Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Evolving Coverage of the Danish Cartoon Controversy

The Danish cartoon debate rages on. Last night on the News Hour, David Brooks (one of AH's very favorite pundits) argued that "these people are stuck in the 13th century," yet minutes later noted as an aside that many moderate Muslims have vigorously condemned the violent protests and cast doubt on the motivations of the people organizing them. Yet he didn't back away from his main point, which supports the whole clash of civilizations crap. It was interesting seeing someone so smart try to swallow his own mutually contradictory bullshit.

Below are some more sensible thoughts about the geopolitical context for this so-called fight between freedom of the press and Muslim taboos against blasphemy.

Here, for example, is a blogger who rounds up Syrian bloggers' reactions to the violent protests in Syria. Here's a representative sample:

I hope people don’t take the actions of a few thugs as representative of the Syrian or Lebanese people. Just like we expressed our voices of concern over the cartoons in the first place, we’re all expressing our views again over the shameful acts. We, the rational, should work together to show the world that there’s more to Arabs than what they see on television.

Below are pieces recommended in our comments two days ago: This Kuwaiti former resident of Denmark decries Danish racism's role in this manufactured controversy. And this columnist brilliantly argues that

Those who insist that this row is about upholding Islam need to ask themselves at whom the prohibition on depicting the prophet is aimed. The answer is Muslims, so that they do not fall into idolatry and revering the messenger instead of his message. No Muslim is at risk of worshipping the images in these cartoons. So what's the beef?

This controversy is about power. Muslim communities in the West feel under suspicion and under siege through the mere fact of their faith. Muslims in the Muslim world feel war has been declared on them by an adversary who controls the world. In such circumstances, the one power people feel they have left is to insist on their dignity. ...

...Such thuggish behaviour [as the violent protests], wherever it occurs, is testament to a lack of power; only when you feel disenfranchised in those avenues of life that really matter can you become exercised over such trivia.

As Sandra06 says at The Notion, in response to Kath Pollitt's wishy-washy post,

Anyone with any sense of clarity can tell you that if the cartoons in question had depicted the prophet, say, crying over the corpses of the Egyptian pilgrims who drowned earlier this week then there would've been no protests. It is the CONTENT of the cartoons that is the issue: Mohammed depicted as a terrorist -- therefore Muslims AS A PEOPLE are all bearded violent fanatics. Mohammed represents Muslims -- the cartoons target Muslims as an undifferentiated collective. Liberals like Ireland and Pollitt are totally clueless about how Muslims in Europe are marginalized, discriminated against, despised, hated, feared, routinely attacked physically and verbally. Violent protests (in some Muslim countries) are to be condemned but publishing racist cartoons targeted against a vulnerable minority helps to legitimize more hatred and fear (as Nazi cartoons of Jews did). European Muslims see these cartoons in a context of constant media caricatures of them, public discussions of them as an unassimilated foreign horde with politicians publicly saying they are a "cancer" and so should be killed off. Certainly there should be no prohibition against publishing these cartoons but let's be clear here: freedom of speech in Europe seems to be the cause celebre only when the hate speech is targeted against Muslims.

And take this bit of analysis on Democracy Now:

AS'AD ABUKHALIL: Many governments, like the oppressive governments of Syria and Jordan, [whose] security forces have a long record of brutality and of torturing people, have become extremely polite. And I’ve noticed the footage on the Arabic media, that they allow them basically to proceed peacefully and to speak out and, in the case of Damascus, to torch down the embassy of Denmark; and I find that to be very convenient for those governments, because they are very much under attack by their own people for being largely silent about foreign occupation by the United States and about oppression by these same governments. And this is an opportunity for them to let [the people] let out some steam, because Denmark is an easy country to pick on. And they’re organizing a boycott of Denmark, when those same governments would not dare to launch a boycott of Israel or the United States, which have been responsible for more offenses against Arabs by virtue of occupations than the Danish government.

He mentions the blasphemy, but contextualizes it as a pretext for venting steam against foreign occupation and homegrown oppression. Later in the same program, when discussing the cartoons themselves, another (controversial) critic says:

"IRSHAD MANJI: Yeah, bring on the cartoons, and let's remember that more Muslims are offended by the violence in the name of these cartoons than are offended by the cartoons themselves."

You don't have to look very hard to find sensible folks talking about what's going on, yet the so-called liberal media insist on alarmist sensationalizing and oversimplifying that plays into the hands of the lunatic fringe who started this whole thing to foment a clash of civilizations.

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