About The case for mocking religion.
|February 7th, 2006||#1|
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The case for mocking religion. info
The case for mocking religion.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006, at 4:31 PM ET
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. What does he mean "unacceptable"? That it should be forbidden? And how abysmal that a "spokesman" cannot distinguish between criticism of a belief system and slander against a people. However, the illiterate McCormack is right in unintentionally comparing racist libels to religious faith. Many people have pointed out that the Arab and Muslim press is replete with anti-Jewish caricature, often of the most lurid and hateful kind. In one way the comparison is hopelessly inexact. These foul items mostly appear in countries where the state decides what is published or broadcast. However, when Muslims republish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or perpetuate the story of Jewish blood-sacrifice at Passover, they are recycling the fantasies of the Russian Orthodox Christian secret police (in the first instance) and of centuries of Roman Catholic and Lutheran propaganda (in the second). And, when an Israeli politician refers to Palestinians as snakes or pigs or monkeys, it is near to a certainty that he will be a rabbi (most usually Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the leader of the disgraceful Shas party) and will cite Talmudic authority for his racism. For most of human history, religion and bigotry have been two sides of the same coin, and it still shows.
Therefore 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 messianic Israeli settlers, 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. Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.
I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice, which as it happens I chance to find "offensive." ( By the way, hasn't the word "offensive" become really offensive lately?) The innate human revulsion against desecration is much older than any monotheism: Its most powerful expression is in the Antigone of Sophocles. It belongs to civilization. I am not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a synagogue or mosque or to relieve myself on a "holy" book. But I will not be told I can't eat pork, and I will not respect those who burn books on a regular basis. I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.
As it happens, the cartoons themselves are not very brilliant, or very mordant, either. But if Muslims do not want their alleged prophet identified with barbaric acts or adolescent fantasies, they should say publicly that random murder for virgins is not in their religion. And here one runs up against a curious reluctance. … In fact, Sunni Muslim leaders can't even seem to condemn the blowing-up of Shiite mosques and funeral processions, which even I would describe as sacrilege. Of course there are many millions of Muslims who do worry about this, and another reason for condemning the idiots at Foggy Bottom is their assumption, dangerous in many ways, that the first lynch mob on the scene is actually the genuine voice of the people. There's an insult to Islam, if you like.
The question of "offensiveness" is easy to decide. First: Suppose that we all agreed to comport ourselves in order to avoid offending the believers? How could we ever be sure that we had taken enough precautions? On Saturday, I appeared on CNN, which was so terrified of reprisal that it "pixilated" the very cartoons that its viewers needed to see. And this ignoble fear in Atlanta, Ga., arose because of an illustration in a small Scandinavian newspaper of which nobody had ever heard before! Is it not clear, then, that those who are determined to be "offended" will discover a provocation somewhere? We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.
Second (and important enough to be insisted upon): Can the discussion be carried on without the threat of violence, or the automatic resort to it? When Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in 1988, he did so in the hope of forwarding a discussion that was already opening in the Muslim world, between extreme Quranic literalists and those who hoped that the text could be interpreted. We know what his own reward was, and we sometimes forget that the fatwa was directed not just against him but against "all those involved in its publication," which led to the murder of the book's Japanese translator and the near-deaths of another translator and one publisher. I went on Crossfire at one point, to debate some spokesman for outraged faith, and said that we on our side would happily debate the propriety of using holy writ for literary and artistic purposes. But that we would not exchange a word until the person on the other side of the podium had put away his gun. (The menacing Muslim bigmouth on the other side refused to forswear state-sponsored suborning of assassination, and was of course backed up by the Catholic bigot Pat Buchanan.) The same point holds for international relations: There can be no negotiation under duress or under the threat of blackmail and assassination. And civil society means that free expression trumps the emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be inconvenient. It is depressing to have to restate these obvious precepts, and it is positively outrageous that the administration should have discarded them at the very first sign of a fight.
Related in Slate
In "International Papers," Daniel Kimmage rounded up the reaction of the Arab press to the cartoons. Sonia Smith reported on how bloggers were reacting to both the cartoons and to the Muslim riots in "Today's Blogs."
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. His most recent collection of essays is titled Love, Poverty, and War.
Hitchens is my favorite columnist and anti left author.
He once was a hardline communist but now he is a pro-Bush, pro America character.
I recommend his writings.
|February 7th, 2006||#2|
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I can't see the anti-left in his article, but I jsut think he hammers the point home. Nice article Phoenix! I am interested what the protestors would think of this?
A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
Sir Winston Churchill
|February 7th, 2006||#3|
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We should be careful that hard won rights to say and think what we like should not be given away to appease a Religious mob. Locally they still burn an effigy of the Pope every year to remind every one just what little religious tolerance there was at one one time. The burning of the effigy of the Pope goes back to Bloody Marys times when any non Catholic could be burnt at the stake and they were in there hundreds and after nearly 500 years it still has not been forgotten
LeEnfield Rides again
|February 7th, 2006||#4|
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Yes I like Hitchens. One of the brightest minds at the moment. You know he was once a Trotskyte.
"Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it".
|February 7th, 2006||#6|
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“War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”
—John Stuart Mill
|February 8th, 2006||#7|
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Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Imam added 3 especially provocative images to fuel outrage
Posted: February 8, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
Faxed photo, top, and original AP imageOne of three especially inflammatory but undocumented Muhammad images distributed by a Danish imam as an example of an "anti-Muslim environment" in the European country turns out to be a poorly reproduced copy of an Associated Press photo taken at a French pig-squealing contest. The weblog NeanderNews pointed out the image used by Imam Ahmad Abu Laban was a faxed copy of AP's Aug. 15 photo of Jacques Barrot competing at the annual French Pig-Squealing Championships in Trie-sur-Baise. Since last week, Muslims throughout the world have engaged in protests and deadly riots in response to 12 cartoons caricaturing Islam's prophet Muhammad published in September by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and three much more provocative images that Muslim leaders have been unable to document. One of those images of mysterious origin, which never were published, is from the AP photo. Another depicts Muhammad as a pedophile demon and the third has a praying Muslim being raped by a dog.
Three undocumented images Danish imams used as examples of anti-Muslim hostility Abu Laban, leader of the Islamic Society of Denmark, took the images on a tour of the Middle East in December to rally support for his protest against the newspaper and Danish government. Tour spokesman Akhmad Akkari explained the three drawings had been added to "give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims." Akkari claimed he didn't know the origin of the three images, saying they had been sent anonymously to Danish Muslims. But he rejected a request by the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet to speak with the people who supposedly received them. In a television interview, Abu Laban told Fox News the cartoons came from threatening letters, but he has not replied to the network's request to provide copies of the letters. A profile of Abu Laban Friday night on Danish television documented his close ties to the Egyptian terrorist group Gamaa Islamiya. Another program the same evening showed him speaking in English on Danish television in condemnation of the boycott of Danish goods, then, in an interview with the Middle East news channel al-Jazeera, happily remarking in Arabic about how well the boycott was going. Walid Phares, senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, asked in an article published on Counterterrorism blog, "Why did it take five months for what Western media dubbed 'instant reactions to the insult' to materialize?" Leaders of the Muslim community in Denmark said they attempted to resolve the matter locally by asking the newspaper or government to apologize. But some analysts, Phares said, "see more of a greater agenda: taking advantage of the harm made by the pictures to impose a new political order in that Scandinavian country, and beyond." Abu Laban seemed to affirm that in the interview with Fox News. The Muslim cleric told reporter Jonathan Hunt of his demand that Danish leaders "within their abilities and competence and within the concept of dynamism of liberalism to create … a new set of rules. … " Hunt: So, you want a new set of rules for the way Western Europe lives?
Abu Laban: Yes.
|February 10th, 2006||#9|
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|February 10th, 2006||#10|
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An experience at work about a month ago, makes me even wonder just how many really truly mean what they say when they are against terrorism.
I think its going to come down to this...