Sunday, February 12, 2006

Those cartoons, published in Egypt

It turns out that those cartoons were published in an Egyptian newspaper in October 2005, during Ramadan. A defence of that blog is here.

I find the arguments of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maryam Namazie compelling. Ali writes

There is no freedom of speech in those Arab countries where the demonstrations and public outrage are being staged. The reason many people flee to Europe from these places is precisely because they have criticized religion, the political establishment and society. Totalitarian Islamic regimes are in a deep crisis. Globalization means that they're exposed to considerable change, and they also fear the reformist forces developing among émigrés in the West. They'll use threatening gestures against the West, and the success they achieve with their threats, to intimidate these people.
and Namazie

I must admit, those of us who have fled the Islamic Republic of Iran are very familiar with this outlook on things. Cultural relativism's equal opportunity for all values and beliefs has often been shoved down our throats by many of the very same politicians, publishers and editors, telling us time and time again to respect 'our' culture and religion though it has been imposed by sheer force.

Now this racism of lower standards and relative rights regarding Islam is being applied to the European press as well! Beware!

This is the old chestnut of cultural imperialism versus the racism of low expectations. We can't win. But we can support people who have high expectations of their own cultures.

Tags: Jyllands-Posten cartoons


Mike Brennan said...

The debates that I've read about the posting of the cartoons distract us from more serious issues around Islam. Islam is a persistent religion unchanging in relation to matters like visualising the Prophet since the 7th century. Only a fool would shake that red rag to it. Muslims are devout, sincere and prayer-ful - they are not mere political objects in some modern politicos' boardgame played out on a world canvas. However Muslims are in general (danger!) blind to the inequality of women in their religion. If we or the Danes care about freedom, we should forget about cartoons - a surface issue -and seek ways of reaching the men who dominate Islam, at our street level, in relation to the place of the female in their religious culture.

Joe Otten said...

I see what you are saying, Mike, but reach with what? Theological arguments? I think progress will almost certainly come from within the Muslim community, but probably not the Muslim clerical community.

In the meantime our laws must protect women equally, no Canadian-style Sharia courts please; and protect apostates; and protect free speech. I don't see how any of these points can be negotiable.

This isn't a solution, I don't have one.

Mike Brennan said...

I agree about Sharia courts, and about protection of those who have made changes to their own lives in Islam. But the whole free speech thing is a distraction. The debate suffers from our not having a comprehensive definition of what we mean by free speech: if we had, we'd know the boundaries to it. I keep thinking of the dozen or more protestors (men mostly, I suppose) who have died violently as a result of these 'cartoons'. Who were these people, what were their lives like, who have they left behind - children, partners, parents? What are their lives like now? What do the press people involved in the Danish exercise know about these individuals, and will they get interested in them for the long term? (of course not but they should).
But then, I get the same thoughts when I hear of another 20 nameless people blown up in Bagdad - the happiness of their lives, the aftermaths to their families of their deaths or maimings. Everyone of them a story as good as my story.
This is at too personal a level to change the world politically, and I respect politicians who take that on because someone must try to manage it all.
As for changing muslim culture at a local level, theological arguments won't work though, I'm trying to work my way through The Meaning of the Qur'an to try to see where it all begins. I was thinking of something simpler - in a civil manner raising issues like the keeping of women in the background in the home, and as far as I can see, in the practices of the mosque, with muslims that I know.

Joe Otten said...

Personally I would hold the groups orchestrating the riots morally responsible for the deaths that result. However I agree that it shows the quality of an asshole to do something knowing that it will prompt other reprobates to orchestrate riots - just because you have a right to.

Hypothetically, we could ask ourselves how we should react if someone threatens to go on hunger strike unless we stop eating pork. It seems comparable.

I admire your valiance in trying to understand the Quran. But given the enormous diversity of views that claim authority from the Bible, I wonder how informative the Quran can really be in explaining Islam. Also I hear that muslims are typically taught to recite passages from the Quran in a language they don't understand - suggesting that the meaning of the words is not the most potent force.

Mike Brennan said...

I guess that I don’t know how manipulated these protestors are. I suspect that some people get into protests from personal conviction, and that the person of the Prophet is a more sensitive button to the ordinary muslim than our eating of pork, for example. But overall you’re right, there’s a thin line between taking offence and moral blackmail.