Wednesday, February 01, 2006

European Bigots

Recently, Iran's new President Ahmadinejad made a series of repugnant anti-semitic remarks. Most sensible folks the world-over condemned his outrageous behavior.

Our's is a free world and he is the elected leader of a sovereign state. Clearly, he has the right to say what he wishes -- equally, the civilized world has the right to question his judgment and call him a bigot.

Bigotry, however, is not the preserve of middle-eastern dictators alone.

In Denmark, a newspaper recently published a series of caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammad. One of these apparently even portrayed the Prophet as a terrorist. If the latter does not count as prejudice against a faith, it's not clear what does.

Freedom of expression implies even such repugnant thoughts have a space in our public square. Equally, the Islamic world is entirely within its rights to protest this, likely deliberate, insult.

A boycott of Danish products has ensued in Arabia. This is a market reaction to a public event -- we are entirely fine with this. Free expression, afterall, is sometimes expensive.

Now, a French paper has entered the fray and reprinted the offensive caricatures.

"Because no religious dogma can impose its view on a democratic and secular society, France Soir publishes the incriminated cartoons," the paper said.

France Soir, which is in financial difficulties and looking for a buyer, devoted two inside pages to the Danish cartoons, with editor Serge Faubert unapologetic.

Frankly, this is ridiculously obscene. Mr. Faubert's financially troubled newspaper is ginning up publicity by deliberately offending Muslims, then taking cover under the noble virtues of secularism and free expression. As proponents of secularism and liberty ourselves, we take strong offence to his pathetic -- commercially motivated -- prejudice.

Surely, Mr. Faubert belongs in the same category of bigots as Mr. Ahmadinejad.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

sure. recall which bigot sought "artistic" fame by painting a naked sita atop a naked hanuman.

Anonymous said...

[Anon] Well observed Anon. Why should we be worried about the Prophet getting ridiculed, after all he deserves getting ridiculed. Does anyone feel angry when our dieties get ridiculed.

Anonymous said...

"ridiculously obscene" would be a good way to describe the over-reaction from the Muslim world. Or perhaps the brutal beheading of Christian Schoolgirls in Indonesia. Are cartoons really on the same level?

cynical nerd said...

PR: Europeans have a different notion of secularism. Remember, there was no ACLU suing the French government against the head scarf/turban ban.

I remember the outrage "piss Christ" generated in the US. Here in Europe, they take caricature against what they call "organized religious mafia" to the next level.

btw, the cartoon has now been picked up by most Western European newspapers Italy, Germany, Spain. It looks like a concerted effort by "reporters sans frontiers".

Can Arabs now boycott Mercedes, Ferrari and Chanel too?
best,

Pankaj said...

PR,

The Danish paper 12 different cartoonists' idea of what the Prophet Mohammed might have looked like.

While it has hurt muslim sentiments, the Danes are well within there rights to express freely as these freedoms forms the very core of there nationhood.

One cartoon depicted a lighted fuse on a supposed picture of the prophet. You can see it here.

http://clausvistesen.squarespace.com/alphasources-blog/2006/1/29/denmark-in-troubled-water.html

Claus Vistesen rightly states on his blog that >>many terrorists invoke Islam as the vessel and essentially legitimizing factor of terrorist acts.<<

It is this idea that was expressed by the cartoonist and which he is well within his rights to do so as a danish citizen in Denmark.

Muslim sentiments notwithstanding.

Regards.

Primary Red said...

We don't question the cartoonist's right to his expression -- all we are saying is that it is entirely appropriate for people to be offended by this, just as we are by Iranian anti-semitism.

Europe thinks it can cloak its bigotry in the garb of free-expression. We certainly don't buy this.

Incidentally, we've been equally aggressive in calling out bigotry by Muslims too. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

As for the several absurd anti-Muslim comments in response to our post, they deserve very little comment.

Best regards.

Anonymous said...

http://www.artswithoutborders.com/ArtsNet/Artartswork.aspx?title=Hanuman%20with%20Sita&prodid=5480&gs=O


artistic, no dobut, but a title like, "mf husain and his mom" would have been more appropriate.

this is reputed to be the tamest of husain's nude depictions of hindu gods. the more hardcore ones have been taken out of circulation.

cynical nerd said...

PR: Again, in the Iranian case, the bigotry came from the head of state - institionalized bigotry.

The direct European equivalent would be if Jacques Chirac had approved the cartoon.

However, each griyo holds different things dear.

If you want to know what generates outrage among Europeans, it is Mr. Lakshmi Mittal buying out *pure European* firm like Arcelor.

If Arabs want to show their contempt, they should use their oil money to buy out and break EU companies. Fortunately for the Europeans, the corrupt rulers are big customers of their luxury goods!

regards,

doubtinggaurav said...

PR,

The outrage among Muslim Nations is not over a particular cartoon per se.

According to protestors, since it is prohibited in Islam to graphically represent Prophet, therefore Danish newspaper has commited blasphemy by printing the cartoons.

So it is very much a case of freedom.

Also, I would like to know when is some work of art artistic freedom, and when it is bigotry.

Because wheneven Hindus or even Christians (In US)object, Secularist/Atheist hide behind artistic license.

Or is this comment Anti- Muslim too ?(Nowadays it seems whoever questions secularism they are branded anti-muslim)

For me it is a clear case of hypocrisy.

Regards

Anonymous said...

We'll teach the Crusaders a lesson.

Do not yield to the unbelievers, but fight them strenuously with this Koran. (Al Quran: chapter 25, verse 52).

The unbelievers among the people of the book (i.e. Jews and Christians) and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of hell. They are the vilest of creatures (Al Quran: chapter 98, verse 51).

When the sacred months are over, slay the idol worshippers wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everythere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and pay the alms tax, let them go their way. Allah is forgiving and
merciful. (Al Quran: chapter 9 verse 5)

Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme (Al Quran: chapter 2 verse 193).

I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, maim them in every
limb (Al Quran: chapter 8, verse 12)

Believers! make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you. (Al Quran: chapter 9, verse 123)

Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is
good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. Allah knows, but you do not. (Al Quran: chapter 2, verse 216)

O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is one of them.
(Al Quran: chapter 5, verse 51).

When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads and when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly. Then grant them their freedom or take ransom from them, until war shall lay down her armor. (Al Quran: chapter 47, verse 4)

Prophet! make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal sternly with them. Hell shall be their home, evil their fate (al Quran: chapter 66, verse 9)

history_lover said...

"When I look at analysis of the Danish cartoon controversy, I'm struck by how so many otherwise well informed and intelligent commentators simply don't get it. The basic reasons for and issues involved in this crisis are pretty easy to grasp, but one is nonetheless hard pressed to find them in most discussions of the saga in the media. Instead, one finds all these ethereal discursions on freedom of religion and freedom of speech, ideals that actually have precious little to do with this lamentable turn of events. This is about politics and prejudices, not constitutional rights."

Read about it here : http://akramsrazor.typepad.com/islam_america/2006/02/jp.html

Tushar Saxena said...

I am appalled that you have equated those silly cartoons to Ahmedinejad's genocidal intentions ("lets wipe em off the map"). Oh really no YOU are the ones who dont get the issue. Here in the US theres always some religious vs secular issue a la the Commandments tablets etc. Piss Christ et all are just a tip of the iceberg.

The point here is not about 'bigotry' at all. Yes it was a deliberate provocation. Have you forgotten or failed to research on what prompted Jyllands Posten to do the cartoons in the first place?? Yes it was a few death threats to some obscure artist who wanted to include a sketch of Mohammad in his book on 'Prophets'.
I support Hussain's right to do what he did though Im disgusted by it.
And ohhh...google Theo Van Gogh please. It seems only Muslims kill people who blaspheme these days.
Yes yes the truth is indeed very anti-muslim sometimes.

And oh...I;ve seen Bibles and Gitas being shredded in Saudi airports. When muslims protest against Saudi laws I will start to give a damn.

Primary Red said...

Tushar:

Pointing to hypocrisy of Muslims -- especially on the issue of Saudi Arabia -- is hardly an excuse for overt bigotry of the kind we are talking about here.

Look at the comments to our post -- they are mostly about attacking Islam. That's what this whole thing is about -- if so, lets call it what it is and not hide behind platitudes like freedom of speech.

For people to lecture us about Islamist extremism is outrageous. Just read this blog a few days and you'll learn the degree of our contempt for this ideology.

But, we are not bigots and do not condone bigotry -- by anyone, aimed at anyone.

Best regards

Tushar said...

You have again made a fallacious argument although well-intentioned, Primary Red. Attacking people is abhorrent (jews, muslims, hindus). An example of this would be the likes of "Hindus are superstitious idiots" or "Muslims are terrorists." However, attacking an IDEOLOGY is everybody's right and sometimes a duty. As you are stationed in the US, you MUST be aware of countless caricatures and fun-poking and snide remarks in South Park, et all about Jesus Christ etc. It is deliberate as well it should be. Attacking an ideology is NEVER bigotry. Attacking people for their identity is. As we have accepted untold abhorrent criticism of Hinduism and the Christians and Jews have accepted prejudice against their religious ideology...so should Muslims react within the bounds of a civilized society.
Indeed, Red, these were provocative and like I made my last point Jyllands-Posten's editor Carsten Juste had said that he was testing the limits of free speech and apologized for giving offense PERSONALLy to muslims but not for publishing the caricatures. He had decided on it after the obscure author received DEATH threats against an innocuous sketch of Mohammad.
Catch up on the news, Red, Indonesian muslims have ransacked the building housing the Danish embassy. Let me ask you, do you hold the NATIONS responsible for what newspapers write even though you find these abhorrent? If so, being so-called libertarians are you telling me that what is published in Times of India, India should be held accountable for? So in essence, there is no freedom of press.
My other point was not about you ignoring islamic extremism. It was about Muslims becoming maniacal and demonstrating against cartoons but being completely nonchalant about their coreligions wrecking havoc, murder and mayhem from New York, London, Madrid, France to Indonesia and India. Therefore satire is necessary. It's the muslim terrorists who invoke Qur'anic verses and use Mohammad's actions from the Hadiths to justify their acts. It is mainly their responsibility to expunge these abhorrent elements from their society. This will earn them immense respect from the non-muslim world. Respect has to be earned not by bullying.
What is so wrong about all this??

Primary Red said...

Tushar:

Your points about the Islamist world's violent reaction are well taken. We have nothing but contempt for such barbarity.

We concur also that respect is not earned through bullying. Nor is it, likewise, earned through insult.

It is one thing to challenge the ideology of Islamism -- we do that ourselves and quite aggressively -- it's quite another to attack a faith in the same way. That's what we are seeing here.

We have not once said there ought to be any abridgement of freedom of speech. We, for example, were appalled that Satanic Verses was banned in India. There should be no misunderstanding on this account.

We do have deep reservations about the motives behind the cartoons and, in general, European attitudes on Islam -- and faith in general. There's a lot of bigotry there against believers of all faiths -- when mixed in with the geopolitical drama ongoing with Islamists, we think, these bigots can't prevent themselves from insulting Islam in the name of free speech.

They are free to be bigots and we are free to call them that.

Best regards

Tushar Saxena said...

Alright, point taken. Its now time to dig deeper to the crux of the matter. I will disagree with your bigot label as it does not hold water. Nonetheless, let's get to the point. You have made a distinction between so-called "islamism" and the "faith of Islam". This is where I fundamentally disagree with you. What the cartoons did was to establish that elements of the faith themselves could be responsible for the jihadist violence. And I can quote several verses from the Qur'an which Zarqawi and Osama and the London Hook Imam all have used. (Hook Imam to the extent of saying that he was only preaching the qur'an in his trial -- google). The Western press does not need to be told what they should or should not do by the Muslim or Arab countries. If you ever have time...please visit www.memri.org where Arab media is showcased in all its tolerant purity. (sarcasm intended) Imam after imam have used Qur'anic verses to justify beheadings and terrorist attacks. It is not for the satirists to dedicate their lives to research Islam...for they are just doing their job - lampooning the jihadist side of Mohammad which is showcased by the terrorists themselves and invoked REPEATEDLY. Jon Stewart and Seth MacFarlane repeatedly make fun of Jesus when discussing hacks like Pat Robertson. That is not bigotry. Hence calling the cartoonists bigots is also a fallacy. I'm not a mindreader, Red and I don't pretend to be. Hence to find hidden motifs behind the publishing is open to debate. However, it makes perfect coherent sense when freedom of speech and the islam/terror connection is exploited through satire. It cannot be called bigotry. Muslims can take offense. They can call for apologies. But boycotting a whole nation, rioting, sacking embassies, firing guns atop them, calling bandhs (Kashmir), representing the matter to the UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION is utterly the behavior of a tantrum throwing 5-year old.

My point is the supposed distinction between 'islamism' and 'islam.' To exploit jihadists own words is not bigotry. Do you see the point?

PS - I can provide substantial theoretical proof from the Islamic texts if need be if you can refrain from using the all-purpose 'interpretation' argument on simple narrative of the Hadiths.

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