Friday, February 10, 2006

Fundamentalists have a problem with freedom, not cartoons

An excellent comment piece by Bruce Bawer in The Stranger (edited by one of my favourite US columnists, Dan Savage):

What’s happening here is that a gang of bullies—led by a country, Saudi Arabia, where Bibles are forbidden, Christians tortured, Jews routinely labeled “apes and pigs” in the state-controlled media, and apostasy from Islam punished by death—is trying to compel a tiny democracy to live by its own theocratic rules. To succumb to pressure from this gang would simply be to invite further pressure, and lead to further concessions—not just by Denmark but by all of democratic Europe. And when they’ve tamed Europe, they’ll come after America.

After all, the list of Western phenomena that offend the sensibilities of many Muslims is a long one—ranging from religious liberty, sexual equality, and the right of gay people not to have a wall dropped on them, to music, alcohol, dogs, and pork. After a few Danish cartoons, what’s next?


Word Mincer said...

I think this extract trivialises the cartoons in the time and place they were re-published.
Also Ian, I'd like to ask you how you would feel about getting yourself a t-shirt printed up with these cartoons on them, and walking up and down Bradford main shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon? Would you feel comfortable? Would you do it? If not, why not? I feel the answers to these questions bring us closer to the context of the matter.
Tell the author of that piece to do it. Tell the author of that piece in the Economist to do it. Because that is tantamount to what they are provoking others to do, which is blatantly a not very nice sticking of 2 fingers up at certain groups of people.
Pick a theme of personal sensitivity to yourself and ask yourself if someone camped out on your doorstep with a placard against you and this issue - how would you feel?

Ian Brown said...

I wouldn't walk through Bradford wearing these cartoons on a t-shirt, through fear that I would meet up with the same people that walked through London with placards stating "Slay those who insult Islam", "Behead those who insult Islam", "Butcher those who mock Islam", or who look forward to another 7 July mass murder [].

If you would like to live in a society where the police have to protect you from lynching for wearing a Danish flag [], be my guest.

Word Mincer said...

Well, I genuinely don't get it then. If you feel there could be some resentment and some backlash, why so adamant about the issue in general without giving reference to the meaning of all these things?
Surely this, your answer, shows that right in the here and now of our times that this is highly emotive stuff.
Another time and another place the cartoons might not have caused all this agro or even hit the news and to walk around in such a t-shirt wouldn't be an issue either.
But you hit the nail on the head in my eyes, because if you jump straight to fear of reprisal you miss the reason (justified or not) in *their* eyes (whoever that includes) for this seemingly 'needing' a reprisal in the first place.
It leaves me feeling like you might not be interested in the other's perception, feelings, hurt, etc., like you might not want to understand.
Like, ok there could be some ringleaders here causing trouble and over-reacting with intent to unleash some serious militant action.
But if so, what about the people they were able to manipulate so quickly? Surely that says something about the fear a lot of Muslims must be living in these days, that they are feeling targetted by the prejudice of people ascribing blame and distrust to them for things they never could have imagined let alone were involved in (e.g. 9/11, 7/7, etc).
If you don't present a balanced view that seeks understanding and provides detailed context, it then brings me to the conclusion, false or not, that maybe you are just reacting emotionally, from some perspective of prejudice... this is not an attack - it's just how it seems...
I've seen a few newspaper articles this week where Muslim leaders have stood up and condemned e.g. the guy who dressed up as a suicide bomber in London - but I've read none of that side of things here. So it just leaves me feeling that there's a slightly un-balanced and maybe a little anti-Muslim perspective here...
By the way, this is not an attack/slur, I'm just honestly trying to interpret the meaning of all these postings without conceding to at least an acknowledgement of the other point of view.
Otherwise, if you don't acknowledge this, I feel like you could be in danger of coming across as prejudiced, and like you don't even want to see any other potential sides to the story. Is this true? I hope not. Tell me I am wrong, put me right. Explain how...