Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Jyllandsposten Controversy

I haven't said much about the Danish cartoon controversy. In one sense it doesn't strike me as an interesting issue: I would have thought that anyone who actually took the trouble to look up the cartoons, as I did, would see at once that there is nothing particularly anti-religious about them. Several of them are clearly racist, feeding on stereotypes about Islamic civilization, and I find it puzzling that so many people are defending what is, in fact, nothing other than a hostile European xenophobia. I find it sickening that so many people are using the label 'freedom of speech' as a way of proudly supporting racist attacks on an entire civilization. I don't think setting fire to embassies is quite constructive; but I don't think violent civil-rights uprisings or peasant riots are generally constructive, either. I think, as well, that such things are failures to attain to the level of moral action to which we are all called. I still can understand them, and I'm not convinced that those who engage in such acts are really more culpable than those who occasioned them, or even than those who condoned those who occasioned them. Wrongs are not righted by wrongs; but we must not let the more noticeable case distract us from recognizing that it is occasioned by something that is also wrong.

The most powerful commentary on this whole chain of events, I think, has been from Muslims; and I wish that people wouldn't talk about this sort of thing without making a serious attempt to see this matter from the Muslim point of view. My recommendations for blog-reading on the subject:

Sunni Sister has a very good post about a very common form of bigotry (I had noted briefly an example of this in discussing Daniel Dennett's odd essay in CHE recently):

My feeling is that by now, people who are really interested in knowing what the regular Mozzies of the mainstream think about terror have figured it out, and only those who are interested in stoking the flames of hate still say, "Why don’t they condemn terrorism?" every time a Muslim dares to raise his or her head. Because anyone with access to a television, newspaper, or the internet can take a moment or two to find out that Muslim community leaders, including those of our big organizations, spend a great deal of time telling the press that we’re against violence, terror, etc. everytime some Muslim somewhere does something wrong. It’s getting to the point where some guy named Abdullah mugs an old lady, and someone’s going to call the masjid and ask for the imam’s response, and some right wing nutter’s going to blog a post asking, "Why haven’t all the Muslims condemned this mugging?"
(HT: Dervish)

Abu Sinan has a few very brief posts on the issue that are worth reading: here, here, and here.

Qadeeb al-Ban at Mere Islam has a set of links to try to help others see why some Muslims are so angry over this matter. See also the post, An Idiot's Guide to Offensive Cartoons.

Sister Aishah's Islamic Journey discusses the lessons of the story behind the Prayer of Taif in light of current events.

In addition, see Bookish on the subject (HT: Akram's Razor). (Unfortunately there's a pop-up from something on the page.)

[UPDATE: This defense of the cartoons at the Washington Post seems to me to miss the point entirely; it would be irrational, for instance, to commission cartoons using Shylock stereotypes and blood libel to test how afraid the media is of Jews; it doesn't become more rational when similar stereotypes and calumnies are applied to Muslims. It also, like a number of others in this controversy, fails to remember what 'freedom of press' and 'free speech' actually mean, namely, freedom from government coercion. They are not what is primarily at stake here; what is primarily at stake here is bigotry that casts aspersions with a broad brush.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.