2006/02/18

Time to end the Muslim-bashing

For those of you who have been using the Danish cartoon issue as a pretext to condemn Muslims and Islam under the flag of "freedom of speech", I suggest you read two excellent articles, one by Robert Wright and the other by James Carroll.

Wright discusses the cultural chasm between the Muslim and the "Western"worlds. He then makes the excellent point that:

"The Danish editor's confusion was to conflate censorship and self-censorship. Not only are they not the same thing - the latter is what allows us to live in a spectacularly diverse society without the former; to keep censorship out of the legal realm, we practice it in the moral realm."

Carroll presents the historical context for the clash between Islam and the "West" and concludes that:

"Mobs throw stones through the windows of European consulate offices, and the legion of CNN watchers recoils with horror. Meanwhile, unmanned drones fly across stretches of desert to drop loads of fire on the heads of subsistence farmers in their villages; children die, but CNN is not there.

"Billions of dollars are being poured each month into the project of imposing an American solution on an Arab problem, and increasingly the solution looks, from the other side, like annihilation."

Before we stand on the ramparts to defend "freedom of speech", we would do well to consider Wright's observation about the difference between censorship and self-censorship.

6 comments:

Josh said...

Good point, Cardinal. It's time to stand back and take a broader perspective.

Anonymous said...

If the writer really believes that drones have been sent out to kill subsistence farmers and their children - then the writer is an idiot.

Censorship is censorship, it doesn't matter if you stop yourself or someone directly stops you from publishing, the end result is the same. People who truly believe in freedom of speech are open minded enough to understand that.

Modern liberals embrace fascism so easily it's pathetic, but understandable since they believe in fascist methodology like forcing 'green' measures on people.

cardinal47 said...

Re Anonymous, by self-censorship I assumed the writer meant self-restraint. All reasonable people exercise some form of self-restraint in their lives; otherwise it would be a rather chaotic world. Being prevented from publishing something and choosing yourself not to utter gratuitous insults are quite different things, despite your assertion.

axe-to-grind said...

Here's an excellent letter that appeared in the [Charlottetown] Guardian:

TODAY'S LETTERS
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Some approved others condemned

By Henry Srebrnik
Political studies professor, UPEI

Editor:

We’re all now familiar with the notorious Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, following the uproar over their publication by the Cadre, the student newspaper at UPEI.

Two other Canadian publications, both in Calgary, followed suit.

UPEI president Wade MacLauchlan condemned the Cadre’s decision to print them and the entire issue of the paper was subsequently confiscated by the student union.

The reaction elsewhere around the world has been nothing short of amazing. Marches, demonstrations and riots ensued, embassies and legations were burned, and at least 50 people have been killed across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In trying to understand the motives of those who have supported or opposed the publication of these cartoons we must realize that there are at least two sets of players on either side of the issue.

Some of those who approved of the circulation of the cartoons are secularists, atheists or opponents of all religion. They uphold the right of free speech, including what we might call blasphemy, as an absolute principle in a modern society.

Others, though, might be devout followers of other faiths, who simply consider Islam to be a false religion and thus view Muhammad in a negative light.

On the other side, there are those who believe these cartoons are an unnecessary provocation and see their dissemination as an affront to Islam. These people are liberal multiculturalists, and they would feel just as strongly were any other faith to be denigrated or ridiculed.

But others who have taken offence might be observant Muslims who are upset because Islam, which they regard as the only true faith, has been mocked, but who might themselves have no compunction in belittling or denying the claims of other religions.


We have to keep all these different motives in mind as we watch this story continue to unfold around the world.

How amazing this cartoon controversy would seem to the 1960s student radicals. Not just because they, unlike today’s students, would probably have been on the side of “transgression,” or because Islam was a subject not even remotely on the radar back then. They would wonder why so few of today’s academics — many themselves “tenured radicals”— seem to be speaking out on this issue.

axe-to-grind said...

To see this and other letters to the Guardian, go to http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/index.cfm?sid=1581&sc=11

cardinal47 said...

Thanks axe-to-grind. This is a thoughtful letter.