David Thompson
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June 16, 2008

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mlrosty

"The challenging of beliefs is an often brutal business, but the ensuing and almost inevitable hurt is emotional and not physical. There is nothing wrong in this."

So you think hurting people is okay provided it's not physical?

JuliaM

"So you think hurting people is okay provided it's not physical?"

Notice you left five words off the end of that quote.

I guess you must think not advancing knowledge is okay...?

Horace Dunn

I'm all for respecting people, as far as it goes, even to giving people the benefit of the doubt, but one can't just respect any and every belief as a kind of default position.

And when it comes to the likes of Feisal, who says that he was "hurt" because some blokes drew a cartoon ... well I'm afraid that my immediate response is not to feel respect, but rather contempt. If I pause a while and give the situation more thought then ... I still feel contempt. I mean, these people insist that their so-called prophet is of immense, supernatural importance. They then treat him as a mere fetish (oh but you must not draw pictures of him!!) Try as I might I can only feel contempt at such childishness.

David

mlrosty,

In case the above isn’t sufficiently clear, “hurting people” isn’t the objective. Certainly, it’s not a terribly interesting one. I’m actually a fan of civility, as I hope the discussions here make clear; but flattering a person’s worldview isn’t really a priority one can hold in good faith. If you want to have a meaningful discussion about the things people believe and with which they identify emotionally, some degree of bruising is quite difficult to avoid. I suppose one then has to decide which is more important: the cosseting of feelings or the testing of ideas.

David

Horace,

“Try as I might I can only feel contempt at such childishness.”

Well, it is juvenile, and rather dishonest. The merit of a person’s beliefs has a lot to do with the *nature* of those beliefs and how well they stand scrutiny, and nothing at all to do with the degree of professed conviction or the hostility aroused when those beliefs are questioned. The assumption often voiced is that beliefs should be treated with deference *irrespective* of their particulars and shortcomings. This is, I think, childish vanity. And I don’t see why the state should have any business bolstering or subsidising a person’s misplaced self-esteem.

Horace Dunn

David

"This is, I think, childish vanity"

Yes indeed, and it really doesn't help to pander to that vanity, certainly it doesn't help to reward it. For people like Feisal, who claim that they were "hurt" the best message to send, surely, is something along the lines of:

It's the 21st Century. In the 21st Century, people will make fun of your gods. If you want to live with us in the 21st Century, then you'd better get used to this. Thank you. Have a nice day.

David

I think the idea is to make everyone pretend that it’s somehow “unfair” to distinguish between good thinking and poor thinking (or no thinking at all). And it’s basically a way of saying “I expect to be taken very seriously indeed regardless of whether I should, in fact, be taken seriously at all.”

CJ

If the demand for respect - and governmental Respect Enforcement - had been around the last 50 years, we wouldn't have had about half of our books, films, songs, sitcoms, critical journalism...etc.

Taking aim at White Anglo-Saxon Protestants was a cultural staple.

AntiCitizenOne

Ali G has it right.

http://www.intomobile.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/ali-g-respect.gif

These people who expect their desert paedophiles stories to be respected are just laughable.

Franklin

Mencken: "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."

Franklin

Someone posted the exact Mencken quote at Kamm's site, I now see. Well, perhaps it bears repeating.

JuliaM

"I don’t see why the state should have any business bolstering or subsidising a person’s misplaced self-esteem."

Subsidising it to the tune of £4000 no less....

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4153529.ece

And though that £4000 isn't the State's money, anybody think the tribunal costs were less than £4000...?

David

“The panel… did find that she had been badly upset by the 15-minute interview and awarded her £4,000 damages for ‘injury to feelings’.”

Truly, we are becoming a nation of tearful pussies and passive-aggressive whingers.

Anna

More on that £4000 worth of injured feelings:

"Why should a hairdressing salon carry even the risk of losing business because an irrational third party who has decided that showing hair is sinful and thus must be covered up at all times wants to work in the trade? Surely the person making bizarre lifestyle choices based on their irrational fears and superstitions should carry the consequent risks and inconveniences - and not expect someone else to?"

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/06/18/scissors-of-damocles/

David

Quite. There’s an assumption that certain pet groups should always be free to indulge their voodoo of choice and yet face no practical consequence of doing so, say in terms of viable lines of employment. We touched on this before with the “Muslim-only” swimming pool episode:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/04/unclean.html

It seems to me to be much the same displacement of responsibility, and the same arrogant expectation that others will – and should - always be accommodating of irrational vanities. As a result of cases like the above, I’m guessing employers will simply be more inclined to lie about why they don’t employ certain people. And with good reason.

Dr.Dawg

Hello, David.

I’m actually a fan of civility, as I hope the discussions here make clear; but flattering a person’s worldview isn’t really a priority one can hold in good faith.

I would agree that the law has no place in enforcing good manners. But, that being said, good manners themselves are worth upholding. The remark from the Danish Muslim called for civility, not for state sanction.

Incidentally, I'm surprised not to have seen any mention of l'affaire Desrosiers here. The Tribunal was out of its mind.

Dr.Dawg

My apologies--it's been too long. The first para, above, is a quotation from mine host.

David

Dr Dawg,

Welcome back.

“The remark from the Danish Muslim called for civility, not for state sanction.”

What’s being asked for, explicitly, is “respect” - which isn’t necessarily the same thing as civility. The point being made above by Oliver Kamm is that the use of the word “respect” is very often loaded and disingenuous, and thus demands for it are presumptuous and unreasonable. As Oliver says, “respect” so conceived isn’t a small or modest demand, since it would effectively short-circuit realistic discussion of a major social and political issue. I’m not terribly interested in upsetting people for sport; but any realistic debate about Islam, its history, terrorism, etc will be likely to bruise someone’s feelings. Setting aside the obvious epistemic dishonesties common among all religions, Islam has other, additional dishonesties (not least regarding Muhammad) and airing these issues is likely to prompt a great deal of disingenuous complaint. And the greater the dishonesty of a given believer, the greater their indignation is likely to be.

If a believer engages me in a discussion about Islam, I’m not likely to go out of my way to annoy them. That’s not my thing. But if the discussion progresses and goes into detail, there’s a chance that statements of the obvious and matters of fact will be deemed “provocative,” “defamatory,” “hurtful” or whatever. (Several discussions here have followed this pattern quite eerily, with ludicrous evasions, unilateral peevishness and, finally, personal attacks – none of which came from me.) What is being said about Islam may be carefully substantiated and perfectly civil in tone; and whether a person feels offended or “hurt” may simply depend on how wrong and dishonest they are, and how dishonest they persist in being. That’s where the “hurt” comes from.

This may explain efforts like the one below, which goes far beyond a request for civility.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008/06/19/story_19-6-2008_pg7_6

Dr.Dawg

This is the money-quote, as they say:

"While Costea’s ban applies to all religions, it was prompted by Muslim countries complaining about references to Islam."

So, never mind how it was prompted, it applies to every religion. That is, the UN Human Rights Council will not debate religion per se. I think that is entirely sensible. I can't imagine anything fruitful arising from debates about religion in such a forum. Moreover, no coercion is involved: a body of people has simply made a decision not to discuss something.

But back to "respect" for a moment, if I may. Having taking part in a number of muscular debates about such Christian ephemera as Intelligent Design and the alleged threat to civilization posed by same-sex marriage, I am in agreement with your wider point. But the Muslim in question was referring, very specifically, to the republication of one of the famous cartoons. Without going over well-trampled ground here, let me note that the cartoons were not intended to be an argument in a debate: they were gratuitously insulting. For someone to call for civility ("respect" in this case is clearly equivalent) doesn't strike me as extreme or threatening in any way. Were the word to be deployed if, say, the aggressive tone of the later Suras were under discussion, I would be in complete agreement with you.

JuliaM

"...let me note that the cartoons were not intended to be an argument in a debate: they were gratuitously insulting"

Except that the cartoons were a response to (among other things) problems experienced by the children's author who was initially unable to find an illustrator for his children's book on the life of the Prophet Muhammad. So they explicitly WERE an argument in a debate, a debate about free speech and censorship.

David

Dr Dawg.

“…the cartoons were not intended to be an argument in a debate: they were gratuitously insulting.”

You say this, as do others, as if it were somehow self-evident or of pivotal importance; but I’ve yet to be convinced and I’ve yet to see any evidence to support the assertion. (The cartoonists and editors have repeatedly explained their motives in light of the violent and threatening events that led to the original article for which the cartoons were commissioned. I see no obvious reason to assume they’re lying. How do you know that gratuitous insult alone was in fact the motive of each cartoonist? And even if it were the sole or primary motive in each and every case – well, so what?) But I really don’t want to rehash that saga...

As I see it, the key issue is this: the “hurt” and “offence” being grumbled about is very often a direct result of the complainant being wrong, vain and / or dishonest. For example, in order to regard Muhammad as an exemplary or numinous figure and somehow beyond ridicule, one would have to be quite credulous or ignorant, or arrogant and wrong-headed. To then demand apologies and special favours – i.e. for one’s own vanities and misplaced admiration - is, frankly, pushing things a little. People are free to be as credulous and stupid as they wish; but they aren’t entitled to flattery or censorship in order to hide their own shortcomings.

Dr.Dawg

"As I see it, the key issue is this: the “hurt” and “offence” being grumbled about is very often a direct result of the complainant being wrong, vain and / or dishonest."

David: Not to belabour the point, but I thought that the Danish Muslim we were discussing sounded quite mild and reasonable. I saw nothing dishonest or vain in his remark, in its context. The danger, of course, is to extrapolate his call for "respect" into wider areas where other elements are in play that may not be so benign. I don't "respect" Islam, or indeed any organized religion, but I don't go out of my way to offend believers. That I might cause offence in the course of a vigorous debate is quite another thing. As you point out, that simply can't be helped sometimes.

And again, Julia, I am past the point of arguing for state protection against hurting one's feelings, but the reaction those cartoons would cause to Muslims, who object to pictorial representations of the Prophet, must have been known in advance. We can have quite civil, if sometimes heated, debates here at David's, for example: but we needn't deliberately offend each other just to prove we can do so.

David

Dr Dawg,

“I thought that the Danish Muslim we were discussing sounded quite mild and reasonable. I saw nothing dishonest or vain in his remark, in its context.”

Really? Are you sure? The point I’m trying to make is that the guy in question has no credible basis on which to grumble about being “hurt”. It’s pretentious and whiny nonsense. The vanity of it is staggering. Those believers who presume to whinge about their “hurt feelings” and then presume to ask for some kind of compensation or special accommodation are, frankly, contemptible. I see no reason to regard such people as deserving of respect, let alone of special sensitivity. If they wish to be taken seriously, perhaps they should stop being so juvenile. And if they wish their beliefs to be spared ridicule, perhaps they should find a less ridiculous set of beliefs.

Dr.Dawg

"Those believers who presume to whinge about their “hurt feelings” and then presume to ask for some kind of compensation or special accommodation are, frankly, contemptible."

Was the man in question asking for compensation? I had missed that. I didn't see much difference in his comment and its tone from that of a Christian offended by "Piss Christ." He spoke more in sorrow than in anger, it seemed to me.

David

Dr Dawg,

“Was the man in question asking for compensation?”

I didn’t say he was, though he is in effect asking for special accommodation. Poor little peach.

However “mild and reasonable” you think this fellow is, his whinging suggests a conviction that his feelings and beliefs ought to be spared (in ways not quite specified) regardless of how sound and defensible those feelings and beliefs are. Again, given the alleged basis of his “hurt”, the vanity is staggering. And whether you see sorrow or anger, either option presupposes a staggering vanity.

Re: the “Piss Christ” analogy, the problem is that Jesus (a quasi-fictional character) isn’t thought to have bathed in urine. Muhammad (a real historical figure) did, it seems, sanction murder and terrorism as acts of piety. Thus, the Christians who took offence at “Piss Christ” could at least claim *misrepresentation* (albeit of a quasi-fictional character). However, Muslims who take offence at depictions of Muhammad’s violent teachings and those who enact them cannot seriously claim the same misrepresentation. That some should even try is, I think, quite shameful.

Perhaps those who get tearful and indignant about cartoons of a murderous Bedouin pirate should direct their tears and indignation towards those who commit atrocity in that same pirate’s name.

Horace Dunn

David

'However “mild and reasonable” you think this fellow is, his whinging suggests a conviction that his feelings and beliefs ought to be spared ... regardless of how sound and defensible those feelings and beliefs are'.

I think that's the nub of the matter. We all seem to be in agreement here that civility is important, and always highly desirable. However, when you are arguing with people who - in effect - are saying "if you disagree with me then I am hurt and insulted" you are faced with the choice of leaving the argument unchallenged or of being - or at least appearing - uncivil. When engaging with Islam, even stating facts can be considered disobliging - as Mark Steyn has recently found out. It seems to me rather insulting that we are expected to play along with the distortions required to keep what one might call the darker side of Islam away from the public gaze. Yes, certainly I find that insulting, though I'm not sure which country's embassy I'm supposed to firebomb in order to make my feelings more widely known.

David

Horace,

“…when you are arguing with people who - in effect - are saying ‘if you disagree with me then I am hurt and insulted’ you are faced with the choice of leaving the argument unchallenged or of being - or at least appearing - uncivil.”

Exactly. It’s like one party (and one party only) has the option to cry “foul” whenever it suits and is automatically assumed to be legitimately aggrieved. The other person is therefore cast by default as brutish or gratuitously provocative. This tactic is usually deployed for lack of a sound argument. That, or as a kind of passive-aggressive revenge.

Horace Dunn

David

It's not just the clambering up onto what one might call the emotional high-ground, either. It's also the insistence that any engagement has to be done with recourse to examination of facts, or detailed testing of ideas. It's like playing the shell-game without the pea.

Horace Dunn

In my previous comment I should have said "without recourse to..."

Dom

The ten Danish cartoons were not offensive. One was a very pretty picture of Mohammed crossing the desert, another did not picture Mohammed at all. They were so inoffensive that when all ten appeared in an Egyptian newspaper there were no signs of outrage.

However, three cartoons were, by anyone's standards, very offensive. One showed a Muslim woman being raped by a dog, another showed Mohammed with a pig's nose. All three were created by the Imams themselves, but not once was any outrage directed towards them.

So I'm surprised by this: "I thought that the Danish Muslim we were discussing sounded quite mild and reasonable. I saw nothing dishonest or vain in his remark, in its context."

JuliaM

"I am past the point of arguing for state protection against hurting one's feelings, but the reaction those cartoons would cause to Muslims, who object to pictorial representations of the Prophet, must have been known in advance."

Precisely the cartoonists point, I would have thought...

"...three cartoons were, by anyone's standards, very offensive. One showed a Muslim woman being raped by a dog, another showed Mohammed with a pig's nose. All three were created by the Imams themselves, but not once was any outrage directed towards them."

This doesn't get highlighted enough. Do you suppose the 'quite mild and reasonable Danish Muslim' of whom Dr Dawg speaks is aware of this...? If NOT, should we risk 'hurting his feelings' by informing him of this, or should we keep quiet?

Anna

"And if they wish their beliefs to be spared ridicule, perhaps they should find a less ridiculous set of beliefs."

That's the obvious solution. ;) Funny how we don't hear it being suggested more often.

David

“Funny how we don’t hear it being suggested more often.”

Religion is regularly indulged in ways no other set of ideas would be. It’s a double standard that’s both unfair and condescending. A few days ago, the BBC started a series called “Tribal Wives”. In the first episode, a self-preoccupied Oxford woman spent a month living among the Kuna Indians of Panama. Viewers were told – at least three times – that the Kuna are a “deeply spiritual” people and that their lives were “in tune with nature,” etc. Much was made of how “authentic” and “spiritual” the experience would be; all the usual guff. But judging by what was filmed, this “deep spirituality” basically entailed a belief that painting one’s nose black would ward off “bad spirits”. Sewing, another popular activity, would also apparently ward off “bad spirits”. And that was pretty much it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00c6s75

In my experience, this patronising romanticism often comes from people with egalitarian leanings. Maybe they find it distasteful or embarrassing that some cultures are in fact quite grubby and monotonous; maybe they find it “unfair” or something. And hence the urge to overcompensate by banging on about “authenticity” and swooning over nose painting as if it were some sophisticated insight into the workings of the universe.

JuliaM

"In the first episode, a self-preoccupied Oxford woman spent a month living among the Kuna Indians of Panama. "

Oh, god, that's the worst sort of TV. Who's being demeaned more..?

"...banging on about “authenticity” and swooning over nose painting as if it were some sophisticated insight into the workings of the universe."

I wonder if they are the same people who have a spell of the vapours over English events like 'Darkie Day':

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/4337475.stm

Horace Dunn

Julia

You say:

"This doesn't get highlighted enough. Do you suppose the 'quite mild and reasonable Danish Muslim' of whom Dr Dawg speaks is aware of this...? If NOT, should we risk 'hurting his feelings' by informing him of this, or should we keep quiet?"

You are right to express concern about the fact that the Danish cartoons brou-ha-ha (sp?) (!) tends to ignore the fact that certain Imams, as far as one can tell, inflamed the situation by inventing new, and more offensive, cartoons of their own (though it's difficult to discover the truth of this). Nonetheless, it seems a bit harsh to attack Dr Dawg in this way. He's here quite a lot and always presents a rational argument in a courteous way. I, for one, enjoy his contributions and feel that I've learned from them.

JuliaM

I don't see it as an 'attack' on him, I'm merely asking a question - does he believe the person of whom he spoke is aware of it? If not, how would he tackle that?

I've been perfectly courteous too. Or civil, if that word is preferred.. ;)

David

This seems relevant. On the UN Human Rights Council and its ongoing descent into farce:

“Declarations must avoid judgments or evaluation about religion… I promise that next time a speaker judges a religion or a religious law or document, I will interrupt him and pass on to the next speaker.”

http://mickhartley.typepad.com/blog/2008/06/unhrc---no-criticism-of-religion.html

It follows on from this item, linked in this week’s ephemera:

“Only religious scholars should be allowed to discuss matters of faith.”

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008/06/19/story_19-6-2008_pg7_6

Note the word “allowed”.

Dr.Dawg

Many thanks, Horace, but I don't feel under more attack than usual. : )

For the life of me, I can't see how the fake cartoons put about by Imams elsewhere have much to do with the comment made by a Danish Muslim, in a Danish context, about a Danish publication.

I don't hold with Christianity, but that doesn't mean that I would publish deliberately offensive cartoons and pretend that I am contributing somehow to a "debate."

On the subject just introduced by David: When I was much younger, there was a prevalent dinner-table rule (not followed in my house) that one should not discuss politics or religion, such discussions being considered bad for the digestion. Later on, during my life as a convention-attending labour activist, the Ontario Federation of Labour had a standing Constitutional provision against raising items "of a sectarian character" at the microphones, referring, in this case, to religious, not political, squabbling.

I see the UN Human Rights Council decision in much the same way. The President is attempting to keep order. The human rights issues before the Council strike me as complex enough without a descent into an almost inevitably pointless debate about metaphysical constructs. Just ask anyone who has engaged in discussion with a Jehovah's Witness.

David

It seems to me that we now have a so-called Human Rights Council that is, on principal, determined not to discuss one of the most widespread and persistent causes of human rights abuses. And, again, we see the familiar pattern. Those with an obvious interest in the perpetuation of such abuses have the temerity to claim victimhood – “Islam will not be crucified in this Council” – and a neutered, perverted HRC promptly indulges the villains of the piece. Women and minorities throughout the Islamic world will no doubt be thrilled by this heroic display.

Anna

David, more on this at B&W: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notesarchive.php?id=2338

Peter Risdon

I wonder whether the UNHCR will extend this idea of not criticising religious beliefs to Zionists.

From my reading of blogs from the Islamic world, and occasional correspondence with the bloggers and other activists, the biggest victims, and the most immediate and direct, will be Moslems who wish for themselves the sort of secular freedoms we enjoy. This does not, and is not intended to, protect Moslems; it protects their oppressors.

Horace Dunn

Julia

Thanks for that. Yes, you're right - describing your words as an "attack" was overstatement on my part. I did feel though that Dr D would probably have known about the fake cartoons and, either way, I felt that your joke about "hurting his feelings" was a little unfair.

Listen to me getting all indignant on someone else's part. I should get a job in human rights. They need people like me.

Peter Risdon

In Britain, the spontaneous demonstrations against the Danish cartoons were organised by a rather odd organisation called the Muslim Action Committee. To declare an interest, I had some dealings with them, and was supposed to debate their Sheikh in Oxford, until he pulled out.

They issued a clarion call for "Global Civility". This included the demands that there be:

"A full apology by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten and all others who re-printed the caricatures for offending 1.6 billion Muslims, and:

o To hand over the rights of the cartoons to Muslims;
o To publish one saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) every day for 1 year, promoting civility, as selected by the Muslim Action Committee;
o The proceeds from the defamatory caricatures to be given in trust to children's charities."

As well as the modest proposal: "For the world leaders, media, politicians and all people to consider and sign up to the 'Proclamation of Global Civility'."

http://www.globalcivility.co.uk/statement.htm

I'm glad to say that their conflation of "civility" with "demands for public humiliation" have not put me off the dictionary definition of "civility".
"

JuliaM

"I did feel though that Dr D would probably have known about the fake cartoons..."

But, does the person doing the complaining about the cartoons know? And to what extent should his beliefs be challenged by informing him his fellow religionists have been whipping up the masses (again)? You know, for the sake of 'politeness and civility'...

These are the real questions.

"I should get a job in human rights. They need people like me."

Nah, the last thing they need is more people! ;)

Horace Dunn

Julia

Nah, the last thing they need is more people! ;)

Perhaps. But there's a ton of money out there earmarked for "human rights" and they've got to spend it. Go on. Apply for a grant. I dare you.

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