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Bark Like A Fish, Damnit!


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ursulav

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Since everybody else has to have an opinion about Muslims, cartoons, Danish newspapers, and depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, I'm going to tell you mine.

Everybody involved's a freakin' moron.

I am sorely tempted to just end with "Thank you, and good night," but I suppose I should clarify a bit more, just so that people are getting angry with me for the right reasons (although since people have already dug in their camps on this one, I suspect it's probably too late, and for them, the rest of my post will be like a weird Far Side cartoon--"Blah blah blah Islam! blah blah blah free speech!" Come to think of it, that's what a lot of the posts read like to me, too.)


But anyway.

You run a religiously offensive cartoon, people are gonna get pissed. This has nothing to do with free speech. Free speech means you don't get shot and the government doesn't burn your book. It doesn't mean people will take anything you say with a smile. Free speech means people can think you're wrong, and get bloody pissed, and make blog posts from their armchair. Free speech means that the death squads don't come and shoot you for owning a copy of Thomas Payne, it doesn't mean that you can say anything you want without social repercussions. Free speech does not equal acceptance of your opinion as valid. If you start telling me about the Indigo Children, I will tell you you're an idiot. This is not a supression of your free speech. Just because you have free speech doesn't mean you're right.

Regardless, you run religiously offensive cartoons, people have every right in God's green earth to get mad.

If I somehow managed to get a cartoon in the New York Times and decided to go with the perennial "Jesus cornholing altar boys" theme, people would be bloody furious, I hope, since why the hell would I do something that crude and deliberately offensive if I wasn't trying to get people worked up? I certainly wouldn't be able to flap my hands a bit and say "Well, I didn't expect people to get mad," because Ursula's Law of Art is that if you take the cheap road and make art specifically to shock people, the backlash is part of the mess you get to clean up. You're the one who wanted to piss people off. Deal.

Morons.

As a tangent, it's fairly stupid to get frothing mad over somebody else's depiction of your religion/politics/creed/whatever, too, since what does that do but put a handy little leash of outrage around your neck and put the loop in somebody else's hands? But then again, somebody has only to mention intelligent design and young earth creationism to me, and I'm frothing at the end of the choke chain myself.

Moron. (Me, this time.)

And now, before I am swept up by screaming that I'm an Islamist sympathizer, let me go to the other side, and say that when you get mad at a newspaper, you write a stern letter to the editor about how you didn't think that was funny and it's destroying the fabric of our society or whatever. My grandmother used to call the newspaper every time Beetle Bailey was slightly off-color. At no point did she burn an embassy. Burning the Danish embassy is overreacting. There is never any good excuse to burn the Danish embassy, unless they have a really lethal infestation of termites, and I don't think the mob had any exterminators with them. You do not protest depictions of Islamic violence by commiting violence in the name of Islam, people! That's like my husband saying "You're being irrational," and me screaming "I AM NOT!" and then bursting into tears (which yes, I've done. Perhaps Syria has PMS.) This is a Bad and Stupid Thing. (I realize I am probably not emphasizing how bad and stupid this is nearly enough for the comfort of the people who are really enjoying being pissed about this, but while I can speak with relative authority about free speech and the media and shock art, I have never burned an embassy, and I am thus short of clever similes about it. It's bad and stupid and should not have been done. There are no nuances I can explore to add weight to the statement. It's just a freakin' bad idea to burn an embassy, period.)

Morons.

Severing trade ties to Denmark because of one of their newspapers? Keeee-rist.

Morons.

But there's a third party involved who's being stupid, and that's a lot of the media reporting it, although obviously not everybody. Still, not nearly enough distinction is being made between the vast majority of Muslims who are right now scribbling letters to their editors and being horribly embarassed by the behavior of Syria, and those burning the Danish embassy. Which I think really is representative of the problems in our media with the Islamic world--when the IRA blew stuff up, I don't seem to recall them being called "Christian extremists" and people didn't engage in all this unbelievable arm-chair comparative religious studies trying to find passages in the Bible where "their" religion said it was okay for "them" to kill people. People who would be hard pressed to name all twelve commandments, let alone all twelve disciples, suddenly start claiming knowledge of an equally complex religion, who's sacred text they've never read. And yet, in the public mind, who burned embassies? "The Muslims." Ask 'em who blew up chunks of Belfast, and I will bet you dollars to donuts you don't hear "The Christians." And that's freakin' stupid. There's how many people in the Muslim world, and how many of them burned embassies, exactly? And yet, talking heads refer to "Muslims" as if they were a great monolithic slab of humanity, which is like pouring soothing gasoline on the fire.

Morons.

I am told this exact same thing happens t'other way in Arabic newspapers. I cannot speak to whether or not this is true, since I don't get those newspapers, and don't speak the language, but it doesn't surprise me in the least. All statements of moronhood equally apply. Religions may differ, but sadly, people tend to be stupid in the same ways the world over.

Morons.

So that's my opinion. It was stupid to run the cartoons and not expect people to get mad, it was stupid to get that mad, it's really stupid to burn buildings 'cos you're mad, it's stupid for armchair anthropologists to take such glee in how their low opinion of Islam is confirmed by this, the portrayal of the whole event is stupid, and symptomatic of a broader and profound stupidity about how both sides relate to each other.

There is enough idiocy to go around. Frankly, I think we should just chalk the whole thing up as an ugly moment in the history of the world when practically everybody involved behaved fairly badly, and get on with life.


Edit: Ten. TEN commandments. See, I told you everybody involved was a moron...

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Ay-men, Ra-men, Praise Allah and hallejujah ^_^ well said well said...Idiocy all around.

A very good summary of the whole messy situation, I think :) Mostly my reaction to the 'debate' was "oh, for goodness' sake, grow up and accept that not everyone thinks the way you do"... but that's probably reductive in its own way, so eh. It's difficult to be entirely impartial about all this, especially with everyone freaking about about bomb threats and little girls wearing 'I love Al-Quaida' beanies *sigh*

If I were to add *anything* to this, it would be that by making it such an outcry over how offensive the cartoons were, the Islamic community succeeded in:

1. Getting placating statements from the Danish government.
and
2. Getting the cartoons *republished* all over the world by making it such a media sh*tstorm.

Well, you could also be nitpicky and add that there are ten commandments (not 12) and there are technically 13 disciples... But all else is well said, haha. I'm going to have to print this out and read it to my family. Couldn't have classified the ridiculous of the situation better myself.

A Norwegian comedian said running the cartoons was like serving shellfish to an allergic, and, when they're down and struggling to breathe, saying: "I just wanted a debate about nutrition!"

Here in Norway, there's just no justifiable excuse from the tiny harcore fundamentalist magazine that printed the pictures. Their editor is an ass.

The analogy may be funny but is very poor. If I say something you dislike, that does not give you the right to hit or kill me. The fundamentalists, the Wahhabis - they believe it does. That matters.

Here, here!

I lived in a Muslim country for seven years. A very modern, liberal, open Muslim country. The United Arab Emirates. I just got back to the US in June, so this is really recent. When this mess erupted, a friend of mine commented how glad they were that I was in the US rather than the UAE. My reply was "You know what they're probably doing in the UAE about this? Writing scathing letters to the editor and scathing editorials." That's about the extent of it.

Which is how it should be.

One of my long standing comments on free speech is: you're free to write it, but I'm free to not read it. There are too many morons who think free speech means there are no consequences and they have no responsibility.

Having spent a lot of time with Muslims, I can tell you that the vast majority of Muslims, while angry over the cartoons, are not pleased with the extremists who give their religion a bad name. After 9/11, I remember how desperately my students (young Muslim women) wanted it not to be Muslims who had done it. Most sane Muslims also hated the Taliban and had been trying for years to get rid of it, long before the US even noticed it.

But there is a point that I have yet to see addressed in news stories regarding this whole cartoon blow up. Admittedly, I haven't read a lot of them, so the point may be out there. But I don't see it prominently. In Islam, images of people are discouraged and images of the Prophet are extremely taboo. Muslim art doesn't depict people for a reason. It's a major cultural offense. And pictures of Mohammed? That's just not done.

So it's not just that there were cartoons that were offensive to a religion. That's enough to get any proponent of the offended religion hot under the collar. But it's compounded (by a lot!) by the fact that there's a picture depicting Mohammed at all!

That was fairly rambling. I totally agree with you, Ursula. Damn morons!

Well, we've had a blortload of LotE in the Gulf Times and Penninsula, but good ol' charming *boring* Qatar has also had three rallies to date, and tempers here are edgy.

That being said, my Muslim co-workers think the protesters are a batch of freaking idiots,

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Ursulav for UN Secretary General!

This needs to be on some sort of worldwide public address.

I'd pay good money to see someone get up in front of the UN and tell them they're all morons. :D

The problem I see coming up a lot is that people think it's a matter of freedom of speech. It's not a matter of whether we can or can't make stupid cartoons propagandizing intolerance and narrowmindedness, it's a matter of should or shouldn't. It's just stupid is all. On top of that, sensationalistically insensitive bashing on organized religion is just so last decade.

Yeah! There's right, and wrong, and then there's just tacky.

I dunno; I think the very original people had a good point to make, which was that you can't safely put your name and a depiction of mohammed on a book about islam printed in a western country. That's an important point. They could reasonably expect people to get pissed, and I'm sure they did (the book was published anonymously, after all), but no reasonable person anywhere should expect a dozen lame editorial cartoons to explode into torched embassies, severed diplomatic and trade ties, and burned police cars.

Perhaps the danish newspaper should have recognized that anything perceived as insulting to islam would set off a clusterfuck, given the volatile nature of muslim/other relations in europe. Perhaps.

But I do not think that any group ought to be able to editorially control the world by threats of violence and economic consequences.

It is not "freedom of speech" as we classically speak of it; that's a term that reflects government censorship, not social reaction. But it'll have to do, because we don't have a term for "I ought to be able to publish without having to evacuate my offices due to bomb threats".

When your community is so goddamn sensitive that your extremists start burning embassies over a *cartoon*, well... it hardly matters what set everyone off, does it? Something was going to do it.

While it's absolutely true that nobody's opinion should be hostage to violence, I still don't think that it's neccessarily accurate to say the Muslim "community" is that sensitive. I mean, when the IRA blew things up, nobody talked about it in terms of the Christian community's extremists (at least, not in my hearing.) There's a very real sense in which the discussion is framed differently, as if there is a single Muslim community who is somehow responsible for this.

I mean, I wouldn't blame the Quakers for the guy who blew up abortion clinics, ya know? Sure, they're both Christians, but it's laughable to claim they belong to a single community.

I suspect that in reality the vast majority of Muslims probably went "Sheesh, that's tacky," and then got on with their lives.

There is one little, neat, often overlooked fact - the cartoons in question were published FIVE MONTHS ago. The poor religiously offended muslims all of suddenly go off NOW. Which leaves a room for just a couple of explanations: persons in question are reallly slooowwww, or, well, the whole mess is a very nasty psy-op.

Quoted from an interesting article on the Guardian:

"At this point a group of ultra-conservative Danish imams decided to take matters into their own hands, setting off on an ambitious tour of Saudi Arabia and Egypt with a dossier containing the inflammatory cartoons.

According to Jyllands-Posten, the imams from the organisation Islamisk Trossamfund took three other mysteriously unsourced drawings as well, showing Muhammad with the face of a pig; a dog sodomising a praying Muslim; and Muhammad as a paedophile. "This was pure disinformation. We never published them," Lund complained. But the campaign worked. Outwardly the row appeared to be calming down. But in Muslim cyber-chatrooms, on blogs, and across the internet, outrage was building fast."


Guardian Unlimited: Child's tale led to clash of cultures

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Well, I've never met a Muslim who wasn't a moderate, myself. So speaking from the very limited perspective of someone who shared an office with a couple in St. Paul, back in the day, yeah, they exist. If there was a religious extremist in the office, at that point, it'd have been me--I was an angry young pagan, still.

None of the guys I knew ever made any kind of deal out of being Muslim, and has it been asked around the office who was most likely to blow up a building, all fingers would have pointed at my cubicle first.

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Ha, spot on. I've linked to this, I hope you don't mind but you said just about everything I was thinking much more coherently than I would have.

"I am told this exact same thing happens t'other way in Arabic newspapers. I cannot speak to whether or not this is true, since I don't get those newspapers, and don't speak the language, but it doesn't surprise me in the least. All statements of moronhood equally apply. Religions may differ, but sadly, people tend to be stupid in the same ways the world over."</i>

Based on the two english-language papers here in Qatar, I think I can say with some certainy that they do act that way as well.

Should Denmark apologize though? I don't think so.

First of all Muslims have been depicting their profet since forever and even mockery of said prophet isn't unprecedented.
Second of all, radical Muslims have been slagging off on the Jews in the same manner for ages. But when an outsider does it to them it's the end of the world?

You have to wonder what else is going on.

Mm, conspiracy theories...


Denmark, so far as I know, didn't do squat.

That said, however, there comes a point in all stupid arguments where the rational people say "Look, let's just all apologize and shake hands and get on with our lives!" It doesn't neccessarily mean that you've done anything to apologize for, it's just a way of getting it all over with when the other people are being pig-headed morons. Sort of like when two kids start fighting--even if one of 'em was totally at fault, your parents make you both apologize and shake hands because that's the polite way to end it.

So I suspect that Denmark's apology was more of an attempt at a mature "Let's shake hands and make up," kind of thing than a confession to any actual wrong-doing. At least, if I was doin' it, that'd be the reason.

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Here from metaquotes... can I link to this from my journal?

A little bit of background, and thoughts on moral equivalence.

solarbird

2006-02-05 06:10 pm (UTC)

What got all this started was specifically a free-speech exercise; a cartoonist working on a children's book said that he wouldn't draw a picture of Mohammad because he feared personal retaliation. Salmon Rushdie, after all, wrote a book that enraged the fundamentalist mullahs and had to live in hiding for over a decade. And Theo van Gogh was assassinated over his short film, Submission, which protested the treatment of women in fundamentalist Islamic societies.

All of the cartoonists involved, whether their drawings were intended as offensive or not - and I've seen all of the original set, most were clearly not, outside the "transgression" of drawing the prophet at all, something only the Wahhabi sect prohibits outright - are how in hiding, and there have been riots, death threats, burnings of embassies, armed intimidation raids by masked gunmen on European Union buildings with promises to return to kill, and calls for extermination.

Violent suppression of free speech by private groups is just as much suppression as when the government does it. Just because the words "law" or "government" aren't attached doesn't mean it's something different. And it's endemic to the fundamentalism that is so dominant in so many middle eastern societies right now - and in so many portions of the immigrant European Muslim groups.

The Klan, when active, suppressed free speech just as effectively as Southern governments.

What you've done, in my view - particularly by starting with the cartoons and asking them (essentially) what they expected - is set up a moral equivalency between them and the reaction. You've set up a paradigm equating drawing cartoons and the violent and intentionally suppressive reaction. I, personally, reject that moral equivalency. I do not think the two things are equal. I do not think that "offense by cartoon" and "assaults, death threats, and burnings" balance out in any way.

If the middle east is ever going to move out of dictatorships and fundamentalism, it's going to have to learn to deal with this sort of thing. I don't have an answer for that1. It's possible they never will move past this point. This would be extremely bad for everyone, but particularly bad for them themselves. Most groups, most subcultures and even cultures, figure this out eventually2; I hope they will, soon, too.

Part of the answer, I think, has to be moving beyond fundamentalism3. But part of the answer - part of the route to that goal - can't be excusing it. Forgiving it, sure. Excusing it - saying the two acts are equal - can't be.

And that's all I've got to say about that.



1: for the record: I opposed in writing, in speaking, and in marching, the invasion of Iraq, partly because I did not trust that an administration that had campaigned against the very concept of nation-building to spin around and suddenly not just adopt that particular religion, but magically gain the interest and competence necessary to pull it off.

2: for the record: believe me, I know all about facing brutal libel about oneself and one's class. I'm a dyke. US fundamentalists - the theoconservative movement - have waged an unremitting propaganda war against people like me for longer than I've been around, calling us diseased, violent abusers, calling us paedophiles, child-rapists, corruptors of society, incapable of real emotional relationships or real relationships, secret controllers of the media (see the parallels yet?) and on, and on - and they meet with the President and get to argue that we should be illegal again and nobody even questions it. So I know exactly what it feels like to get far more abuse from words than they've been receiving - but you don't see mass actions by queers burning down buildings in Colorado Springs or raiding CBN headquarters in Virginia with assault rifles.

3: Ironically, by moving in the direction opposite the largest social movement in this country. BTW, our fundamentalists have been talking about blasphemy again, out around the fringes. Fun, huh?

Re: A little bit of background, and thoughts on moral equivalence.

(Anonymous)

2006-02-05 06:16 pm (UTC)

I, er, don't think she was saying they were equal offenses. I think she expected everyone to make the obvious assumption that offensive cartoons are bad and burning embassies is BAD. :)

If I somehow managed to get a cartoon in the New York Times and decided to go with the perennial "Jesus cornholing altar boys" theme . . .

With your luck, it'd end up being cute. And then you would have swarms of yaoi fans banging at your journal door demanding more.

"It reminds us of Labyrinth!" :D

Yeah, yeah. Obviously I'm really lapsed. *grin*

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I have to agree. You are welcome to be mad, but not to actually move on to violence. It's understandable to be mad, but not to actually move on to violence. When you move on to violence, you start supporting a negative opinion of your group.

Reads "You are welcome to be crazy, but not to actually move on to violence."

Ha! If that worked, the crime rate would be a lot lower.

Damn bloody RIGHT!

Thank you

Also the radical muslims? Just won re-election for our nationalistic/anti-muslim party.

So well done there, as well.

Also, I agree with the above poster - this situation would've *stayed* at scathing letters if Abu Laban and his idiotic goons hadn't decided that a quick trip to the Middle-East was in order. And if he'd stop telling the Arabic press that there have been protests in Denmark where Qu'urans have been burned, which they haven't.

Lastly, way to go Syria - the Danish embassy on the third floor was relatively unharmed. Chile and Sweden's embassies, on the first and second floor, however, have been destroyed

And, since I forgot in my above comment, big fat word. Now, if I could just forward this to Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

why yes, I too will add an unnecessary comment

wootsauce

2006-02-05 06:45 pm (UTC)

When people try to justify their mistrust (at best) of the BIG SCARY ISLAMIC OTHER, all I hear is "wahhh, muslims are so much more extreme, wahhhh, christians don't do the same thing, wahhhhhhhhh we don't like them." Of course it's freakin' wrong to burn down embassies and react this violently to a some dumb little cartoons. To be honest, though, I'm not sure I expect any better of Christian fundamentalists.

But then taking that, running with it, and going "see? Muslims are way too sensitive and overreact!" is pretty dumb. Also, is it just me, or does every "WAHHHH CHRISTIANS ARE SO MUCH MORE PEACEFUL" lame-ass miss the fact that most of the Muslims that they're talking about (which never seem to include, say, Malaysians, or wherever else Islam has gotten to...) are from an extremely different culture from priviliged, white america and have a totally different worldview? It seems remarkably short-sighted to point specifically to a religion especially after everyone's being all "Muslims are bad, mean people" all over the place about it.

Re: why yes, I too will add an unnecessary comment

reyfox

2006-02-05 07:07 pm (UTC)

Ed Zachary. If Christians were in societies ran by dictators and/or super-rich oil barons (yes, I know about the Bushes in America, try to stay with me here) and had to put up with another religion's people trying to reclaim the "holy land"* in your backyard, and it were routinely 120 degrees and sandstormy outside, then perhaps they'd get a little twitchy from time to time too.

When you have a repressed and undereducated citizenry and you add religion to the mix, you're going to get trouble, and I don't think the particular holy book matters too much. I'd be all for "chalk[ing] the whole thing up as an ugly moment in the history" if I didn't think it was just going to happen again and again and again.

* Please note that I'm not claiming anyone has a more legitimate claim to the holy land than any other here, I'm just noting that the tension is there for anyone who has a significant emotional investment in the holy land.

I concur. I don't understand the whole mess.

I have been ignoring this whole thing, because I knew from the headlines that it would simply make me hate humanity.

But to be fair to your final analogy, I know a number of people, especially at the time it was a major media issue, who would have said that the ones who blew up Belfast were "The Catholics". (Heck, even I have been known to wear orange on St. Patrick's day.) Some of them would have even tried to find justification in Roman Catholic doctrine, although admittedly not as many as the people who talk stupidly about houris these days.

Which isn't to say that any of this is *right*, it's just to say that, well, people are morons.

*grin* So I'm hearing. I might just have missed it, I suppose. Still, as you say, it didn't seem to occur in quite the same volume. I suspect Catholics are not quite as scary and unknowable as Islam.

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