Friday, February 10, 2006

Because its Friday 2...

And my rear end is home sick.

That's right, folks. For the first time in over ten years, I have strep. So I'm on that forced vacation we like to call 'quarantine.' Gives me a chance to go back and blog about stuff I've been meaning to, but haven't had time on the lunchbreak to do.

This one is more about the Cartoon Craziness. I guess we'll keep talking about it until folks stop acting out of control. For those of you tired of this line of discussion, don't miss SAWB's music post. (If it garners enough response, we may finally have to start up that Hurricane Radio Music & Art page I've talked about for a year...)

One thing I like about the Internet in general and the blogosphere specifically is the double edged sword. While it can give voice to absolute madness on the one hand, you can pick up on so many more opinions and stories than you would be able to just by watching "real journalists."

I made a comment a while back that the crazies have picked a fight with this one that they just can't win. Christopher Hitchens makes this bittersweet point by saying:
The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.

I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice, which as it happens I chance to find "offensive." ( By the way, hasn't the word "offensive" become really offensive lately?) The innate human revulsion against desecration is much older than any monotheism: Its most powerful expression is in the Antigone of Sophocles. It belongs to civilization. I am not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a synagogue or mosque or to relieve myself on a "holy" book. But I will not be told I can't eat pork, and I will not respect those who burn books on a regular basis. I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings.
I went on Crossfire at one point, to debate some spokesman for outraged faith, and said that we on our side would happily debate the propriety of using holy writ for literary and artistic purposes. But that we would not exchange a word until the person on the other side of the podium had put away his gun. (The menacing Muslim bigmouth on the other side refused to forswear state-sponsored suborning of assassination, and was of course backed up by the Catholic bigot Pat Buchanan.)
While I don't agree with many items in this selection, I have emboldened the important point. We in the West are a rebellious sort, and don't like being told what to do. That is why we have such a history of offending what is sacred.

Because of that history, we have learned long and diffiuclt lessons on how to react when others take such delight in ticking us off. Not to say what we have is perfect: we still have religious leaders who try to ban Huckleberry Finn from high schools and drive steamrollers over SAWB's favorite metal albums, we wage 'wars' on Christmas and Halloween, our most hypersensitive get red in the face trying to define the line between 'political correctness' and 'polite company,' and some of us still have problems acting classy even at funerals. But these battles, and our outrage, are often expressed less by attacking one another with sticks and stones, and more about attacking one another by nasty name calling.

While that doesn't make for much 'polite conversation,' it is a darn sight better than rioting in the streets.

At any rate, as I also said before in my apparently notorious letter, I'm waiting to hear from the millions of reasonable Muslims around the world on this cartoon crisis. And here we have an example of how important free speech, the internet and the blogosphere really are: massive self exploratory media. While there are a fair number of apologists, there are still plenty of jems.

Though DADvocate thinks he advocates appeasement, I see that Reza Aslan reminds us of two things: 1) that the correct way to express outrage is through words (fight free speech with free speech), and 2) that the cartoons as well as the reaction to them, are different sides of the same coin:
the Muslims who have resorted to violence in response to this offense are merely reaffirming the stereotypes advanced by the cartoons. Likewise, the Europeans who point to the Muslim reaction as proof that, in the words of the popular Dutch blogger Mike Tidmus, "Islam probably has no place in Europe," have reaffirmed the stereotype of Europeans as aggressively anti-Islamic. It is this common attitude among Europeans that has led to the marginalization of Muslim communities there, which in turn has fed the isolationism and destructive behavior of European Muslims, which has then reinforced European prejudices against Islam. It is a Gordian knot that has become almost impossible to untangle.

And that is why as a Muslim American I am enraged by the publication of these cartoons. Not because they offend my prophet or my religion, but because they fly in the face of the tireless efforts of so many civic and religious leaders—both Muslim and non-Muslim—to promote unity and assimilation rather than hatred and discord; because they play into the hands of those who preach extremism; because they are fodder for the clash-of-civilizations mentality that pits East against West.
I am forced to agree with him here. In the days of my longhaired, iconoclastic youth, I would strike out at anything sacred and do things just for shock value. While I sometimes slip back into old roles, I have found that doing things just to provoke a reaction oftentimes win you more enemies than friends.

And here's an exhaustive roundup, especially of what Muslim blogs are saying about the thing. (Hat tip to Clicked.)

From that roundup, I was able to focus in on this specific selection, aptly entitled "WWMD?"
So, therefore, how could it be that Muslims today - who claim to love the the Prophet (pbuh) deeply and follow his example - reacted in such an ugly manner to the publication of cartoons that depict him in a negative manner? I mean, gunfire at an EU office? Threatening Europeans and churches? Beating up employees of Arla Foods? Is this what Muhammad (pbuh) would do?

Absolutely not. There are so many other - more dignified, more truly Muslim - ways to lodge a protest against the cartoons. Muslims could have had a silent vigil in from the Danish embassy, instead of pelting the embassy with eggs. Muslims could have written the newspaper - with polite, non-hateful, non-threatening language - and told it that this is wrong. Muslims could have taken the opportunity to show the world the true face of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) - the face we know and love - to contrast the ugly face that was printed by the Danish newspaper. There are so many ways to disagree without being violently disagreeable. Muslims, sadly, failed to do so, and that is offensive in and of itself.

(Bold emphasised by me -HR)
There are plenty of others who are saying similar things, and many of you should go and take a look. Apparently I do have more to go on than patience and faith alone. Again, the lesson: the only way to fight the classlessness and crudeness enabled by free speech is with tempered, sensible and well reasoned speech in response. Think of this every time you see only the bad news on the MSM.

Tags: Cartoon Outrage


Dante said...

Interesstingly enough, Ann Coulter makes a point similar to Hitchens' point in her most recent column. ( However, true to my ideal "What an American Conservative would say to the Muslims of the World" she includes references to Calvin, Mohammed, and urination while making the point and comes accross a bit more abrasive than Hitchens does here:

"Catholics aren't short on rules, but they couldn't care less if non-Catholics use birth control. Conservative Jews have no interest in forbidding other people from mixing meat and dairy. Protestants don't make a peep about other people eating food off one another's plates. (Just stay away from our plates -- that's disgusting.)

But Muslims think they can issue decrees about what images can appear in newspaper cartoons. Who do they think they are, liberals?"

Patrick Armstrong said...

Ha ha ha.

Actually, if you link down on one of the articles, you'll find that some of them are actually taking 'Western Liberals' to task for defending the cartoons and hiding tastelessness behind the veil of free speech and abandoning the responsibilities that come with freedom of expression.

I guess that means 1) a lot more folks over here are liberals in the minds of the East, (no shock there) and 2) liberal is a dirty word no matter what your latitude and longitude.

Shame. We have such a good record.

And just an FYI to Ms. Coulter's specific revisionism, there are plenty of Catholics who think non-Catholics should follow their specific rules...I know more than a few. And I know more than a few Protestants who issue plenty of decrees about thus and such and they make waay more than a peep doing so.

It proves only that overstepping your bounds knows no religion.

Dante said...

Liberal is just plain different over here than it is over there in ways I can't really articulate at 4PM on a Friday while also trying to fix a database so I can go home on time.

Catholicism isn't nearly as forceful with their views as they once were but I agree that many religions today have a tendency to overstep their bounds. I don't know what she was expecting. The Spanish Inquizition?

Patrick Armstrong said...

You never expect the Spanish Inquisition....

Patrick Armstrong said...

Oh yeah, Safe as Houses from the Classic City Blogosphere chimes in on the whole issue.

ruby booth said...

It's a bit difficult to swallow the whole our religious extremists are nicer than your religious extremists excuse. Not only are there plenty of examples of our creepy fanaticism from history -- the unsuspected Spanish buggers, Cromwell, etc. -- but, even more recently, we have the Klan, the Christian Patriots, and an assortment of mad protesters with murderous intent -- not to mention recent exhortations over here advising we cap those judges with whom we disagree. The main difference seems to be that the extremists over there with the microphones are a bit more prone to inciting riots than ours – or at least have a worse PR rep.

The real tragedy isn't that there are nutters all over the place -- no shock there -- but that so many intelligent, faithful people of all creeds (though most notably Muslims, at the moment) allow belligerent, intolerant, power-mad assholes to speak for their faith. True there are many places where to dissent would be dangerous, but far too many are making due with a mild Tut-Tuting in an attempt to maintain credibility with all sides.

Patrick Armstrong said...

They have picked a fight they can't win 2: Click Here.

dadvocate said...

1) that the correct way to express outrage is through words (fight free speech with free speech), and 2) that the cartoons as well as the reaction to them, are different sides of the same coin:

I agree with number 1. Number 2 requires an awful big coin. I don't see how drawing and publishing a cartoon, an exercise of number 1, in any way equates itself with burning embassies, etc.

Heck, now they're burning Valentine's Day cards, which is fine by me. No one gets hurt except a few finger blisters maybe.

I still heard Reza Aslan as saying, "Be careful what you say and do. We don't want to upset the children and make them toss a fit."

Safe as Houses post was excellent and I didn't read anything that sounded as if supporting appeasement.

petallic said...

I'm all for burning Valentine's Day cards. I think they've hit on something there. While they're at it, they could bomb Kay and Friedman's Jewelers for their stupid commercials and tacky jewelry.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Don't encourage them.

DADvocate: That same coin is a big one, but I still think the point is valid.

As far as these cartoons are concerned, I hold these 'cartoonists' in the same esteem I have for flag-burners, cross-burners, race-baiters, Holocaust-deniers, Christ-in-urine-'artists' and Sinead O'Connor. I hold the rioters in the same esteem I hold, well, rioters.

This is one of those events where none of the sides have acted very reasonably, is what I'm sayin'. I think that's what Aslan is sayin,' too. That's how I see it, at least.

Condemning the cartoonists may sound like justifying the riots, but those aren't the same thing.

Symbols are very important things, and are often used by provocateurs to incite violence or provoke reaciton.

Under free speech, you can burn a cross on your own land if you choose to. You can burn an American Flag in public. You can wear, on your person and accoutrements, all manner of obscenity. But you don't do any of those things unless you are trying to get a reaction out of your 'audience.'

I think that's what Aslan is getting at: that the cartoonists were trying to get that reaction. The men who took those pictures to the Hajj in Saudi Arabia were trying to get that reaction.

Patrick Armstrong said...

They have picked a fight they can't win 3: Click Here.

dadvocate said...

the cartoonists were trying to get that reaction.
This is mindreading on Aslan's part. With my mindreading, I think the cartoonists were trying to point out the heinous acts committed my radical Islamists in the name of Muhammed.

DrSanity has an excellent cultural psychology analysis of this issue. It attempts to show how and why Western culture and Islamic culture interpret these events so differently.

Patrick Armstrong said...

That last link is quite an interesting one, though I would disagree with many of the points made there.

I don't think the last 'shame culture' we dealt with was Japan. Many Eastern cultures (China, Japan, the Koreas, South Asia) as well as Western ones (Southern, South American) share many similarities with 'shame culture.' The difference comes in ways of expression. (Please See: Southern College Football)

I would also disagree that the collision of the West and the East will end up with such ominious foreboding, one final 'clash of civilizations.' Such a clash is never inevitable, no matter how different we are. That's why the Vatican has the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialouge that engages in direct diplomacy with Islamic civilization.

Finnally, I would say that it is a mistake to paint all Islamic nations with the same brush of shame culture, just like you cannot truly paint all Catholic nations as 'guilt culture,' notwithstanding pithy jokes to the contrary. Compare Turkey to Saudi Arabia. Compare Algeria to Malaysia. Iran and Pakistan constantly have their democratic revolutions hijacked by despots. Beiruit was the Paris of the Middle East before Israel and Syria invaded Lebanon. And let us not forget that the nation with the third highest Muslim population in the world is India.. Everyone has their share of problems, to be sure, but those problems are more localized than we would like to believe.

(Those demographics are actually telling figures: While most of the rioting and burning of embassies took place in Iran, Syria & Afganistan only two of those crack the top tens for either population total or percentage. I remember reading something in high school about causality and correlation not being mutually exculsive. Could there be other explanations people in Syria, Iran and Afganistan go nuts so easily?)

dadvocate said...

Correlation does not imply correlation is what I was taught, in college, not high school. You must have gone to a helluva a high school. The famous example was that the consumption of ice cream and the murder rate increase in San Antonio each summer was highly correlated.

I think there are lots of reason they riot. In particular, the cultures in those countries are more violent. You can go through issues of National Geographic from the last 50 years and see this easily. Family, clan, tribal feuding is common place. The word "thug" comes from a band of assassins that lived in nothern India and Afganistan. The word "assassin" comes from a secret order of Mulsim fanatics who terrorized and killed Christian Crusaders.

Plus, they simply don't have as much to lose by rioting as we do. Rarely do you see people who have decent, relatively comfortable lives riot because rioting would jeopardize their lifestyles. Most of the people in the Middle East don't have such great lives already so rioting probably won't make anything worse, especially if you're only burning the embassy of a hated Western nation anyway. (Just try and riot against your government.)

Which is points out another reason they riot. Their governments want them to. These civilian rioters can do and get away with things the government itself would find rather risky, unless Carter was president.

Well, it's fun discussing all this, but one thing's for sure, it's a different world over there.