Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Cartoon Jihad

The widely publicized anger expressed by certain Muslims toward the cartoons published in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, has been cast as a battle between the liberal concept of Freedom of Expression and the fair treatment of an entire religion. I can only accept the first half of that matchup. The religion being weighed in the balance is not that of Islam, but of a small lunatic slice of Islam. That lunatic slice is waging a guerilla war of ideas, hoping that we will strike out at random, forcing others to take sides.

I have for months been waiting and dreading the confrontation. The internal logic of this Islamist extremism has dictated that the cartoon issue would eventually result in outrageous, theatrical displays of political violence. I think of Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both living strange semi-secret lives because of credible death threats, and I think of Theo Van Gogh, butchered in the streets for his exercising his rights to free expression. These are the martyrs to our cause. Think how many thousands of like-minded people there are in the Islamic nations who suffer in the grasp of the fanatics, intimidated, abused and murdered without recourse, or even the support of sympathetic officials.

The source of my dread has not been the confrontation itself, so much as the appeasement gestures that follow the outbreaks of violence. The U.S. State Department and the Pope, himself, have condemned what I consider a very mild and just reprimand of Islam for serving as an incubator of the extremist cause. I have been proud to see that others have supported the Jyllands-Posten position by reprinting the "offensive" cartoons. The risk is not trivial. I have been distressed that the response is not more widespread. In fact, it continues to be difficult to track down on-line copies of the cartoons, indicating that the charge of self-censorship and intimidation has some merit.

Here are some of the accusations addressed to the West regarding the cartoons, which depict various conceptions of Mohammed.

  • It is asserted that the cartoons are insulting to Muslims.
  • It is asserted that the images of humans are forbidden by Islam.
  • It is asserted that this cartoon insult has come at a very sensitive time for the relationship between the Islamic World and the West.
  • It is asserted that characterization of Mohammed or Muslims as prone to violence is false and discriminatory.
  • It is asserted that the intention of Jyllands-Posten was explicitly to insult Muslims, the Prophet and Islam.
  • It is asserted that Jyllands-Posten, the original publisher, has, in the past, refused to publish cartoons insulting to Christianity.
  • It is asserted that Jyllands-Posten was publishing pro-Nazi pieces before World War II.
  • Numerous public figures, including the Pope and the U.S. State Department, have denounced the cartoons as insulting and irresponsible.
  • There are laws in some European nations explicitly restricting freedom of speech in certain contexts, such as Holocaust denial and hate speech. Why not protect Islam as well?
  • The French, in particular, have banned hijabs in public schools, discriminating against Muslims.
  • It is asserted that the Danes and Europeans in general present a hateful atmosphere toward their Muslim citizens.
  • Mass protests by Muslims in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria show that the Islamic World is united in rejecting this cartoon blasphemy.
  • Islamic nations have sponsored boycotts against Denmark and Norway because of their culpability in the publication.
  • It is asserted, of course, that Jews are behind this and have turned the West against Islam.
  • Muslims have been "martyred" in the protests, showing just how much they have been wounded by the grave insult to Mohammed.
  • It is asserted that the West is preventing the nations of Islam from progressing economically.
  • It is asserted that the U.S. drops bags of money on Israel, but only bombs on Arab nations.
  • It is asserted that Islam is the Religion of Peace. Christianity is the Religion of the Crusade. Judaism is the Religion of Murder.

I like to think of myself as an enlightened and tolerant individual, willing to bend over backward to see another person’s point of view. Nevertheless, I take strong exception to every point listed above. I dispute the truth and/or relevance of each. I also have links to good arguments against every point. I will try to add some of them at a later time, but for now I would just like to point out this little gem, which will probably not be disappearing any time soon.

It is my assertion, that there is no requirement for any citizen of a free country to adhere to the strictures of Islam – nor any other religion for that matter. The only restriction I can accept on the freedom of speech is that there must be no malicious speech that calls for violence or leads by deceit to imminent violence.

2/9/2006 11:30 PM

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At Friday, February 10, 2006 8:02:00 AM, Blogger mal said...

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At Friday, February 10, 2006 8:04:00 AM, Blogger mal said...

I have come to a conclusion that bothers me. Islam is the religion of "submission" and until all submit to it, then the non believers will ALWAYS some how be "offensive" to the believers.

I firmly believe we are in a no win situation trying to reason with western logic and values. Discussions with many Mideast Muslims (on line and in my past) has shown me that most have an insular reasoning process that is circular and self supporting. At the core of it is the belief that Muslims are superior and all others are lesser beings becuase of their beliefs

it worries me

At Friday, February 10, 2006 10:11:00 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

I don't think you should come to a conclusion. The Muslims themselves have not come to a conclusion. There is as much variety in Islam as there is in Christianity. But I don't think we should kid ourselves into thinking that all Muslims are open-minded, egalitarian and freedom-loving. I think you can take for granted that the prisoners of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are not much like Fareed Zakaria.

Many problems are caused by authoritarian states using the external enemy, us, to keep internal critics in line. Other problems are created by true fanatics. I hope that's the kind of person you've been meeting online. Unfortunately, I am forced to agree with you that most Muslims do share the hostility and that sense of religious entitlement. I remember TV interviews with American Muslims in New York, only a short time after 9/11. Maybe they were pre-screened for shock value, but it seemed that most of them thought that either we deserved the attack or that the Jews had arranged for it. If these are Americans, and the Brits are certainly just as bad, then what can the Middle Eastern Muslims be thinking? I do believe that most Muslims, no matter how peace-loving they may be themselves, are willing to support the violent lunatics indirectly. It reminds me of how many Irish Americans once believed absolutely that Britain was the Great Satan, and contributed heavily to the IRA, telling themselves that the money was going toward self-defense and feeding the little children.

At Friday, February 10, 2006 8:29:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

Back in the Mid 80's I was responsible for teaching 2 different groups of Saudi engineers advanced material on secondary oil recovery.

Charitably, I would say they treated me poorly. They had ZERO sensitivity for our values and customs and in fact were taking the opportunity to violate some of their own (alcohol). I did not care to be treated as a servant, a sex object and a second class citizen. Despite being a published authority, they were closed minded that I had anything to teach them. I flatly refused to teach any further seminars.

Interestingly, there were 2 or 3 in each group that would later apologize for the swinish behaviour of thier peers, but they would make no effort to correct them.

I try to not let that experience close my mind, but it is hard. What I find worrisome? These were supposed to be well educated Gentleman

May their camels be infested with lice and their oil formations infected with Desulfavibrio Africanus

At Friday, February 10, 2006 11:36:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Whoa! Can't touch that.

At Friday, February 10, 2006 11:49:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

You might be interested in reading a little more about Phyllis Chesler, a feminist who married an Afghan man but managed to escape.

At Saturday, February 11, 2006 6:58:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

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At Saturday, February 11, 2006 7:02:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

JJ, I chased down her story when you first blogged about it (TY!) and she is one tough person. Sadly, it reinforced my own very limited experience with men from the area

FYI, I did get some "token" from my experience with those "gentlemen" one of them gave me enough cause and I did get to hurt him a bit physically and even better, socially for the offense of wandering hands. Since I was taller I called him "poco hombre" after that. (being an amazon has some compensations *S*) I think he finally realized what I was doing just before he left. Fahd, what a jerk.

At Sunday, February 12, 2006 1:41:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Intriguing story Mallory! Do you notice this kind of machismo mentality elsewhere? Did you get to see how they treat women from their own culture? Did you break his arm?

At Monday, February 13, 2006 3:12:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

*L* JJ... I grew up around Latinos and there is a bit of machismo there but it is mostly posturing I think. At the core they are actually very polite. Other than that, in my limited exposure to westerners and non westerners, I have experienced very little of it.

Sadly, I did not break his arm, but I did leave his left arm useless for a bit *G*. I suspect that just as I remember his name, he remembers mine. I honestly hope (but do not expect) he learned something from our encounter


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