Friday, February 03, 2006

As Promised...

For what is worth, some context, lest I be mistaken for a Falwell type..

1) I don't think islam per se is any better or worse than any other organized religion.

2) I'll admit to being an atheist, but I hold to the "whatever floats your boat" variety of personal values systems. Militant atheists are just as annoying as fundamentalist religious types.

3) Therefore, my unconcious biases are going to be a combination of atheistic thoughts and having been raised in a broadly christian/western liberal* culture.

4) That said, I have been a student of Middle Eastern/ Maghreb/ Turkish/Central Asian history, culture, politics and society since 1991.

5) Therefore my beef cannot be with islam as a faith as I am deeply aware of the great scientific and humanitarian tradition of the Ottoman, North African, and Mughal empires and countries from the middle ages to the early 20th century.

6) It also means that I am aware of the impact of the twin forces of fundamentalist islam- Arabian Wahhabism and Iranian shi'ism- on islamic societies coupled with the damaging stagnation caused by autocratic governments.

7) I therefore regard much of contempary islamic "thought" as tainted or controlled by the financial ability (thanks to debts of gratitude being paid or internal stability being purchased through oil wealth) of extremist elements within the religion.

8) Ultimately, much of the reaction we see today to the publication of the Danish cartoons has come about thanks to the financing by these extremists of centers of islamic learning and fringe political groupings. It would be as if our public discourse was being monopolized by Bob Jones "University" and if the 700 Club had a militia.

9) Speaking of the Danish cartoons, I don't think they are particularly clever or interesting, and agree with those who see them as borderline racist. However, I sort of feel like I'm in the same position as the ACLU in the famous Onion story: "ACLU Defends Nazis' Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters". The attack was on the religion, however cack-handed it might have been, not the religion's practitioners.

10) Finally, throwing powdered milk on the floor of a supermarket and threatening to shoot people for a thought is fascism as it amounts to group punishment and an attempt to intimidate people into silence. Whoever does it.

A little weak for such a series of bold statements perhaps but my dinner is the table, I have beer in the fridge, and its Friday night.

(*As in the classical post-enlightenment sense, not the political epiphet sense.)


jamie said...

#10 i think captures my thoughts on this pretty well. given the choice between siding with someone creating a piece of art (if you like) that has offensive overtones* and a contentious group who believe that the creation of such a work is an egregious offense punishable by death, i'm going to side with the artist. why is portraying the virgin mary with elephant dung an acceptable form of expression but this is not?

as to Lenin's comment on the previous entry that Muslims "are being slandered and attacked by racists, accused collectively of being murderous fanatics and so on. The meek may well inherit the earth, but these guys only require people to stop attacking them" - it must be interesting to see a world with no shades of gray. what is one supposed to think of a religion that often condones the mistreatment of women ("who is oppressing whom" indeed)? that we just leave them alone and everything will work itself out? i don't deign to have the answers, and there may well be some parallels between nazi-style anti-Semitism and the prevailing view of the Muslim world, but to overlook those aspects of Islam (in all its forms) that are at odds with the Rights of Man is to gloss over the entire picture. Muslims should not be persecuted, nor should they be allowed to persecute.

there's simply far more of this to get into here than i possibly have time for right now that includes the politics of nuclear proliferation, the "wisdom" of US foreign policy, etc.

* i think a case can be made that interpreting the image of Mohammed with the lit fuse in his headdress as simply a broad-brush portrayal of Muslims as fanatical terrorists removes from the deabte the question of whether the image simply invokes the question of whether the teachings of Mohammed are in conflict with the implementation of those teachings by certain sects. i'm not saying that was the artist's intention, but would defend his right to make such a statement. and if his intention is to slander, then there has to be a better solution than to simply suppress the artist's right to create such an image.

jamie said...

actually, i think i meant it was a combination of #s 9 and 10.

Debbie said...

There is a Puerto Rican saying that goes "Mas claro no canta el Gallo."
The rooster can't crow any clearer.

Very well put Weasel