohammed is regarded as sacreligious by many Muslims. That is the immediate background.

Also important to note is the larger question of Muslim immigrants - primarily from Middle Eastern nations - to Europe since World War II, and the attendant political problems this has raised, especially in the last decade or two. Most of you I'm sure are aware of the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim extremist in Holland a couple of years ago. This was an event clearly related to the conflict between Dutch secularism and the still strong religiousity of a large segment of the Islamic populastion of Holland, which is almost all foreign in origin. This is an important point - in the context of Europe, Islam is "raced" in a way it is not necessarily in the broader Islamic world (I will return to this point). Similarly, a more secular version of these kind of conflicts has recently occurred in Britain - in significant riots in places like Bradford and Birmingham - between whites and South Asian Muslims (although not because of issues relating to Islam) and likewise in France, most famously in the "banlieu emeuts" of last November, involving primarily youth of North and West African origin. While neither of these conflicts was about a religious issue, they are evidence of the larger theme of third world immigration to Europe and the difficulties this has posed.

An important flipside to these conflicts has been the rise of nativist - and in some cases borderline fascist - political figures and parties who have been quite explicity anti-Muslim, anti-"foreigner" (particularly anti-third world foreigner) as a response to the anxieties these kind of culture clashes have provoked amongst "white" Europeans. Some of these groups and figures you have probably heard of. For example, Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front Nationale, Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands, the recent election of Jorg Haider in Austria, and, recently, in Denmark, when immigration restriction was important plank of platform bringing a rightist-coalition government to power. While these might be some of the more notable instances of this political turn, this anti-immigrant/immigrant question has become central in most European countries, launching a number of single issue parties (or at least parties whose primary appeal is based on stopping immigration).

Currently, Denmark has a population that is 4% Muslim, primarily drawn from Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey. Not unlike in other European countries, these immigrants have largely come to a society previously almost 100% "white," that is often radically secular (for example, Denmark legalized gay marriage in 1989 (!) and it has some of the most liberal laws dealing with pornography in the world - for example, tabloids publish covers with naked women frequently), and have occupied a position on the social structure that is marginal - that is to say, in lowly paid jobs. Also, like in other European countries, there has been serious concern that these Muslim immigrants are too different to adopt properly to the norms established within the host society, and that if it is possible that they can, more immigrants of similar origin must be stopped or the society will lose its character.

It is in this context, then, that these cartoons were published. As such, I think is disingenous or ignorant to claim the question of their original publication is one of religion and blasphemy. Quite clearly, they were published in a context where Islam is understood as a cultural trait belonging to a specific minority seen as a threat to the Danish national character, a minority that is largely seen as a race in the context of Danish society, but of European society together. Thus, here, Islam is not simply "just a religion." Doing a caricature of Muhammed has a specific cultural and racial meaning and is not simply about some kind narrow, free-floating idea of Islam. In this sense, I would argue that this cartoon has a cultural meaning not unlike that of anti-Jewish cartoons in the context of 19th and early 20th century Europe, where a "religion" is mocked, but a religion held by an often disliked, and usually marginalized minority often viewed in distinctly racial terms by the host European society.

This is why I find some of the full-throated "free speech" champions distasteful and ignorant. This question is not as simple as you want to make it seem.

Then, the question of the subsequent reaction. Here, I think more criticism and defense of free speech principles are in order. The first wave of protests came after the cartoon was originally published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. These were largely "low key" and involved boycotts in several Middle Eastern countries - Bahrain and Saudi Arabia being the two of which I am aware. There was also a mission by a series of political leaders from the Islamic world to meet with Danish PM Anders Fogh-Rasmussen. Now one can argue that this response was innapropriate. Personally, to me, it seems over the top and gratuitous. But I wouldn't call it especially radical, either. As such, little of the world was aware of the controversy at the time. I can tell you I certainly wasn't, and I read global newsources daily - particularly from France, Canada, Britain, and the United States.

The more recent controversy blew up when the aforementioned Danish PM Fogh-Rasmussen decided to issue an apology to Muslims who may have been offended. Mind you, this is all he did. He did not make any promises that he would censor future newspaper editorials or cartoons. Or make any other specific political concessions which some leaders in the Muslim world - wrongly, in my opinion - were demanding. Now to me, Rasmussen's response was entirely appropriate.

But this response "offended" the editors of several European newspapers, who believed Rasmussen was "appeasing" Muslim sentiment by offering an apology for something that they felt he had no need to apologize for. in particular the German newspaper Die Welt. This decision was soon followed by more republications in other European newspapers. Subsequently, we have witnessed the indication of more serious and sustained protests in the Arab world, involving countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, and Iraq, as well as amongst Muslim communities in Denmark, Britain, and elsewhere. A number of threats of violence have been issued, and in some cases, the violence has turned ugly, attacking the EU offices in Gaza, and most recently, torching the Danish and Norweigan embassies in Syria. Also, a Danish dairy company has been forced to close in Saudi Arabia, while a number of majority-Islamic nations have removed their diplomats from Denmark. Now, I agree that much of this subsequent reaction is out-of-line and is demaning things from Denmark it has no right to provide, if it is demanding anything at all. I also think that much of this reaction has become divorced from the original context of immigration and race within which the cartoon was originally published, and has - for many of those involved - become more directly a question of religion and blasphemy.

However, much of the "moderate" Muslim world has been deeply offended by the controversy, and not so much because of the blasphemy, but because of the gleeful defiance many seem to take with regards to offending Muslim sentiment more generally. For example, Hamad Karzai, a man for whom I have great respect, certainly a moderate or progressive Muslim with the uneviable task of trying to govern Afghanistan, has said the following: "Any insult to the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, is an insult to more than one billion Muslims and an act like this must never be allowed to be repeated." Likewise, Ahmad Olzalp from Egypt (who I must say, if you click on the link and see his picture, looks quite westernized) has the following to say:

A lot of people here are really offended by the cartoon.

My main problem with all of this is: What was the purpose of publishing this cartoon? Was it simply to offend? If so, they have certainly managed to do so.

It certainly appeared to be malicious, which is not in the spirit of freedom of speech.

In Europe there is a lot of uproar when anyone's sensibilities are offended.

Take, for example, when Prince Harry dressed up in a Nazi outfit. The discussion was not about freedom of speech but what is considered offensive.

It's the very same in this debate.

People have to be very careful when they publish something like this. They have to make sure they know what they are getting into.

I have discussed this with friends who view it as a very personal attack on them as Muslims. This one has hit a little too close to home.

Freedom of speech should be protected but it should be used responsibly  

I am Muslim and I like to see myself as open-minded and I believe in freedom of speech, but it should be used responsibly.

But I do sympathise with others around me who have taken this to heart.

The fact is there is wave of prejudice against Muslims and Islam sweeping Europe and this was below the belt.

The perception of Islam in Europe needs to be addressed, but I'm not sure that publishing a full page of caricatures about the Prophet Muhammad is the way to go about it.

European misconceptions about Islam are perhaps understandable in the wake of the attacks in London and Madrid, but it's a small group of extremists doing this.

No doubt, there has been an overreaction on both sides of the argument.

The display of solidarity on the part of the European newspapers was an overreaction - to republish these pictures without context, just to take a stand, was wrong.

But then on the other side of the argument you have people making bomb threats, which is going way too far.

I hope it doesn't end like it did with Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands.

It's a good thing that it has opened up debate about perceptions of Muslims in Europe, but the arguments need to be more constructive in order for this to have a positive outcome.

The Danish failed to understand how offensive it is to caricature the Prophet Muhammad. In the Muslim world we are not even allowed to have any images of the Prophet Muhammad, never mind ones that caricature him.

But if lessons are learned from this, it will be a positive thing.

In other words, I do not think Denmark should give into the demands some are asking. They have - and I believe this very strongly - the right to maintain the society along the lines they have established, which to me, seem like lines I would like the US to follow with regards to personal freedom and civil liberty. I also think that freedom of speech must always be the default position of not just progressives, but of global citizens more generally. But I think to glory in these cartoons and understand the issue simply as one of blasphemy is to be ignorant also. Jyllens-Posten should not be lionized for printing cartoons which - as I note - could arguably be seen as like anti-Semitic cartoons published in Europe from 100 years ago. While the situation is not exactly the same, "Islam" is also not simply a religion in the context of modern European society either. And I think we should keep this in mind.

Display:
having a rabble of reactionary Islamic Puritans who make Oliver Cromwell look like Voltaire dictate what publications can or can't print, regardless of the content.  Remember the brave struggles to disestablish the Catholic Church from France and the brutalities of Franco and others who used religion as a club.
by Rick in TX on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 10:06:30 PM EST
for that thoughtful response. Maybe next time you could respond to what I actually wrote. I guess you have know interest in learning anything knew.
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 10:14:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't disagree with the larger free speech point. But it isn't just this point. There are other narratives involved.
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 10:15:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very few in America today would smile upon someone donning blackface and performing minstrelsy's greatest hits.  It would be an unfair attack on an oppressed minority, and African Americans would be (rightly) be furious.  Nevertheless, the performer, no matter how wrong, would probably not get death threats and would be eventually (after the shock value wore off) ignored.  That is the difference.  Picketing, protesting, boycotts...all fine.  Opposing hate speech with rioting, embassy-burnings (in Syria's case almost certainly government-condoned), and threats against innocent people who just happen to share the perpetrator's nationality...those are wrong no matter the extentuating background circumstances.
by Rick in TX on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 10:26:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Point taken. I agree.
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 10:29:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
plus a whole host of extremist anti-abortion weirdos have made enough death threats. Some have even been carried out. Oh add Ann Coulter to the list.
Then we get into the US admimistrations mass death threats in the form of the threat of invasion.
 
by observer393 on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 12:46:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So death threats are wrong. We all agree.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:28:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I misread you, I think.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just trying to eep a bit of balance when there are implications that there are not death threats in the US over "religious" or cultural issues.
by observer393 on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 08:37:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, can't say I have seen any lionization of Jyllands-Posten's action, except on LGF and suchlike, so that would seem to be a straw man.

On a side note, JP is not a "populist right wing Danish tabloid" but a conservative quality newspaper (with a broadsheet format last I looked, but that may have changed for all I know and is irrelevant). Its world news coverage is franchised in my excellent local paper, and I've never had any problems with it as a progressive. This makes me inclined to believe the assurance of the cultural editor, Flemming Rose, that his intention was not to attack a "usually marginalized minority often viewed in distinctly racial terms by the host European society" but to stand up for the right to free speech in a provocative manner. I'm also prepared to accept his word that he did not ask for caricatures but for the cartoonists to draw Muhammed as they saw him, however that might be. (And speaking of cultural context, check out my mini-sketch of Scandinavian mutual stereotypes from a while ago. One of the Danish characteristics is of relevance here.)

We all know, by now, that the editor screwed up royally, and some of us could have told him that in advance. By his careless ignorance he failed as an editor. But this is all beside the point now. As I've put it elsewhere, the international firestorm has much more to do with the manipulation of this issue by islamist movements with an axe to grind about "the Western crusade against Islam," and by various dictatorial governments that unsuccessfully vie with them for popularity.

The protesting masses of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, etc. etc. are hardly preoccupied with the Danish debate about integration of immigrants. No, they are riled up over: (i) perceived acts of sacriledge against the Prophet, and (ii) perceived attacks on the Islamic Umma (global community of believers) by infidels.

In turn, (ii) has to do with a sense of being oppressed by sleazy dictatorial regimes backed by Western powers, and in the case of Iraq, directly by the USA. There is also Israel, which said regimes wave before their populations as a red cloth to divert from their own kleptocracy. One may feel some sympathy here. But (ii) is also related to a sense of global humiliation at the hands of the technologically, economically, and martially superior Western civilization, which is not supposed to be superior in these ways, being spiritually inferior. I admit to feeling much less sympathy for that.

In any case, this has now become a matter of freedom of speech, whatever its origins on a southern Danish island months ago. To ignore this is to commit the genetic fallacy. I appreciate your unambigious defense of such freedom.

Thanks for your diary entry.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 10:24:17 PM EST
Thanks for your response. I had read that J-P was a tabloid, kind of like the Sun. Thanks for the correction.

As to the rest of your post, I agree. The issue - as it is now presented - is different from the issue when it was originally published.

 Maybe this is a strawman in the context of EuroTrib, but it isn't at Kos, where I cross-posted this diary.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 10:31:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This was a media event.  What media was behind it, or promoted it?   There's a clue there.  

It had a purpose.  

What purpose?  To stampede Europe to side with the US on Iran.  

You are being played.  

Think about it.  And if you can, prove me wrong.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 11:13:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afriad the onus of proof for your implausible conspiracy (?) theory is on you.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 11:16:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One point that I have never yet seen mentioned is that several of the cartoons ALSO make fun of JP and/or the cartoonists. One has "PR stunt" quite explicitly visible. The one with the kid stats that "JP's journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs".

Which brings me to the point that I disagree with the almost universal opinion that these cartoons were pretty bad. There are provocative, sure - that was the explicit intent, but they are not without ambiguity, which is the hallmark of good caricature. And several I liked.


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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:06:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The west has a sense of entitlement, that they can have bombs, but not Iran, that they can kick ass but not anyone else, that they can bomb and kill tens of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanistan and other countries, and be untouchable.

Thank God we are coming to a time when the world is becoming like a bar. If you shoot your mouth off or dump on the other guy, your gonna get punched, no matter how big a bully you are.

The west writes the rules, divides the land and resources and kills with impunity, and the Muslim world is challenging that "right".

How about all the Akha and others who got killed in the western drug war in Asia, should the west be let off the hook for that?

Why does the west always preach its gospel of non violence while raining death and destruction down on everyone else?????

Maybe the days of western arrogance and gluttony are coming to an end.

http://www.akha.org The Akha Heritage Foundation

by Akha Drug War (akhalife at gmail.com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 11:27:25 PM EST
I can see where you are coming from, and your first paragraph is something I hear more or less every day.
It is something many in the West and not just the US need to hear.
by observer393 on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 12:39:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I give you a 4 not because I agree with your narrative or because your overall vision of the world is the same as mine.

I give you a 4 to compensate. Other people have said similar things to what you say (let's say from the other "western" camp, if you would like to call it that way) that were not "warned" with a 2.

It is true that you could have said the same thing using another tone or narrative.. but we always do it sometimes and get a pass. I understand the 2 given but I do not share their opinion.

I want to point out that I do not have any idea of what the Akha Heritage foundation so it has no influence (positive or negative) on my judgement.

A pleasure


I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:05:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Likewise.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 10:47:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

the bar you describe? Why should we want a world in which shooting off our mouthes (surely a subjective characterization) results in our getting punched?

I would rather overcome Bush than emulate him.




"Democracy signifies rule of the majority, but not less the protection of minorities." Karl Kautsky

by another American (scwtlover at yahoo dot com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 08:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good diary Ben P, thanks.  Contextualise, contextualise, contextualise...  Thanks for pulling the details together.  And no thanks to the Euro press for pouring gasoline on the flames when some diplomatic action was finally starting to happen.

Some of the tension around this incident reminds me of a hostage situation.  The kind where the hostage takers say, if the police don't handle the incident exactly so and so, then the responsibility for the hostages' deaths is on the policemen's heads.  And obviously this is not true, since the person holding the gun and doing the killing is not the policeman but the criminal who took the hostage in the first place.  So that's BS.  They can't get off the hook that easily (any more than use some stupid toons and Western media posturing as justification for threatening lives or torching an embassy).

But OTOH, if you get an incident commander who is more interested in having a macho pissing contest with the hostage takers than in saving the hostages' lives, and he deliberately provokes the criminals and escalates the situation so that people get killed who need not have been killed, then he's not a good cop -- he is handling the situation in an irresponsible manner.  And the badness of the guys he's up against doesn't get him off the hook for being careless or reckless with the lives of the hostages.

This whole "cowboy showdown mentality," whether it's Dubya with his "with us or against us" ranting, or the Euro press deciding to stick their oar into the Danish govt's better-late-than-never attempts to contain the furore, is not imho either wise or good.  The guy who goes in with all guns blazing yelling "I don't negotiate with terrorists, they must be made an example of, it's the principle of the thing" -- or picks up the megaphone and starts yelling insults about their Mamas -- is not the guy I want handling the situation if I'm ever a hostage :-)  I'd prefer the good negotiator who's willing to talk patiently and make concessions even to unreasonable bad people, in order to keep the peace and limit the damage...  and in an increasingly angry, crowded, and running-short-on-fuel-and-water world, we're all hostages to some extent, of our own and other governments.  Just another way of looking at it...

On a side note, I'd wait and see whether the US-centred global economy tanks sometime before 2010, before I would confidently describe it as "superior."  It may be that a bunch of olive growers and sheep herders in the Back of Central Asian Beyond will be better positioned to maintain their lifestyle 20 years from now than the average SUV-driving accountant in a major Western metropolis, depending on how events shake out.  Now that would be ironic.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 01:22:09 AM EST
I think your hostage story is a good analogy for the practical aspects of this issue. However, it fails t acknowledge the ideological side of the debate, namely that attacks on religious taboos are one of the key building blocks of Europe's struggles to build a free society.

From a progressive perspective the real story that revealed the racism against Muslims in contemporary Europe this past month was that of Baden Wuertenburg instituting a special civic test for Muslims, explicitly justified by the argument that Muslims are to be considered inappropriate candidates for citizenship until proven otherwise, while for non Muslims it is the reverse (and thus no need for a test).  That's a clear cut example of racism in action and if there were mass protests about it, even violent ones, I suspect they'd get a lot more sympathy here at Eurotrib and among the European secular left in general.

by MarekNYC on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:07:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your elaborate argument contains many arguments that are undoubtedly true, but ultimately, when an educated Muslim presented in the most respectful way a fictional argument that cast barely a shadow on the life of the Prophet - I am of course referring to the Salman Rushdie case - he was promptly condemnbed to death and riots ensued.

Had there been a Rushdie Embassy in Syria, it surely would have been burned too.

You simply fail to understand (it seems to me) that to many, this is primarily a fight between progress and stagnation, enlightenment and obscurantism, a fight which truly is occurring within the Muslim world - westerns cartoons, mores (porn, etc.) and science are just a flashpoint.

Therew ewil be far mire flashpoints as the Muslim world is unavoidablt dragged, against the will of some, as the saying goes: kicking and screamning, into the 21st century.

by Lupin on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 02:44:24 AM EST
Lupin, this is plain clash-of-civilization talk. Is that what you mean? We are going to drag the Muslim world kicking and screaming into the 21st century? Really?

If the Muslim world evolves, it will be Muslims who will bring that about, not you and me. And the current drawing up of battle lines does absolutely nothing to help evolving, progressive Muslims, and everything to throw red meat to the traditionalist extremists.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:35:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We" are going to do it because of the very fact of our existence. We're not on different planets and there is no Prime Directive. It's happened before and it will happen again. Scissors break rock.

This is really the expression of an internecine Muslim fracture. The cartoons are only the flashpoint.

by Lupin on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:05:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frankly, I think this pollyannish. I think it is evidence of deeper European/western vs. Islamic world clash. I think you'd be pretty hard pressed to find people in the Islamic world who think these cartoons were a good thing. Now that doesn't mean that 90% is out on the street burning embassies and calling for revenge either. But as the above comments I source show, people - moderates, progressives, fundamentalists - were generally offended. And some of them have gone way too far. But I think the divide is more serious and long-term than you'd like to believe.

We might, indeed, be in a clash of civilizations.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:14:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you responding to another post than mine? Because I see nothing in what you just wrote above that describes, responds or applies to what I said. To say I'm nonplussed is an understatement.
by Lupin on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:18:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I'm saying - see below - is that I don't think there is really a Civil War in the Muslim world as you understand. At least in the Islamic Middle East. What you have is a civilization with fundamentally different assumptions about how the world works.

This is why I'm reluctant to so strongly champion Jyllons-Posten, even though ultimately I know I have to. Because to do so acknowledges the unbridgability of the divide. Acknowledges that I am in the west and values its traditions, and have to defend them when push comes to shove. And recognizes that real understanding is just not possible right now.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:33:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But you can value Islamic traditions by placing a high value on the West's traditions of freedom.  The critical separation -- and the reason for why I do not subscribe to the "All Cultures Are Equal" view -- is that they can practice their values in our society, without fear of a government killing them or throwing them in jail.  We have the freedom to practice (or to not practice) whatever faith we like and criticize faiths as we see fit.

The same freedom does not apply in the Middle East.  The divide will be closed in the (probably distant) future, but, in large part, it's not our divide to close, in my opinion.  Religious intolerance, backed by the power of the state, is not an idea that will spread very far.  The right to say and do what you like, however, is such an idea.  I don't accept criticism on this topic from the thugs in the Saudi royal family, or from any other repressive regime based on centuries-old religious law.  Laws that treat all people as equals are superior.

I think we in the West also, especially on the left, tend to talk about racism in a way that gives the other side a great deal of room to argue and restricts our side.  (It's a principle that professors teach in debate.  Always show your opponent's side in the best possible light.)  We can, and should, talk about racism, and fight it constantly, but let's also remember that bigotry is not a Westerners-Only Club.  Quite the contrary.  The West, though guilty of disgusting behavior such as the slave trade, has fought bigotry.  We don't tell people how to live their lives, so long as they respect the rights of others.

The reaction from the Muslim world has been one of intolerance towards our values.  It has been loaded with bigotry.  And that is why, I think, we needed to draw a line in the sand on this issue.

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 11:34:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bigotry is more present in the Islamic world, but bigotry is not the same thing as racism (if you'll allow these two words to stand in for a larger point). What I mean is that racism is a system where one has power, and uses bigotry as a means of exercsing and maintaining that power. Bigotry is ignorance and prejudice against others, defined as outsiders. Racism is the use of this bigotry in terms of maintaining and exercising power. And this is the difference.

As to your point about authoritarianism and religion, I think this relationship is being exploded right now. Not by the protests, but by the fact that democratic elections right now in the middle east favor more illiberal and more theocratic forces than the authoritarian/tyrannical forces which grew out of originally idealistic premises of anti-colonialism, third world autonomy, pan-Arabism, and socialism, which they are replacing. Mubarak, the successor to Nasser, being slowly replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood. The relatively (and originally quite) secular Fatah being replaced by Hamas. Saddam Hussein, legacy of the pan-Arabist Baath Party being replaced by Shi'ite (and now) Sunni Islamists. And so on. I don't think the dynamic will be and is any different in Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, I think your assumption that somehow the Arab or even the broader Islamic World is destined to adopt western values or even enlightenment values, I'm not at all sure. Little in history suggests this inevitable. Its a conceit of a particular moment in history of a particular group of people. This isn't to say that they won't in some way adopt such values, but I don't think it is all clear they will either.

I don't really think China, or Russia, or Africa, or even Japan have really done so. They just don't have an immediate beef with us, or at least a beef that manifested itself so clearly. But they, I do, think represent this potential.

Finally, this means that I think it is foolish and counterproductive for us to expect or demand that they do adopt Western values. The kind of thinking many here are exhibiting making this assumption is what led us into the Iraqi train wreck.

 Of course, this means that they can't expect we will cater to what they want either, especially not within sovereign states. But its up to them what they want to do "at home," frankly. They have to sort their affairs out for themselves, which I'm sure, they can do over time.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:22:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should say that what they do does matter to the extent that violent attacks are made and unreasonable demands are launched.

It is certainly of our interest that any kind of consensus that emerges from the Islamic world is willing to peacefully and respectfully interact with others. This is an important point.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:32:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do feel it is in some ways are responsibility to close. What do I mean by this?

Well, certainly not adopting Sharia law or even anything approaching it within, say, Denmark.

But to say we shouldn't know or try to understand the sensibilites and cultural traditions (in a broad anthropological sense) in the Islamic world is silly. There is - although I think it is changing somewhat - very little understanding of what the Islamic and/or Arabic world are actually like and what people there think, how they subjectively understand there world.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:39:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't use the word Civil War myself, but there is a fracture. I mean, between those who wish to move towards a more progressive society (while retaining core Islamic values, as, as much the US is a Christian Nation) and those who remain mired in a static, dogmatic past.

The fracture "explodes" when the past-lovers feel (rightly so) threatened that their world is crumbling, is being eroded by the contagion of the forces of modernity.  They then lash back.

It happened before and it will surely happen again, repeatedly, as the Musalim world grows increasingly connected with the rest of the planet.

(I'm not entirely without first-hand knowledge, through friends from North Africa and having written a series of stories featuring the Ottoman hero Dragut.)

 

by Lupin on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 12:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm seeing your point more clearly now. I agree.

But I think, also, it is important to remember that this kind of tension takes a long time to resolve and will have to occur from Islamic folks arguing it out amongst themselves and reaching some new kind of consensus that makes sense with them their cultural traditions. I don't think you'd disagree.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:25:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is basically what has happened in China, Japan, etc. and is to some extent happening right now in Latin Europe. And for that matter Europe and the US also.

Change often leads to reaction, which I think the rise of the Chrisitan right and political conservatism, more generally, is as well. In many ways, I see this trend as a similar - albeit much milder - result of increased globalization, mediatization (?), "connectedness," erosion of community autonomy and isolation, etc..

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I might by myself a nice slab of Danish cheese the next time I go to the supermarket, because I think it is unfortunate that a small country such as this should become the target of worldwide outrage and economically meaningful boycotts. Denmark's values are frankly much like my own, and I think the US could it some ways benefit from learning from them.

Still, I know in doing this, I am taking a side in a conflict which is civilizational in nature. And that is not something I do with pleasure.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:48:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rock breaks scissors, actually.  Scissors cut paper.  Or are you not referring to "Rock-Paper-Scissors"?  (Ah, the games of my youth.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 11:04:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't fail to understand that. I just don't think this angle is the only angle there is to the story. Really there are at least two separate phases  (separated by 5 months or so) and a number of competing narratives involved. It is truly a fascinating event, if you take a step back for a second. Really, I think the first phase - the initial publication and the recent history of immigration and integration and the debates surrounding it - is different from the second phase, where "mobs" are demanding I don't quite know what, burning embassies and such. In the first phase, I think we need to be careful not to interpet this solely as an issue of free speech and religion. In terms of the second phase, I think we need to be certain not to give into unreasonable demands.

Also, I don't think this is quite the same as the Rushdie story, for reasons I suggest above. That Rushdie's book was a legitimate and very sophisticated attempt to reimagine Islam from someone from within the Islamic tradition. These cartoons - at least some of them - were half-assed attempts that were designed to offend. They weren't designed to advance discourse or to challenge fundamental beliefs in a serious way, and they weren't drawn by people who know much about Islam. While I stand with Denmark and free speech, I also don't think we should thus elevate these cartoons to the level of the Satanic Versus either.

Another thing I would point out is that the kind of Christianity that is ascendant in much of the world is also in many ways fundamentally illiberal and anti-modern. Especially in places like Africa. With the collapse of Marxism and related third world liberation ideologies, fundamentalist religiousity has come to fill the void. Islam in some places, Christianity in others.

Indeed, I'm skeptical of the ability of Islam as it is understood by a majority in the Middle East and liberalism to be compatible. The recent elections throughout the Middle East have proven this. The fact - it seems to me - is that more democracy means less liberalism.

Liberalism - broadly understood - is not on the march. It is embattled throughout much of the world. And this understandable in a situation of high poverty, political instability, and its attendant problems. When the lights are off and the trash is piling up and you don't have a job, freedom of speech becomes a less important issue - people will trade these luxuries for belief systems that can provide any semblance of order.

None of this thus means that we in nations with strong liberal traditions should thus compromise these traditions. Absolutely not. But it is also useful to take a step back and think of the big picture as well.

For a really good post that sums up my feelings, see Josh Marshall's latest.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:03:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re the Satanic Verses, I fully agree with what you say. But I'm not the one treating the cartoons as if they were the same. The radical muslims are. In effect, they're the ones equating sophomoric ignorant infidel humor with carefully phrased reflective thought by one of their own, rewarding both with death sentencdes.

That is the best proof IMHO of the fact that, in the greatest scheme of history, this is not "our" problem but an internecine Muslim fracture between enlightenment/reformation forces (which probably think the whole thing is beneath notice in the case of the cartoons and praiseworthy in the case of Rushdie) and obscurantist/stagnation forces who desire a progress-less, static world.

The flashpoint is the casrtoons today, but it could have been anything, in arts of science. A Mahometan shroud of turin-like discovery, dead scrolls things, anything really.

My point has less to do with freedom of expression, liberalism, etc. than it has to do with evolution vs stagnation.  One might argue that the West has gotten itself willingly dragged into an unstated Islamic Civil War for the last decade or so.

by Lupin on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:15:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, I'm much less sanguine here.

I think many in the West, especially since 9/11, have tried to reassure ourselves that there really is a silent majority that wants "modernity," "liberalism," etc. in the Islamic world, especially in the Middle East. Indeed, I think in some ways this is the assumption many who favored the Iraq War believed. I'm not at all sure this is the case, and the nature of this conflict right now demonstrates that we are two civilizations speaking from different assumptions. Certainly, there are liberals/"modernists" in the Islamic world, but if recent election results are any indication, they are a distinct minority. I mean: who are the big shots in Iraq right now: the Iraqi Muslim brotherhood, Ayatollah Sistani, Muqtada Al-Sadr. Islamists consitute a super majority in the Iraqi parliament. Same thing in Palestine. Same thing in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood would have won a strong majority if a fully free and legitimate election were held.

Really, if you allow me to use a perhaps stretched analogy, what you have in the Middle East vis-a-vis the West is a situation a bit like you had amongst whites in the Jim Crow South during, say the first half of the 20th century, vis-a-vis blacks. There is/was, in both cases, a group of citizens who are "liberals" but they are weak and marginalized minority. What you have is really have in both situations are groups that disagree on tactics, but not on basic ideology.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:30:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
there is an unwritten assumption in this post which I think is naive and dated. That there is somehow an end point to history/human existence, and that the Muslim problem is that they just don't "get" it yet.

I think if we look back in time, throughout human history and across global societies, the story is of humanity is not necessarily one of progress or coalescence around a shared set of values. Case in point is Russia's slow slide back into authoritarianism. Or the "inexplicable" fact China is not democratic despite its tremendous economic progress. Or the fact that the ascendant ideology in the Middle East right now is islamism, not some kind of more secular alternative. Or the fact that there are 10s of millions of Americans who right now literally think Jesus Christ is going to return to earth in their life time after a battle of armageddon - not to mention the 100s of millions globally who think this. We only worry about the "inexplicablitiy" of the Islamic situation right now, because it is challenging are values directly. But all these others - and many other situations I could mention - fundamentally challenge what I would argue is a concept of world development distinct to late 19th through 1960s western thought that enlightenment values are inevitably the end point of history at which all will arrive. That science will triumph over superstition, that secularism will triumph over reason, etc.. These things aren't going away, though.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:17:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, Ben P, for writing this much-needed contextual piece.

Unfortunately, I have little time to be online at the moment and have only just been able to read the debates on ET on this subject. Your position is pretty much mine. I'll recommend your diary and in this way cast my vote, in the camp of DoDo, Migeru, kcurie, DeAnander, the stormy present, Londonbear, and others I may forget.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:40:45 AM EST
sincerely hope that ET is not splitting into "camps" -- that would be very sad.  I think that this controversy reveals different ways of thinking about Rights vs Responsibilities, and that our underlying philosophies and assumptions are exposed (and can be re-evaluated by ourselves and everyone else) in the light of the moral dilemmas and contradictions of this story.

Here's my quick riff for the evening, and it echoes the parallel of the beam and the mote.

Much is made of the "backwardness" of the Muslims because of the violent and barbarous threats of their Angry Young Men against uninvolved individuals (collective punishment, mob violence for ethnically-motivated revenge or blackmail, or just the katharsis of unfocussed rage and macho bravado).  But I do not notice much being said about, for example, the backwardness and barbarity of the tactics used by the US and other states against Iraq -- blockading medical supplies and damaging civilian infrastructure to deprive people of clean water and electricity, heavy aerial bombardment, embargo of critical medical supplies, collective punishment, etc.  Is siege warfare and the hostage-taking of an entire population any more civilised than burning embassies?

Is such behaviour somehow respectable or legitimate because it is done on a grand scale by professionals, coldly planned for profit and geopolitical advantage, instead of on a small scale by a lot of yobs whipped up into stick-waving frenzy by skilled demagogues?  Can anyone look at the conduct of a significant chunk of the "coalition" armed forces in Iraq, or read interviews with the US rank and file, without thinking that many of these (including a frightening percentage of the officer corps) are just another bunch of ignorant yobs cranked up to do mob violence?

We cling desperately to the things which we believe make the West "superior" and "civilised," but how does the rest of the world perceive us, on the basis of our governments' and our armies' actions abroad?  We steal, we bribe, we threaten to with-hold desperately needed aid if governments do not knuckle under to our corporate bigshots.  We send in armed force to protect private business profits, we assassinate popular leaders and shore up dictators, we try to loot even the rain.  How many journalists have died in prison under dictatorships directly supported by funds from the US, EU, etc?  Where was our tender regard for press freedom when we were supporting those regimes?  (when we still are supporting some of them?)

I say this not to claim that the West is somehow worse than any other cultural/economic bloc, but just that we don't seem to me such a heckuva lot better -- not so much better that we can stand up on a pedestal and point down, contemptuously, at others as so very 'backwards' and needing to be taught a lesson in how civilised people behave.  The most I can say -- and lucky we are too -- is is that thanks to imperial power and the core/periphery dynamic, most of the brutality and repression required for the maintenance of our elites is exported and dumped on other people (like our other toxic wastes) rather than on us fortunate citizens of Empire in the core...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 02:48:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]

But I do not notice much being said about, for example, the backwardness and barbarity of the tactics used by the US and other states against Iraq -- blockading medical supplies and damaging civilian infrastructure to deprive people of clean water and electricity, heavy aerial bombardment, embargo of critical medical supplies, collective punishment, etc.  

Do you mean here on ET or in general? Because I take full responsibility for what I write here, but only partial responsibility for what our governments do (in our collective name)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:39:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had no intention of identifying a split between camps on ET, and I don't believe that is happening. However, since there was (loose, imho) talk on one thread about a "minority", I simply wanted to state my position : with the relativists, the contextualists, the "situationists", not with the absolutists.

So I think you're right about Western brutality in Iraq not being perceived as "backward". If anything, it's perceived as hi-tech, state-of-the-art and more. But then, how much effort has been made to hide reality, and how much propaganda has been rolled out over how many years about surgical precision in warfare? That's how we are taught to perceive ourselves. It's not how we are perceived.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 11:27:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose my point was really that a believing, indoctrinated Muslim would perceive the torching of embassies or killing of hostages as "righteous force" much as fans of Fox News in the US perceive the sack of Baghdad and Fallujah as "righteous force";  it is the same general type of personality in each case, who applauds violence and barbarity when it comes packaged as "just war," as vengeance for real or imagined crimes, as Hammuraban justice, as a "blow for freedom" -- who believes that there is such a thing as righteous cruelty, that torture can be justified, that collective punishment can be justified.  I see this mindset generally as savage and unappealing and dangerous.  But I don't see it as peculiar to one ethnicity or cult, and that's why I keep objecting to the "Muslims are just like that" meme.  

Sure, a percentage of Them are "just like that," and so are a percentage of Us.  And their leaders cynically whip up and exploit the barbarian quotient in their demos, just as our leaders and media whip up the barbarian quotient in our lapdog "news" services and CivClash/Crusade speechifying.

... [musing] One gets the feeling at times that what people really hate about Islamist extremists is not that they kill people -- they have killed only a fraction of the number of people killed by the US in Iraq sp far, for example -- but they do it in low-tech ways.  I'm losing track of the number of times I've read of a "primitive" explosive device being used for a roadside bomb, and the horror that Westerners express about a beheading seems curiously absent if the beheading is done by shrapnel or a cookie cutter mine rather than by hand with an old fashioned sharp knife.  Burning people alive with WP doesn't shock us in the way that stoning someone to death shocks us, though if forced to choose I'm not sure that stoning wouldn't be more merciful (there's always the chance of a lucky shot to the head to knock you out before the awful end).

Sometimes it seems that our real objection to Muslim popular violence is that they are peasants, and how dare they strike back at Lordly Us with their ignoble, primitive weapons?  How infra dig, to be killed by an uppity Untermensch...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:25:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DeAnader, I'm becoming a raving fan of your musings. You should bundle them and have them published, so I can ask for an autograph. (Hah! How completely self-serving.)

But I don't see it as peculiar to one ethnicity or cult, and that's why I keep objecting to the "Muslims are just like that" meme.

As Colman writes above, "There are assholes everywhere." I'm really thinking that is a runner-up for my still absent sig-line.

Actually, I think I am more shocked by the fact that the modern "we" melt the skin of children (in Hunter's words) by WP, than by those stoning adulterous/raped women to death. And probably for the whole wrong reason you attempted to sketch out: us westerners, with all our technology and wars and earlier deaths, haven't we learnt our lesson yet? The number of deaths through history is a learning experience in humanity, cruel enough. If its gets too bad, we attempt another method, hoping that this time it will work out better than the last time. Because we have WP, and they have rocks, we should stop using it. If we would've rocks, we wouldn't know any better.

I hope that makes sense.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 08:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman often sums up the point I was trying to make while using only 10 percent of the bandwidth :-)  what an annoying habit eh?  :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 08:49:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they do it in low-tech ways.

Yes, I think that's what I was lumbering towards. In fact, the Western Way of violence is sold to us as a sexy consumer-society package. Whereas those barbarians...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 03:28:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]

My main problem with all of this is: What was the purpose of publishing this cartoon? Was it simply to offend? If so, they have certainly managed to do so.

It certainly appeared to be malicious, which is not in the spirit of freedom of speech.

In Europe there is a lot of uproar when anyone's sensibilities are offended.

Take, for example, when Prince Harry dressed up in a Nazi outfit. The discussion was not about freedom of speech but what is considered offensive.

It's the very same in this debate.

This man is a moderate? He doesn't "get" what free speech is all about. The Prince Harry story is a good example, and as he says, the discussion was about whether it was tasteless or offensive, not about whethere he had the right to do it - because everybody agreed that he did.

With the cartoons, we have the exact opposite. I have not heard a single muslim voice saying that the papers had a right to publish these. quite the opposite, the pretty much explicitly ask that these cartoons be forbidden, that official apologies be presented - which by the way shows a terrifying ignorance of what the relationship between the press and governments is in the West - and that such caricatures never ever be published again.

If it was a matter of taste or offense to start with, it certainly isn't now. It is freedom of speech we are talking about now.


The Danish failed to understand how offensive it is to caricature the Prophet Muhammad. In the Muslim world we are not even allowed to have any images of the Prophet Muhammad, never mind ones that caricature him.

This is all bollocks. The JP knew exactly what they were stepping into. And the JP is not in the Muslim world, whose rules DO NOT APPLY in Europe, just like the rules of the VATICAN DO NOT APPLY.

Abortion is offensive to some catholics. The worst kind translate their offense into violence, and they are rightly condemned. The Muslim voices we hear today belong in the same category - fanatical ideologues.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:23:14 AM EST
Get ready for a clash a civilizations - which I think this is what we have - because this is about as fair-minded a reaction I have seen.

I frankly think you are being willfully obtuse here. You only want to see this controversy on one plane. And that is a legitimate plane. And your general point about free speech is correct. But not everybody sees the world as you do. And I think one should try to understand these other viewpoints. I think to see simply as an example of European anti-clericalism is a bit weak.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:37:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, in France there certainly is a strong streak of anti-clericalism to it. In fact, the only people that have spoken to defend the position that the cartoons should not have been published are the traditional defenders of the catholic church here, usually on the right.

In My case, there is a strong component of anti-clericalism, but the fact that I found these cartoons to be pretty benign, seriously. People get offended way too easily today.

And to answer Migeru's point yesterday (that I was selective in the bigotry I recognised, i.e. only anti-French and anti-Israel), the core of the problem is not that Muslims want to make us acknowledge the supposed tastelessness of the cartoons, it is that they want us not to publish these things, not as a courtesy to them, but as an obligation.

When I criticize the anti-French bias (as I see it) in the English language press, (i) I absolutely am not trying to prevent them from publishing their stuff, (ii) I am not contesting their right to have such opinions, (iii) I try to make more visible some hidden assumptions or prejudices, and (iv) I am trying to get across different perceptions or different facts, i.e. I am trying to bring new information on the table to try to convince whoever is reading me to weigh the original article differently. Here we are told that we must not represent Muhammad, full stop.

And I'll say it again. These cartoons are pretty tame, frankly (the original 12, not the additional 3, which are indeed highly offensive).

So the appropriate thing would have been for JP to publish a reply by a representative of the muslim community, explaining why they found such images distasteful or inappropriate, and informing readers that this would not be done in the Muslim word, and that they hoped that the Danes would extend them that courtesy even here in Denmark. And hey, it might even have worked.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 07:41:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the core of the problem is not that Muslims want to make us acknowledge the supposed tastelessness of the cartoons, it is that they want us not to publish these things, not as a courtesy to them, but as an obligation

...and we didn't accept that obligation. (Making public apologies is no such obligation.) Rasmussen could have told this to the 11 ambassadors instead of snubbing them, alongside with acknowledging the insulting nature. The above is not the core of the problem. The re-publications were pure posturing.

When I criticize the anti-French bias...

I think Migeru saw you not noticing Danish bias.

These cartoons are pretty tame, frankly

You are not the one to decide that. And to repeat our point, it's not the cartoons alone, it's the context and motivation too.

So the appropriate thing would have been for JP to publish a reply by a representative of the muslim community, explaining why they found such images distasteful or inappropriate, and informing readers that this would not be done in the Muslim word, and that they hoped that the Danes would extend them that courtesy even here in Denmark. And hey, it might even have worked.

On that, fully agreed. And this should have been done back in September already.

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

by DoDo on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 01:58:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are not the one to decide that. And to repeat our point, it's not the cartoons alone; it's the context and motivation too.

Well, first of all, yes it is up to me and any other individual to decide that, as free and independent individuals.  And this is exactly the point Jerome and many of us are emphasising, that no one should be allowed to decide what we are allowed to say or do as long as it is within the legal framework of a society. By saying this you are depriving individuals their right to have an opinion and stating it.  I could illustrate this by saying who are you or any other individual (in this case Muslims included), to decide whether I am competent or even allowed to have an opinion on this matter?

The ban on depicting Muhammed is an Islamic ban and not a Universal one.  It is a religious ban and thus can not be expected to be upheld by non-Muslims or non-religious people.  You could, and often should, out of respect, refrain from doing such a deed, but you can not be forced to silence through violence or threats of violence.

As for the motivations behind this whole issue it is pure speculations and, although rightwing extremists have some splendid times these days, not very fruitful to ponder over given the fact that we have no conclusive evidence pointing towards certain motivations.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:12:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, first of all, yes it is up to me and any other individual to decide that, as free and independent individuals.

Decide what?

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

by DoDo on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These cartoons are pretty tame, frankly

You are not the one to decide that.  

Yes I am and others too.  That is my prerogative as a free and independent citizen.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:24:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I think Migeru saw you not noticing Danish bias.

No, he was saying I did not notice anti-Muslim bias with as much alacrity as anti-French or anti-Jewish one. Fair enough, but the site is open for others to do so, and indeed it is being done.


You are not the one to decide that

Then in which case you are not the one to tell me if I should be offended by the behavior of those that choose to represent the Muslims to the world. I am telling you that I am seriously offended by your presumption. Will you apologize to me now?

(I am asking you in jest, but the question is the logical outcome of your contention that the muslims have the sole right to decide what offends them).

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:12:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, he was saying I did not notice anti-Muslim bias with as much alacrity as anti-French or anti-Jewish one.

That's essentially the same. And what relation does that have with what you then wrote?

Then in which case you are not the one to tell me if I should be offended by the behavior of those that choose to represent the Muslims to the world.

I never told you not to.

muslims have the sole right to decide what offends them

Offense is not a matter of decision. It is emotional. The form one expresses offense can de debated, but I have never challenged your objections to forms of showing offense by Muslims.

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

by DoDo on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:58:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People are free to see it differently.  But freedom of speech comes down to one issue: Do we, or do we not, have the right to say and do what we want, provided we don't violate the rights of others?  Does anyone have the right to control my body?  It all comes down to the right to one's self.  No one has the right to force his or her ideology on me.  It's my mind, my mouth, my hands, etc.  When you accept that, it becomes nearly impossible to see this on more than one plane.

Some issues are simply not complex.  Fundamental rights are (usually) among those issues.  The Muslim world has no right to force its values on us.  Mid-East governments are free to ask that we punish these cartoonists.  And we're free to say, "It's their right to publish these, and we have no right to punish them.  Deal with it."

I'm still stunned by the burning of those embassies.  Countries go to war over that sort of thing.  Attacking (say) the British embassy in Syria would be no different from attacking the London Underground.  And this, more than anything, shows an ignorance of the West.  The Danish government was not involved in publishing the cartoons.  The embassy doesn't represent the cartoonists and the newspaper.  It is, as I said in my diary, akin to burning your neighbor's house because your other neighbor drove over your mailbox with his car.

I say, again, this is what religion leads people to do.  This is what strict adherence to some book -- some. fucking. book. -- that was written two thousand years ago leads people to do.

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 12:03:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I came here to write your post, but then I found you had done it for me - and better.

Some issues are simply not complex.  Fundamental rights are (usually) among those issues.  The Muslim world has no right to force its values on us.  Mid-East governments are free to ask that we punish these cartoonists.  And we're free to say, "It's their right to publish these, and we have no right to punish them.  Deal with it."

And they can boycot all they want, since they are free to do, they have that option. But not burning embassies or leveling death threats to the innocent. We need firmness in this case; the Arabic world turns to that wheel. Anyone read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom?

by Nomad on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:45:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But freedom of speech comes down to one issue: Do we, or do we not, have the right to say and do what we want, provided we don't violate the rights of others?
There is freedom to and freedom from. A lot of ink has been spilled by philosophers of ethics on the need to recognize both. There is such a thing as the right to dignity, self-image, etc... Hurling slurs is not an exercise of free speech that doesn't violate the rights of others. People have some right to go about their business without having to endure offensive language. Then again, the US constitution protects freedomof speech only, but (for example) the Spanish constitution has
Section 18
(1) The right to honour, to personal and family privacy and to the own image is guaranteed.
Section 20
(1) The following rights are recognized and protected:
a) the right to freely express and spread thoughts, ideas and opinions through words, in writing or by any other means of reproduction;
...
(2) The exercise of these rights may not be restricted by any form of prior censorship.
...
(4) These freedoms are limited by respect for the rights recognized in this Part, by the legal provisions implementing it, and especially by the right to honour, to privacy, to the own image and to the protection of youth and childhood.
There you have it. Now tell me the Spanish constitution is illiberal and backwards for not putting freedom of speech above every other consideration.

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 Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 06:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not, in and of itself, illiberal, but it most certainly lays the groundwork for very illiberal causes.  No one has the right to silence others because they find words offensive.  What's to stop a Republican from demanding that I be arrested if I state my view that the Republican Party is made up of fascists, pseudo-libertarians, and pseudo-Christian sociopaths?

If I say that communism and anarcho-capitalism are the foolish ideas of vicious ideologues with the brain capacity of a AAA battery (e.g., Lenin, Rothbard, etc.), have I violated the honor of communists and anarcho-capitalists sufficiently to warrant arrest and trial?

Your freedom from offensive language results from your having the ability to walk away.  Just. walk. away.  If we punish everyone who says something that some other person finds offensive, we're all going to spend time in jail.  It's too subjective and, as laws go, quite ridiculous.  When something offends me, I walk away, or change the channel, or pick up a different newspaper or magazine.  It's not very difficult.  I don't demand that the government come to rescue me.

The right to "honor"?  If people allow their honor to be damaged by some stupid cartoon in a newspaper, they're overly-emotional and need to seriously evaluate their beliefs, because, frankly, if your faith is so correct, in your mind, the words of a cartoonist shouldn't matter.

Offensive language, or cartoons, is not a violation of anyone's privacy, unless that person forces his way into your home to do so, at which point the crime goes well-beyond offensive language.  This is the kind of law that leads to morons like Hillary Clinton and Lynn Cheney being allowed to wage a war on silly crap like video games, instead of doing the right thing by telling parents to stop buying them.  "Oh, no!  My kids are playing Super Mario Brothers, and Mario just jumped on a Bad Guy to kill it!  Save me, Dubya!  We must smite the evil Nintendo!"

Considering the potential secondary effects -- always the killer in public policy -- I would argue that, yes, this is an illiberal law.  How has the law been applied?

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 01:03:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find this irksome.
Your freedom from offensive language results from your having the ability to walk away.  Just. walk. away.
Maybe we need a discussion of positive and negative liberty, but this diary is not the place for it.

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 Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 01:25:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of people in the pan-Arab world would like to walk away, just walk away, from Anglo/US occupation, from repressive regimes, from poverty, etc.  Or they would very much like the occupiers to walk away, just walk away, from the occupied countries.  But they don't have that option.  The nations that do the occupying, and the taunting and insulting and self-congratulatory preaching about Freedom, have no intention of walking away or even bothering to count their victims, and they have the brute force to back up their intransigence.

The first freedom is the freedom to say No.

I don't know whence comes this idyllic vision of a vast level playing field peopled exclusively by rational actors with infinite freedom of choice, but it doesn't much resemble the planet that I grew up on...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:06:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thatks, DeAnander, for finding the words that I could not.

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 Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of people in the pan-Arab world would like to walk away, just walk away, from Anglo/US occupation, from repressive regimes, from poverty, etc.  Or they would very much like the occupiers to walk away, just walk away, from the occupied countries.

Last I looked, only one country in the region was under what can by any stretch of the term be called Anglo/US occupation.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:20:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The rest of them are under oppressive regimes which are clients of the US, or officiel enemies of the US to which the US subcontracts torture, and there is one region under occupation by a client of the US.

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 Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:25:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to say I'm planning to respond in an adult way to this, but, really, I'm just pissed off.

As is increasingly becoming the case with you, DeAnander, you didn't address my point (just as you routinely failed to address my point in the Wal-Mart thread, instead relying on emotion and attack, in that case), which was addressed specifically to the controversy over the cartoons.  I suspect you would find that you and I are in at least near-full agreement about US involvement in the Middle East (and South America, and Central America, and so on).  I'll leave the issue of Anglo involvement to the Britons here.

I also appreciate the generalization about "the nation" -- not the Republicans, or the neocons, or the Bushies -- having no intention of walking away or "even bothering to count their victims".  Nevermind the 48% of Americans who voted for John Kerry.  Nevermind those of us who opposed this war from the beginning, and who spent endless hours doing everything we could to stop Bush from winning a second term.  It's the whole damned nation.  We're all a bunch of blood-spilling sociopaths, aren't we?

Unbelievable.

Nothing would make me happier than to see America rid itself of involvement with the current governments in the Middle East, whether Saudi Arabia, or Syria, or Israel, or whatever.  Not one of those governments is worth a dime to me.  Don't drag me down because of the actions of people I've worked to stop.  You're more than welcome to call things as you see them, but don't throw out broad statements about Americans' views and attitudes and expect me to not respond by saying that you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 08:44:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
see, people do get angry when you generalise about their nation or religion...  just don't burn my embassy, OK?  :-)

more seriously...

afaik Kerry has not once repudiated the invasion of Iraq, but has only claimed that he would have done it better.  ditto that beacon of Democratic hopes, H R Clinton.  when the Dems identify themselves as the anti-war party, then the world at large will perceive America as a divided country;  but the narrative of American media and the political spin of the major players is that the anti-war contingent is a tiny fringe of marginalised malcontent lefties who show up at ANSWER events.  (this is of course not accurate, as I've been to those events and seen the broad spectrum of ages and political plumage there -- and it ignores critics from the Right like PC Roberts and J Raimondo -- but it's how things are spun by the media machinery.)

I live and work in the US and have for many years.  I did everything within my small power to stop the invasion of Iraq -- I also decried and protested the US' earlier buddy-buddy-ness with Saddam 20 years ago, as it happens.  nevertheless I do personally benefit from the policies of Empire, as well as personally paying for them and experiencing some disbenefits.  I pay taxes to this government, instead of taking the path of conscience and becoming a tax resister.  in my view, I share the responsibility -- even though I am not a US citizen -- much as a moderate Muslim who donates money to a group whose radical cadres carry out violent or extremist actions shares some responsibility for their actions.  at least that is mho.

and though metacomment is seldom productive... gingerly I venture to wonder when or where I ever said that I expected anyone not to respond?  when I assert a strong opinion I expect a certain number of people to disagree with me.  that's just life.

you do seem to be getting a bit riled here, which concerns me as the tone of debate at ET is generally civil even when strained.  if you're allergic to my style as an essayist, or you're angry because I don't conform to some "rules of debate" that you would like to enforce, well... to quote an earlier meme, why not just walk away :-)  in any public bar or cafe, there are going to be people you like and people you don't, people you enjoy and people you find boring or irritating.  that's also just life.  why waste it getting personally angry with ascii characters on a screen?  just my $.02 ...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 04:51:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, Prince Harry had the right to wear whatever he wanted to that party, but he still apologized for wearing a tasteless and offensive costume.  It is not incumbent upon us to do things simply because they are legal.

As for not hearing a single Muslim voice saying the newspapers have a right to publish the cartoons, I guess you have not been reading my comments, because I have linked to several of them.

I do have more to say on this issue but am pressed for time right now and need to get some work done.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:38:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prince Harry is a mere boy compared to his grandfather Prince Philip. Here are some of Phil the Greek's accumulated words of wit, wisdom and diplomacy. You can be pretty sure that every one of them resulted in someone like a press secretary, spokesman or the Foreign Office apologising on his behalf.

    * "The bastards murdered half my family.." (1967)

    When asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union

    * "You must be out of your minds.." (1982)

    To Solomon Islanders, on being told that their population growth was 5% a year.

    * "You are a woman, aren't you?" (1984)

    Said in Kenya, to a native woman who had presented him with a small gift.

    * "If you stay here much longer you'll all get slitty eyed." (1986)

    Said to British students in China.

    * "If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine the Cantonese will eat it." (1986) [I have heard a different version of this with table instead of chair and I believe he is quoting that badly]

    Said at a World Wildlife Fund meeting.

    * "Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world." (1991)

    Said in Thailand, after accepting a conservation award.

    * "You can't have been here that long - you haven't got a pot belly." (1993)

    Said to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary.

    * "Aren't most of you descended from pirates?" (1994)

    Said to an islander in the Cayman Islands.

    * "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?" (1995)

    Said to a driving instructor in Scotland.

    * "You managed not to get eaten, then?" (1998)

    Said to a student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea.

    * "It looks like it was put in by Indians." (1999)

    Said after he saw a poorly constructed fusebox.[Presumably a wierd reference to "cowboy builders]

    * "Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf." (1999)

    Said to young deaf people in Cardiff, referring to a school's steel band.

    * "Do you still throw spears at each other?" (2002)

    To an Aboriginal man on Australia's Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.

    * "You were playing your instruments, weren't you? Or do you have tape recorders under your seats?" (2002)

    Said to a children's band in Australia.

    * "Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?" (2002)

    Said to a blind woman with a guide dog.

    * "The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop tourism we could stop the congestion.." (2002)

    Commenting on the London traffic debate, after mayor Ken Livingstone forced through his plan to charge motorists £5 to enter the city.

    * "French cooking's all very well, but they can't do a decent English breakfast.." (2002)

    Aboard the floating restaurant 'Il Punto' on the river Orwell in Ipswich, after thoroughly enjoying an excellent full English breakfast (Il Punto is owned by Frenchman Regis Crepy).

    * "You look like you're ready for bed!"

    Said to the President of Nigeria, who was dressed in traditional robes

Now these were either cases of engaging mouth before putting brain in gear or him not quite getting the very dry English sense of humour quite right. You may remember that when someone asked Noel Coward who the small man (the Tongan Prime Minister) was sitting next to the rather portly Queen of Tonga in the carriage procession at the last Coronation, he replied "Lunch". I must admit remarking to a work colleague when I first heard of the Challenger crash that it was a bloody expensive way of making a teacher redundant. You may remember that the 7/7 bombins in London occured the day after the city was awarded the 2012 Olympics and apparently a common remark among those evacuated from the stations was "I did not think the French were such bad losers". Mostly these are attempts to defuse tension through humour are certainly not intended to offend. Unfortunately Princes Philip and Harry get reported when they say or do things that are just a bit too far. After all, why did Harry have to go and hire the uniform when he could have borrowed a far more accurate one from his Great Aunt Michael (of Kent)?

If there are actions and words that we accept cause great offense to others, albeit unwittingly, we should apologise for that hurt. Most of the cartoons originally published were fairly innocuous but the one "Turban bomb" one was particularly offensive not only for the depiction of Mohammed but also because it had the central pillar of the religion on it in Arabic (There is no god by Allah and Mohammed is his messenger") which directly ties the religion to violence.  I would agree with others that even disregarding the blasphemy many Muslims consider any depiction of any prophet is, this libel is the main reason for the depth of the upset. After all

by Londonbear on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 12:18:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a bit more charitable, because I don't think I disagree with you. I think are difference is one of degree, not of substance.

Really, what I see is a weak, poor, and disorganized region that we in the US (because of 9/11 and oil) and Europe (because of immigration) wouldn't give a fuck about if not for the reasons I just list. Without the above, the Middle East would be Africa.

I don't feel especially threatened as such, even though I know there are a lot of folks who think fundamentally differently than me in the ME and small minority that want to kill "me." Sure, actions must be taken to present these negative consequences from occurring. But I'm not expecting an Islamic conqueror in the US or Europe anytime soon, either.

Now if these kind of cultural clashes were occurring with China, that'd be a different story. That does represent a potentially significant threat.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:49:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jérôme, I find your above comments a tad bit out on a limb. You don't seem to have made the effort to actually understand what the guy was speaking about.

In your first reply, you accuse him of not understanding what freedom of speech is, but the actual detail you think he got wrong is your own perception that no Muslim at all argued that the cartoons were not commendable but permissible! While his very writing is a counter-example! This is ridiculous. In fact, from there are two sentences, from which it is very clear that he doesn't think the publication should be prohibited, that is if you read more carefully:

People have to be very careful when they publish something like this. They have to make sure they know what they are getting into.

The argument is not to not publish, and certainly not to make any laws on the issue. The argument is to take care. It's about commending, not about permitting.

The display of solidarity on the part of the European newspapers was an overreaction - to republish these pictures without context, just to take a stand, was wrong.

Without context, wrong. (Essentially my argument BTW.) Not to republish at all, not to be made illegal.

It's you who pretends this is all about freedom of speech, and that it was just an issue of a matter of taste before.

Your misreading of the second quote is even more infuriating, just because you keep on calling offense 'tasteless'. Please read his words again! What does the first sentence say? It speaks about lack of understanding of how offensive it is. The second sentence is an emphatisation. It is not about rules. It is about why people feel so offended. It is about the difference between the level of offense someone takes who has been witnessing blasphemy in various forms from childhood every day, and someone who hasn't.

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

by DoDo on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 02:25:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess there is a fundamental disagreement between us on what constitutes an offense. I say religious people get offended too easily and I say: deal with it, it's your problem, not mine, when the cartoons are so tame. You and Migeru say that they essentially have the right to say what offends them and we have to abide by that.

Well their being offended offends me too, and I DEMAND apologies from them for being such fussy whiners. It's up to me to define what offends me, right? Then they are fucking offensive to me.


I believe in freedom of speech, but it should be used responsibly.

That's typical wingnut code to say : it should be used only as fit MY requirements.

And back to the underlying issue: a muslim was represented with a bomb on his head. Well, what's the religion of that last 500 suicide bombers in the world? It's a caricature that has more than a little bit of link to contemporary reality. They should deal with it.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:08:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a serious question.

Are you saying that all that jews that complain about pictures of them in the muslim world (showing them as animal, beast, killers and worst) and nazis groups denying the holocaust ( also depicting them as an infra-human) should just shut up because all those jews offend you for being such a fussy whiners?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:37:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See below my additional comments.

Like I said, some offenses are obvious to all and, as a matter of fact, as you have pointed out, a number of them are illegal in many countries of Europe. These cases are best dealt with by the legal system if the authors insist on publishing.

Then we enter the realm of the subjective - precisely things like these cartoons, which I find unremarkable, and that many Muslims obviously find insulting. There is no legal recourse, but there is a first the recours of asking politely. It's not clear if that was done or not, but if it was, it was not successful, leading to more activist protests. At various stages, it might have been defused (whether by the paper publishing a muslim view point, or by Rasmussen talking to the ambassadors) - or it might not. We were still in that grey area.

But now we are outside that area, with muslims (at least those we hear) saying that these cartoons are a scandal, should not be published tolerated, and retaliating with violence. These people are out of line, do not understand how our system works, and I don't see why we should move in any way to accomodate their extremist and invasive demands.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:00:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing to say about the third paragraph. Isn't it obvious. Violence has no place here (as in many situations).

My question comes from your view on the two first paragrahs. I find these cartoons clearly offensive.. and I would say that they are clearly offensive to anybody who is muslim and even those that dislike racism. If some people do not find it racist.. well they are entitled to their opinion.....It is very difficult for me to understand why you see some as clearly offensive ( iguess you were referring to the ones banned in Spain) and not this one... I am sorry I must agree with Migeru on that.. if you really think that, I personally think you are clearly biased...but again this is my personal opinion. Do not take it personal..it is a personal perception that I know you just do not care.

In any cae, the most important point is the question about laws. You can always go to court and see if they break the law...and here it is what I do not understand.. why some pictures about jews are illegal and the same one applied to muslims is not considered illegal by our justice system? Isn't there a double standard? what is a muslim supposed to do if he/she sees this double standard.. demonstrate, ask for boycots (for sure they have all the right).. but then they do not get anything...well I guess we can say.. sorry mate.. the system is against you.. live with it..

I  just hope that Europe would be better than that. I just hope that either we have complete freedom of speech (even for KKK, nazis , muslim attacks, christian attacks...) or some common restriction to blatant racist comments in public speech is introduced. One or the other.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:18:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the fact that saying certain things in cetain european countries is illegal means there is not free speech. therefore it seems using free speech as an arguement to defend offending Muslims is a pretty poor arguement.
by observer393 on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:31:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess there is a fundamental disagreement between us on what constitutes an offense.

Yes. You want to define them when and to what grade they can feel offended. Not very liberal if you ask me.

That's typical wingnut code to say : it should be used only as fit MY requirements.

Sorry but that's pure paranoia. In your defense of permissible, you managed to eliminate commendable completely.

And back to the underlying issue: a muslim was represented with a bomb on his head. Well, what's the religion of that last 500 suicide bombers in the world?

Well, what's the religion of the last 500 aircraft pilots who threw bombs at civilians? Jérôme, you crossed a certain line here, I wonder if you noticed.

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

by DoDo on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 03:50:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On second thought, I think I crossed a line too, that of arrogance, and I could soon cross another, dusting off my flame-thrower. To awoid that, and since I already said all that I could say in the debate, I say sorry to Jérôme if the above was offending and will keep out of this discussion for the debate being.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:13:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I understand what you are trying to say. Thanks for keeping me in line!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:07:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am still wondering if he really crossed a lined and sounded like a freeper.

If Jerome thinks that all the anti-semitic cartoons in the Middle East are fair and square because  "what is the religion of those israeli pilots and army forcing the occupation of palestinian land" or "what is the religion of the racial jew settlers after all" then I see that he is not discriminating according to his racial references, just advocating a point about free speech (which I would deeply disagree).

It would be consistent to think that those cartoons have some kind of "relation" with reality and all the jews should live with the fact that they can be put in the same basket. So Jerome wil be advocating for free speech for any attack on any race or religion just becasue one or some of its members behave wrongly. He will defend the right to attack any evangelist or christian just because of the KKK. And of course any atheist for the multiple crimes comitted in the name of atheism.

I am not sure if in this last case he would be crossing the line. He will merely advocate a "religious fervor" for free speech. It is a controversial statement in any case but not a racist one.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:19:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  • As I wrote before, there are offenses that are obvious to all, and then there is a grey area of ambiguity, which one can abuse or not. I am saying that we are definitely in the grey area, and saying that only one side of the debate has the right to say which way to lean from there is silly. It's like letting George Bush define what a patriot is, it's unilateral disarmament in that debate;

  • Well Americans are being caricatured as bombing civilians. I myself posted such a caricature by Plantu (I cannot find the link right now) of US war planes bombing Iraq and asking "can't they be grateful?" - and if anybody sees some one in a plane bombing civilians, s/he is likely to think they are Americans. Similarly, the only thing most people hear about the Arab world is yet another suicide bombing somewhere. Sure, it only reflects our ignorance, but it's a fact, and the caricature of someone with a bomb immediately brings to mind Palestinian or Iraqi suicide bombers and not Danes or sub-saharan Africans.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:50:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not agree with your second paragrah but I see what you mean and it is clearly not crossing the line though at first read it really sounded racist. I knew you would have an explanation.

And again, the point I will disagree with you to no end is  the first. Who is to decide what is in the grey area and which things not? For me , we are clearly NOT in a grey area here. This is pure racism as fas as I can see (two clearly .. I must admit that a third one could be in the grey depending on how you see it).

I bet that most of the cartoon in the Middle East are not considered at all racist by a great majority.. more or less at the same rate that people in Europe do not consider these cartoons racist. So who is to decide what is blatant? A judge , you will answer.. a judge that in Europe is comletely biased against muslims and pro-catholic and pro-jews and in the Middle East is just the other way around.

Either you stablish complete free of speech or you just wirite down clear laws about restriction of racist comments and how to identify it. Sorry jerome you can not get it both ways: when it is blatant (as I see it) it is fine to be banned , when it is not (as I see it) we should defend it to no end.

And with this I think I have made clear my argument..No point in keep banging on it. I have made up my mind about you and I guess you have made your mind about me...

Talk to you again...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:28:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I am not offended by much, and I think that religious - and other slef-righteous - people are much too easily offended, and thus become pains for others.

For instance, I am not offended by this (which is the cover of that album on the Holocaust which was banned by the Spanish supreme court):

(The title itself is great - an ironical comment on Godwin's law)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:37:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also do not get offended by racist comments.. I am white :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:41:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
of an offense that is obvious to all?
by observer393 on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
another American has a diary on dKos (The Cartoons: A Manufactured Controversy? (Illustrated)) with information that suggests that the Danish muslims that toured the Middle East added 3 REALLY offensive cartoons (you can find them linked to in the above diary, and in the 3 links below) to those prepared for JP.

http://ekstrabladet.dk/grafik/nettet/tegninger40.jpg
http://ekstrabladet.dk/grafik/nettet/tegninger38.jpg
http://ekstrabladet.dk/grafik/nettet/tegninger39.jpg

The source is the Gateway Pundit, but as it quotes only people like Michelle Malkin, the Belmont Club and other well-known hard right types, I don't know what to make of it. The Brussels Journal has more detail, but it is also a hard right site.

Any additional info (especially analysis of this: http://www.ekstrabladet.dk/VisArtikel.iasp?PageID=329877) would be helpful.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:43:53 AM EST
I'd actually heard this too, independently. They are actually considerably more offensive cartoons as well.

As I said, this certainly puts more weight behind the idea that we are really looking at a controversy with two phases: the second of which, I quite strongly back the stand you have chosen to take (even though I think you are too glib in dismissing the context of the first).

BTW, just heard the Danish embassy in Lebanon has been torched. Protests spreading - in Iraq, India, and elsewhere. Not good.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:59:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
here on ET: (The Cartoons: A Manufactured Controversy? (Illustrated)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 07:27:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, this is right. I've known about that aspect of the story for a week, being able to read Danish. But this is the kind of detail the international coverage has missed, and I have personally been more concerned with matters of principle than with all these details.

What happened is that the delegation of imams that toured the Middle East in December last year brought along three images which had been hatemailed to them by Danish bigots (though they originate from the US and Israel). By their own admission they included these at the back of the album with the JP drawings, ostensibly to demonstrate the level of prejudice against Muslims in Denmark. According to the imams, they had no blame for the misunderstanding that arose. According to their critics, they very much did.

In general, one should take Ekstra Bladet with a grain of salt; this is the sort of trashy tabloid that everyone wrongly accuses Jyllands-Posten of being. But this particular story is well documented.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is that some journalist and newspaper decided to publish a bunch of cartoons that are highly offensive to most Muslims (even if they are not offensive to many Europeans) knowing full well there would be a violent backlash. Then instead of condemning what was obviously racist/xenophobic (yes very few Muslims are white westerners) most of the European media decided to instead take it up as an issue of freedom of expression. Thus the European media used freedom of expression to not only justify racism but seemingly to glorify in the publication of it.
To those outside of Europe (and the US) it is just another example of how the culture, traditions and peoples of other regions are just considered and treated on a lower plain to those of the West, and is just another example of western arrogance and imperialism.
The backlash to all his was entirely predictable.      
by observer393 on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 08:52:34 AM EST
What you say about context is largely true, especially the parts in which you point out that for many xenophobic Europeans, Islamophobia and anti-Asian/North African racism are one and the same thing.

I just wanted to add, however, in the wider picture of Islam and Europe, that I don't think we are making enough efforts to teach immigrants that Europe is a secular place and that's the way it's going to remain. Widespread secularism is unique to Europe, and one of our greatest qualities. Open criticism - even ridicule - of religion should not only be tolerated but encouraged. It ensures the health of the 'market place of ideas.'

Immigrants ought to be told that while Europe will defend their right to practise their religion, it is a private matter and they should not expect governments to protect or promote their dogmatic sensibilities. We aren't like many of their home countries, where religion and government are intertwined. Government isn't responsible for what private citizens in private publications or private places say about religion, and if people do have a problem with them it isn't the duty of the government to intervene.

Frankly, the whole situation really highlights the lack of understanding of many Muslims about how Europe operates. For example, the boycott of Danish goods because of the actions of a private Danish newspaper - to most Europeans, this seems ridiculous. The storming of the Danish embassy. Really, what on earth do they have to do with what was published in a newspaper? Granted, there's a sense of anger and people want to strike out at something, but it's the very idea that they feel they can demand the Danish government halt publication or take punitive action against the newspaper that just doesn't make any sense to someone who understands how Western society works.

To me, this entire incident has been a bit of a wake-up call. Islam - not as a theoretical concept or as an intellectual position, but in reality for the majority of the immigrant community - is very, very hostile to those values which Europeans hold most dear:  gender equality, freedom of expression, separation between religion and state, sexual freedom and so on. In many ways it's similar to the religion of white, poor, fundamentalist American Christians on evolution, homosexuality, etc. It has a similarly aggressive political edge: as you can see in the riots.

For me, the tipping point came when I saw news coverage of protesters in Britain - where I live - protesting outside the Danish embassy. Amongst such lovely placards as 'Butcher those who insult Islam' and 'Islam will conquer Europe' was the song 'Denmark Denmark, you must pray, 7/7 is on its way.' I was disgusted, and enraged.  Of course they're far more radical than the vast majority of the Muslim community, but they represent the same kind of underlying aggression towards people who simply wish to practise the rights to which they are entitled in Europe.

As it is practised amongst the majority of Muslim immigrants(again, not as a theoretical concept - I don't hold that Islam is an inherently violent religion) Islam is simply incompatible with European values and how the majority of Europeans wish to live their lives. Of course, so is the same kind of fundamentalist Christianity I mentioned earlier.

What's the solution? Well, it isn't going to come from endless 'cultural awareness' programmes. It's going to come from either the elimination of Islam in its current state and replacement with a more reformed, enlightened version - or the elimination of European values. What's it to be?

Religion except as a moderate, private matter has no place in Europe - be it Christian or Islamic (the more one thinks about it, the more clear it is that these two are different sides of the same coin). We need to make this ABSOLUTELY CLEAR to new immigrants to Europe, while at the same time aggressively drilling it into the minds of the existing  population that as long as they're here, they leave their fundamentalism and religious violence at the door. If they don't like what Europeans publish in newspaper, or say on the television - then write a letter to the editor, organise a boycott of that particular company's products, or initiate legal action if they think an actual incitement to racial/religious hatred/violence has been committed. Otherwise shut up and go somewhere else. Same goes for those fundie Christian idiots who thought they had a right to threaten the BBC and producers of The Jerry Springer Opera with violence, you can fuck off to Oklahoma or Kansas or some other backwards shithole.

by Mephistopheles (J.F.Bargh@student.salford.ac.uk) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 10:44:20 AM EST
Are you channeling Nick Griffin or are you reading the BNP website?
by Samir on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 11:56:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A knee-jerk, idiotic reaction. Did you even bother to read my post?

The point was that Europe is largely secular, and that is the way it ought to remain. It has no duty to compromise its values in order to not offend religious peoples sensibilities - be they Christian or Muslim.

To accuse me of racism or religious hatred is a clear distortion of my post. I made clear that Europe must defend the rights of people to freely practise their religion, while at the same time telling them that it wont be allowed to dominate government or be expected to adopt its views.

The same is true for Christians who want to push evolution in schools, or force prayer, or censor television, or outlaw abortion: Muslims who feel that 'Butcher those who mock Islam' and 'Denmark, Denmark, you must pray, 7/7 is on the way' - or violence and damage directed against people and property - is an acceptable reaction, clearly don't understand how things work in the West. It's not acceptable to attack European embassies and their staff regardless of their connection - indirect or nonexistent - to the actual cartoons. They simply aren't responsible for what is published in private newspapers.

I can understand Muslims being offended by the cartoons - depictions of Allah are, after all, prohibited and all the moreso with negative ones. The question is one of reaction: the response is to complain or organise a boycott of that company's products, a peaceful protest against the newspaper, or make a police complaint if a law has been broken, not to resort to incitements to violence and actual rioting that has already claimed lives.

These protests are widespread - in almost every Muslim country. Many are violent. But it's more than that - it's just the fundamental misunderstanding about where blame should be apportioned and not actually seeing the difference between a country and its people and the actions of a private newspaper.

I don't feel as though I have to defend myself to you, but I'll add that I think your accusation of racism was disgusting, ignorant and lazy - if not most of all untrue.

by Mephistopheles (J.F.Bargh@student.salford.ac.uk) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 01:45:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Islam - not as a theoretical concept or as an intellectual position, but in reality for the majority of the immigrant community - is very, very hostile to those values which Europeans hold most dear:  gender equality, freedom of expression, separation between religion and state, sexual freedom and so on.

I was thinking of some whitty remark to come back with but to be honest if you can't see the racism in the remark above then it's pointless talking to you. I don't believe I called you a racist, but what you wrote above did for me a European and British Asian have the kind of rhetoric and language most closely associated with the British Natioinal Party rather than a left leaning poliitical forum.

by Samir on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 02:35:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would you consider doing a diary on what Islam says (as you understand it) about the topics suggested by Mephistopheles:  gender equality, freedom of expression, separation between religion and state, sexual freedom.

That would be most useful, I think, to fight prejudice and ignorance.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:20:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you suggesting that there are prescribed views that must be held by every European?
by Samir on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:32:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand your question.

You seemed to be saying that there was some ignorance or prejudice about the teachings of Islam on the above topics (if any), and I was wondering if you could provide us with better information on these, because I certainly can't (in that I am genuinely ignorant of these and curious to know more).

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:37:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Clearly the implication is that, just as it is assumed that there is a single approach to those topics in the islamic civilization, there should be a single accepted position within western civilization. And conversely, if there is not a single accepted "western" view, it shouldn't be assumed that there is a single "islamic" view.

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 Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:10:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could tell you about the Islam I know, the Islam of the Sufi's however I don't really think that's what you're after, so I'll decline thank you.
by Samir on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:39:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd love to see that. It might not be directly relevant but I think you'd find a lot of people very interested.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:40:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no idea what I am after, I don't even know what the Islam of the Sufis is. This is a genuine request, I am not trying to provoke you or taunt you in any way.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:41:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sufism is the mystical tradition within Islam.

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 Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:04:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Samir, Jerome isn't too fond of religion in general - he caused a stir on Kos a while back with diaries slamming all religious faith, and Christianity specifically. He is also quite liberal on the issues in question. So it is probably safe to say that he wouldn't agree with Islamic religious strictures on gender, sexuality, and religion's role in the state. But that's not because of any specific anti-Islamic bias.
by MarekNYC on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:08:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not slamming all religious faith, but all religious organisations and more specifically any attempt to bring absolutes into political or public discourse.

I am actually quite envious of people that have the faith - and the peace of mind that comes with it - to believe that there is more than a big empty nothing after we die. (Of course, you can replace "faith" by "ability to suspend rational judgement" and make it offensive).

But it's true that I am an equal opportunity religious basher. The catholic church is just as bad as islam ;-)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:21:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd love you to write about the Sufi way though. As I noted in my Reza Aslan diary, I just don't have the capacity to explain Sufism...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:16:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like all the others, I would be very interested in hearing your take. ET is exactly the platform for it.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 08:05:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't get to sexual freedom, but the rest were touched on in my blathering diary about Reza Aslan's book, No God but God.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are casting the sins of the vocal minority upon the majority. "Some Christians bomb abortions clinics therefore all Christians are bombers." All religions have assholes and they're normally the loudest ones. As has been clearly demonstrated the protests in many of the Islamic countries have been orchestrated by extremists. I'm sure you didn't mean to be racist but in the current climate of debate it's very easy for someone to take what you said as racist. Reread it from the point of view of someone feeling a bit defensive about the whole thing. (I'm too tired and rushed to make more sense of this. Feh.)
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:52:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You should not confuse a racist person with a racist narrative.

I do not know anything about you but you make the case very clear that you are not a racist.

But your narative is clearly racists. I do not have time to deconstruct it..but the implications, the things you suppose, the things that you stablih as true and so on and so on. give a clear narrative as Colman said.

This does  not mean you are racist.. but in this post, at least, you used a racist narrative...you know: "we" have to teach "them", "our" ideas, "their" ideas, mixing mainstream muslims with radical and making a huge mix of other stuff. I would really love to deconstruct it.. a pity I do not have time.

By the way, on a side note... According to your vision Spain is not really european. Here Catholic Church is payed with taxes, teaching of the Catholic religion is compulsory in public schools, teachers are paid by the state, there are special tratments for the church in all fields of life.. from taxes to media....

Spain is clearly not Eruope since there is no complete (there is some kind of separation..more or less like Lebanon) separation of church and state...Migeru can explin it better, Spain is laic but confessional...or something to this effect (in the Constitution) go figure

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 10:31:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean this?
16.3 No religion shall have a state character. The public authorities shall take into account the religious beliefs of Spanish society and shall consequently maintain appropriate cooperation relations with the Catholic Church and other confessions.
Separation of Church and State is not complete in many European Countries. The UK is one of them, where the Monarch is the head of the Church. Germany collects church tax and classifies its citizens according to whether they are Lutheran or Catholic. In Scandinavia they also have national Lutheran churches with close ties to the State and Monarchy. And so on and so forth... I guess no European country is European after all.

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 11:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The State churches in Scandinavia will be gone in a few years. In Norway, the leading muslim groups actually oppose this, as I recently discovered to my rude surprise.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 12:38:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Scandinavian countries will then join France as the only European countries, I suppose ;-)

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 12:50:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now seriously, it makes sense that they should oppose it: if a state church exists they can strive for a cozy relationship with the state under cover of "equality".

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 01:01:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant exactly that.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 01:23:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, Kcurie, if you are interested... On January 3 1979 Spain entered agreements with the Holy See on legal matters, education and culture, and economic matters. This stuff is too much for me.

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 11:27:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that "1" rating was unwarranted, I think. If you think he was racist, a "2" might be more appropriate, although I still think that would be harsh.

Better to simply reply and flag the issues.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm unaware of the true use of the rating system, so if i've been unintentionaly rude then please forgive me.
by Samir on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:33:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.eurotrib.com/special/new_user_guide#ratings


0 is only available to Trusted Users (see [here] to know what that is); the other four are available to all users.

0 and 1 are used to rate a comment "trollish", i.e. disruptive of dialogue, or insulting, or really inappropriate. Such ratings should not be used to indicate that you disagree with the comment.

2 should be used for comments that are borderline, or ambiguous, or unnecessarily aggressive in their tone even if they make valid points.

3 should typically be used for a comment which is interesting, but not so good as to deserve a 4.

4 are used to reward informative or smart or otherwise useful comments.

I guess a 1 could be warranted if you felt this was really a racist comment.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:40:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could see a 1 for that, since I found it a bit infuriating with the little knowledge I have about Islam. It might be better to talk it through but I could understand a strong reaction in the context of the current debate.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:42:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A knee-jerk, idiotic reaction. Did you even bother to read my post?
That deserved a 1, so the karma gods will probably be understanding.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:44:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, maybe a 2.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:54:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, that's still a 2.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:56:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found it rather objectionable myself.  Both of his comments, actually.  I generally refrain from rating anything other than 4s, though, except in the case of real trolls.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:47:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't believe he's racist, as I've said the language that is used is very insulting and is more like the language I have come to expect from racists.
by Samir on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:47:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am personally inclined to give it a 2 not so much for the content but for the insulting tone.

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 Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:12:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the solution? Well, it isn't going to come from endless 'cultural awareness' programmes. It's going to come from either the elimination of Islam in its current state and replacement with a more reformed, enlightened version - or the elimination of European values. What's it to be?

I hear you on this, but I don't think it's quite so clear-cut, honestly.  I don't think it needs to be such a choice.  What we should be concerned with, as private citizens, is seeking more enlightenment on both sides, not because newspaper don't have the right to print this sort of thing -- everyone knows my opinion on that by now, and Jerome and I have certainly done our fair share of swearing over the past few days -- but because we should hold ourselves to higher standards than this (again, as private citizens rather than through the government).

Going after the Catholic church because of the pedophilia scandal is the sort of situation in which I would wholly support a cartoon, because I do think the church needs to clean itself up, though I'm not a Catholic and the structure of the church is none of my business.  Colman's points about the attitude of "because I can" being childish is correct, in my opinion.  And the newspapers deserve to be ridiculed for that -- perhaps even with a cartoon in the Guardian or something.

That said, I agree with you that the Muslim community needs to take into consideration our values, because -- and this is based solely on my own experience -- we in the West tend to hold these sorts of freedoms up to a status near, and even surpassing, our own religions (as we should).  Freedom of the press should warrant no less respect than freedom of religion.

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 09:59:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it isn't going to come from endless 'cultural awareness' programmes. It's going to come from either the elimination of Islam in its current state and replacement with a more reformed, enlightened version - or the elimination of European values. What's it to be?

this makes it sound like a duel to the death of two monster trucks...
i don't think it's such a zero sum game.

what the danes did was abuse freedom of speech, just like yelling 'fire' in a crowded theatre.

stepping back again, free speech was enshrined so as to stop the kind of juggernaut that's overtaken the american media. free speech, while surviving thanks to blogs, is definitely being relegated there to the back of the bus, especially in the field of street protest, where thuggery has become standard - and that's the tip of the iceberg that we see, intended to cower us, not even the base that is gitmo etc.

i think another point being naively omitted in much of the commentary is that moslems don't come to europe for our values!

they feel blessed with their 'better' ones, just as we do.

they come because of economic opportunity, which is mostly due to the 'guns, germs and steel' historical happenstance that collected and multiplied capital conjured out of the hat of colonial exploitation of their resources, that continues to this day, disproportionally rewarding a few at the apex of a tightly controlled, semi fascist pyramid at the expense of the human jetsam that breed around it.

thus we have children living on garbage just a mile away from the diamond mines, just to give one lurid example.

moslems see the disorder of the family unit, the lack of reverence, the porn and exploitation, and it drives them deeper into their antique belief-system, which, though cruel to women and minorities, preserves a patriarchal order in society, and let's be very objective here:

islam frowns on usury...europe's economies are built around it, like it or not.

we are trying to sell them on our secular societies being superior to their shari'a vision of global caliphate, yet by their standards, we are risible failures at the nitty-gritty issues by which they judge us: breakdown of the family, no respect for elders, mammonisation of education, corporate commercialisation of all natural resources, and merciless exploitation of the third world, to the point of bechtel forbidding the bolivians to catch the rain from the sky, in order to enslave them better to foreign-ownership of their most vital, basic resources.

moslems read the news...they are learning that many of our preached values are totally hollow, masks for the kind of soulless-ness degradation of the entire planet that all societies should legislate against, for the sake of simple human dignity, the same dignity preached by all moderate religions.

we fought for free speech, and it was a worthy fight, with a just reward, but its abuse will risk us losing it.

i tend to agree with gaianne that we are being played, and this is one big psy-op to make the moslems seem even more 'other', conditioning us to hate and fear them en masse, the better to ignore their trampling under the iron boot of faux-xtian-corporatism, or to dehumanise them as a bunch of raving, unenlightened loonies that would be best turned into glass for the sake of all 'free' people.

if there is hope for sharing the dwindling resources of one planet with such markedly different mindsets, some held with a ferocity one could describe as rabidly extreme, then i suspect it will come from decades of slow, hopefully relatively peaceful cultural friction as we take on board that muslims should be welcomed, even with their religion, and made to see they can be better respected as women here, that they can rise in society, that they can dream of a future for their children that will continue their traditions where possible, while learning to adopt and endorse values that they find here and - of their own free will-  want to wear close to them also.

there is no luxury of of time or choice for us here... we have to learn to catch the flies with honey, not pissy vinegar, and if we want to avoid scenes of embassies burning and the like, it would be wise not to underestimate the simmering magma of decades-old rage in the moslem world as they contemplate the slicing and dicing western powers have done at the point of a gun in the middle east for over a century - a lot of skin off a lot of noses - we shouldt least have the grace to be humble in the face of history.

moslems study history too, and are becoming increasingly aware of the 'confessions of a hitman' hegenomic imperialism of the euro-american dream of global resource domination, starting with the european despoliation of s.america, the genocide of the american indians and their way of life, and the continued looting of africa, to give a few examples.

rubbing salt into an old, old wound can be justified by its antiseptic ability; however if the patient reacts by kicking the doctor, it should not be altogether surprising; there are far gentler methods of achieving the same hygenic result.

taking the moral 'high ground' here is fine when it concerns the principle of encouraging free speech to criticise, dissent and challenge monolithic governments- its original intent - but i find it embarassing that this noble aim and right should be cheapened and turned into an international political football of sorts, or used as juvenile jokery (from safe behind a desk) to provoke entirely predictable results, possibly undoing much patient, unglamorous bridge-building and sincere work mediating between factions to help us all understand we're all human, with much the same needs.

great thread, thanks ben and all.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 01:28:30 PM EST
The very real problem is that there are double standards in operation that only go to illustrate the degree of prejudice that has been whipped up in the West by a combination fundamentalist muslims carrying out what they see as their religious duty and those who wish to libel the religion for their own purposes.

Consider whether these quotes apply to the printing  or showing on TV of a cartoon directly equating a religion with terrorism, you will see the reason for the small ommissions shortly.

1


Teaching the next generation that demonizing a religion is an acceptable way to express political opinions ill prepares .... children for a peaceful future.

2


"We don't think government TV stations should be broadcasting .... [that which] we consider racist and untrue" State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday.

3


 Government policy was not to broadcast content that "harms sacred religious values".

4


.... that promotes hatred would be extremely unfortunate and counterproductive," State Department spokeswoman Anne Marks said.

Well these are not recent quotes about the cartoons but go back to October 2002 when Egyptian TV started broadcasting a drama which the BBC outlined thus


The 30-episode series, Horseman without a Horse, tells the story of an Egyptian man fighting British imperialism and Zionism in Palestine in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Reports say it draws on some elements of the Protocols, a forged document purporting to prove Jews plan to dominate the world.

The main character in the series leads the struggle against the British until he finds a book written in Russian that turns out to be the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

This provides proof, for the character in the series, that his enemy is not the British, but the Elders of Zion.

The "Protocols" were a forgery from around 1900 which purported to reveal a world-wide Jewish conspiracy for domination. (Stange how "they want to take over the world" is a recurrent theme to accuse those who are "other"). The Nazis used the Protocols as part of their excuse for organised anti-semitism which led to the Holocaust. Jews are rightly sensitive about its further dissemination and it is banned in some countries.  

The first quote is from a letter to Colin Powell from the Anti-Deformation League, a Jewish lobby group in the USA. Clearly they were influencial in the State department as the quotes from their spokespeople reported by the BBC above show. They also quoted an Egyptian minister in charge of broadcasting(3).

The Protocols and the historical "blood libel" can be seen as as sensitive to Jews as the libel in the cartoon and a depiction of Mohammed would be to Muslims. The actual blood libel is the assertion in the Church that Jews would kill their children rather than allow them to be converted to Christianity. In an interesting article of this, Israel Shamir explains how this falsehood might be the result of a (deliberate?) cultural misunderstand by the Christians, as claimed in a book by Professor Israel Yuval of Hebrew University in Jerusalem:


The murder was performed as ritual slaughter followed by victim's blood libation, for the Ashkenazi Jews believed that spilled Jewish blood has a magic effect of calling down Divine Vengeance on the heads of the Gentiles. Others used the victim's blood for atonement.

Yuval also claimed evidence of actual child killings:


In Mainz, Yitzhak b. David, the community leader, brought his small children into the synagogue, slaughtered them and poured their blood on the Arc, proclaiming `Let this blood of innocent lamb be my atonement for my sins'. It happened two days after the confrontation with Christians, when the danger passed by.

What happened of course is that any child murder became blamed on the local Jews. Shamir goes on to assert that the publication of the book in English was supposed "to appear a few years ago in California University Press, but for variety of reasons this has not happened yet. It is certainly sheer coincidence that some American Jewish scholars objected to this book being published and called to `erase it from public conscience'"

The rest of the piece is mostly devoted to a critique of how Israel uses the accusation of "blood libel" to silence criticism of its actions against Palestinians, while not being averse to making similar accusations about them.

Now while I am open to being informed that Shamir has his own motives for making these statements, I hope they will go beyond the "self hating Jew" line and be evidence based. What we have though are two instances of topics that are so sensitive to Jews that they invoke the wrath of the US State Department and where contrary evidence appears to be suppressed. These surely are prima face demands to curtail freedom of speech because of religious sensitivities which are supported in the west.  

 

by Londonbear on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 01:38:08 AM EST
By the way, lest we be tempted to believe that only Muslims cherish antique patriarchal values -- anti-womanism for example -- the popular Christian Broadcasting Network offers the following advice in its Q&A this week:
First of all, according to the Bible, you are the head of your household. That includes your wife and your daughter...

If she [your wife] got married in a Christian marriage, she is supposed to submit to the authority of her husband in matters of spiritual activity.

So "we in the West" are in the 21st century eh?  Sounds more like the 11th to me.  [OK, this is the US, which increasingly seems like it has slipped out of the current of history and is being left further and further behind in some kind of endless 1950's twilight...]

An unfriendly view (which I personally share) of the xtian-rightist 'Promise Keepers' cult in the US

I cannot find the url now in my files, but someone sent me a link last year about a Dominionist authority who defended wife-beating as a legitimate "chastisement" administered by the divine authority of husbands.

disturbing aspects of the rightwing evangelical movement in the US, Part 1
Part 2

Now this may seem to substantiate Jerome's talking point [loosely paraphrased] -- that organised religion should be a controlled substance as it seems in many cases to lead to psychotic behaviour and criminal violence :-)  As I've said, as a secular humanist I tend to agree with grim assessments of the antisocial potential of cults and non-empirical belief systems.

Oddly though, some of my secular liberal buddies who would like to ban religious paraphernalia from the classroom, or lambaste religion in general from any available bully pulpit, will rightly insist (a) that the War on Drugs is a farce and Prohibition was not a huge success in retrospect, nor does Abstinence Only succeed in enforcing chastity, only ignorance; and (b) that enviros or vegans should "lighten up' and not use blame, sarcasm, mockery or raised voices in their wrangles with SUV drivers and Mickey D customers, because "making people angry and defensive doesn't advance your cause."

In other words, outlawing These People's habits of cultural/identity display doesn't seem to work, as it feeds their sense of persecution.  Mocking them publicly -- as the counterculture and liberal media culture did for a few fun decades -- only seems to have fed their sense of victimhood and self-righteousness, and their aggrandised paranoia -- seeing themselves as threatened and embattled by a godless, hostile and sinful secular society and therefore justified in some kind of warfare "in self defence".  Very much like radical Islamists, but without the national and anti-imperialist cause to fortify their numbers.

I happen to remember how, more than a decade ago, a film called The Last Temptation of Christ showed Jesus making love to a woman. In Paris, someone set fire to the cinema showing the movie, killing a young man. I also happen to remember a US university which invited me to give a lecture three years ago. I did. It was entitled "September 11, 2001: ask who did it but, for God's sake, don't ask why". When I arrived, I found that the university had deleted the phrase "for God's sake" because "we didn't want to offend certain sensibilities". Ah-ha, so we have "sensibilities" too.

Fisk weighs in on l'Affaire des Toons

So what's the answer?  If we think of religious faith as some kind of primary human need (whether we ourselves feel that need or not) then notions of extirpating it or prohibiting it are as foolish as the War on Drugs.  If we think of its adherents as misguided or in need of education, then probably mockery and insults are not the mode of discourse best calculated to educate -- more likely to lead to a hardening of partisan lines.  What's to be done?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 09:52:31 PM EST
De, I did not say that mocking them was the effective thing to do, only that we should be free to do it.

The loons are free to do what they want in their homes (if all are freely consenting adults and within the law, another issue), but they must not be allowed to try to bring their values / strange views onto anyone else (other than by exercising their rights to free speech, peaseful demonstration, etc...)

That's all I am saying. THEY are trying to impose their values on us, not the other way round. The only "value" I am trying to impose is that none should impose anything on the others, something that is incompatible with most organised religions' DNA.

Which brings us back to the topic of who decides if something is offensive or not, which we have not satisfactorily resolved.

Are cartoons showing French people as cowards, or treasonous (to take a recent example) offensive? You could easily argue that they are just as much as the Danish cartoons. But you'd be told to "get real" and "grow up" and that would be right. But the fact remains that the Frenchn like many other oft-mocked groups, have thicker skins than all these people that claime to have God on their side and behave like scared little kids running to mama at the slightest hint of hostility to them.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 05:37:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing that comes with rights is the obligation to take responsibility for the consequences of one's actions.

Ignoring the violence for a moment, if you exercise a right in a way that predictably (even if not intentionally) will hurt others, there will be negative consequences. Even if they are nonviolent, there willbe negative, and they will come from the breach of civility.

Now, violent reactions will ultimately hurt the violent party more in the end, because they constitute an even greater breach of civility.

At any time has a choice of whether or not one wants to accommodate others for the sake of convivality. To bring the point home, we have had spats of "ET is anti-British" or "ET is anti-Russian" where it became an issue whether ETers are willing to watch the way ther way certain things for the sake of not alienating subcommunities who were offended. Many people also made the point that the offended parties were being over-sensitive, but as some point a conscious decision has to be made whether or not the majority wants to accommodate the sensitive minority or not. The difference between a virtual community and a real one is that it is much easier to just walk away from the virtual community. In the real world, sometimes you are forced to live side by side and so forced to accommodate.

Now, it is true that radical muslim immigrants sometimes find it hard to accommodate the values and practices of their host communities, but that is no excuse for the initial breach of civility on the part of the larger community.

Ethical behaviour is not about keeping a tally of what others do and being marginally better than them. It's about following one's ethical principles. And gratuitous offence is not ethical, even in the face of gratuitous violence.

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 06:08:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
watch the way ther way
watch the way they say

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 06:15:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very good point about ET, Migeru. The question is not whether we are free, (in an absolute sense, we are), but what we choose to do with our freedom.

In order to achieve positive dialogue, we all moderate our freedom more or less. And a good thing we do.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 07:24:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am actually sad to see that, in the case of the Russians, they're all gone.

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 07:40:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...seems to bring us to a divided end. I think the above three posts, of DeAnader, Jerome and Migeru bring it together why ET is caught up in this discussion for at least 4 days.

Since when it al boils down to ethics, or civilness, there is practically no way that people can come to a consensus on this one. Since I think gratuitous offence is perfectly ethical - but to a certain limit, and context aside. I'm in the camp that finds the original cartoons not offensive, albeit some lame, and 2 or 3 borderline. (The one where suicide bombers were blocked from paradise I though actually witty, and is a theme that has been frequently used in Dutch cartoons.) I say camps, since I think there's no other way: there are only two sides, either you find the JP cartoons offensive, or you don't. Black and white.

But the limit what's acceptable is different from person to person, something I discussed with kcurie: the grey area in this issue forms the splitting factor. Migeru thinks they cross the line; I think they don't and even had a purpose. Nothing to be done about it.

That's also why a number of threads ended up in confusion when the legitimate aspect came into the spotlight, ET being a global community: there is a multitude of different approaches how to regulate offensive material. In the western quarter of the global village, different streets have different views. On a national level, the tolerance bar is higher or lower for every nation, and it reflects the majority consensus per country. Superfluously, it's pretty high in the Netherlands, although I may have a lower bar myself.

In an aside, I find the Spanish solution very interesting in this as it is post-active, if I can put it that way: it regulates after the offensive material was published. I like that a lot better than a pro-active variant with guidelines what's intolerable and then ensuing wrangling before publication whether material is or not.

That shouldn't halt debate, as it is the only way to digest new viewpoints and come to terms with other people's belief what is civil and what not. And there, sadly, something went wrong in the Arabic world where kicking and screaming entered the debate.

Anyway. I'll stop being reflective and will leave it at that. I feel we can not grow closer to a consensus than where we are now.

by Nomad on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 07:43:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I say camps, since I think there's no other way: there are only two sides, either you find the JP cartoons offensive, or you don't. Black and white.

Not sure about that. I am personally not offended, though I find several of them distasteful. But I have no problem seeing them through muslim eyes, by which they are either offensive, deeply offensive, or outrageously offensive, depending on depth of devotion and prior exposure to similar things.

For me, the essential divide is between those want legal restrictions on the freedom to ridicule religion and those who do not.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 08:04:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nor do I have troubles imagining they could be offensive to others.

I think the one difference in our approach is that you're one step ahead of me: I put the divisionary line in the problem, you put it in the solutions. For the rest, I get the impression we're sharing the same train of thought.

by Nomad on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 10:05:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
THEY are trying to impose their values on us, not the other way round

Wasn't that precisely what the provocateurs at Jyllans-Posten set out to demonstrate? Wasn't it their intention (within the context of tension in Denmark between the extreme/hard right and the immigrant minority) to polarize opinion and to promote the idea of civilization clash? Is it really fruitful to fall headlong into their trap?

I don't doubt that there are some "THEY" out there who would like to impose their views on "US". OTOH, we in the West are currently involved (like it or not, the leaders concerned were re-elected) in an attempt to impose our views on them, along the lines: your religion and social organization are archaic and you need some democracy to straighten you out. The "THEM against US" scheme is that of civilization clash, that of the xenophobic Euro-right and the neocons, and, imho, we shouldn't be touching such thinking with a ten-foot pole.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 07:57:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there even an US? How about all the noise that the Christian Democrats (and the Vatican!) made in 2004 over whether the EU constitution should mention that Europe is a Christian continent?

There is not an US and there is not a THEM, and freedom of speech is not the value that all Europeans hold most dear either as some have said (there is not a single such value, since there is not a single US).

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 08:07:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I kept the quotes on "US" and "THEM".
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 08:23:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just thought the divisions within "US" needed to be stressed.

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 08:27:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We agree.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 08:28:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I have to say I am a little surprised, if you mean that freedom of speech is not extremely important in Europe. The paragraphs about freedom of speech in both the UN declaration of human rights, and the European charter of human rights, which actually is stricter in upholding this universal human right, is of lesser importance ?

I am of the conviction, and strongly so, that there is a reason these declarations/charters is viewed in the international community as the most important treaty for much of the work of the UN, and certainly the European council, and the European court of human rights.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Geir E Jansen on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 05:54:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't said that freedom of speech is not extremely important. On the other hand, I object to people coming out and saying "This is what Europe is all about" or "this is the key value that defines Europeanness", as if we didn't have large homegrown reactionnary forces within Europe, or different countries didn't have different ways to actualize international treaties about rights.

In this whole debate I have not said that there is not a right to free speech, but that rights need to be exercised responsibly, and that JP had an axe to grind and were being disingenous. Another thing that has come out of this is that I have actually had a closer look at the Spanish constitution and (today) at the section of the Criminal Code dealing with crimes relative to the exercise of fundamental rights and public freedoms. It doesn't seem as clear-cut as some would have us believe.

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 06:19:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't said that freedom of speech is not extremely important.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Geir E Jansen on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 06:37:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, tell me how this: freedom of speech is not the value that all Europeans hold most dear is factually incorrect.

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 Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 06:41:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for posting the quote, before a got to comment it. Anyway here is the comment. We seem to agree on the point that freedom of speech is extremely important, but I disagree with you in your statement that this value, if not the key value, certainly is one of the key values of what is to be defined as European or Europeanness.

Not in the sense that it is exclusively European, but that it is one of the core elements on what the European cooperation is build upon, and what both in legal terms, and socially is established as a common "European ethical fundament", one of the lessons of WWII.

On the charters of fundamental human rights, there has not been much room for manoeuvres by individual governments, of course the follow-up to implement, is another story.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Geir E Jansen on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 07:01:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are cartoons showing French people as cowards, or treasonous (to take a recent example) offensive? You could easily argue that they are just as much as the Danish cartoons. But you'd be told to "get real" and "grow up" and that would be right. But the fact remains that the French, like many other oft-mocked groups, have thicker skins than all these people...

Yes, they're offensive, but the degree of passion and rage in response to the offence in most folks is going to depend on ... [drum roll] context.

Is it just possible (humour me for a minute here with a thought experiment) that "the French" (ah, these national pesudo-persons) have thicker skins than "all these people" because they have been for many years a colonising rather than a colonised population -- that while Americans or Germans may be thumbing noses or making puerile Francophobe jokes, the borders are safe and no bombs are falling, that we (calm and rational) people can look up at a plane crossing the sky without cringeing and running for cover, that all of our friends and relations die in car crashes or of natural causes, not as "collateral damage"...?  That Frenchmen and women abroad are not being arrested and detained purely on the basis of their last names or accents, or spirited off to undisclosed locations to be tortured?  That despite occasional snook-cocking, the Theys who insult or mock the Us are not actually ready, willing and able to invade us with the intent of real personal harm any day now, and that at this point it is Our grandfathers that Their grandfathers may have shot or bombed or held prisoner, not our brothers or sisters or (even worse) our children?

If similar mocking cartoons were published by the Boche during the occupation of France, can we really say that "thick skinned" and rational frenchmen and women would not have stepped up their Maquis activity locally, in furious response to the salt in the wound?  (To the occupying Germans, the Maquis were of course "terrorists").  Historians recall the abuse, the public humiliations, the shaving of heads of women who slept with German soldiers [and how much real choice did those women have?  who was in a position to protect them?]...  was that a tolerant, rational, thick-skinned reaction?  no, instead an ugly expression of outraged pride, nationalist rage, the personal need to get revenge, to take it out on perceived "collaborators" regardless of the calculus of power... whatever. not rational, not admirable, not proportionate, not just, but regrettably all too human.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

-- Walt Whitman

What I'm saying (have been for some time and at far too great length) is that it's easy to be calm and proportionate and rational when we're -- on the whole -- winning and fairly comfortable.  I would not expect a temperate response to a jibe or jab from a person whose sore toe I'm standing on...  or even one whose sore toe someone else is standing on... get off the toe first, is my philosophy, before I start upbraiding them for their inadequate sense of humour :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 06:04:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(maybe I already mentioned this somewhere before) I remember an interesting article about the French bashing in Australia in 1995 wrt the nuclear tests in France (the Pacific bit) - it was a relief for Australians to finally have a target for ridicule, hate, and scorn where they did not have to watch their words, worry about political correctness or the outrage brigades. There was this perfect target: not colored, not a minority, not a victim, not oppressed - and they let it rip.

I suspect the same happened in the US in 2003. It's just nice once in a while to have a go at hate speech with a target that doesn't really mind. Because it is pretty violent and nasty (if sometimes funny), and even when you're used to it (the level of French bashing in the UK press always leaves me bemused), it can be painful to hear. I do suspect that the current bit of self-flagellation is to some extent inspired by the permanent bashing of the French and the French model in the English language.

But in the end, it tells more about the basher (who feels threatened, scared, unsecure) than the bashee. The Danish cartoons show their latent fear of brown foreigners; the Muslim (over)reactions shows their terror at the insidious liberal ways of the West.

How do you fight fear and build trust? Be responsible.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 06:34:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nice riff jerome, I think we understand each other well... (understanding, not perfect agreement, is for me the object of conversation).

as long as the "insidious liberal ways" of the west involve controlling Muslim countries directly or indirectly, bombing Muslims, ignoring the plight of Palestine, etc., the Islamists' fear has somewhat deeper roots in reality than the Danes' (no matter how overheated and bizarre the ensuing rhetoric may become -- the greater the fear, the more bizarre the rhetoric will get).  that said, I must also admit that with economic hard times a lurking possibility and social safety nets being vandalised wherever we turn, the fear of proletarians that immigrants will cheapen labour and drive down living conditions is also rooted in present realities.  (divide et impera -- we plebes are least dangerous to our masters when we are at each other's throats.)

oh dear, everybody needs a Time Out, says the long-dormant day-care worker in me :-)  [a job I did for a while as a teen]

another reflective riff: I think many of us fear -- deeply, in our bones and gut -- the slow or fast death of the Enlightenment, the recrudescence of zealotry and factionalism and fundamentalism, the stifling of science, a degradation in the quality of arts and letters, the decline of literacy, the failure of democracy, the coarsening of public discourse into jingo and brawling.  we look around and fear a dying of the light -- at home, not just abroad.  

and that fear I think informs our distate for and terror of the clerical authoritarianism and repressive ambitions of fundie Islam.  but the imminent threat to my own personal freedoms comes from my own Western world, from the "security state" apparatus, the unravelling of the Constitution and the separation of powers, the disregard for posse comitatus and habeas corpus, the rise of evangelical rightist xtianity and its strong presence in the professional military...  it is these forces that are starting to revoke my rights and restore feudalism in my time.  it is easier to fear and revile repression and obscurantism with a foreign (and dusky) face, an alien power which I can "keep at bay," than to come to grips with what may be growing under the bed in my own house...

... a man was appointed by BushCo to one of the highest medical administrative posts in the land, who believes that most gynaecological troubles can be cured by prayer.  imho we are reasonable to be afraid... but is our anger and defiance focussed where it needs to be?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 07:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This isn't helping much either... Exporting Evangelism
Progressives in the United States are increasingly concerned with the influence of evangelical Christianity in American politics. They may not realize, however, to what extent American-style evangelism and conservative Christianity is spreading, particularly to developing nations. Nor are they aware how this may affect politics in these countries.

Of course, American evangelists and missionaries traveling to developing nations to proselytize is not new. My father used to regale me with his imitations of evangelists who came to the Costa Rican town where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1970s. Holding a Bible in one hand and the other hand aloft, my dad would lower his eyebrows and proclaim in gringo-accented Spanish, "Cristo ... es la ultima ... esperanzaaaa." (Christ is the final hope.) When we returned to his town 20 years later, many families had nailed plaques above their doors identifying their faith and asking that all visitors respect their beliefs.

What is new is the scale of evangelist enterprises, from Christian television channels broadcasting evangelical programming (Fiji has one channel devoted to such programming) to huge, stadium-sized revivals. Such events require a working relationship with the government. Hinn requested and received F$80,000 (nearly U.S.$46,000) for security for himself and his entourage.

In exchange for taxpayer dollars, Hinn's Miracle Crusade offered economic incentives to the Fiji government in the form of increased sales for local businesses as well as long-term gains from Christians in the United States and other developed nations who may seek "Christian destinations" for their next vacation. (Ironically, one of the businesses that benefited the most from Hinn's crusade was McDonald's, located a few blocks from the stadium.) Before the crusade began, Prime Minister Qarase met privately with Hinn, and one rival politician hinted that Qarase may have asked for divine assistance with elections later this year. Hinn was so pleased with the success of the crusade that he promised the audience to return in June...

I'm not sure what's so "ironic" about the McD connection:  Cross and Capital have been crusading together for centuries.  Thinking of megachurches and their resemblance to shopping malls, of marketing tie-ins like the one above, I wonder if we have made the transition from Constantinian Christianity to Corporate Christianity?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 05:13:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome, I agree with your presentation of the issues.  The cartoons are tame and riots are lame.

If modern societies and cultures (religious and political communities) can't "evolve" beyond the "death to all Infidels" call of many Muslims today we are in deep shit.  

Besides, the way this issue is being manipulated by both sides it is a political rather than a religious issue.

We are a realtively young species, really just out of the primal muck a few thousands of years ago. It wasn't that long ago we were sacrificing each other to the rising sun.

It is my firm opinion that if we survive, we will evolve in a way that allows us to respect each other and the sacredness of life itself.  At some point in the future we will look in the mirror and realize that who we see is our God.  Organized religion will then become a thing of the past.

alohapolitics.com

by Keone Michaels on Tue Feb 7th, 2006 at 12:30:02 PM EST


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