A leading Islamic cleric called for an “international day of anger” today over publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, and a Danish activist predicted that deadly violence could break out in Europe “at any minute”.
As more European newspapers reprinted the cartoons, what started off as a row between Denmark’s press and its Muslim population grew into a full-blown “clash of civilisations”.
As Rondi says, “But isn’t every day an international day of anger for Islamofascists?” Yeah, seriously, what is that all about? We infidels are going to be glowered at especially hard today? The shrieky denunciations of Western culture and institutions will be ratcheted up a decibel or two?
The Danish cartoons thing is one of those stories that everyone with a blog had written about the moment it broke, so I wasn’t going to say anything about it. If you believe in freedom of thought and freedom of speech, the political position you need to take is obvious. As Virginia Postrel says:
My response to this nonsense is to wonder why Muslims don’t grow up. If your co-religionists are going to take political stands, and blow up innocent people in the name of Islam, political cartoonists are going to occasionally take satirical swipes at your religion. Those swipes may not be nuanced, but they’re what you can expect when you live in a free society, where you, too, can hold views others find offensive. If you don’t like it, move to Saudi Arabia. Or just try to peacefully convert people to Islam.
We all cherish the right to free speech, but of course we have to try and assess motives in order to be able to deal with each other, and there’s no reason not to raise the question of whether the cartoons in question are merely coarsening the public discourse rather than contributing useful thoughts to it. That’s the angle of the whole thing that pisses me off; there are legitimate issues about civilized behavior in a liberal society that this could be an opportunity to discuss. It’s useful to ask where vigorous opposition shades off into unenlightening jeering and disrespect.
But, you know, you have to stop frothing at the mouth in order to get to the point at which you can contemplate such things, and that’s something many Islamic activists seem incapable of doing. Not only that, but moderate Muslims haven’t figured out how to grab the spotlight when these sorts of things happen and put a sensible, civilized public face on their faith. (Virginia’s right about Kindly Inquisitors, BTW. Short but very good.)
Added after finishing tea: Trust me to get through an entire post about something I’d planned not to post about without posting about the thing that spurred me to post about it in the first place. (Don’t bother rereading that sentence–you got the gist already, trust me.)
“These cartoons are indeed offensive to the beliefs of Muslims,” State Department spokesman Justin Higgins said when queried about the furore sparked by the cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper.
“We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility,” Higgins told AFP.
“Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable. We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices.”
“Not acceptable”? Give me a break. “Not acceptable” is, like, the locution I use when scolding an employee for being late or not filling out his paperwork properly. It would be “not acceptable” for Electrolux to refuse to make restitution if it sold you a defective vacuum cleaner. It’s “not acceptable” for a commercial flight to take off an hour late with no apology from the crew.
Given that candid eye contact from a woman in public is enough to “[incite] religious or ethnic hatreds” in some of these people, going all extra-sensitivo when writing (of all things!) political cartoons seems a bit pointless. Especially if our standard is going to be wifty-ass PR-speak like “acceptable.”
BTW, while I’m citing a series of beautiful, smart, fierce women, Samantha Burns hasn’t yet posted about this whole ridiculous cartoon drama, but presumably she will. (A commenter has prodded her.) And when she does, you know it’s going to be a corker.
Added still later: In the interest of diversity, here‘s a post that’s not by a beautiful, smart, fierce woman. Since this is Beautiful Atrocities we’re talking about, it goes without saying that it’s not safe for work. Not safe for play, either. I’m a big proponent of civilized discourse, but there are times when targeted offensiveness makes a point that can’t be made any other way.