Sunday, February 05, 2006

Inciting Muslims to violence

The only way to make any kind of progress in this war against terrorists who blow up trains and buses and knock down buildings is to have the rest of the Muslim world onside. … We need their help.

(Peter Zimonjic, Saturday's Ottawa Citizen)

Anger among Muslims, precipitated by twelve Muhammad cartoons, is increasing daily. The cartoons were first printed in Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper. Guardian Unlimited explains how this crisis was set in motion:
Jyllands-Posten took up the case of a Danish author who could find no one to illustrate a book about the prophet Muhammad. The paper, presenting this as a case of self-censorship, asked 12 illustrators for depictions of the prophet, and the one that has caused immense offence shows the prophet wearing a turban that conceals a fizzing bomb.
This is the cartoon that has caused the most offence, except I am not showing Muhammad's face. Displaying any likeness of Muhammad or one of the other prophets — even a respectful likeness — is offensive to Muslims.

Jyllands-Posten argued that the cartoons were published in defense of freedom of expression. In solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, newspapers in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands subsequently published at least one of the images. In England, the BBC showed the images in one of its broadcasts.

Yesterday was designated a "day of anger" in the Muslim world. Today, the Globe and Mail reports that protesters have set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria. So far, no one has been killed in response to the cartoons.

I say, a pox on both their houses. I'm scanning the horizon, looking for good guys, but there are none in sight.

It's fair to say that the Muslim response is ironic. My interpretation of the turban cartoon is this. Muhammad represents all of Islam. The turban with the lit fuse represents violence, including terrorism. The message is, Islam is a violent religion. And the Muslim response is? — violence, or at least the threat of violence.

In England, according to the Ottawa Citizen, protesters repeatedly shouted, "U.K. you must pay; 7/7 is on its way" — a threat to carry out more bombings, like those on London's public transit system on July 7, 2005. The response appears to confirm the message of the cartoon, that Islam is a violent religion.

There's also a double standard at play here. Jack provided a link to this cartoon. (Click on it to see the whole series of similar cartoons, taken from Arab media.) Tom Gross explains, the cartoon depicts Ariel Sharon "watching on the sidelines as an Israeli plane crashes into New York’s World Trade Center. … This cartoon restates the widely held myth in the Arab world that Israel and the Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks."

A reasonable person might ask:  If it's OK for Arab media to publish antisemitic cartoons, why isn't it OK for Jyllands-Posten to print derogatory cartoons of Muhammad?

Jack points out that Jews are fed a constant diet of this sort of abuse, and they do not respond by setting fire to Arab embassies.

But I also object to the editorial decision of Jyllands-Posten and the other European media who subsequently published the cartoons. The media must have foreseen the risk. By publishing the cartoons they knowingly incited Muslims to violence.

For surely the cartoons are gratuitously offensive. The issue was, no one would illustrate a book on Muhammad. What sort of illustrations did the author have in mind? Was he looking for cartoon caricatures, defaming Muhammad and Islam? Presumably not.

Jyllands-Posten wanted to make the point, We believe it's OK to draw a picture of Muhammad to illustrate a book on Islam. Is that the point they actually made? Obviously they went much further than that.

Finally, I want to return to the quote at the top of this post. I have argued, on previous occasions, that a war is being waged for the soul of Islam. The behaviour of many Muslims suggests that Islam is a peaceful religion. The behaviour of many other Muslims suggests that Islam is a violent religion.

Which is the true Islam? That will be determined by which group of Muslims prevails in the struggle to define it.

We in the West must do everything in our power to help the peaceable Muslims prevail. The stakes are enormously high; it is no exaggeration to say that world peace hangs in the balance. Everybody in the West needs to keep that agenda in mind and act in concert to promote the cause of peace.

Jyllands-Posten and the other European media have made a serious error of judgment. They have increased support for the violent strain of Islam:  and that is contrary to the interests of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

copyright © 2006, Stephen Peltz


At 11:34 AM, February 05, 2006, Blogger 49erDweet said...

Does no one else appreciate the irony? Q sez: "We in the West must do everything in our power to help the peaceable Muslims prevail."

Where ARE the 'peacable' Muslims? Do you hear any? Are they on your block? In your city? Do they believe they are loudly proclaiming the peacableness with a thundering silence?

Or are the scattered voices of Islamic reasonableness we do hear merely an attempt to appease western political discourse, and not truly reflective of the mindset of Muslims living in our midst? I would hope and pray not, but the question is reasonable.

Q is fearful of bloodshed over this issue. On one level, so am I. On another, though, I am fearful of too much silence. When too many of us are too silent in the support of our freedoms, too many Muslims may assume we are giving up our rights in perpetuity, rather than merely waiving them for a moment.

Appeasment - in the long run - never works. It is a short term soluntion that breeds misunderstandings which can eventually explode. Better to explode with the written word, rather than with bodies.

So Q is right - we must encourage reasonable Muslims to speak out - and wrong - we must still defend our right to free speech. What a mess!

I do agree with Q on another issue. The Danish (and Euro) press completely missed the orginal point of the exercise. But then they usually do with with everything else, don't they? So why should be expect something different now?

/tongue-in-cheek off/

At 11:40 AM, February 05, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

IMO The muslim countries are behaving like spoiled children over this.

It may be against the muslim religion to portray a likeness of Mohammed, but they can not force other countries to comply with thier world-view - even America hasn't quite gone that far with most of the world!

It's against your religion to blaspheme and take God's name in vain, but would you really expect non-christians to comply with that? especially in non-christian countries.

You know, I regularly defend the muslim faith, as a faith, but this behaviour really is atrocious, and just proves all the people who claim muslims are inherently violent & evil to be right.

There is a growing movement in the UK to arerest the people holding placards that were obviously inciting illegal acts (murder/terrorism/racial hatred).

Denmark has always been one of the most tolerant of nations. I am appalled at the whole situation.

At 11:46 AM, February 05, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

49er said"Where ARE the 'peacable' Muslims? Do you hear any? Are they on your block? In your city? Do they believe they are loudly proclaiming the peacableness with a thundering silence?"

try looking here or here for two well know and highly regarded examples

At 12:16 PM, February 05, 2006, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Hi Q,

This is an important topic. I agree with you that we shouldn't go out of our way to intentionally insult or upset people.

If Muslims wish to engage in nonviolent demonstrations such as vigils and boycotts then I support them.

But I cannot accept the use of violence and I believe that we are all endangered when good people remain silent.

Torching embassies is unreasonable and irresponsible.

On somewhat of a side note this type of behavior is why some people I know believe that there will never be peace with the West and the Muslim world.

I hope that they are wrong.

At 2:08 PM, February 05, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• 49er:
I agree that appeasement is a losing strategy, and we must still be prepared to stand up for freedom of speech. I suppose I didn't say so strongly enough in my post. But the thought is implicit in this paragraph:

Jyllands-Posten wanted to make the point, We believe it's OK to draw a picture of Muhammad to illustrate a book on Islam. Is that the point they actually made? Obviously they went much further than that.

In other words, if the newspaper had made a responsible, pro-free speech statement, I would have supported them — even if Muslims were threatening to blow up the whole Western world.

The trick is to stand up for our core values, including free speech, without giving gratuitous offense. Jyllands-Posten completely blew it on that analysis, so I do not support them.

As for Muslim voices for peace —

I'm not familiar with the two sources Mrs. Aginoth provides. But an earlier post, here, talks about the 120 imams in Canada who signed a document denouncing terrorism. Since the imams are the ones who orchestrate these campaigns internationally, I consider that to be more than a token gesture.

At least one relatively radical imam refused to sign it. Hence, here in Canada, we see the battle for the soul of Islam playing itself out.

• Mrs. Aginoth:
This behaviour really is atrocious, and just proves all the people who claim muslims are inherently violent & evil to be right.

I agree that the behaviour is atrocious. And I, too, am concerned that Islam may in fact be an inherently violent religion. Beginning with Muhammad himself, there was a complete integration of church and state, and a readiness to propogate Islam at the point of a sword. It will not be easy for Muslims to cast off that mindset once and for all.

Still, I think it's a mistake to conclude, based on this situation, that Muslims are inherently violent and evil. I might get violent, too, if someone spit in my face; but I'm not inherently violent and evil.

• Jack:
We are all endangered when good people remain silent.

I agree. I'm not advocating silence, either. But see my comments to 49er about standing up for our core values in a responsible way.

Some people I know believe that there will never be peace with the West and the Muslim world. I hope that they are wrong.

I fear the same thing. I fear that this conflict may degenerate into World War III before it is settled. And like you, I hope it doesn't come to that.

Like you, I have children, and that is not the kind of world I want them to face as they reach adulthood. (My oldest is a 16-year-old boy. It's a worry.)

At 2:29 PM, February 05, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

Just to clarify, I absolutely do not believe that the muslim faith is inherently violent or evil, but this kind of behaviour certainly serves to fuel that misapprehension.

I've just watched the coverage of the Lebanese riot on BBC and there were a number of clerics physically restraining the rioters, to the point that they were themselves injured by the crowd.

I've only been involved in one riot myself (the Poll Tax one), which I was caught up in totally by accident, but I remember well how few people you need to start a crowd of disillusioned people attacking symbols of their dislike. I wonder how many people actually went there with the intention, or even the thought of violence in their minds? Lebanon has barely finished it's civil war, and with decades of supression, violence & political unrest in their history, I can understand how it happened.

That does not make it right! Although I haven't seen an awful lot of balanced media reports either.

At 5:51 PM, February 05, 2006, Blogger 49erDweet said...

Thank you Mrs. A and Q for those clarifications. Mea culpa. I spoke in haste (as my various typos attest).

I, too, know moderate Muslims. One was in my home, Friday. But even her extended family is not in harmony on this subject, resulting in the moderates quietly moderating their positions, while the extremists loudly proclaim their extreme POVs. They are simply not in harmony.

Mrs. A and Q are right to be concerned. Islam needs to resolve this issue internally if they expect to ever be accepted as anything other than a ticking timebomb threat to world peace.

At 11:45 PM, February 05, 2006, Blogger 49erDweet said...

Let’s take this a little farther. Continued reading of the Guardian article shows this episode is a contrived exercise in creating Islamic unrest, and was fraudulently and deliberately perpetrated by supposedly “holy” Muslims.

“At this point a group of ultra-conservative Danish imams decided to take matters into their own hands, setting off on an ambitious tour of Saudi Arabia and Egypt with a dossier containing the inflammatory cartoons.

According to Jyllands-Posten, the imams from the organisation Islamisk Trossamfund took three other mysteriously unsourced drawings as well, showing Muhammad with the face of a pig; a dog sodomising a praying Muslim; and Muhammad as a paedophile. "This was pure disinformation. We never published them," Lund complained.”

Get that? Other than the one bomb-helmet cartoon, none of the other eleven cartoons drew attention in the Islamic world. So the issue was “jazzed up” by warmongering imans who sneakily added three other drawings that were guaranteed to create unfavorable reactions.

The ensuing unrest, complaints, ‘buzz’ reaction from Islamic web sites and media, and now the embassy sackings – all have been the result of an unholy plan by radical Muslims to create a climate for conflict. They have, in effect, declared war on the free world.

Sorry, but I no longer care if the Danes insulted their religion. They did it to themselves and are simply “playing” the martyr for their own purposes.

The western world can either fight it tooth and nail, or give in. I know what I choose to do.

H/T to W at Belmont Club.


At 9:52 AM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• 49er:
Those details further confirm my point, that there is a battle underway in the world for the soul of Islam.

Radical imams took the J-P cartoons, added a few others to exaggerate the offence, and went on a tour to inflame anger. The radicals do not play fair; does that surprise anybody?

But the crisis still traces back to J-P's decision to publish the cartoons. That gave the radical imams something to exploit.

I take it that you disagree with my analysis, but I'm not sure exactly where your disagreement lies. I think, in very general terms, you see me as being too sympathetic — too soft — on violent Muslims.

The stand I'm trying to take is this: J-P blew it when they published those cartoons. It was a bad editorial decision. In the current climate, with a war for the soul of Islam underway, we can't afford missteps like that.

Which doesn't mean I am sympathetic to Muslim violence. I think I made it clear in the post that, in my view, no one is in the right in this conflict ("a pox on both their houses").

I have the impression you want me to support J-P just because they are Westerners. The West = the good guys; Muslims = the bad guys.

I don't see this issue in such black and white terms. I'm scanning the horizon for good guys, and there are none in sight.

At 2:32 PM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Bill said...

What is very worrisome is that political cartoons often reflect what people think will develop in the future. Pre-WWII cartoons in Europe were full of hatred, and depression era cartoons looked to a more prosperous future. Cartoons in the early 30's in Germany resembled those published in the Arab world in regards to Israel. Cartoons published in the UK and America looked like those currently being published in Europe and North America today. Characters in cartoons/comics seem to express our worries and create villains from our perceived enemies.

Is this an example of polarising of Arabs and Westerners? Are we building to a broader war between Arab and western nations?

At 2:37 PM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Jack's Shack said...


I appreciate your trying to take a nuanced approach here but I am having a hard time with it for a variety of reasons.

1) I wonder if the newspaper had anyone on staff who could have reviewed those cartoons and offered any insight in advance that they might be considered insulting.

There is a difference between being intentionally insulting and doing so out of ignorance. But I still want to make it clear that even if they did it knowing that it might offend people I have a problem with the violent response.

2) I am not a fan of trying to temper everything so that no one is hurt or upset. I don't think that it teaches anyone anything other than it is ok to scream and ask for restitution for being hurt.

That is not a smart way to go through life, just too many pitfalls and challenges presented by it.

At 4:15 PM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

The 12 cartoons were of wildly varying political temprments & artistic ability. It was a public call for illustrations, and the paper got what it asked for - the publics views of mohammed.

A couple were definitely inflamatory - but far less than many other's I've seen, a couple were supporting muslims and a couple didn't even depict Mohammed at all. The rest were mostly just bad:-) IMO the paper had every right to publish them, for any number of reasons.

BTW, re the UK protests and the call to arrest those inciting murdser/terrorism etc, the guy who dressed up as a suicide bomber has publicly apologised to the families & victimes of the 7/7 attacks, and to the country at large, claiming he didn't meant to cause offense. That's all right then isn't it? Of course it is, we accept his apology, and understand it came from a misunderstanding of the cultural mores of his own country. It's good that the Muslim community feels that an apology is good enough.

At 4:58 PM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Sadie Lou said...

I think it's funny how Christians are constantly brought to the mat on how radical we are when it comes to defending our faith. Now it looks like real fundamentalism is showing it's true nature and perhaps even providing a wake up call to us, here in the west. This is what radicals really look like and it is scary.

At 5:28 PM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

Sadie Lou - um, the KKK?

I know, it's a small minority, doesn't reflect the overall religion and all that. But.

The people who kill Dr's & fire-bomb abortion clinics?

There are plenty of violent fundemental christians too. Every religion has them - as does every country.

The thing about the new muslim trend is the tendancy to view any disagreement with their religion
as an act of war against their country, and any disapproval of a country as an attack against their faith. I'm not sure that any other faith is so confused with national identity.

At 5:31 PM, February 06, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Bill:
Thanks for contributing that comment. Even in the West, freedom of speech is not an absolute value. In law, for example, freedom of speech is no excuse for slander.

Muslims believe their prophet and their religion has been slandered. They're right to be offended. J-P is hiding behind freedom of expression, and I don't buy it.

• Jack:
I appreciate your trying to take a nuanced approach here but I am having a hard time with it.

When you say, "nuanced approach", I think you mean that I'm trying to apportion the blame equally. But that's not the principle I'm operating by.

I fully understand that blame doesn't always divide equally. I accept, for example, that Israel is more sinned against by Palestinians than the other way around.

And obviously it's true that Muslim violence is a more serious concern than J-P's cartoons. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but cartoon caricatures will never injure me". So I wouldn't say the blame is 50/50.

But I do not accept J-P's rationalization for publishing the cartoons. It was equivalent to holding a lit match over a gas tank — the consequences were entirely predictable.

I am not a fan of trying to temper everything so that no one is hurt or upset.

Nor am I; but note Bill's remarks.

You correctly pointed out that Arab media publish antisemitic cartoons. How would you feel about it if the New York Times did the same? You wouldn't resort to violence, I know. But wouldn't you condemn the Times if they slandered Jews and potentially promoted hatred against them?

That's the only "nuance" I'm trying to introduce here — to cast blame where it is deserved.

• Mrs. Aginoth:
The paper had every right to publish them.

Whether they had such a right depends on how offensive you deem the cartoons to be. I quite understand why Muslims were offended by two of them. (The one I posted, and the one about running out of virgins for suicide bombers.)

But even if they had the right, did they exercise sound judgment?

No one has expressed agreement with my argument based on the war for the soul of Islam. To me, it's obvious that radical Muslims benefitted by J-P's editorial decision. It encourages Muslims to believe that the West is against Islam, and therefore militancy is a suitable response.

We want to feed support for the moderate Muslims, not for the radicals. Therefore publishing the cartoons was a very bad idea.

• Sadie Lou:
Yep, people have lost perspective when it comes to the hyperbolic criticism of evangelical Christians we often hear.

And I agree — the widespread Muslim unrest is scary.

At 1:39 AM, February 07, 2006, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

to cast blame where it is deserved. Fair enough.

At 4:57 AM, February 07, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

"did they show sound judgement"?

Well, to be honest, I doubt they really thought that much about it. Remember this was last September, Denmark doesn't have a huge muslim population, and they are mostly fairly well integrated (I have seen some very sensible remarks by Danish Muslims about this whole affair). Papers run competitions for the public to send in pictures/stories all the time. Often, the entiries they recieve could be construed as offensive to someone. in fact pretty much all cartoon s are offensive to someone! That's why they exist - to exaggerate stereotypes & make them humerous, therefore not taboo, and so assist peaceful & sensible debate.

Flick through an old copy of punch magazine & you'll see representations of bombs, religions, and revered leaders lampooned everywhere.


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