A Conspicuous Omission
Kitty Wigs

Unwilling to Pretend

I thought I’d highlight a few of the comments on Friday’s post about the Muhammad cartoons, partly because the discussions are sometimes overlooked, but chiefly because they highlight the remarkable unrealism of Faisal al Yafai’s Guardian piece, and many others like it.

Jason Bontrager set things rolling with this neat summary of al Yafai’s underlying assumption:

If [as al Yafai suggests] the cartoons caused the damage resulting from the various Muslim riots, then the Muslims, not being the cause themselves, can only be thought of as unconscious puppets whose actions are dictated by the decisions of non-Muslims thousands of miles away.

Brendan quoted a Swedish commenter on al Yafai’s article:

I predict that this will not be the last showing of the cartoons. The last showing will be the first one that no one reacts to.

Which brought to mind this comment from MediaWatchWatch:

These cartoons have become the equivalent of a naughty step for violent Muslim toonophobes. Like tantrum-prone toddlers, their behaviour is unacceptable, and if they continue to misbehave the cartoons will continue to be published far and wide. They do not like it, but they must sit on that naughty step and think about their actions until they understand the rules.

And Matt pointed out a rather pivotal fact somehow overlooked in al Yafai’s piece:

The cartoons were drawn and published because of previous acts of violence in the name of Islam.

Indeed. See, for instance, here. And the latest publication was an affirmation of solidarity and free speech in response to the arrest of several Muslims accused of plotting to kill the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard - one of a growing number of artists, authors and scholars now in hiding or under police protection.

It’s remarkable how readily these little details were overlooked by Mr al Yafai, and their omission highlights just how unrealistic the MoToons debate can be. To avoid printing the cartoons – or any public suggestion that Islam is anything other than a Religion of Peace™ - would not only show that death threats and violent thuggery work; it would also imply that such thuggery is a morally legitimate response. It is not. Burning down schools and destroying libraries is simply not a sane reaction to the publication of a cartoon. Likewise, threatening to “take to the streets” because an author critical of Islam has had her visa extended is a display of ludicrous vanity and moral incontinence.

Urges to outlaw and punish such satire and dissent ignore the realities of the history and founder of Islam. Censorship not only blunts critical judgment and perpetuates unrealism; it also extends Islamic ticks and neuroses to non-believers and the broader population. Outlawing such mockery (even if it’s truthful), or discouraging it out of fear or pretentious “sensitivity”, makes the taboos of Islam everyone’s taboos. It obliges everyone to pretend that they respect a religious figure who is by any rational standard undeserving of respect, and whose religion is intellectually trivial and philosophically absurd.

And some of us at least aren’t so ready to pretend.

Comments

Matt M

Blaming the cartoons for causing the violence is no different from saying that a rape victim was asking for it: No doubt had Ms. X not being out "flaunting" herself she wouldn't have been grabbed, dragged into an alley and sexually assaulted. But only an idiot would try to argue that we should blame her over the rapist.

Brendan

I've been wondering which supposedly devout muslim illustrated the three most vile images from the original set shopped around the middle east by the "offended" danish immigrants. Who's plotting their demise? Ehhh, is this like the blessedness of killing in the name of the prophet somehow? Can muslims, in the name of the cause of respecting Islam, also defame it in the worst possible way if the intent of their defamation furthers the 'cause'?

The collective averting of the eye's from this inconvenient fact of the original controversy is also a "remarkable unrealism" that I find difficult to comprehend. If I were an editor, I would have published these three most offensive ones alone as a story apart and see what the reaction might be. Surely the Danish Imams would now be seeking asylum from their coreligionists?

Sandi

"Can muslims, in the name of the cause of respecting Islam, also defame it in the worst possible way if the intent of their defamation furthers the 'cause'?"

Yes. In the cause of promoting or defending islam, muslims are permitted to lie to and deceive infidels. It's all about intent.

EBD

"If I were an editor, I would have published (the most offensive cartoons, which were created by Muslims) as a story apart and see what the reaction might be." - Brendan

You're clouding the issue with rational thought What's your intent?

Horace Dunn

From the Comment is Free section of “Sword of the Profit”, the progressive organ of the Muslim Brotherhood:

“Those brothers who took it upon themselves to commit acts of violence, including murder and arson claim to have been driven by a love of the Prophet (pbuh). To be sure, we cannot gainsay their motives which are pure and right. But are we missing the point here? Surely it is important for us to understand what we are up against. Perhaps it is time to stop thinking of westerners as ‘the enemy’.

“The cartoons defiling the name of the Prophet (pbuh) were vile, certainly, but the people responsible for these heinous crimes have their own system of beliefs and (fairly) ancient culture. This culture, which they call “secular”, and which derives from a European-wide intellectual and artistic movement known as the “Enlightenment” places the utmost importance on what they see as the inalienable right of every individual to “freedom of expression”. This freedom is considered so precious as to be inviolable. So, when a particularly extremist group of these Enlightenmentalists were confronted with what they saw as an insult to their beliefs, they responded in the only way they knew how. Their hurt and confusion was channelled into the production and distribution of these odious cartoons. It is easy, of course, to dismiss this behaviour as uncivilised and brutish – it most certainly is, but perhaps it is time for us to ask whether we should not think more deeply about how we should respond in order to put a stop to this downward spiral of cartooning before it goes too far. We also need to remember that it is only a small and extremist faction of Enlightenmentalists who actually draw and publish cartoons. It is important to remember that mainstream securalists, such as the highly influential BBC, condemned the actions of their more aggressive co-secularists. The time is ripe for a more nuanced approach. I say, let us put a halt to the violence, the church burnings and nun shootings. This is the only way to put a halt to the misery and heartache caused by this ongoing cartooning.”

Brendan

"I say, let us put a halt to the violence, the church burnings and nun shootings."

My, that is "progressive". Following as it does after "Their hurt and confusion was channelled into the production and distribution of these odious cartoons. It is easy, of course, to dismiss this behaviour as uncivilised and brutish – it most certainly is..."

It's like narrative was plucked from South Park and parsed into a real world discussion and nobody has clued in.

TDk

"I've been wondering which supposedly devout muslim illustrated the three most vile images from the original set shopped around the middle east by the "offended" danish immigrants. Who's plotting their demise?"

Well one of them was a photocopy of a photo of a pig squealing contest. A second was also a photo. So neither of those could be said to be drawn. There is really no evidence that the pictures were or were not created by Muslims. Initially it was claimed that these three were also published by Jyllands-Posten but subsequently that was changed to a claim that these were received by Muslims. I don't know whether that was newspaper speculation or a change of claim by the Danish imams.

A significant fact that is also forgotten is that the insult took several months to gestate. After the initial publication, several months passed before the worldwide tour by the imams and the subsequent riots. During that interim period the cartoons (or the "worst" ones) were reprinted in an Egyptian paper without riots or public protest. Additionally, one of the imams Ahmad Abu Laban was caught on camera making decidedly dodgy comments.

Without repeating all the details, there's quite a body of uncontroversial evidence. Given all that I think it counter productive to assert that Muslims produced those three drawings. It's a bit like the receipts issue in the recent investigation of extremist literature in mainstream UK mosques. That they are likely to have been forged has become the main issue, which has distracted attention from the core facts that extremist literature is a staple of those mosques.

Trimegistus

It is rather maddening that Islam's western apologists all tend to act as if Muslims have no free will or capacity for moral choice. Any atrocity they commit is something they were "driven to" by the West and (inevitably) the Jooos.

I think we should adopt this attitude ourselves. America will be "driven to" nuke Mecca during Ramadan if terrorists attack our country. It's not an atrocity, it's a helpless reflex we cannot control!

Horace Dunn

Brendan

My quotation above was, of course, entirely invented. I was employing irony and imagining what it would be like if there was a "progressive" Jihadist newspaper. It was merely a little fantasy on my part.

Perhaps you realised this and my irony detectors are a little faulty. But you did sound a little as though you thought it was real. So I thought I'd say something just in case. I'd hate to feel I was being misleading. And I would never forgive myself for committing an injustice against those nice fellows of the Muslim Brotherhood.

I'll shut up now.

Horace Dunn

Having said that I'll shut up, events have forced me back to the keyboard. Please see the recent short article by Christopher Hitchens:

http://www.slate.com/id/2184493/

The remark Hitchens quotes, by Syed Soharwardy, viz "that principle [of free expression] is sacred and holy in our society" shows precisely why I shouldn't have attempted to be satirical.

Time for a drink, I think.

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