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Thursday 2 February 2006

Islam and cartoons [Lurks]

So in essence, some newspapers published satirical cartoons featuring the prophet mohammed. Islam prohibits any depiction so muslims are up in arms and I mean properly up in arms. Surrounding embassies in the west bank, burning Danish, Norwegian and French flags in Pakistan calling for the death of those nations. Now the Danish paper that printed these cartoons really just didn't comprehend that it would cause such widespread offense. Why should they? They're not in a muslim country. Rightly, they apologised for any offense but that's the limit of it and rightly their prime minister welcomed the apology but said that there's no way they'd censure the paper, they value free speech like any modern civilisation does.
This is all quite bad enough but what is even more baffling to me was that the publisher of a French newspaper sacked the editor for printing a satirical cartoon which was as innocuous as depicting jesus and some other religious figures on a cloud saying "It's alright Mohammed, we've all be satirised too." France is actually one of the most militants countries in Europe about seperating state and religion - hence the furore over religious garments in schools - so this is doubly baffling. Of course the publisher was half Egyption...
No doubt we'll hear all sorts of words about how these people don't represent all muslims etc but I'm actually really growing tired of forcing myself to be sympathetic with this religion. They've always had a humorless austere approach to everything. I'm told it's supposed to be about compassion but where's the evidence of that? The vast bulk of Islamic nations appear to be all about telling people what to think and do. Even within our own country time and time again Islamic groups think nothing of on one hand demanding various rights for themselves but on the other hand advocating the banning of books which they don't personally like.
What we're talking about now is the fact that their religion has certain values which simply are not compatible with modern civilisation. Concepts like equality of the sexes, free speech and so on are framed in our very laws but it seems you're alright to rebel against that by hiding behind some religion. Christianity and all the others have done worse in their times, we all know, but at least they've kind of moved in some kind of attempt to embrace modern values where as Islam increasingly seems to represent a way of thinking that died out in the stoneage.
We're talking about official complaints from their governments to the governments of Europe. Saudi Arabia has recalled their ambassador. This is just HUGELY rich coming from these countries where god only knows what sort of horrendous activities they engage in we object to deeply but don't suddenly start baying for blood and recalling our ambassadors. Perhaps we should?
On the bright side at least some muslims appear to be able to rise above the strict interpretation of their neanderthal religious claptrap. Editor of of a Jordanian newspaper called al-Shihan said:

"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

Damn straight, you don't see the fuckers up in arms when muslims are committing horendous acts of barbarism in the name of their religion but hey, someone draws an amusing sketch of the prophet and it's a major International relations issue.
Of course the problem with my argument is assuming that logic plays any part in this.


  1. As usual, Boris Johnston says it best: "If you are a Muslim and your faith is strong and you believe in God and in your prophet then I don't think you should be remotely frightened of what some ludicrous infidel says or does about your religion or any depiction he produces.
    "I think we've got to move away from this hysterical and rather patronising idea that we have got to treat the Muslim religion with kid gloves and not subject it to all the same rough and tumble that we subject other faiths to."

  2. That's the irony really; because muslims are so austere and liable to offense in this way, they have been treated with kid gloves. One of the key things that Islamic states can't seem to comprehend is that everything is fair game in our society and that not everyone is a party to one particular value. There's a great stand out quote in the BBC article linked above from someone called Randa Ahmed Essa in Egypt.

    Freedom of speech has its limits when it concerns others...How would it feel if Jesus Christ was the one insulted instead?

    Hilarious isn't it. This personal automatically assumes that we'd suddenly be up in arms. Um matey, the vast bulk of us couldn't give a toss. Some people might, they might write in to a newspaper and they might get their letter printed or something. However we've got entire shows revolving around satirising Christianity. Guess what, some Christians even watch it and laugh. Maybe that's something Muslims ought to consider. I think in a previous blog I linked this article which is an interesting take on the general lack of humour in Islam.

  3. Well, I guess that's what hundereds of years of oppression in totalitarian states and being spoon fed bile & vitrol at every opportunity does. What this issue does highlight is the question that how in the hell (If you'll forgive the pun) can these people be part of the modern world? (until the oil runs out anyway).Bring on the ethenol.

  4. I just can't stand this assumption that we should be tolerant of all relighion and believers. These people are insane idiots devoting thier lives to fairy tales. Oh be a good boy and when you die you'll live forever etc. No - you die - you go in the ground - your worm bait - thats it - wake up and enjoy the amazing universe which we find ourselves in. Its the hypocracy of Bush etc which upsets me most - the biggest state executioner in US history and a warmongering cock yet is anti gay because of a few comments in his book - what about thou shall not kill??
    So pissed off with the emergence of religion again - where is the CND or Greenpeace type organisation I can donate to and join which is dedicated to combatting all religion? Bring back the illuminati!

  5. Way to utterly miss the point. These people are entitled to their believes, even if you dont believe in them. Forcing your lack of belief on them is just as bad as what's discussed above isn't it?

  6. Atheists are great... they're at least as good value for money as theists, and will wander into any available conversation and cut 'n paste their knee jerk "religion is rubbish" pseudo-arguments with all the ferver of a televangelist.
    Let's ban religion - great, fantastic idea, let's make it wrong for my nana to believe she's off to a better place when her time comes, or that she's going to see my grandad again some time, or that good people are rewarded for doing good things. Yeah, that's a real worthwhile cause there.
    Let's publish cartoons that we know will offend millions of people around the world - hell, these backwards barbarians are OBVIOUSLY wrong in their belief, so they shouldn't be practising it anyway! It is our DUTY to challenge their deeply held beliefs, and stop their mystical mumbo-jumbo!
    Down with atheism!

  7. Check out this weeks New Scientist & associated podcast for an interesting discussion of why humans have evolved the need for evolution at all.Essentially, religion on a small scale makes us be nice to each other and gives us a placebo effect when something nasty happens. Hence conferring an evolutionary advantage. The trick would be to get a belief system that didn't rely on fairy stories & mumbo jumbo. Unfortunately the last person to pull that off had a predeliction for close trimming his moustache and goose stepping his way into Poland.Where things go tits up is when religion gets adopted by the state & used to hurt/ opress other people...

  8. There's no such thing as an atheist, just a confused agnostic

  9. Agnosticism was depreciated and reinvented as "common sense".

  10. "Where things go tits up is when religion gets adopted by the state & used to hurt/ opress other people..."
    Which unfortunatly is every major religion. Wasn't it only in the last few months that the Saudi leader commisioned a new translation of the Muslim bible and made the translators make it more damning of other religions. I.e. more "Kill the infidels". No wonder they were one of the first to run around screaming bloody murder when this fiasco started.

  11. Here's a newsflash, in Soviet Russia, organised religion was banned - yet the state was still corrupt, brutal, controlling, manipulative. Maybe it is the state we need to sort out before we go hacking away at people's faiths eh?

  12. Lets not kid ourselves. The state isn't perfect. Thats what Spiny and I were saying. Its the state that quite often corrupts the religion. I take it you know that theres a number of passages in the common bible (king james) that were added on his whim because he didn't feel the translation was quite what he wanted it to say.
    The idea of Religion is a great idea turned bad by man in my opinion.

  13. God moves in mysterious ways Pod. Are you daring to presume that you are capable of knowing the mind of The Creator? Can you really say that God didn't act through King James, or the roman catholic councils that put the tome together in the first place? So as to more accurately present His word? I'd be interested to hear your justification for being so familiar with The Lord's motivations.
    God frequently operated through agents throughout history, be it in the body of His son, Jesus, or appearing in the form of a burning bush. It seems likely to me that He would strive to have His word and law deseminated to the masses in the most socially relavent context at the time.
    And if man, and the governments of man, choose to reject His word and His law, then there are mechanisms in place to deal with them. We can only be faithful, I'm sure you'll agree.

  14. Well, since I don't believe in God I cannot assume to know his mind ;)
    From my perspective religion is a man device designed to bring hope and was then corrupted by man in order to control. So I'm perfectly justified in posting what I did.
    An interesting thought that does ocour is that given todays society and diversity (hundreds of religions and hundreds of small breakaways of those) it would be impossible to choose the 'right' religion even if there is one. So therefore (assuming that the 'right' religion is a god based one) the god of that religion would have to accept that eithera) 99% of men are doomed from the start (a very evil god)b) all men will be saved if they conform to a norm (of sorts) (i.e. be good and be saved) as they can't possibly be blamed
    if its a) we're screwed so hope thats its b)if its b) religion is pointless
    Or am I talking rubbish?

  15. "From my perspective religion is a man device"
    I meant "man made"
    Beej - Web Edits appear to be broken.

  16. Regardless of our opinions about the validity of religious belief, surely the main point of this must be that freedom of expression is not something that can be maintained if we are limited only to the inoffensive. Were the cartoons at issue in bad taste? Absolutely, but the same can be said of many things considered satirical. However, just as authors have the right to express themselves as they may choose, surely readers too must be given a means to express their opinions? I have no issue with peaceful protests - though I believe it to be unneccessarily exacerbating the sitution, the recall of ambassadors and the demands for an apology, no matter how hypocritical they may seem, are simply a logical continuation of living in a society that places a high value upon freedom of speech.

  17. I suppose I should put the thread back on track somewhat, I just get slightly incensed by reading knee jerk reactions from atheists who pop up and demand such nonsenses as "theists, stop trying to tell us what to believe... here's what you should believe!" It's a silly position that reduces the perpertrator to the same level as the frothy theist. Gives us real atheists a bad name.
    Getting back to the cartoons. It's not really a freedom of speech issue. In most european countries, newspapers quite rightly DO have the right to publish these things. Freedom of speech is not under threat - unless you count the UK's thankfully massively watered down incitement to racial hatred laws that are being debated currently. The real debate here is whether they should have, and my opinion is that they shouldn't. I mean, what did they hope to achieve?
    Did they hope that challenging Islamic fundamentalists with clever western doodles would cause them to see the error of their ways? That they would slap their heads and say "man, we have been so stupid, these witty pictures have showed us that we must embrace peace!"
    These people are not likely to be swayed by logic or rhetoric. So what will happen? Predictably, millions of muslims worldwide will be offended, a few thousand will be REALLY offended, and someone will innevitably get killed. Over what? A Danish paper defending a right to free speech that it never stood to lose, making a point that it knew would offend, about a religion that anyone can plainly see has problems.
    We won't solve this global issue like this. We need to be figuring out why the Palestinians voted into power a terrorist organisation recently. Or why extremists flock to Iraq to bomb and main fellow muslims. Is it that Islam is ultimately doomed to fundamentalism? Or is it more that poverty and oppression, years of neglect and manipulation by the so-called civilised west, ultimately leads to fundamentalism?
    I don't know the solution, but it would help if we actually figured out what is the problem first.

  18. "theists, stop trying to tell us what to believe... here's what you should believe!"
    I never said anything of the sort. I mearly was conveying my opinion and some interesting facts. But you're right, we did stray just a tad off course.

  19. Actually, it was more Braddy's (probably tongue in cheek) comment about giving money to an organisation to combat religion. He's quite right of course, but you can't force feed this kind of thing to people. Like religious faith, a lack of faith is something you need to come to by yourself.

  20. I agree with what you've said Dave but you've wandered onto the point of asking what the paper sought to achieve as to whether they should have done it They didn't seek to achieve widespread offense by muslims, they apologised for doing so. Subsequent papers that re-printed it and turned it into a free speech issue unnecessarily as you said.
    Anyway, a fatwa on the lot of you. Infidels!

  21. In the west, we must show equal tolerance for those crazy European liberals (libertines?) as much as we must show for the traditionalists. This makes things difficult, because the traditionalists by definition don't have perspective and are always going to bleat. To minimise that, we need to play it down in significance (Britain has been quite well - but France not, judging from the headline of Le Soir).
    (Britain really is awfully good at playing things down)
    The bomb-turban cartoon was probably going a bit too far. That level of satire is too sharp given the difference in cultures.
    Traditionalists (and by extension, fundamentalists) are never going to accept, if understand, our relaxed approach to cultural and religious issues. They are in their cultural sphere and we are in ours.
    But by ours, I mean you and I writing this page. There are fundamentalists close to home. The daft Americans who take the word of the Bible (and creation...) literally. The Fundamentalists in NI like Reverend Doctor Reichsmarshall Ian Paisley. They're going to protest like bitches if you publish humorous cartoons of a long-haired beared man with a crown of thorns fucking a donkey.

  22. Right, so since this blog was last looked at, we've had three embassies torched (two in Damascus, one in Beirut) and a protest in London that included such reasoned and relaxed slogans as "Europe, your 9/11 will come." and "Europe you will pay - Bin Laden is on his way.". While I am in some ways extremely right wing (the BNP have even gone so far as to try and recruit me), one topic about which I am a raving lefty is that of free speech, and its corrolary, the right of reply.
    However, and I may be wrong in this, the burning of diplomatic missions and the advocacy of the murder of civilians are somewhat disproportionate responses to the publishing of a simple cartoon. Leaving Syria and Lebanon aside, I find myself joining with those who question why no arrests have been made over the London protests, especially given the amount of effort that was expended getting the new incitement laws onto the statute books.
    The Met are apparently studying CCTV footage of the demonstration - perhaps in the coming weeks, they will detain those guilty under existing and new law. Given the number of protesters who appeared to be hiding their faces, I am sceptical. Though it may have been the case that wading in batons first might have escalated the situation, does not a lack of response invite further unacceptable action?

  23. In this instance, I believe the police acted entirely correctly and sensibly. If they'd waded in and started smashing skulls, you would have had outrage amongst the muslim community at home and abroad. Instead, they've chosen sit this one out, and let the muslim community condemn this minority - which they have, and quite vociferously. Now they need to study the footage and bring in the ringleaders.
    What was more interesting today was that it emerged that a muslim publication in London had published a cartoon featuring Ariel Sharon depicted as a stereotypical Jew, hook nosed etc etc, that wouldn't have looked out of place in 1930s Germany. Predictably, the Jewish community of north London managed to restrain itself from nipping down the local mosque with a box of matches and a bag of rags.
    It has also emerged that the two editors in Jordan responsible for reprinting the cartoons over there have been arrested on charges of insulting religion.
    Welcome to the 21st century, where our Arch Duke Ferdinand is a fucking cartoon in Denmark...

  24. I can't help but wonder how much of this Burn Baby Burn mentality is being state sponsored by the likes of Lebanon, Syria and Iran where any excuse to cause an anti-Western 'disturbance' is pounced on with enthusiasm.
    Every faith I can think of has been lampooned by one newspaper cartoonist or another - and I've yet to recall the CofE rallying the faithful for a spot of destruction, or the Hindus going on a rampage.
    To be perfectly honest, the picture being painted by the Muslim 'faithful' as they burn down a consulate, mission or embassy is one of out of control fanatical mob rule - which is hardly endearing when you consider that really, they need to be convincing everyone that they're nice, calm, educated and considered chaps who just want peace & good will for all mankind.
    Good on the Danish government for refusing to get involved and issue an apology - we in this part of the world hold the freedom of speech as sacred as the fanatic's freedom to torch buildings, evidently.

  25. "As is well known, the priests are the most evil enemies--but why? Because they are the most impotenent. It is because of their impotence that in them hatred grows to monstrous and uncanny proprtions, to the most spiritual and poisonous kind of hatred. The truly great haters in the world history have always been priests; likewise the most ingenious haters: other kinds of spirit hardly come into consideration when compared with the spirit of priestly vengefulness."Friedrich Nietzsche"There's Nothing Nietzsche Couldn't Teach Ya About the Raising of the Wrist" Monty Python

  26. Yes but we melt faces in world of warcraft... ahem. Anyway to Brit's comment, well yeah there's no doubt that those jumping up and down probably already had a big anti-western beef already going on. You've got to remember that much of the middle east is steeped in deep ignorance. I'm sure have the people burning embassies have simply been told that a Danish newspaper printed a picture insulting the prophet and, assuming as they do that the newspaper is a state-run entity like they invariably are in their countries, assuming this is an activity supported by the country's government. Of course the cartoon is neither seeking to be offensive, nor is a serious commentary or is it supported by anyone other than the newspaper in question but most of those waving around Kalashnikovs wont know that.
    When I lived in Israel, it was quite remarkable tuning into the English-language radio stations broadcast from nearby Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan. It was basically a neverending stream of propaganda. I guess it's hard to imagine the perspective of someone who basically grew up with every channel being propaganda and any actual genuine editorial outlet being run by the west and hence the enemy.