Yesh Gvul
Courage To Refuse
Shministim
Pilots
Free The Five
New Profile
Refuser Solidarity Network


Name: Antony Loewenstein
Home: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Comment Rules
About Me:
See my complete profile



Google
Web antonyloewenstein.blogspot.com
Sweat-Shop Productions
Sweat-Shop Productions
Sweat-Shop Productions



Blogs

Sites




Previous Posts



Powered by Blogger

 


Monday, February 06, 2006

More than free speech

The controversy surrounding the publication of cartoons that allegedly offend Muslims shows no sign of abating. While some prefer to laud the "superior" West and the British Empire, others retaliate by publishing anti-Jewish cartoons and a tiny, extremist minority believe violence is the only way to display their contempt. Calmer heads must prevail.

One author, Philip Hensher, believes that the West must stand up to its accusers:

"If anti-democratic forces in the Muslim world can make such effective use of a cartoon in a small European country, they would be much more encouraged by any signs of restriction on our part. Anyone in the Muslim world arguing for freedom of speech, on religious or other matters, has only one place to look to - the west. We ought to take into account the sorts of factions in the Muslim world who would regard legal restrictions on our side as part of a wider victory."

Such blind faith in "Western" ways should be treated with suspicion, however. Western exceptionalism is an ugly phenomenon. Moreover, the vast majority of the world's population do not live in Western societies and despite what some in the White House may believe, have no desire to live like them.

Guardian journalist Gary Younge takes a different view:

"But the right to freedom of speech equates to neither an obligation to offend nor a duty to be insensitive. There is no contradiction between supporting someone's right to do something and condemning them for doing it. If our commitment to free speech is important, our belief in anti-racism should be no less so. These cartoons spoke not to historic sensitivities, but modern ones. Muslims in Europe are now subjected to routine discrimination on suspicion that they are terrorists, and Denmark has some of Europe's most draconian immigration policies. These cartoons served only to compound such prejudice.

"The right to offend must come with at least one consequent right and one subsequent responsibility. If newspapers have the right to offend then surely their targets have the right to be offended. Moreover, if you are bold enough to knowingly offend a community then you should be bold enough to withstand the consequences, so long as that community expresses displeasure within the law.

"The inflammatory response to their protest reminds me of the quote from Steve Biko, the South African black nationalist: 'Not only are whites kicking us; they are telling us how to react to being kicked.'"

To suggest - as say some defenders of the cartoon - that this story is a test-case of how Islam can integrate into modern society, is based on a falsehood. Free speech has never been absolute in the West. Younge reminds us that Western societies routinely ban books and films, including American schools restricting Harry Potter.

Muslim-bashers don't really need an excuse to prove the backwardness, bigotry and bias of Islam, as if any sheik or individual speaks for an entire religion. For them, Islam is an inherently violent religion, almost beyond reproach. After all, we're constantly told, the West is under threat from militant Islam and publishing these cartoon is a slap in the face of Islamists the world over. Far too many today believe that Islam, by definition, is backwards and needs to be brought into the 21st century. This, usually, from people who have spent virtually no time in the Muslim world or with Muslims. And let's not forget that many Muslims are embarrassed at the violent response to these cartoons.

Rachard Itani, writing in Counterpunch, reminds readers of Europe's hypocrisy over the issue:

"In many European countries, there are laws that will land in jail any person who has the chutzpah to deny not only the historicity of the Jewish holocaust, but also the method by which Jews were put to death by the Nazis. In some of these countries, this prohibition goes as far as prosecuting those who would claim or attempt to prove that less than 6 million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis. In none of these countries are there similar laws that threaten people with loss of freedom and wealth for denying that large percentages of gypsies, gays, mentally retarded, and other miscellaneous 'debris of humanity' were also eliminated by the Jew-slaughtering Nazis.

"Quickly now: what defines a hypocrite? Answer: a person who follows the letter of the law, but not its spirit. The laws against anti-Semitism are just that: laws against anti-Semitism enacted by hypocritical Europeans with blood on their hands from the genocides in their recent and distant past, and much guilt to atone for in their hearts and minds.

"The spirit of the law, which would extend this protection to Muslims as well, if not indeed other religious groups, is nowhere to be found in the Western legal code. You can curse the Prophet of the Muslims at will and with total impunity. However, approach the holocaust at your own risks and perils if you do not include in your discussion the standard, ritualistic incantations about the six million Jewish victims of the European Nazis. There is a word for this in the English language: hypocrisy."

By all means, let's condemn the burnings of embassies. But let's not presume that this cartoon was designed to achieve anything other than provocation. Western societies tolerate, even encourage, such behaviour and this should be encouraged. But the issue is much wider than many are arguing. Robert Fisk rightly urges calm:

"In any event, it's not about whether the Prophet should be pictured. The Koran does not forbid images of the Prophet even though millions of Muslims do. The problem is that these cartoons portrayed Mohamed as a bin Laden-type image of violence. They portrayed Islam as a violent religion. It is not. Or do we want to make it so?"

At a time when political Islam is rising across the Arab world, and corrupt regimes imposed by the West are being rejected, the US, Israel and its proxies are fearful of the new vanguard. Anti-Semitism is rightly challenged, yet Islamophobia is excused and encouraged. We shouldn't be surprised that much of the Arab world regards the West as hypocrites.

20 Comments:

Blogger Wombat said...

Another interesting point AL, and indeed a very pertinent article by Itani. Again, freedom of speech doesn't always mean freedom of speech.

I believe I read somewhere that holocasut demiers aren't even allowed to introduce evidence into a court, let alone contest the charges.

Muslims are not doing themselves any favours by their over protests, but Christian fanatics wer hardly benevolent when the film, "The Last Temptation of Christ" was shown in cinemas.

Monday, February 06, 2006 12:05:00 pm  
Blogger Progressive Atheist said...

The Couterpunch article you linked to is the best I've read so far.

It is clear that the real culprits in this are European Christians. The Norwegian newspaper that published the cartoons was a Christian one, and I suspect that Flemming Rose, the editor of Jutland Post is a Christian too. I saw him on CNN - three times - yesterday, and he came across as arrogant and unapologetic. He claims he is acting for free speech. I don't believe him. I think if you scratch him you will find an Arab-hating Christian underneath.

As far as I am concerned, the Dutch and Norwegians deserve everything they get.

Monday, February 06, 2006 12:59:00 pm  
Blogger JohD said...

I would have though that the notion of ridiculing another in satire carries with it the spirit of fair play; that they could ridicule you in turn. What are Muslims supposed to do? They cannot ridicule Jesus since they hold him in high esteem.

I've got it! Why don't they burn an effigy of Hitler on the lawns of European editors that uphold 'free speech'. That should show them!

Monday, February 06, 2006 1:24:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Progressive Atheist said...

IKt's interesting that you mentionFlemming Rose as an Arab hating Christian. David pointed out in another thread that he is in fact a Zionist. Surprise surpise.

Monday, February 06, 2006 1:59:00 pm  
Blogger Progressive Atheist said...

The Catholic Kevin Rudd has said it is OK for Australian newspapers to publish the anti-Muslim cartoons. Surely this is lunacy given the fact that we have just had to endure the Cronulla riots and their Muslim/Arab backlash.

What would Morris Iemma do?

Monday, February 06, 2006 2:23:00 pm  
Blogger Aaron Lane said...

"If newspapers have the right to offend then surely their targets have the right to be offended. Moreover, if you are bold enough to knowingly offend a community then you should be bold enough to withstand the consequences, so long as that community expresses displeasure within the law."
This is perfectly true. What people are disturbed by, however, is that the offended community (Muslims) has in many instances not expressed its displeasure within the law. Since when has burning embassies, issuing death threats, calling for suicide bombings, etc, been considered lawful?
In regard to the comment equating Muslim reaction to the cartoons with Christian reaction to Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ, I think it is obvious that there is no comparison. How many embassies were burnt during the course of the Christian protest? Andrew Sullivan makes a good point on his blog when he says that while Christians and Muslims both try to censor criticism of their religions, Christians generally do it peacefully, while Muslims are typically not so peaceful.

Monday, February 06, 2006 4:40:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Aaron you might want to diversify your reading sources. The FBI in the US, for example, is constantly dealing with fundamentalist Christians plotting to or actually bombing abortion clinics. Anyway, why do we have to compare Christianity and Islam as though we were kids comparing superheroes?

I think many Muslims need to develop a better sense of humour, but it is poor form to condemn all Muslims for the actions of a few. Much like condemning all Americans for the actions of their government.

Monday, February 06, 2006 6:03:00 pm  
Blogger Progressive Atheist said...

I have tried to confirm Flemming Rose's Zionist credentials, but this is all I could find:

We know that Flemming Rose is a colleague and fellow of the Zionist Neo-Con Daniel Pipes. He has visited Pipes in Philadelphia and written a friendly biographical article which is featured on Daniel Pipes Danish website. ... Because of Rose's close connection with Daniel Pipes, ... I think Rose is a Zionist agent who has created this scandal for a strategic purpose.

http://www.savethemales.ca/

That "strategic purpose" would be to promote Pipes' "clash of civilizations".

So, apparently he is a Zionist, but is he a Christian or Jewish Zionist? There needs to be more investigation into this.

Monday, February 06, 2006 6:26:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Aaron, I agree with Iqbal,

There was an interview on Hardball last week, where Chris Matthews interviewed an FBI spokesman, James Cavanaugh, about rampant church burning going on in Birmingham, Alabama in the mid 90's.

He mentions 55 church fires in his division. The motives were hate crimes, isoltaed biggotry, burgalry etc. He even mentinoes a devil worshipper who burned 26 churches from Indiana to Alabama.

Accroding to Cavanaugh, the nick name for the area is Bombingham.

http://movies.crooksandliars.com/Hardball-Liberals-churches.wmv

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 12:08:00 am  
Blogger orang said...

"We know that Flemming Rose is a colleague and fellow of the Zionist Neo-Con Daniel Pipes."
If he detests Islam like Pipes then you have to question his motives. Similarly with our friendofDanielPipesTimBlair who I understand has posted the cartoons on his site. This to promote free speech?

Just as the "civilised" world expects moderate muslims to rein in their more passionate adherents, so it should recognise the agents provocateurs in their own midst who gleefully create such situations and then hide behind the skirts of "freedom of speech".

If you know I hate you calling me names and you go ahead and do it anyway, eventually you'll get a rock thrown at your head. - I think that's reasonable.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 8:06:00 am  
Blogger HisHineness said...

"As far as I am concerned, the Dutch and Norwegians deserve everything they get."

Are you serious? You think that burning embassies is fair payback for publishing a bunch of cartoons??

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 11:58:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

Perhaps Pipes and Blair will explain how chooseing not to show the cartoon is also freedom of speech.

Or in this case, deemed as bad taste.

Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1703501,00.html?gusrc=rss

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 12:15:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

The following comment is by "HisHineness" (and didn't publish due to a system glitch):

I am specifically trying to respond to the below comment by a commenter
named "progressive atheist", which I feel warrants a response:

"It is clear that the real culprits in this are European Christians.
The Norwegian newspaper that published the cartoons was a Christian
one, and I suspect that Flemming Rose, the editor of Jutland Post is
a Christian too. I saw him on CNN - three times - yesterday, and he
came across as arrogant and unapologetic. He claims he is acting for
free speech. I don't believe him. I think if you scratch him you will
find an Arab-hating Christian underneath.

As far as I am concerned, the Dutch and Norwegians deserve everything
they get."

I'd like to point out that the burning of embassies is not a warranted response to the publishing of cartoons. Granted you may
not agree with me, however this is a fair argument in response to
progressive atheist.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 12:17:00 pm  
Blogger Progressive Atheist said...

I said previously:

As far as I am concerned, the Dutch and Norwegians deserve everything they get.

The publishing of the cartoons was a deliberate provocation. It was bound to end in violence. The Danish and Norwegian governments surely saw it coming, but did little to avert the inevitable. As you sow, so shall you reap.

It's their karma, and there may yet be more karma to come.

I've noticed that none of the Sydney papers have dared published the inflammatory cartoons. Why would they? They probably realize there are carloads of Lebanese youths at the ready with their baseball bats, with Cronulla fresh in their minds.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 3:58:00 pm  
Blogger Aaron Lane said...

Progessive Atheist, are you completely insane? Even if we accept that the publication of the cartoons was "a deliberate provocation", how can you possibly believe that mindless violence is an appropriate response? If you walk down the street and someone yells an insult at you, do you go and burn down his house? Of course you don't. Why, then, is it acceptable to burn down the embassies, threaten the citizens, etc, of a country simply because it has published some satirical drawings? And given that you think such a response is acceptable, I take it you will advocate an equally violent and barbaric reprisal next time some radical Imam makes derogatory comments about Jews or Christians.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 5:32:00 pm  
Blogger Patt said...

Its time for an end to this sad,sorry situation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 6:36:00 pm  
Blogger Progressive Atheist said...

I didn't say the response was acceptable. I said it was inevitable.

It seems to me it was deliberately planned. The publishers, most of whom are Christian, wanted this violence to happen. Emotions are being ramped up in preparation for the impending assault on Iran.

There is only one way out, and that it for the culprits to apologize, and confess their real motives, but that won't happen.

Already four people have been killed by police in Afghanistan over this. In the weeks to come, expect many thousands of Muslims to die.

The Zionists in America and Israel must be sitting back laughing at all this, but there's really nothing we can do to stop any of this.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 11:24:00 pm  
Blogger Aaron Lane said...

In fact, you said that the publishers of the cartoons deserved everything they got. If that isn't saying the reaction was acceptable, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 4:46:00 pm  
Blogger Progressive Atheist said...

Flemming Rose is in hiding, in fear of his life. That's a pity. He should be in jail for the damage he has caused.

Thursday, February 09, 2006 8:55:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Progressive Atheist, you're sounding fascist.

Friday, February 10, 2006 1:48:00 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home