Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Thought Police

The European Union seeks to appease Muslim extremists who, in response to a newspaper cartoon, threaten violence, and the Bush administration, Christopher Hitchens tells us, is happy to oblige:

As well as being a small masterpiece of inarticulacy and self-abnegation, the statement from the State Department about this week's international Muslim pogrom against the free press was also accidentally accurate.

"Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images, as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief."

Thus the hapless Sean McCormack, reading painfully slowly from what was reported as a prepared government statement. How appalling for the country of the First Amendment to be represented by such an administration.

The EU says that freedom of expression must be balanced against respect for religious beliefs. But respect cannot be codified--at least not in free societies. No one can force me to respect your beliefs, nor you mine. And that freedom means nothing unless we are able to express it. Again, Hitchens:

...there is a strong case for saying that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and those who have reprinted its efforts out of solidarity, are affirming the right to criticize not merely Islam but religion in general. And the Bush administration has no business at all expressing an opinion on that. If it is to say anything, it is constitutionally obliged to uphold the right and no more. You can be sure that the relevant European newspapers have also printed their share of cartoons making fun of nuns and popes and taunting child-raping priests. There was a time when this would not have been possible. But those taboos have been broken.

Which is what taboos are for.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the Vatican should issue this statement:

"The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers," the Vatican said in its first statement on the controversy.

Um, so, does believers include, say, those who worship Satan? People have used religion to justify all manner of wrongs, all manner of evil. Orthodox Jews believe any representation of God is wrong, and won't even write out his name. Should they react with violence and condemnation when this taboo is violated?

Europe is understandly afraid of provoking its growing Muslim population, and whipping the fanatics among them into a frenzy. Certainly, it is vital for the West to continue to make clear that it is not waging a war on Islam, but on violent extremism.

But Europeans more than anyone should understand the dangers of appeasement. It merely encourages more demands, more threats, more violence, until one is left with no choice but to answer in kind.

(See also Andrew Sullivan on this topic.)

4 Comments:

Blogger djhlights said...

I agree with the general premise that we should stand up for free speech in even its most vile forms. That's why I agree with Hitchens on this point.

What I have issue with regarding this whole situation with the Danes, the EU, and those who have been screaming free speech is that if you are going to provoke someone, a group, company, or people with your words, drawings or actions don't write a check your butt can't cash.

This is the typical response from those on the right who want to poke the stick in the hornets nest that is the Muslim world and then claim ignorance when they get stung and expect the rest of us to save their asses while there only response is to repeat that the hornets are acting uncivilized.

On an another note, I find it humorous as well that the right are screaming the rights of free speech and expression when you make fun of Muslims and their faith, but to point out the violation of civil rights at a funeral of a civil rights leader and it's uncivilized.

8:40 PM

 
Blogger John Patrick Henry (aka The Truth) said...

What the hell is so vile about the danish cartoons? Are they more repugnant than 19 devout muslims screaming allah akbar as they slam jet airliners into the world trade centers?

let's get to the point here. if american evangelical christians had rioted after the piss jesus photo appeared at the brooklyn museum of art exhibit a few years ago, we'd have all written them off as crazy. and maybe we would have seen a liberal cartoonist or two lampoon that type of behavior with a panel of jesus lighting a match to the exhibit.

pat robertson gets slammed for suggesting that the US knock off the president of venezuela, but i didn't really notice an equal reaction to the president of iran calling for the destruction of israel. and i'm no fan of crazy pat.

read the saturday diary in the post gazette today. if the writer represents the thoughts of a moderate muslim, we're all screwed. note his use of the word "rage" over the cartoons. Twice...in less than one inch of copy. Yet, nowhere is there "rage" over the actions of his fellow muslims for blowing up innocent americans, australians, iraqis, israelis and others, regardless of religion or nationality.

one other point about the saturday diary...the writer mentions that his feeling waver between rage and peace. yeah, peace is great...but when there's nothing in between two diverse emotions, what happens when the peaceful feelings don't come out on top?

4:30 PM

 
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I would agree, DJ, that there is such a thing as discretion. Just because you can do a thing does not mean you should do a thing. But for Western leaders to suggest that because some people are reckless in exercising their freedom, than the rest of us should have less of it, is outrageous. And to do it in the face of violence sets an awful precedent.

10:55 AM

 
Blogger John Patrick Henry (aka The Truth) said...

are you guys aware that the danish cartoons were the result of a contest? much like the one that the iranian president is promoting to ridicule jews and the holocaust. the intent was to stir up some turmoil, which it did. let me ask you both this question...would you either of you change your opinions if an american right wing publication solicited "editorial" cartoons that summed up the artists' feelings about the black race?

the jutland post is a right wing rag...do you think the trib or washington times could get away a similar invitation to sum up their readers' thoughts about muslims, illegal immigrants or others who didn't fit a stereotypical american profile?

by the way, sure, the muslim clerics and governments in iran, syria and other places are trumping up this stupid mess. they need to constantly divert their citizens' and followers' attention to the devils in the west. otherwise, they'd realize how much they're really being screwed by their own leaders. and no, it doesn't excuse any bad behavior on anyone's part in the muslim world.

1:24 PM

 

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