February 06, 2006


Intolerance masquerades as tolerance

It was, of course, never about freedom of speech and tolerance for divergent opinions. What it was about was to test the limits that intolerance and xenophobia can be carried to. It seems that those limits have finally been reached and breached.

I think Europe may come to regret this latest shameful indiscretion. Its attempt to humiliate Moslems has backfired, revealing instead some of its own deeply-entrenched hypocrisies. The Empire has no clothes.

While touting the "tolerance" of their societies, Europeans have been busily defending, nay celebrating, the intolerance exhibited by the Danish newspaper. If this kind of bigoted insensitivity is an example of European tolerance, then give me the "narrow-minded intolerance" of the Moslem protesters. They, at least, have the clarity of mind to see what is right, along with the courage to fight for it.

My other posts on related topics:
Truth as a higher degree of deception
Myth and Myth-take (with Update)
What do you care?

I'm European, feel European, but don't agree with you. I have lived in many parts of the world and I can say that (Western) Europe is the most civilized union of States of the world. We have lots of problems, of course, but our laws protect the fundamental rights and we all agree on the protection of life (this means that we are against the death penalty, against charging for health services, etc.) The problem here is that ONE sensationalist tabloid published offensive images. There are two parts to blame. European press for its lack of respect and information, on the one hand, and they should have apologized stating that they never expected to offend the Muslims in such a way. And the Islamic countries are to blame too because they behave like barbarians and use ANY opportunity to show their HATE towards the western world. This is MASS CONTROL of the islamic tyranies over the population of their countries, rallying them against a common "enemy" in order to defeat the Western world and become the new "superpower" of the world. This is not about freedom of speech, about European hypocresy. This is about power, territory and resources. The same Europeans and Americans do. Europeans exploit the third world islamic countries with Europeans companies. Americans unload their armies and invade them. Two sides of the same coin. We, the western civilization, deserve what's happening.

When it comes to Iran, it's NOT the same as with the Danish comic. The Danish comic was not intended to offend, at least, not to this extent. The Irani comic IS INTENDED to offend. I'm not jewish, but I would care a heck about it.

Well, I hope to have illustrated my point of view, and congratulations for your blog.

True dat.

It especially galls me when I'm hearing people saying, "They publish cartoons with Jesus all the time. What's the problem with Muslims?"

That's the thing about multiculturalism -- you have to try understand that different cultures have different norms. It's not about treating everyone equally; it's about understanding that people of different cultures may react differently to your actions.

Now the Right gets to provoke the world's Muslims AND gets to point out how savage their response is. The Right wins.
I commend the two newspapers in NZ who have taken responsibility for their action in publishing the cartoons and apologised for any insult given without resiling on their belief that the publication was justified. That apology has, to the very great credit of the Muslim community in NZ, been accepted with acknowledgement of the papers' rights to free speech. (Reported on my blog if you are interested).

I wonder, what might have happened if following the initial local reaction within Denmark the editor - sorry, idiot - had sat down with senior members of the local Muslim community and worked out a similar apology.

But then there would be nothing for the racist right to swing on would there...
Roy, I appreciate your contribution, but I feel your statement represents exactly the type of attitude among European people that has (a) brought about the current crisis, and (b) prevented Europeans from understanding the reasons for the crisis.

Europe is not in any way superior to the rest of the world. The idea that it is superior was invented in the 19th century in order to dehumanize the rest of humanity, and therefore to justify colonialism. And the idea that it is superior is racism, pure and simple. All human cultures have their own sets of values and beliefs that they live by, which are the product of their specific historical and economic circumstances, and no set of values and beliefs has inherent superiority over any other one. On the contrary, I would propose that the recent events seem to have demonstrated a certain inferiority on the part of European culture, in that it imposes suffering for the sake of imposing suffering, and then tries to pretend to have had the highest motives. This is a historical European pattern of behaviour.

You say “we are against the death penalty, against charging for health services, etc.” Yes, quite right, Europeans are opposed to killings in Europe and they wish to maintain high health standards in Europe. The policies of their governments and corporations, on the other hand, have brought and continue to bring untold death and suffering to the rest of humanity.

You say “The problem here is that one sensationalist tabloid published offensive images.” I am sure you have heard by now that a large number of other European newspapers have also published the images, despite knowing full well the amount of hurt and offence that the original publication has brought to the Moslem community. Is this the exemplary civilized behaviour of Europeans?

I think the equivalence you have proposed between the exploiter countries and the exploited ones, although rather an original idea, is without foundation. If there is tyranny in Moslem countries, it is because the West has crushed all movements towards liberation in those countries. If there is economic backwardness, it is a legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism.

By the way, you have probably heard that the Danish newspaper had earlier refused to publish some Jesus cartoons. I think that tells the whole story about why they decided to publish the Mohammed ones. It had nothing to do with the supposed European ideals of freedom of the press, and everything to do with deliberately wanting to hurt the feelings of Danish Moslems.
True dat, Seamus. What you say about the requisites of multiculturalism is wise and true. But as you also point out, this is not really about multiculturalism. It is about the eternal struggle between the Right and the Left. The Moslems are just innocent pawns in European political games. The Right couldn’t care less about freedom of the press, unless its freedom to use the press to impede social progress has been jeopardized.
Probligo, I read your two posts about this subject. Your joke post about starting a business to manufacture Jesus toilet paper reminded me of something that I have neglected to mention, which is that, in my opinion, the reason for the riots was not just the feeling of offence that the cartoons created among Moslems. Moslems would have probably been as offended if the Danish newspaper had published Jesus cartoons instead. In the case of the hypothetical Jesus cartoons, though, Moslems would not have undertaken violent protests. Why? Because the Mohammed cartoons, in addition to being offensive from a religious point of view, were a political weapon aimed directly at Moslems, who, based on what I have read, were already a highly persecuted minority in Denmark. Not to speak of the war on Iraq, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and so on, all perpetrated by the West. The cartoons added insult to injury.

In other words, the real issue here is not the giving of offense. Rather, it is the political games that are being played against and at the expense of Moslems. I know you are, or have become, aware of this. As you say in response to a comment on your own blog, there are “those who have taken the Muslim response to promote and further their own bigotry and political ends under the cover of ‘freedom of speech.’” And, as you say in your comment above, the path of early apology was not taken in Denmark because “then there would be nothing for the racist right to swing on.”

Yet I disagree with you about the nature of the apology scenario in NZ. I suppose I am Freudian in that I believe there are no motive-free acts. The act of publishing the cartoons, whether in the Danish or the NZ case, must have had a substantive material motive, rather than the declared motive of exercising the freedom of the press. All newspapers have specific political lines and political interests. I strongly believe that the motive, in both cases, was to advance a Right-wing agenda, though in different manners. You might ask “How was the Right-wing agenda advanced in NZ?” I think it was advanced by apologizing without apologizing, that is, without moving even a fraction of an inch from the papers’ original position. The unspoken points that the newspapers have thus tried to make by their apologies is that: (1) Western ways are superior to other ways; and (2) Westerners are generous and compassionate. Had Western ways or people been, in fact, superior or commendable, this whole business would not have occurred, though, would it?
Do you agree with the French law that totally bans Religious Education in schools. ALthough school is a secular organisation, do you think that everyone has a right to an informed and educated response to religion and the people that follow that religion? Olivia
Those are very good questions, Olivia, but I feel the current debate is more about respect than about religion. The Danish newspaper deliberately set out to show disrespect towards a religious minority. The paper's motives, I think, were political, not religious, so I don't think any amount of religious education could have changed the outcome.
Hats off to your unbiased opinion on the issue. I really liked it.
The cartoons were opposed not only because the depiction of prophet mohammed is prohibited but because the only motive behind the cartoon seems is to spread hatred against Islam .
It says (loudly) that Islam is a Bomb that was planted by mohammed.
It says that the oppresion of women is right according to islam.
It says that Islam glorifies suicide bombing.
But the reality is that Islam considers suicide as one of the worst sins that one can commit and according to Qur'an any one commiting suicide is destined for hell.
I just want to say that Islam should not be judged by the wrong-doings of a group of people.

The recent step by EU for inter-cultural debate in this regard is laudable.
Personally, I gravitate toward the opinion (expressed here) that the riots were deliberately provoked by US intelligence. The evidence is (1) someone was mixing in more inflammatory images that were not even printed in the Danish papers and distributing this to Muslim groups and (2) somehow the Muslims got hold of a bunch of manufactured Danish flags to burn. I think this was a deliberately staged event to increase hatred between Europeans and Muslims. The most powerful people in America WANT to show Muslims behaving like barbarians and expressing their hate to increase support for their wars, and the Muslims are playing into their hands.
There are three issues at stake here: free speech, freedom of press, and respect for all religions.
All three issues are legitimate in that they make for a civilized world. However, the current controversy with the cartoon asks us to rank the three issues in order of importance and that for me is undoable. In a civilized world those three have to co exist and in a mutually non threatening way. For anyone to take sides on the issue would mean choosing anarchy over peace and civility.
That's the downside of religion, it's adherents for the most part take themselves way too seriously and expect everybody else to bend over backwards to not offend them, to treat them with kid gloves, but seldom do they exhibit the same degree of tolerance toward other faiths or belief systems. Not meaning to paint them all with a broad brush, of course, I'm speaking about those who do overreact. I'm a fanatical believer in Freedom of the Press, Speech, and Religion myself, and think all points of views should be protected, including the right to ridicule those same beliefs. The main thing these fanatics should be praying for is a thicker skin,a large dose of perspective, and a little common sense.

As far as the radical Islamists go, it's my view that something like this was due, the cartoon just afforded them a vehicle to rally against. If it hadn't been that, it would have been something else.
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