Cartoon unwisdom

by Chris Bertram on February 20, 2006

The whole business with the Danish cartoons has now reached new levels of insanity with Christians and their churches being attacked in Nigeria and Pakistan. That the Danish newspaper had the right to publish its deplorable cartoons ought not to be in question. But it does not help the case for freedom of speech if Muslims can truthfully say that there is a double standard and that the sensibilities of Christians are regarded as a valid legal reason for restraining freedom of expression whereas theirs are not. Mark Kermode had a piece in the Observer a week or so ago concerning the film Visions of Ecstasy which the British Board of Film Classification refused to grant a certificate to on the grounds that a successful prosecution under Britain’s blasphemy laws was likely to succeed. The film maker took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that that the refusal to grant classification was a breach of his rights under Article 10 of the Convention. He lost. In line with a previous judgement, the Court

accepted that respect for the religious feelings of believers can move a State legitimately to restrict the publication of provocative portrayals of objects of religious veneration.

It is therefore simply not true to say that in Europe freedom of expression trumps the sensibilities of believers. What is true is that some believers, of some denominations, get legal protection from being offended, and others don’t. Not a satisfactory situation.

The full judgement of the ECHR (complete with concurring and dissenting opinions) is here .

{ 118 comments }

1

The Pirate Captain 02.20.06 at 10:45 am

I fail to see how the Danish cartoons are in any way “deplorable”. The most offensive of the lot are the burkha-flanked Mohammed and the infamous bomb-turban Mohammed. These are perfectly valid criticisms of Islam. While there are Muslims in the West and other parts of the world who have live in perfect harmony with other religions and secular laws, it is an undeniable fact that Islam is responsible for the repression of millions of women and the deaths of thousands of people.

In Western culture there has arisen a tendency to give special treatment to religious sentimentalities. All across the left-side of the blogosphere, and in the more religiously-inclined corners of the right-wing, the right of the cartoons to be published has been upheld while the Jyllands-Posten has been criticized for having the audacity to publish them.

This is nearly as harmful a line of thinking as the idea that they should not have been allowed to publish them at all. We should not tiptoe around reality to avoid offending those who still believe that an invisible man in the sky will be angry if someone teases him. The West cannot afford to give in to the idea that religion is immune from criticism, that it is a sacred cow who’s tenets and central edifices are untouchable.

No fault for these riots ought to be laid at the feet of the Danish editors.

2

DC 02.20.06 at 10:51 am

Firstly, the idea that Nigerian Muslims are burning the Churches of Nigerian Christians becuase of a cartoon (a Danish cartoon no less) is ridiculous and untrue. This is so obvious that TV news bulletins make it their business to obscure it. Its like saying that in the American south in the 1950s white mobs attacked black people because an eleven year old black boy kissed an eleven year old white girl: obviously there’s a lot more to it.

(I’m not suggesting you don’t think there is, just venting my frustration with silly news-speak about riots “caused” or “provoked” by cartoons.)

Secondly, this particular case is indeed troubling for advocates of free expression, but it only shows that neither British law nor European law protects “blasphemy” (at least against Christianity). This does not mean that, say, Danish, French or Norweigan law does not protect blasphemy.

3

otto 02.20.06 at 10:57 am

Robert Wright is interesting on the cartoons row, calling to its paralells in the US even where there is no legal protection against criticism of religion:

What isn’t a big difference is the Muslim demand for self-censorship by major media outlets. That kind of self-censorship is not just an American tradition, but a tradition that has helped make America one of the most harmonious multiethnic and multireligious societies in the history of the world.

Read the whole thing:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/17/opinion/17Wright.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

4

J Thomas 02.20.06 at 11:06 am

Pirate captain, your idea is admirably consistent. However, it does not fit majority opinion in the west which is that it’s fine to be very very rude to muslims but it’s unacceptable to be rude to christians or jews.

I fail to see how the Danish cartoons are in any way “deplorable”.

If we *are* going to try to be polite to religious people, then it doesn’t matter that you fail to see the problem. I don’t think that zionists should be offended when israel gets described as an apartheid state — it’s simply an accurate descriptive term — but the fact is they will be offended and they get to decide what’s offensive to them.

Similarly, I think that scientologists should not be offended when journalists describe scientology as a money-sucking corrupt cult. But they do in fact do lawsuits about that sort of thing, they sue people who give accurate reports about them. They have a lot of money.

To my way of thinking that’s the big deal here. Muslims don’t have enough money to get away with frivolous lawsuits, so they do death threats instead. But the lawsuits work better. People get away with standing up to muslims because they’re poor. They can’t afford the legal system. This isn’t just a muslim thing. Go to any jail and you’ll find (among others) a bunch of poor people who’re there because they took the law into their own hands, because they couldn’t afford lawsuits.

B’nai Brith and the scientologists etc don’t do violence because they don’t need to. They can get people shut down without it. But somehow we talk like the big threat is this new group which is *unsuccessful* at censorship.

5

fred lapides 02.20.06 at 11:06 am

While the issue you raise about a possible standard is worth exploring, as far as I am concerned, when Muslimsin so many countries throughout the Middle East feel free to display in media, cartoons, articles etc anti-Jewish sentiments worthy of the Nazis, I am little concerned about their senisibilities being upset. Let them protest hatred from within their own ranks before they turn to ask others not to mock them. that issue is for me also a double standard. And what is good for the goose is good for the gooser

6

Raw Data 02.20.06 at 11:14 am

I am mystified.
The decision of the ECHR would seem to be completely consistent, if deplorable.

The issue is that the Muslims have NOT gone through legal channels but have taken to the streets with mayhem and threats of further mayhem.

7

Christopher M 02.20.06 at 11:16 am

Perhaps a relevant story from today’s NYTimes:

Right-wing British historian David Irving pleaded guilty Monday to charges of denying the Holocaust and conceded that he was wrong to say there were no Nazi gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Irving, handcuffed and wearing a navy blue suit, arrived in court carrying a copy of one of his most controversial books — ”Hitler’s War,” which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.

”I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz,” Irving told the court.

It’s hard to convey how jarring these paragraphs are from the perspective of an American lawyer.

8

Mansa Musa 02.20.06 at 11:18 am

The Muslims of Maiduguri have brought some originality to the recent rash of protests. It was insufficient for them to march, to write letters, or even to burn flags or embassies.

What these men have done, instead, is to attack the homes and churches of their Christian neighbors. And they have killed sixteen so far, some of them in the churches where they sought refuge.

Of course this is Nigeria and the story, like so many others in the country, will soon disappear without a trace. Afterall, it is only the latest in a steady series of unaddressed crimes against Christians in the Northern part of the country: the air there’s heavy with that violence. Of course, it has its counterpart in the South too.

Four or five years ago in my parents’ hometown in the South, an accusation of murder(uninvestigated, unproven) led to a riot. By day’s end, several dozen of the itinerant
Hausa traders had been killed by the Yorubas in the town. Many had been slaughtered in their mosques. A fellow called Musibau, a family friend of ours (the man who had built our house) was there that day. He had a hand in it. The irony, of course, is that he’s a Muslim. So, at least in the Nigerian situation, it’s at least as much an ethnic thing as it is a religious one. These riots have been flaring up for many years now, with Christians in the North bearing the brunt of the damage.

Will anyone be surprised at a sudden change in the scale and intensity of this long conflict?

Only the US of A, perhaps, who continues to suck complacently and optimistically at the petroleum teat.

9

Jonty 02.20.06 at 11:23 am

Muslims don’t have enough money to get away with frivolous lawsuits?
Ah yes, because Muslims are all victims in need, and they could not possibly manage to make any money.

10

Grand Moff Texan 02.20.06 at 11:28 am

What is true is that some believers, of some denominations, get legal protection from being offended, and others don’t.

The solution, I think, is to persecute all religions equally, until their blight is removed from our world.
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11

abb1 02.20.06 at 11:30 am

Muslims don’t have enough money to get away with frivolous lawsuits?

Rather they don’t have an organization yet – no ADL, no RainbowPush, no Christian coalition. They are newcomers here in the west, give ’em a hundred or so years to start.

12

des von bladet 02.20.06 at 11:32 am

Apparently the words “cartoons” and “Danish” are enough to prompt spontaneous Greenitude among Foopballs other than of considerable Size.

This is still not conclusively more fatuous than the Intergalactic Herald Post-Express Trumpeter, however, which has spent more than a few op-ed pages telling me how very much this all has to do with America. (Apparently everything is mostly to do with America, if their op-eds are anything to go by.)

13

Chris Bertram 02.20.06 at 11:33 am

I _mentioned_ the Nigerian and Pakistani attacks just because they are the latest episode in this dreadful saga. But the post is not about that, it is about the fact that the European Court interprets freedom of expression is such a way as to permit states to legislate very broad protections for religious sensibilities. The claim that Muslim demands for such protection are an unprecedented attack on a status quo of free expression is therefore unfounded.

Comments on what the law in Europe is or ought to be are welcome, as are comments on the judgement, on Visions of Ecstasy, on the dissenting opinions etc.

Comments of which the sole or main purpose is to convey the commenter’s dislike of Muslims (or of other religions for that matter) are not bona fide contributions to discussion and will be deleted.

[Since others have now commented on the eruption of LGFisms above, I’ll leave earlier comments intact so that those responses make sense. All comments after this one, either LGFish or responses thereto, however ..]

14

Grand Moff Texan 02.20.06 at 11:37 am

[deleted – off topic see comment 13 for policy]

15

Raw Data 02.20.06 at 11:39 am

But Chris, you have just shifted the whole purpose of your post.

Now ” it is about the fact that the European Court interprets freedom of expression is such a way as to permit states to legislate very broad protections for religious sensibilities. The claim that Muslim demands for such protection are an unprecedented attack on a status quo of free expression is therefore unfounded.”

In the post itself you write “But it does not help the case for freedom of speech if Muslims can truthfully say that there is a double standard and that the sensibilities of Christians are regarded as a valid legal reason for restraining freedom of expression whereas theirs are not.”

These are very different issues. The initial one is the matter of a double-standard for Muslimes/Christians. Now it is whether Muslims are out-of-line to demand protections.

Which is it?

16

Grand Moff Texan 02.20.06 at 11:42 am

[deleted – off topic – see comment 13 for policy]

17

Chris Bertram 02.20.06 at 11:48 am

No, because I take it that the demand to be afforded the same protection as others is, quite generally, a reasonable demand to make. So the existence of a double standard means that in at least one sense, Muslim demands are perfectly reasonable.

Then there’s the issue of what protection should be afforded to all religions (if any). Against the standard of how things ought to be with respect to this, Muslim demands are highly unreasonable.

Unfortunately, much commentary proceeds on the assumption that the status quo is one of Voltairean protection for free expression, a status quo that Muslims are threatening. But that isn’t the position, at least as far as the ECHR is concerned.

18

Lurker 02.20.06 at 11:48 am

>> The West cannot afford to give in to the idea that religion is immune from criticism, that it is a sacred cow who’s tenets and central edifices are untouchable.

— Pirate Captain @ 1

Funny. I was given to understand that religion IS sacred!

Look, folks. Some things are taboo for some people. As long as your freedom to breathe, eat, fornicate and solve differential equations are not interfered with, it makes sense to indulge, if not respect, those taboos. A classic case of sensiblity and not one of sensitivity.

It reeks of imperial condescension to say one has the right to one’s beliefs as long as they are a subset.

19

Mr Eugenides 02.20.06 at 12:02 pm

I think the British blasphemy law is out of date and, as you say, confers protection on one religion but not others. Even given that Christianity is the state religion of Britain, I think this is an idea whose time is past.

The solution, though, is not to extend blasphemy-style protections to minority religions, but to abolish all such laws, while leaving the current incitement laws in place to protect minorities from more egregious attacks. There’s no place for a blasphemy law in 21st Century Britain. Anyway, it’s almost never used – Visions of Ecstasy was a very unusual case. I suspect that if it were to be resubmitted now it would be passed.

I think J Thomas is wrong when he says, “it does not fit majority opinion in the west which is that it’s fine to be very very rude to muslims but it’s unacceptable to be rude to christians or jews.” I don’t see any evidence that this is true at all. There’s a freedom of speech trial going on in Austria at the moment – you may have noticed it in the news.

Nor do I buy this line:

“Muslims don’t have enough money to get away with frivolous lawsuits, so they do death threats instead.”

This is an enormous generalisation. My best friend’s a Muslim, and he’s absolutely loaded. And we know that the guy who dressed as a suicide bomber in the London demo wasn’t short of cash; he’s a drug dealer, for goodness’ sake.

This whole controversy has been stoked up by some radical Danish imams, certain Arab governments and (on the other side) some uncompromising right-wing European media outlets. By all means let’s have a bit more mutual respect. Perhaps Muslim governments could jail editors for running anti-Semitic cartoons. Hamas could stop teaching schoolchildren that Jews used gentile childrens’ blood to make pastries. Arab countries could give Christians the legal right to practise their religion without let or hindrance. Now that would be progress.

Until then, I fail to see how someone who so clearly does not have any interest in either my opinion or my value system can reasonably expect me to rip them up and rebuild them so as to conform to theirs.

20

Grand Moff Texan 02.20.06 at 12:06 pm

Uh, Chris? My post (#16) may have been snarky, but you did say “Comments on what the law in Europe is or ought to be are welcome” and, last I checked, Austria is part of Europe. My other deleted post (#14) simply referred to “the west,” iirc (since I can’t read it any more), to show that the west’s laws can be connected to outcomes similar to those lain at the feet of Muslims, supposed outcomes used in debates to determine the west’s laws.

Ans, since you’re familiar with the discourse of the internet I cannot give you the benefit of the doubt that goes something like “I can see how you might have misunderstood my post,” since I can’t.

If you’re having this conversation with yourself, take it somewhere that isn’t so public. You’ll spend less time deleting the stuff that ain’t you. If so, I can anyone remind me of how to delete Crooked Timber from my blogroll? I hate tinkering with my template.
.

21

jet 02.20.06 at 12:11 pm

Excellent post Chris. Maybe something good can come out of this for the UK. And while the riots are childish, anit-productive, and crazy, the charges of hypocracy are well founded (at least in the UK). So Islam must be afforded the same level of protection as other religions, which means that the laws either protect all religions equally, or not protect them at all.

22

Erik 02.20.06 at 12:12 pm

The ECHR is an international court located within a fairly weak international organization (the Council of Europe) with no enforcement capabilities. As such, the Court has generally been quite deferential to perceived national interests and customs, especially to the extent that these are entrenched in constitutions or similar founding documents. Although the perception is that the Court has become more activist in the past 5 years or so (the decision was from 1996 when it wasn’t even a full-time Court), the Court still often defers to governments in religious matters. For example, it recently ruled that Turkey could legitimately ban women from wearing headscarfs in public education institution given the prominence of secularism in the Turkish Constitution.

One may argue that this deference is misplaced but there is also a reasonable case to be made that each sovereign state has some leeway in how to deal with issues of blasphemy. if I understand it correctly, laws can clearly not prohibit criticizing or promoting individual religions, but the ECHR ruled that states have some freedom in how they regulate the tone and style of such criticism. Thus, the ECHR basically says that you should criticize the Brits, not the Court, if you are unhappy with this decision.

23

Chris Bertram 02.20.06 at 12:22 pm

GMT: I deleted your posts not because they were offensive as such, but because they seemed to me to be part of an incipient flame war tangential to the main discussion. That they were on the side of that flame war I feel more sympathetic to was really beside the point. I may have been over zealous – if so, I’m sorry.

24

des von bladet 02.20.06 at 12:24 pm

Jyllens-Posten reneged on their promise to publish the Iranian Holocaust-denial cartoons (because they really are racist shit-stirrers using freedom of speech as a smokescreen, as no one familiar with Danish politics and their position in its spectrum could have doubted from the start) but it remains the case that Danish law wouldn’t have stopped them from printing them.

The irony of self-important French and Cherman commentators insisting on freedom of the presses has not been particularly edifying, since these countries have conspicuous exceptions.

But even an unsuspicious hermenaut will not find it difficult to believe that Muslims are being held to standards not applicable to white persons: the Eurabian Ragnarok theoristes have been ululating in dismal chorus all over again, even though there has been very little to ululate about in Yoorp. A bunch of largely peaceful demonstrations do not constitute much of an apocalypse, so it has been more than usually vital to reify ‘Muslim’ as a homogenous category so that unrest elsewhere can be used as evidence.

Oh, and according to anecdotal evidence in Courrier International, the degree of random hassle sustained by brown persons in Danmark has increased sharply, from a not-especially low base, as a result of all this, so you can chalk up Jyllens-Posten’s actions as a performative success.

25

abb1 02.20.06 at 12:29 pm

What happened to the much praised disemvowelment? Bring the disemvowelment back, will ya.

26

abb1 02.20.06 at 12:29 pm

… I mean – instaed of deleting stuff.

27

Chris Bertram 02.20.06 at 12:31 pm

Erik, I rather agree with your description of the court and I actually wouldn’t want it to have the right to enforcement. But if it had found for the plaintiff it would have obliged the UK government either to change the blasphemy law or to derogate from Article 10. Which I’m guessing it would have been unwilling to do.

28

soru 02.20.06 at 12:39 pm

And while the riots are childish, anit-productive, and crazy, the charges of hypocracy are well founded (at least in the UK).

Well, they would have been had anyone in the UK published the cartoons.

Reputedly, some people here in the UK watch so many US cop shows that they think the number to dial for the emergency services is 911. I suspect the idea that a legal guarantee of freedom of speech exists in the UK has a similar origin, and is certainly similarly mistaken.

soru

29

Brendan 02.20.06 at 12:50 pm

This site may be of interest in the current debate

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/banned-books.html

As might this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_the_United_Kingdom

And this one

http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/61063/

As has been pointed out, the press is censored in the UK all the time.

30

Grand Moff Texan 02.20.06 at 1:08 pm

I deleted your posts not because they were offensive as such, but because they seemed to me to be part of an incipient flame war tangential to the main discussion.

Flames we can handle, and tangents are why people come here.

That they were on the side of that flame war I feel more sympathetic to was really beside the point.

Good, because that wasn’t my point either. I would respect you, in the morning or at any other time for that matter, if you were to support my via acts of hypocrisy.

I may have been over zealous – if so, I’m sorry.

If you let the LGFers make you flinch, they’ve still won. That said, I’m not going to tell you how to run your blog, I’m just going to justify what I brought to it.

One post, dealing with the laws of the west and lethal/misogynistic outcomes, was deliberately provocative, but I hoped to provoke a discussion that was relevant to the post.

The other dealt with the issues you raised more directly, but was still provocative (deliberately) by comparing the control of speech UNDER the Nazis with the same ABOUT the Nazis. I hoped to provoke a discussion about continuities in what powers rules will seek and the ruled will accept.

Now, I’m sure someone else could deal with these issues more responsibly (yawn) and I’m not trying to stake out some privileged ground as a cyber-rebel ([sarcasm] Ooooooo!!! [/sarcasm]) by saying they were ‘provocative.’ Nevertheless I am as serious about this as you, I think.
.

31

Doormat 02.20.06 at 1:16 pm

In the days after the initial blow-up of the cartoon row, I read a number of letters in UK newspapers from irate Christians saying that the newspapers had no problem publishing offensive cartoons of the Christian God, or Christ, but that they were clearly rather scared of publishing the Danish cartoon. There does seem to be some sort of double-standard, in that light satire, as it were, of Christianity is fine (both legally and in practise) in, say, the UK, but that equivalent satire of Islam (in this case) is not. I’ve read arguments saying that this is what it should be, as we are an essentially Christian culture, and hence we have more right to satirise our own culture.

Yes, sure, we still have absurd blasphamy laws, which seem to be vaguely applied (and often applied in the form of self-censorship). I’m all in favour of getting rid of them (rather than adding new laws to bring all faiths into line). Yes, an awful lot of rubbish has been written about how we have an absolute right to free speech, when that just isn’t true. I wasn’t aware that films were still banned in this country because they are offensive to Christians, so thanks for the post Chris.

However, surely it’s fair to point out that the Danish cartoons *were* very tame in comparison to the level of abuse Christianity gets (and, for that matter, that which Judaism gets in the middle east). It’s this double-standard which has annoyed me.

32

Grand Moff Texan 02.20.06 at 1:16 pm

I would respect you,

Obviously I meant that, under that particular scenario, I wouldn’t respect you.
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33

Bro. Bartleby 02.20.06 at 1:47 pm

What does turning the other cheek really mean?

34

Shuggy 02.20.06 at 1:48 pm

It is therefore simply not true to say that in Europe freedom of expression trumps the sensibilities of believers.

How did you go from Britain to making general assessments on the legal position in Europe? The European judgement gives precedence to the British law on blasphemy, saying in effect that if the UK wants to proscribe attacks on Christianity, that’s a matter for them. This is fairly consistent with previous decisions by the court but Britain is, as far as I’m aware, the only European country that has such a law? It was dead-letter until Mary Whitehouse tried, and succeeded, in resurrecting it. Not satisfactory, as you say, but the solution is to abolish the blasphemy laws, not extend them.

35

The Pirate Captain 02.20.06 at 1:54 pm

Look, folks. Some things are taboo for some people. As long as your freedom to breathe, eat, fornicate and solve differential equations are not interfered with, it makes sense to indulge, if not respect, those taboos. A classic case of sensiblity and not one of sensitivity.

That’s totally ridiculous. The taboos of other cultures or religions often conceal very real and very destructive tendencies. It is wrong to use those taboos as a shield or a smokescreen to protect those tendencies from criticism.

Pirate captain, your idea is admirably consistent. However, it does not fit majority opinion in the west which is that it’s fine to be very very rude to muslims but it’s unacceptable to be rude to christians or jews.

Well, yes. No one likes it when their own beliefs get ridiculed. I know there’s a double standard. I don’t agree with it, but I know it’s there.

36

yabonn 02.20.06 at 1:59 pm

des at 24 :

Eurabian Ragnarok

There goes my google singleton! Damn you des Von Bladet!

:)

Besides, the french commentator probably insisting on the freedom to poke fun at religions. It’s a local tradition i have a feeling is not entirely synonym with what is commonly meant by “freedom of the press”.

37

Chris Bertram 02.20.06 at 2:02 pm

How did you go from Britain to making general assessments on the legal position in Europe?

I didn’t. I pointed out that according to the ECHR, the European Convention’s Article 10 protections do not guarantee the right to freedom of expression where that freedom of expression offends religious believers.

That’s a fact about the protections afforded by the Convention, not a fact about Britain.

38

abb1 02.20.06 at 2:07 pm

American unwritten PC code is very good. Everyone can make fun of their own culture/religion but can’t mock the others. That seems very smart, fair and practical.

39

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.20.06 at 2:25 pm

“But the post is not about that, it is about the fact that the European Court interprets freedom of expression is such a way as to permit states to legislate very broad protections for religious sensibilities. The claim that Muslim demands for such protection are an unprecedented attack on a status quo of free expression is therefore unfounded.”

Well as others have pointed out your post originally claims it was about “But it does not help the case for freedom of speech if Muslims can truthfully say that there is a double standard and that the sensibilities of Christians are regarded as a valid legal reason for restraining freedom of expression whereas theirs are not.”

But in either formulation you are wrong. I’m pretty much a free speech absolutist, I think the British anti-blasphemy law is stupid and I think anti-Holocaust-denier laws are counterproductive. That said, the difference of scale in amount of respect protected by the blasphemy law and that demanded by many Muslims in the wake of the cartoon dispute is radically different. I wouldn’t be shocked if a movie about Ayatollah Khomeini’s wife (interestingly I can’t find any easy parallel with a nun in Islam) which had her entertaining sexual fantasies about Mohammed and then fucking an image of him at the end of the movie might very well be illegal blasphemy under the law you cite. If Muslims wanted that level of protection, I wouldn’t engage in more than the mere grumbling I do against anti-blasphemy laws in general.

Many Muslims seem to want much more. “Dogma” didn’t get banned due to blasphemy. Would you seriously contend that Muslims would be ok with a movie lampooning their beliefs as much as Dogma? Would they have been ok with Alanis Morissette as Allah? Would they have been ok with misnaming the angel of death after the Norse trickster-god Loki? Thrilled about one of the main characters being a female worker at an abortion clinic? Ok with Jay and Silent Bob as prophets? Happy about Chris Roc as a prophet? (Yes in the movie he was the 13th apostle but I’m talking about a parallel movie making fun of Islam). Would they have been ok with the cheesy “Buddy Christ” in Muslim form? “Dogma” is more blasphemous than any of the Danish cartoons, on an extended scale of 130 minutes. And frankly it isn’t nearly the worst openly-accepted-by-critics-and-not-banned-in-the-West blasphemy you’ll find against Christianity if you look. “Piss Christ” and the shit-covered Mary are both worse. Both provoked outrage–as intended by their respective artists. Neither provoked riots or murder–as have the much milder cartoons. Would Muslims be ok with allowing an exhibition of “Piss Koran”? Or to avoid the iconography issue would they peacefully protest a shit covered minature mosque and restrict their demands to a witholding of government funds in paying for the exhibition? A shit covered Ayatollah Khomeini?

Unless your answers to those questions are “yes” it would appear that Muslims are in fact asking for a special level of treatment and not in fact merely appealing to the level of care held for Christian sensibilities.

40

BigMacAttack 02.20.06 at 2:32 pm

Ok, yea, we don’t write headlines like –

999,997,234 Muslims didn’t riot yesterday in response to some Danish cartoons.

And sure the riots might in some very small part be based on a legitimate grievance.

And yea we should look to apply justice evenly. So good on Chris’s part taking out his justice level or bob or whatever and doing some spot checking. And if he is right we should adjust our justice frame with some legal shims of some sort and re-check. Hey, whatever small changes we can make, we should make.

But total justice doesn’t exist and the larger basis of the riots is intolerance and ill-liberalism. And the ‘Muslim world’ is pretty intolerant and ill-liberal.

And making that extremely gross generalization doesn’t make me or anyone else a LGFer or whatever.

And we shouldn’t hold our breath and pretend that any small changes we make will magically change that.

41

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.20.06 at 2:35 pm

And just to be super-clear in tying it to your post, when you say “It is therefore simply not true to say that in Europe freedom of expression trumps the sensibilities of believers. What is true is that some believers, of some denominations, get legal protection from being offended, and others don’t.” the differential level of protection appears to make your statement false. You fail to distinguish between different levels of possible “legal protection from being offended”.

By treating all possible levels of “being offended” as equal, you make it impossible to analyze the contention that Muslims are asking for special treatment.

42

abb1 02.20.06 at 2:53 pm

My impression is that the issue wasn’t blasphemy, but stereotyping – Mohamed with a bomb in his turban.

You can’t do this kind of stereotyping in the US, you can’t have, for example, Moses sitting on sacks of money pulling strings over the US congress or something. You can’t negatively stereotype blacks, Jews, Catholics, Hispanics. It won’t be published anywhere in what can be reasonably called ‘mainstream media’.

43

Brendan 02.20.06 at 3:05 pm

Right could I point out something that is known by almost everyone who writes for this blog, and which is screamingly, blatantly, obvious to anyone who knows anything about movies, art or books?

‘Dogma’ is not, and was not intended to be, a blasphemous film. .

Director Kevin Smith is a believing Catholic, goes to Church (almost) every Sunday, and, presumably does not get refused Communion from his local Priest. Because it’s not blasphemous, and, to repeat, was not intended to be (it intended to be politically liberal and to promote the liberal wing of Catholicism, but even under Pope John Paul 2nd, that don’t equal blasphemy).

Second point: Chris Ofili’s picture is not, and was not intended to be blasphemous. .

Here’s what the artist says: ‘It’s definitely not mocking of the Last Supper….(about another picture)…I was brought up thinking about religion to a degree, and went to Catholic schools and college and went to church….’. As the Guardian rightly points out: ‘His painting of The Holy Virgin Mary was taken as a deliberate insult, when, on the contrary, it was a serious attempt to come to terms with the polarities of existence and the nature of the beliefs with which Ofili grew up.’

Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’ is rather different I admit. But Serrano still describes himself as an ‘artist struggling with his Catholic upbringing but still trying to reaffirm his faith’. I imagine if, asked straight out, he was asked if he was trying to be blasphemous he would say ‘no’.

In any case, all these were comments on Christianity as an entity, or on Jesus, or on God. But the Danish cartoons were different. The Mohammed with a bomb in his turban wasn’t an attack on Mohammed (and few people took it as that). It was an attack on Muslims. It said that they were all terrorists (if that’s not what it meant, I don’t know what it means).

In other words, it was far closer to those Protestant radicals who claimed that Catholics were all terrorists, and that they ‘bred like rabbits’ and were uncivilised and dirty (which was why they turned to terrorism, naturally, cos they were all terrorists) in the 1970s.

There weren’t too many liberals then standing up for the Reverend Ian Paisley and his principled stand in favour of Western Civilisation against the rampaging Catholic hoardes. And when Catholics rioted to protest against this sort of rhetoric, there were few people to suggest that this showed that there was something wrong with Christianity.

Or for that matter that all Christians were bloodthirsty terrorists.

And let’s get real about something for a second. When people talk about EUrabia, or Dhimmitude, or the threat to Western Civilisation, it ain’t Richard Thompson they have in mind. It ain’t Peter Sanders. In other words, it ain’t white Muslims they fear.

They are talking about Arabs, and only Arabs.

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Doormat 02.20.06 at 3:19 pm

Brendan,

So, I think, your point is that offensive artwork (for want of a better term) which is produced in good faith is okay? That is, it’s all in the eye of the beholder? I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure some Christians/Catholics found Dogma offensive. I know for a fact a lot of Christians found the Monty Python works (deeply) offensive (a friend of mine once tried to show The Meaning of Life to his very Catholic mother and grandmother: the result was not pretty).

This seems a pretty weak argument.

The Mohammed with a bomb in his turban wasn’t an attack on Mohammed (and few people took it as that). It was an attack on Muslims. It said that they were all terrorists (if that’s not what it meant, I don’t know what it means).

Rubbish: it said to me that to some people, Islam and violence are intimately linked. I’m pretty sure OBL et al would agree. Of course, most muslims would not agree. It’s making a perfectly valid (and objectively true) point. Does a cartoon of George Bush as a monkey and Blair as his poodle suggest that Bushes DNA really isn’t human? Of course not… The end of your post seems to then drift off into straw-man territory…

45

abb1 02.20.06 at 3:29 pm

…it said to me that to some people, Islam and violence are intimately linked

Exactly. And if you replace Islam with Christianity or Jeudaism – this kind of statement will be effectively banned in the west. These ‘some people’ are called bigots and low-life; they are outside of the mainstream, decent people won’t shake their hands.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 02.20.06 at 3:35 pm

I don’t think saying that your work is a “serious attempt to come to terms with the polarities of existence and the nature” of Christian beliefs insulates you against charges of blasphemy if you take a statue of the Virgin Mary (which is an icon so worshiped by some in the Catholic church that the cults of Mary have repeatedly given rise to worries about idolatry) and cover it in shit. You can try to say that about any artistic undertaking. It is absolutely possible to have a serious attempt to come to terms with the polarities of existance and the nature of Christian beliefs AND in doing so engage in blasphemy.

Kevin Smith’s protestations similarly fall flat. His movie is absolutely full of blasphemous elements (and I say that as someone who is a gay non-Christian and found the movie generally funny).

If a movie similar to “Dogma” (even if you were to classify it as non-blasphemous) were made about Islam, the reaction would be much worse than this silly cartoon incident–because the insult to Islam would be much worse than in this silly cartoon incident. Trying to say that “Dogma” is non-blasphemous doesn’t help the argument at all. Even if I grant that you are correct on that point, it merely exposes the fact that many Muslims are demanding special treatment because a parallel “non-blasphemous” movie would not be accepted in Islamic countries (or by Muslims in the West) even as well as Dogma was when it was released. Dogma had mild protests and I think one alleged death threat. It didn’t spark riots, arson and murder. Dogma was distributed internationally and was found in movie theaters all over the place. The cartoons were published by a tiny newspaper in a tiny country and that sparked a ridiculous response even before the republishing.

Whether you personally (or Kevin Smith) give the movie a blasphemy label has nothing to do with the response a similar movie would have in the Islamic world and is thus directly applicable to the question Chris raises–whether Muslims are asking for special attention to be paid to their religious sensibilities as compared to Christians.

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Brendan 02.20.06 at 3:52 pm

I take it you are not a Catholic, and yet you seem to know what is blasphemous better than a practicing and believing Catholic. Moreover, a quick Google search demonstrates that Archbishop of Westminster (last time I checked, also a Christian) also denied that Dogma was not blasphemous. Again, I don’t know the standard of your degree in theology, and perhaps you would want to argue the toss with him, but I still think I’ll take his word about Christian doctrine over yours. The fact is that Dogma did not have ‘Danish cartoon’ style protests because it WASN’T blasphemous. (And neither was ‘The Last Temptation of Christ.’ Or ‘Life of Brian’).

In any case, this misses the point. The point about the Danish ‘Mohammed Cartoon’ was that it more or less openly stated that all Moslems are terrorists. This in a country where almost all Moslems are Arabs, and where (like most European countries) Arabs face institutional racist discrimination, as you well know.

Here’s some more context. Andrew Sullivan, a ‘liberal’ Conservative, who publishes widely in the Western Press, recently published an email, apparently approvingly, calling for the genocide of all Moslems in Europe (‘throw all of them into the sea’). Very recently the Serbs in Europe (not too far away from Denmark) actually started to do just that with the tacit (or in the case of the UK, explicit) approval of most of Europe. Mass murder of Muslims (by Christians) took place while the Danes (and the rest of Europe) sat about and picked their noses and flicked the snot at the screen.

Many popular blogs are rife with calls for the genocide of Muslims. Indeed, some, like LGF, largely consist of such calls.

Now, do you think that cartoons that imply that Muslims are ‘the enemy within’, that they can never integrate because they are ‘all terrorists’…do you think these cartoons will help this situation?

48

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.20.06 at 4:01 pm

For the sake of argument I conceeded that whether or not “Dogma” technically qualified as blasphemous didn’t change the fact that Muslims would be at least as unhappy about an Islamic “Dogma” as they were about the cartoons. If you want to look silly, you can disagree with that statement. But by not responding to the point, you are pretty much blathering.

49

Hogan 02.20.06 at 4:04 pm

So, I think, your point is that offensive artwork (for want of a better term) which is produced in good faith is okay? That is, it’s all in the eye of the beholder?

Actually he was saying the opposite of “it’s all in the eye of the beholder.” He was saying that the intention of the artist counts for something as well.

50

Gunnar 02.20.06 at 4:05 pm

That’s a fact about the protections afforded by the Convention, not a fact about Britain.

But it is not a fact about Denmark either. The convention does not set the limits on Jyllands-Posten’s speech. They are set by Danish law, and the convention limits how strict these limits can be. The limits in Danish law probably don’t affect what Jyllands-Posten did (though this is not settled yet), so the ECHR does not come into play.

Blasphemy-wise the cartoons is nothing compared to what is accepted in regards to Christianity in Denmark. The article “Nothing sacred in Danish satire“, from The Copenhagen Post in december 2004, is about Danish comedians, blasphemy, and Rowan Atkinson, and is quite interesting in light of the cartoon controversy.

If commentators in other countries are hypocrites for defending a right in Denmark that they don’t have in their own countries, and that they don’t fight for, then it is their problem. There is only a single standard in Denmark, where the cartoons were printed.

If Jyllands-Posten is hypocritical, as many have pointed out, then it is their right. I don’t like all of the cartoons, and I don’t like Jyllands-Posten and their opinions at all, but I can use my right to ignore them (I could, until recently).

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Doormat 02.20.06 at 4:14 pm

Hogan,

Yes, sorry, badly stated. However, the Danish cartoons were, so claim the newspaper, to make a point about self-censorship to do with a children’s book. Now, are we really saying that not only does the artist’s stated motivations count, but their hidden motivations as well? As what point does all this disappear into some silly ivory-towered argument?

The reaction to those cartoons has been utterly, absurdly beyond proportion, and calls that the law should somehow be changed (or just self-censorship applied) are way out of line. Does anyone seriously doubt this?

I think the point Sebastian and I are trying to make is that while censorship most certainly does exist in, for example, the UK, the level of censorship being called for by Muslims (and, apparently, being listened to) is not comparable to that applied to Christianity. And that’s a double standard.

52

Brendan 02.20.06 at 4:33 pm

‘And that’s a double standard.’

Er no actually that’s bollocks. There is no double standard: something I will continue to believe until a leading newspaper in a European country publishes a cartoon which implies that all Catholics (or Protestants, or Christians generally) are bloodthirsty terrorists.

In any case, the analogy still wouldn’t be the same. For a real analogy you would have to go to a country where Christians are an embattled minority and THEN publish a cartoon implying they were all terrorists. China, perhaps.

53

bryan 02.20.06 at 4:45 pm

I am getting rather tired of people seemingly living under the misconception that Denmark is a part of Britain, the U.S, France or other nations. I realize that Chris only seems to think that Denmark is part of Britain, but I’ve noticed that lots of other people think that Denmark is part of either their respective nations, or nations that they want to pick on in a particular context.

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roger 02.20.06 at 4:46 pm

It seems to me that religion and the freedom to blaspheme or criticize it is being employed, here, to make life worse for a minority — Muslim immigrants — disliked by certain members of a majority. If Denmark’s immigrant population were mostly poor Cambodian buddhists, I’ve no doubt funny cartoons about Buddha would be appear in right wing newspapers.

It is rather odd to blaspheme in a religion not your own. Odd to do it, and odd to protest about it. The reason it was done, originally, seems lost under a lot of rhetorical murk, but I think there’s good reason to reject the supposed fear of insulting Islam that was infecting the good Danish peoples — which is the reason given by the editor of the Jyllends-Posten in the Washington Post yesterday. I’d say the case is closer to that of the Dartmouth review, the conservative student newspaper that, in the 80s, thought it was hilarious to represent black speech in Uncle Remus dialect.

Let’s not censor uncle Remus. But let’s not, also, pretend that we are just trying to get a discussion going about the limits of free expression.

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Bro. Bartleby 02.20.06 at 5:15 pm

Oh yes, WWJD? Just this day break at break fast the brothers around the dining table voted that, yes indeed, our God has a great sense of humor. Then Bro. Juniper passed around this cartoon and thought it not only funny, but for we of the ‘turn the other cheek’ belief, thought the absurd images in the cartoon most provoking of reflection as to what our beliefs really mean.

http://homepage.mac.com/dougabel/images/WWJDT-Shirt.gif

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Christopher M 02.20.06 at 5:33 pm

Sebastian–

This is a bit of a side issue, but to characterize the Ofili Madonna as a “statue of the Virgin Mary…cover[ed] in shit” is both factually wrong and extremely tendentious. Have you actually seen the work, or even a picture of it?

First, it’s not a statue, it’s a painting. Second, elephant dung has been a common element in Ofili’s work, apparently ever since he spent time studying in Zimbabwe, where it has (or had?) certain ritual uses, so it’s not as if he just woke up one morning and decided to cover the Virgin Mary in shit. Third, your description is phrased in a way that permits no connotation other than intentional defilement of a sacred figure with the most disgusting of substances; but that’s far from the most plausible interpretation of the painting.

It’s as if you noticed someone wearing a bit of perfume/cologne, and described him/her as “covered in a cat’s thick, yellowish anal-scent-gland musk.”

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abb1 02.20.06 at 5:34 pm

Bro. Bartleby, btw, how do you guys interpret Matthew 10:34-36?

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Jaybird 02.20.06 at 5:58 pm

I have two points to make:

1. Christians in the US do stuff like this all the time!
2. The people performing these riots/attacks should not be seen as representative of Islam.

I considered putting a digression between those two points, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about attacking the hypocrisy of Christians and defending the targets of their ire-du-jour.

Of course, it was a lot easier defending the Russians in the 80’s using these tactics, but stick to what you know. That’s my motto!

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J Thomas 02.20.06 at 5:59 pm

By treating all possible levels of “being offended” as equal, you make it impossible to analyze the contention that Muslims are asking for special treatment.

I think you’re getting closer, but you aren’t there yet.

The question is what standards are appropriate. I believe (though I don’t have links to solid data) that if we were to treat christians, jews, and scientologists with the same respect that muslims demand for themselves, that they would not be offended by that at all.

They aren’t demanding special treatment. They’re asking for what they consider adequate treatment.

I think it might be useful to get some sense of their point of view. Maybe not *very* useful, maybe there’s no way to get reconciled and we’ll have to just stage a very long war until the oil is gone and the coal is gone and one side or the other is all dead. But….

Imagine that we are in contact with some human civilization that has superior technology to us. Call it Beta Colony. They put up a bunch of TV satellites and give us thousands of new channels, 20% of which are child porn. We complain but they don’t understand our complaints. They say that child sex, done right, is healthy and psychologically beneficial, that children who do it don’t grow up with sexual repression or fanaticism.

They have absolutely no respect for any of our religions. But that’s fair, they have absolutely no respect for their own. Their main god is Frodo, who gets repeatedly raped as a child by bad gods. When Frodo grows up he defeats the bad old gods and rapes them back. Then he rapes their children and grandchildren. Betans laugh at him, he doesn’t realise he’s only part of the cycle of revenge. Then the blinding light descends on him, and he realises he can break the cycle! He brings the defeated gods together and he has them take turns, each of them rapes him while he rapes another of them. The worshippers laugh at him.

So when they show Jesus and Mohammed alternately capturing and raping each other, it is no more disrespect than they show their own gods.

By our own standards, they should not be doing child porn and they particularly should not be showing it to us. But they show each other child porn all the time, why should we get special treatment?

It’s a problem that they could kill us all easily.

And it’s a problem that they brought in 15 million Betans that claim to be the Ten Lost Tribes and settled them in israel. They say that the israelis are not practicing correctly and they don’t recognise the israeli government, instead setting up a new one of their own.

Do they owe us anything at all beyond what they feel like giving us? When terrans go to Beta Colony and get jobs as computer programmers and sysadmins and similar menial work, and they continually laugh at us and taunt us with our sexual repression and general sexual clumsiness, do we deserve anything else?

This approach doesn’t solve anything. I hope it shows up the inadequacy of the usual responses. Saying we treat everybody the same is not enough.

The Golden Rule would work if we could bring ourselves to follow it. We should treat muslims the way we’d like Beta Colony to treat us. But it doesn’t fit our emotional needs, we want an implacable deadly enemy that will last us until the new chinese army comes online. So we treat muslims like we’re their deadly implacable enemy and there’s a strong chance they’ll respond in kind.

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soru 02.20.06 at 6:01 pm

.Now, do you think that cartoons that imply that Muslims are ‘the enemy within’, that they can never integrate because they are ‘all terrorists’…do you think these cartoons will help this situation?

I think you really have to bend yourself into a hoop to read that meaning into the Danish cartoons that caused the protest, but not in other cartoons that passed completely uncommented on, like this Steve Bell Guardian one:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoons/stevebell/0,,1704043,00.html

People in stereotypical Arab dress in the act of performing a terrorist act – how is that different from the meaning you see in the Danish one?

Anyone might well profoundly disagree with the opinion expressed by a cartoon, but I think it is a mistake to assume that the basis of other’s outrage is simply a stronger version of that disagreement.

soru

61

Jaybird 02.20.06 at 6:01 pm

Oh, and Christopher M, could he instead start talking about the buttocks that are all over the painting?

Personally, I don’t see buttocks as sacreligious. Under certain circumstances, I very much enjoy buttocks.

People who don’t enjoy buttocks, for that matter, are likely prudes who don’t understand the point of the artist’s intent!

Wait, he’s arguing that buttocks should be in Mohammed cartoons?

Now that’s just offensive. Why would you want to offend so many people? Are you some kind of orifice found between buttocks?

62

Chris Bertram 02.20.06 at 6:05 pm

Well I think I made it fairly clear that I believe (a) that everyone ought to get the same level of protection against being offended and (b) that the EHCR was wrong to give Christians the degree of protection that the British blasphemy law gives them in respect of Visions of Ecstasy.

For some reason Sebastian thinks it relevant to say that Muslims want more protection than that. If that’s true then it is obvious from (a) and (b) that I would oppose granting them such protection.

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Ian 02.20.06 at 6:22 pm

For some reason Sebastian thinks it relevant to say that Muslims want more protection than that.

A sizeable number of Muslims even in the UK have called for a ban on any pictorial representation of Mohammed. That is more protection than the followers of any other supernatural-based ideology get.

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Bro. Bartleby 02.20.06 at 6:23 pm

Matthew: 10:34-36
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

We read this in context, Jesus instructing His 12 disciples before setting them off on their mission to spread the Good News to the people of Israel. I believe Jesus was making clear that His Way was not the traditional honor-based way (that which is captive of blood and clan and tribe). To choose ‘The Way’ one may well have to use the figurative sword and cleave with family and friends — which may set a new believer again his father and mother, and all those that are bound by the blood of the clan.

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J Thomas 02.20.06 at 6:28 pm

Wait a minute, Chris. “the same level of protection against being offended”.

If you show Moses eating a ham, that might be roughly as bad as showing Arjuna eating beef. But worshippers of cthulhu find it perfectly acceptable for Him to eat pork or beef either one.

How do we quantify levels of offense, and give different people the same protection?

It sounds good in theory but I don’t have a clue how to measure it.

66

a different chris 02.20.06 at 6:30 pm

>Unless your answers to those questions are “yes”

Hey, this Saturday go stand outside your nearby church and ask how they feel about your little scenario. I bet you’ll get a depressing majority of Yessers, at least if you are somewhere within the borders of the United States.

I read these posts like Sebastians’ and I wonder if they’ve ever met a Christian in their life? God, I suddenly wish I was one — so tolerant, so beautifully centered on their relationships with God that ne’er a protest is raised when the larger society mocks them. ‘Tis truly a superior People.

Not.

Two other problems about Sebastians’ scenarios:

1) Christians did protest Piss Christ & etc., and loudly. We’re a more advanced nation so people don’t usually die at these things but that doesn’t mean the marchers aren’t seriously angry. Exhibit “A” is that the name Serrano flows trippingly off his tongue. Didn’t have to Google for it, did you Sebastian? Could it be because a lot of people took it dead seriously, enough to shake the authorities? Created enough of a stir that it’s been burned into both of our brains – god, Serrano is the only modern artist I can even name. Guliani sure showed up for these things at warp speed and he doesn’t impress me as the type that personally could give a shit about some artist’s use of, well, shit. But you think he wasn’t trying to pacify a lot of angry Christians? Did you hear him make eloquent Free Speech arguments, because I sure missed them.

2) Again, the quick names: “Serrano”. “Kevin Smith”. The “blasphemy” was easily tracked to a single, indepent-acting target, a lightning rod if you were. And it discomforted the citizens that were the majority power in the richest country in the world. When you know your blasphemer is a little bug in a big world it just doesn’t make you want to spend a night in jail. Now the cartoons came from a variety of people and thru a third-party, the newspaper. The discomfited were minorities in that country and the majorities in countries that are currently subjected to the business end of a White, Christian military.

It ain’t the same. Trying to make some “they’re offended by little bitty cartoons whilst Christians shrug off and laugh about the most direct offenses to their religion” isn’t an argument worth the time I’ve just spent replying to it. It’s Calvinball to the nth degree.

Which doesn’t mean I’m not on the side of “drop all legislation”… I don’t think Irving should go to jail either, my ideal for him is to meet me in an alley with no witnesses, though. Muslims don’t deserve any law, what they did deserve was a resounding chorus of “those cartoons are a shameful crock of shit and they disgust us as much as they do you”.

And the first person who says “But Muslims don’t denounce…” wins the “I have no idea what it means to be an adult” Internet Comment Law. You behave how you’re supposed to behave, “Do unto others AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE unto you” as somebody who has a dog in this fight said. Not “as they would do” but you behave up to your standards.

People have to goddamn think about other people once in awhile. The real cartoons here are the way people describe both Christians and Muslims, for God/Allah’s sake. We all react pretty much the same given similar inputs. Face up to it.

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Ian 02.20.06 at 6:30 pm

I always read the Matthew bit figuratively. It ties in with brother being set against brother and taking up the cross. But, Bro. Bartleby, what about Luke 22:36? They seem real swords Jesus wanted his disciples to arm themselves with. It’s one of those bits that’s never made sense, like the fig tree.

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Christopher M 02.20.06 at 6:34 pm

jaybird,

I’m sorry, but I really don’t understand what point you’re making in comment 61, so insofar as I’m supposed to respond, I can’t.

I will say, though: insofar as Christians, Muslims, or anyone else, are so blind to context (wilfully or otherwise) as to be unable to conceive of a painting that uses images of buttocks or elephant dung without being intentionally blasphemous, well, so much the worse for them and their stunted understanding of the world.

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Tracy W 02.20.06 at 7:25 pm

When you know your blasphemer is a little bug in a big world it just doesn’t make you want to spend a night in jail.

What are you trying to argue here? Even if I knew my blasphemer was a big bug in a little world I still wouldn’t want to spend a night in jail. I’ve visited jails. Horrible places.

what they did deserve was a resounding chorus of “those cartoons are a shameful crock of shit and they disgust us as much as they do you”

Personally I thought they were quite good. And not at all disgusting.

Being an atheist, I am also pretty neutral about depictions of Christianity in the abstract. In the specific, it depends on whether I find the given depiction funny, thought-provoking or beautiful.

I would prefer for people to go to jail rather than be attacked in deserted alleys by random people as “a different chris” proposes.

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rilkefan 02.20.06 at 7:42 pm

OT: grand moff texan, excellent diary over at dKos.

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Jaybird 02.20.06 at 7:53 pm

Christopher M, the “Christian Response” to The Virgin Mary (please understand that the Christians protesting were not representative of Christianity, by the way) was to say that they didn’t want their tax dollars funding a museum that had this painting in it.

In response, they received a lecture about how closed minded, retarded, bigoted, hypocritical, lowbrow, ignorant of art, etc, they were.

Personally, I agree that many (if not most) of the Christians (please understand that the Christians were not representative of Christianity,) were closed minded, retarded, bigoted, hypocritical, lowbrow, ignorant of art, and etc. (Hey, buttocks are usually involved in the high points of my day, on a merely good day, they’re my own, on a *REALLY* good day, they involve my wife’s!)

But I still think that the Christians in question had every right to be all of those things when they went to the government to petition for a redress of grievances.

Personally, I think we’d all be better off if we spent a little more time explaining how closed minded, retarded, bigoted, hypocritical, lowbrow, ignorant of art, and etc the muslims protesting the cartoons are inbetween our breaths explaining that Americans do that too and, by the way, the Muslims protesting aren’t representative of Islam.

It also might be nice if the Muslims in Iran weren’t telling the newspapers in Denmark what they can and can’t print. But, I suppose, that’s another thread entirely.

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Keith 02.20.06 at 7:55 pm

Has everyone else forgotten that the riots are, ostensibly, in reaction to a cartoon?

Have we really and truely slipped so far into our own navels that some poele can honestly defend those who use a cartoon as an excuse riot, maim, burn and kill?

Rhtorical, I know. Of course we have.

73

james 02.20.06 at 8:13 pm

People, (including Christians in the US) are not upset at the Muslim protests. They are upset at the violent nature of the protests. Anyone who thinks it is only the protests and not the violence needs to pay more attention.

The Piss Christ exhibit was offensive to Christians. What is offensive is and always has been in the eye of the beholder. Who really cares what the artist intentions where? In fact the exhibit was so offensive the National Endowment of the Arts is under constant threat of loosing all federal funding.

When Christians protested the piss Christ, they where told to suck it up because its art. When Muslim cartoon protests include violence, the conversation switches to the “irresponsibility” of the newspaper, claims that Muslims seek equal consideration, or demands for special treatment of a minority group.

The US is not Europe. There are no legal protections against offending a religion.

Abb1 – It is legal in the US to make disparaging remarks of an entire race or religion. For some unfortunate reason there are still publishers who specialize in this kind of writing.

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Grand Moff Texan 02.20.06 at 9:38 pm

Thanks, rilkefan. I thought it was crap, but I’d been staring at it since last week and news goes stale quickly, so it was time to fight through the waves of nausea and just hit ‘post.’
.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 02.20.06 at 9:41 pm

Well I think I made it fairly clear that I believe (a) that everyone ought to get the same level of protection against being offended and (b) that the EHCR was wrong to give Christians the degree of protection that the British blasphemy law gives them in respect of Visions of Ecstasy.

For some reason Sebastian thinks it relevant to say that Muslims want more protection than that. If that’s true then it is obvious from (a) and (b) that I would oppose granting them such protection.

This is very odd. Someone wrote the following words in a post and I would have sworn it was Chris:

But it does not help the case for freedom of speech if Muslims can truthfully say that there is a double standard and that the sensibilities of Christians are regarded as a valid legal reason for restraining freedom of expression whereas theirs are not.

It is therefore simply not true to say that in Europe freedom of expression trumps the sensibilities of believers. What is true is that some believers, of some denominations, get legal protection from being offended, and others don’t.

This is followed by a quick allusion to “Visions of Ecstasy”. I presume that you mean that as support for your statement that Muslims can truthfully point to a double standard. You actually doesn’t make it at all clear that you thinks blasphemy laws are at all bad, just that you somehow think Muslims are right to believe that they are on the short end of an alleged blasphemy law double standard. I point out that

A) The cartoons are much milder than Visions of Ecstasy (and I offer what a close parallel movie might look like if it blasphemed Islam). That parallel is much worse than the cartoons in question;

B) I opine, rightly or wrongly, that such a parallel movie could be banned under the laws;

C) The laws you mention clearly aren’t all that strong because they don’t touch on the other Christian blasphemies mentioned;

D) I mention that the many Muslims are demanding a ban on far more than what would be banned under the blasphemy statute;

E) This tends to be strong evidence against the contention that Muslims are being subjected to a double standard on the issue of blasphemy protection.

I’m rather surprised to find that it is somehow off topic to write about the specifics of a double standard you claim exists.

76

jet 02.20.06 at 10:18 pm

Anyone who thinks the riots are some sort of principled protest about the hypocrisy of western limits of religious expression did too much acid in the 60’s. If so, the protestors would limit themselves to Danish protesting instead of blaming the US, Israel, and anything Christian.

The cartoons are just a (thinly veiled) pretext to the real issues.

77

Tom T. 02.20.06 at 11:14 pm

Chris, how do we know that the cartoons would not violate the UK’s blasphemy law? Have the cartoons been published in the UK? And found by some responsible authority not to be in violation of the blasphemy law? Or is it rather that no litigation has been initiated?

78

J Thomas 02.20.06 at 11:21 pm

The cartoons are just a (thinly veiled) pretext to the real issues.

Jet, that’s right!

Both for the muslims who talk like they’re upset about the cartoons, and for the americans who talk like they’re upset about the muslims being upset about the cartoons.

What would it take for us to discuss the real issues for americans?

79

Jaybird 02.20.06 at 11:33 pm

J Thomas, I suspect that if the Muslims weren’t burning shit but instead keeping it to boycotts, there would only be grumbling from the LGF crowd.

This seems to be a discussion of whether or not we should pay the Dane-geld.

“OF COURSE WE SHOULDN’T PAY THE DANE-GELD!!!”
“Why are you so friggin violent and yelly (all caps? really!) over just a few simple requests?”
“You shouldn’t pay the Dane-Geld, you’ll never get rid of the Dane.”
“So you’re willing to go to war over this? You’re willing to kill people over this? Have you signed up for the Army yet?”
“It’s not about the trifling amount they’re asking for.”
“If we just do what they ask, we will finally have Peace In Our Time and we can go home and sleep soundly in our beds!”
“Nice Godwin reference.”
“Groups of people who want to kill all of the Jews put me in a Godwin mood.”

And so on.

80

johnson 02.21.06 at 12:31 am

Thank you “dc” for your bizarre and typically bloggishly complacent intervention. You obviously know more than anybody about these things; if not, perhaps you would explain what you mean when you write
Its like saying that in the American south in the 1950s white mobs attacked black people because an eleven year old black boy kissed an eleven year old white girl: obviously there’s a lot more to it.
What the hell are you talking about.
Emmett Till was slaughtered because he allegedly whistled at a white girl. “Obviously there’s a lot more to it” implies justification. Or systematic racial oppression? That would be almost too obvious to state.

81

the cubist 02.21.06 at 12:45 am

#40– People in desperate, millennial poverty are often intolerant and ill-liberal. #72, #76—I think it is more than the cartoons, although I’d particularly like to hear from more Muslims on these issues. To many Muslim Arabs, religion is their last unstolen asset. They sit on the equivalent of Fort Knox in real wealth, yet most haven’t much to show for it. They are continually being pushed around by those who want their oil. To destroy and rob the Jews of Europe, the Germans first had to make Jews seem less than human… Muslims have been shot dead in their sacred places, politically split up to make it easier to steal from them, invaded, relentlessly disrespected, and now they may have reached a breaking point.

82

fjm 02.21.06 at 1:20 am

Did you not notice the date the article referred to? 1989.

Britain hasn’t had blasphemy laws for some time (and that case is one reason why). The “Incitement to Religious Hatred” bill was intended to give protection to all religions where the blasphemy law gave protection to only Christianity.

There may be a double standard but this is a lousy example.

83

Walt Pohl 02.21.06 at 1:26 am

cubist: They picked the wrong breaking point. Fuck ’em.

84

Raw Data 02.21.06 at 1:35 am

This is funny: apost and 83 comments about an event from1989!
Heh.

85

Walt Pohl 02.21.06 at 1:55 am

I take that back. What I object to is that whatever they actually say (or do) in the Muslim world, Western commentators always show up to say what they _really_ mean, and what they really mean is invariably the issues that the Westerners would think are important. Isn’t it possible that Muslims are perfectly capable of saying what they mean? Maybe the reason they’re not protesting over Palestine, or the Iraq war, or the prospect of war with Iran, and they are protesting the cartoons, is that as strongly as they may feel about the other issues, maybe they genuinely feel _more_ strongly about insulting Muhammad?

86

the cubist 02.21.06 at 2:19 am

Walt–
The sad thing is we may never know the answer to your question in #84, even if we were inclined to listen. Your answer in #82 represents a popular view and upon reading it, if I were a Muslim, I’d have to be pretty leery of posting in this discussion.

87

Chris Bertram 02.21.06 at 2:38 am

B) I opine, rightly or wrongly, that such a parallel movie could be banned under the laws;

Wrongly, as it happens, since the UK’s blasphemy law only affords protection to the established church.

fjm asserts that the UK’s blasphemy law has been repealed. This is untrue, it remains in force.

Others point out that this refers to an event in 1989. So what? VoE still has no certificate from the BBFC today in 2006

BTW: Some things are beyond my powers. Among them is writing a sentence, however simple, that will not be misconstrued by Sebastian H.

88

Brendan 02.21.06 at 3:36 am

Sebastian really has a fantastic ability to ignore points that he doesn’t want to face doesn’t he?

89

Doormat 02.21.06 at 4:22 am

Chris, Brendan,

Sorry, but you *have not* addressed Sebastian’s (and other’s) main point. As I read it, Sebastian is claiming that:

a) Muslim’s are calling for laws which would make the publishing of these cartoons (or, indeed, any pictorial representation of Mohammed);

b) You give an example of a very offensive film (to Christians) which was banned some years ago (although, yes, has yet to be unbanned).
c) Sebastian brings up lots of milder examples of offensive films etc. to Christians which are *not* banned. He asks to see the equivalent examples of films (etc.) mildly mocking Muslims, but fails to find them.

As far as I can see, it is *only* nutters like the BNP, commentators at LGF etc. who are saying truly awful things about Muslims. Mainstream culture gets away with an awful lot more mocking of Christianity, and yet Muslims still call for legal protection. From what one might ask?

In what way is Sebsastian misread what you are saying? Except perhaps in the original point of this post (which was good in bring to our attention on-going censorship of Christianly-blasphamous statements, at least in the UK, but seemed to have little other point I think).

90

Jeremy 02.21.06 at 4:23 am

Cubist,

People in desperate, millennial poverty are often intolerant and ill-liberal

You mean like India, China or ,say, Paraguay?

Muslims have been shot dead in their sacred places

You mean like in Karbalah?

politically split up to make it easier to steal from them, invaded, relentlessly disrespected

You mean like in Kirkuk? Or perhaps Basra?

91

bad Jim 02.21.06 at 4:25 am

The point isn’t simply that American interrogators allegedly flushed a Koran down a toilet, or that Danish cartoonists lampooned the messenger of god. Our contemporary reality is an American army occupying an Arab country, arbitrarily killing or imprisoning its citizens.

Mohammed as a bomb with turban is as unexceptionable a cartoon figure as anything that routinely appears in the western press. This isn’t the really the affront they’re protesting.

Sure, we can print almost whatever we want, but it might not be the best idea to invade whoever we want next time, if there is one.

92

Doormat 02.21.06 at 4:41 am

Look, just to make it crystal clear:

But it does not help the case for freedom of speech if Muslims can truthfully say that there is a double standard and that the sensibilities of Christians are regarded as a valid legal reason for restraining freedom of expression whereas theirs are not.

This is correct, in that it uses the word “legal”. But, at least in the UK (someone above did point out that Denmark is a separate country: what are the laws there?) it seems that self-censorship by all but the likes of Nick Griffin (shortly to re-appear in court, mind) actually affords Muslims greater protection against offense than Christians (remind me where I can find those cartoons in the UK: although, yes, there are obvious reasons, aside from causing offense, for not republishing them, certainly in the age of the internet). So cries of a double standard seem a little rich…

93

stostosto 02.21.06 at 4:43 am

We do have a law against blasphemy in Denmark, and some Danish Muslims tried to bring the case to law. However, it was thrown out in Decemeber because the local prosecutor deemed it unlikely to be upheld. The law dates from the 1930s and only once has it led to conviction. That was in 1938 and concerned a case of blasphemy against the Jewish faith.

The wording of the law:

“Anyone who publicly mocks or derides the doctrines of faith or worship of any in this country legally residing religious community is to be punished by penalty or prison for up to 4 months”.

Last time a case was heard was in 1971 when some TV producers were acquitted for having broadcast an allegedly blasphemic song directed at the Christian God (in clearly recognisable Lutheran guise).

The current Mohammad case is not over yet, as the group of plaintiffs have appealed and it is being mulled over as we speak. The case may yet get a hearing, but legal experts here are skeptical as to whether it will be upheld.

The plaintiffs of course may then opt for the European Court.

94

stostosto 02.21.06 at 4:46 am

Correction: The case was thrown out not in December, but on January 6th, by the local prosecutor in Viborg. The appeal has been brought to the national prosecutor’s office.

95

soru 02.21.06 at 5:16 am

fjm asserts that the UK’s blasphemy law has been repealed. This is untrue, it remains in force.

Sort of – it is in the box marked ‘unrepealed but unprosecutable’, with the laws relating to shooting welshmen in Nottingham, treason, and, probably, the official secrets act.

The issue (which I have to admit I was surprised by when I found out in the wake of the cartoons affair) is that as an official body, the film classification board feels unable to break that law, and so some films (mostly in the category ‘nun porn’) are uncertifiable and so not easily obtainable.

soru

96

Brendan 02.21.06 at 7:14 am

Oh Christ (er…if you’ll pardon the expressio), where do I begin?

OK

‘Muslim’s are calling for laws which would make the publishing of these cartoons (or, indeed, any pictorial representation of Mohammed)’.

It’s true that some years ago Muslims were calling for the blasphemy laws in the UK to be extended to other religions, but that’s hardly evidence for a double standard. On the contrary, the continued existence of the blasphemy laws (which ONLY protect CHRISTIANS) show there is indeed a legal double standard. The law is biased in favour of Christianity.

‘b) You give an example of a very offensive film (to Christians) which was banned some years ago (although, yes, has yet to be unbanned).’

What an interesting way of phrasing that, grammatically speaking! What I think you mean is that a film was banned, and remains banned (unless you know of some plan to unban it unknown to the rest of us, the ‘has yet to be unbanned’ is misleading).

‘Sebastian brings up lots of milder examples of offensive films etc. to Christians which are not banned. He asks to see the equivalent examples of films (etc.) mildly mocking Muslims, but fails to find them.’ Well at least you correctly point out that these films are more moderate than the Danish cartoons, which they are. Actually there are films which ‘mildly mock’ Muslims (like The Lizard for example), but these films tend to be…..er…well made in Muslim countries by Muslims. As you might expect. There aren’t too many films in the UK which mock Sikhs or Hindus or Buddhists either, and in both cases it’s cos there just ain’t that many of them. It’s not specific to Muslims.

The fact is that the Danish cartoons were far more offensive to Muslims than movies like ‘Life of Brian’ or ‘Dogma’. When you get things that are of a similar level of offensiveness to Christians (e.g. abortion) then Christians do indeed get violent.

‘As far as I can see, it is only nutters like the BNP, commentators at LGF etc. who are saying truly awful things about Muslims. ‘

Bollocks. Andrew Sullivan approvingly quoted a call to genocide and he’s about as mainstream as you can get. Moreover, when the Serbs actually attempted to start a Moslem Holocaust the West (especially the then British Conservative Government) attempted to help them.

97

Matt Daws 02.21.06 at 7:58 am

What an interesting way of phrasing that, grammatically speaking!

I was alluding to the series of films (Texas Chainsaw, Exocist etc.) which were re-released in the late 90s. I’ve now idea, but has there actually been an active campaign to get this film a license (as it wasn’t really “banned”: it was refused a license, so perhaps no-one has tried to get it “unbanned”, as it were).

Well at least you correctly point out that these films are more moderate than the Danish cartoons

I absolutely did not mean to imply that, as I absolutely do not believe it. The Danish cartoons were, if anything, moderate compared to the sort of cartoon which you’ll find in the comments page of every national newspaper in the UK. One the day this story broke, all the newspapers were following the Bush state of the union address, and had GWB, as a chimp, injecting oil like it was herion. Pretty damn offensive to the effective head of state of the most powerful country in the world, and yet utterly unremarkable for a poltical cartoon. Have you seen what Steve Bell tends to draw?

I think this point really gets to the heart of our disagreement: I just don’t think it’s enough for muslims to say “That’s offensive to us”, whereas you seem to maintain that the cartoons where actually objectively racist, nevermind offensive to people of a certain belief system. I’m not sure we’re going to find much common ground…

Andrew Sullivan approvingly quoted a call to genocide and he’s about as mainstream as you can get. Moreover, when the Serbs actually attempted to start a Moslem Holocaust the West (especially the then British Conservative Government) attempted to help them.

Hmm, I’m not sure I would call Sullican mainstream (I certainly personally don’t like most of his views). If he seriously was calling for genocide, he stopped being mainstream at that precise moment, and became a nutter. “Moslem Holocaust the West”??? Anyone with a better view of history of the Serbian war care to help me out here: this sounds like rubbish, frankly.

98

Doormat 02.21.06 at 8:33 am

Apologies for the changing name (posting from multiple computers is a pain).

Anyway, I don’t think I argued my last point well. Brendan seems to be coming from the point of view that Muslims in the west are facing huge levels of racism spilling over into violence, or calls for violence. I’m not sure I buy this, but it’s a point of view. But it’s irrelevant to the original post. Chris was, I think, trying to make the point that Christians enjoy more legal protection from offense than do Muslims. That’s true. My point is that, as of now, self-censorship actually ensures that Muslims have a higher level of protection from offense than do Christians. Whether this is down to politeness, or respect, or fear (as the editor of The NewStatesman claims) I don’t know. And, also, this is in the UK. Apparently (at least according to other posters here) in Denmark, Christians enjoy no more legal protection than Muslims. Could we keep the argument to these points?

99

J Thomas 02.21.06 at 8:41 am

“Moslem Holocaust the West”??? Anyone with a better view of history of the Serbian war care to help me out here: this sounds like rubbish, frankly.

That wasn’t exactly accurate. They didn’t want to kill all the muslims. They only wanted to kill all the muslims who would not or could not leave their land.

They killed muslims to persuade the others to leave. They raped muslim women to persuade the others to leave. (It tended to be blonde blue-eyed muslims, this wasn’t a place that had a whole lot of brown people in it.)

But they didn’t make an effort to kill muslims who found another nation that would take them.

This may have been true of other holocausts too, though. I guess maybe you need somebody who’s expert on comparative holocaust.

100

J Thomas 02.21.06 at 9:11 am

Could we keep the argument to these points?

No, we can’t and we shouldn’t.

We should focus strongly on what we want the US government to do, and what we want US citizens to do. At least the americans here ought to focus on those two issues. I suppose americans could discuss what we should recommend that the british government, the danish government, the EU, and european citizens should do, we might phrase that in terms of what we should recommend to them.

If we aren’t talking about what action to take, what’s the point?

Well, we could argue about whether muslims who burn down embassies are No Good Shits, or whether muslims generally are NGSs, or whether intead it’s LGF guys who’re NGSs or maybe republicans generally. I guess we could pass many happy days discussing who’s a NGS and who isn’t.

So what do you think the US government should do? Should we let muslim opinion determine our actions?

Jaybird suggests that this is a big part of the discussion. The Danegeld argument goes, if muslims think we’re giving in when they demand things, then they’ll just demand more and more. To keep them from doing that, we have to make sure they don’t think we’re giving in to the least little demand they make. Whatever they tell us to do we have to not do it. Whatever they tell us not to do, we have to do. But I really think we shouldn’t pay *that* much attention to what muslims want.

What should the US government do? What should US citizens do? I mean, beyond deciding who’s a NGS.

101

soru 02.21.06 at 9:51 am

What should the US government do? What should US citizens do?

Observe and learn.

I rather suspect that sooner or later, any knowledge gained in that way will come in handy, to make, justify or oppose some decision or other.

soru

102

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.21.06 at 10:07 am

Chris, simple question:

Are Muslims asking the right to ban a much broader category of things than are covered by the British blasphemy law?

103

Ray 02.21.06 at 10:11 am

Did you miss comment 62?

104

J Thomas 02.21.06 at 12:30 pm

Ray, #62 was imprecise.

I’m going to try to state this just as extremely as I can hoping that somebody will get it.

Just imagine that you go live in some foreign country, and as a christian you join an american christian church. This country has a number of other religions that differ significantly in their theology. But they all agree on a few things. They all meet in the open, under the trees, and never hold religious services in a building. None of them display any religious symbols or icons. And they all show child pornography during their services. So it happens that the government has some laws about religion. Church property is not allowed to have any buildings on it, and services must all be outdoors. No religious symbols such as crosses are allowed. And child pornography must be shown at every service.

Would it be acceptable for christians to get special treatment? We would be demanding things that no other religion in the nation cares about. When Chris says to give equal protection against being offended, is he talking about protection to the point that your church’s average blood pressure rise is the same as everybody else’s, or is it they all live under the same rules?

If it’s the same exact rules, how do we decide what those rules should be? I keep hearing people say “Those cartoons weren’t offensive, they were kind of funny actually” like they should be the ones to decide what other people will be offended at. Should LGF be the ones to decide what’s offensive? I can easily imagine christians in 1300 deciding that jokes about jews eating christian babies were not actually offensive at all — kind of gross, but really pretty funny….

I don’t see any standard here at all. Do we just let everybody decide for themselves when they’re offended, and then if they have enough money they can take the other guy to court and drive him bankrupt?

Do we need to create some kind of standard or should we just argue with each other about whose motives are impure and who’s inconsistent and who’s a No Good Shit?

105

Jaybird 02.21.06 at 3:19 pm

I can’t believe you people are still talking about whether or not newspapers should have published the cartoons.

Haven’t you heard? Bush’s Supreme Court just granted Cert to a case that might result in Roe.v.Wade being overturned!

THEOCRACY COULD WELL BE DESCENDING UPON AMERICA! (And I don’t mean the good kind where we respect Muslim views on not printing pictures of the Prophet (pbuh))

106

Bro. Bartleby 02.21.06 at 3:34 pm

#67 Bro. Ian, I would say the two swords are symbolic in nature, used here to fulfill Isaiah 53:12. In context, it is Jesus setting the final scenes, and certainly not arming the now 11 apostles (Judas has already slipped away) for some sort of combat, for later when Peter does swing his sword, Jesus reprimands him.

Luke 22:
35 [Jesus] asked them [the eleven apostles], “When I sent you out without a purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
They said, “No, not a thing.”
36 He said to them, “But now the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.
37 For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”
38 They [the disciples] said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“It is enough,” he replied.

107

J Thomas 02.21.06 at 3:35 pm

I can’t believe you people are still talking about whether or not newspapers should have published the cartoons.

I can. Talking about what other people ought to do is a lot like talking about the weather.

Haven’t you heard? Bush’s Supreme Court just granted Cert to a case that might result in Roe.v.Wade being overturned!

Why am I not surprised.

108

nik 02.21.06 at 3:36 pm

Chris;

(1) I don’t think the law against blasphemy ever existed to prevent Christians being offended. That’s a modern justification (on secularist terms). I know this idea is terribly old fashioned; but people did used to think that Christianity was true, that other religions were false, that God existed, and that it was possible to defame Him – hence the blasphemy law. (And given that framework there can’t be multi-religion blasphemy laws, as at least one of the religions covered must be false.) Your suggestion that “everyone ought to get the same level of protection against being offended” doesn’t cut it. The blasphemy law isn’t and wasn’t about offence, you could be done for blasphemy without ‘offending’ anyone.

(2) There’s a substantial body of opinion that the blasphemy law has since been rendered inoperative by UK law by the passage of the Human Rights Act. VoE may have no certificate, but that may be the fault of the people who own it. The BBFC don’t classify things on their own initiative. Unless VoE has been re-presented to the BBFC for classification (since 1989), then there hasn’t been any chance for them to get a certificate since then.

109

abb1 02.21.06 at 5:49 pm

Not all problems need to be rectified by laws and this is one of these. Public ostracism is all that’s needed here.

110

DC 02.21.06 at 7:21 pm

Johnson (#80),

My implication (“obviously a lot more to it”) was (clearly, I think) precisely the opposite of your interpretation. My point was that “riot caused by cartoon” is as ridiculous as “riot caused by interracial juvenile kissing”.

Radical Islamic groups’ agit-prop or anger at US and Israeli actions or white supremacist ideology or exacerbation of racial tensions due to intensified labour market competition or whatever (having nothing to do with cartoons or kissing) are the rational causes of inherently irrational behaviour. I make no claim to originality (or even to not stating the bleeding obvious) with this.

But, no, I don’t believe that it was justified to kill Emmett Till because he allegedly whistled at a white girl. Glad to have cleared that up.

111

a lurker 02.22.06 at 8:09 am

“American unwritten PC code is very good. Everyone can make fun of their own culture/religion but can’t mock the others. That seems very smart, fair and practical.”
abb1, post 38
“It is rather odd to blaspheme in a religion not your own.” Roger, post 54

A pretty weird attitude. Where does that leave me, an atheist in a secularized society?
Why should religious people have an immunity from criticism and ridicule that no-one holding rational ideas has? Is this some kind of diminished capacity thing? The poor dears can’t help themselves so let’s humour them?
Does this apply to fundamentalist Mormons and Aryan Nations Christians or is it PC to mock religious minorities as long as they are white and western (and unashamedly unenlightened)?
Can I mock protestant fundies if some of my ancestors were members of the same church?
If I change religion a few times, am I allowed to mock them all or just the latest one or two?
Does this apply to religious people criticizing other religions (some can be pretty uncomplimentary about the other, false faiths)?
Do heretic sects of a religious group qualify for immunity from criticism by the orthodox,
or if the orthodox are sufficiently upset, does this mean that the heretics are guilty of offending them?
Does this apply only to world-views incorporating some supernatural entity, or can I claim this right too?
I’m looking for guidelines here, people.

I think I’ll keep on mocking, if and when I’m inspired. Now of course there’s mockery and mockery, and a time and place for everything. Pick your fights.
And CB’s position in the original post is good.

112

abb1 02.22.06 at 12:40 pm

Lurker, there’s plenty in secular humanism to ridicule as well; if you don’t see it, you might be a fundie yourself…

113

Jaybird 02.22.06 at 1:41 pm

Remember when those Secular Humanists destroyed an Olive Garden when the Pope said something that offended them?

To be sure, those Secular Humanists weren’t representative of Secular Humanism and Christians do the exact same thing.

114

abb1 02.22.06 at 4:43 pm

…not to mention secularist extremists, such as Russian nihilists of the 19th century for example. Those were both atheists and quite irrational.

115

Jaybird 02.22.06 at 4:48 pm

It should be pointed out that those Russian Nihilists were not representative of Russian Nihilism.

116

abb1 02.22.06 at 5:06 pm

Rather they were not representative of Russian Atheism

117

Jaybird 02.22.06 at 6:41 pm

They weren’t representative of Russian Nihilism either. Russian Nihilism is a Nihilism of Peace.

You can’t judge it on a handful of bombthrowers.

Well, if you want to be a closed-minded bigot, you can.

118

Bro. Bartleby 02.22.06 at 6:50 pm

Non-Religious Turmoil Escalates

15,000 atheists in London rioted after a blank sheet of paper was found on a cartoonist’s desk.

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