Sunday, February 05, 2006

Reasonable People Can Still Disagree

Once again, somebody has gone and offended the Muslims. And once again Muslim mobs are burning things down in the name of their religion.

It's hard for me to understand this kind of violent reaction over a couple of cartoons, of course. For the most part, we westerners are far more likely to riot and burn things down when our football team wins (or loses) the championship than because of some perceived religious slight.

So we'll once again scratch our heads in wonder, evacuate those in harm's way, and wait for the furor to blow itself out. And, quietly, we'll think to ourselves that perhaps Islam truly is incompatable with anything other than Islam... including the very tenets of modern democracy, such as freedom of expression and freedom of worship.

But, before we do, I think it would be worthwhile to listen to those small voices trying to be heard over the din of fundmentalist jihad. Sheila Musaji is one such voice. Writing in the online journal alt.muslim Ms. Musaji provides a cool-headed look at the Muslim reaction towards the 12 Danish cartoons that have sparked the latest round of Islamic outrage.

When honor killings, suicide bombings, attacks on Christian churches, destruction of Buddhist statues, insults towards other religions are carried out anywhere in the world by individuals claiming an Islamic justification for such acts - then as Muslims, we need to speak out just as strongly for justice.
When anyone, anywhere (whether Muslim or not) is treated unjustly because of their religion, race, sex, or ethnicity by anyone (whether Muslim or not) Muslims should be the first to speak out for justice. If any prophet is maligned, or any place of worship is profaned, if any scripture is treated disrespectfully, then Muslims should be the first to speak out in their defence.

How is it possible that we can even consider exceeding the bounds of justice in response to such incidents as the Qur'an incident a few years ago, and this current incident of a few dumb cartoons in a relatively small newspaper in a country of only 5 million people. The excessive response is causing more harm to Islam and Muslim than the cartoons ever would have (and, in fact they would probably have gone unnoticed by the rest of the world if such attention had not been called to them).

The cartoons are a repeat of old anti-Semitic drawings, complete with hooked noses and swarthy complexions. The cartoons ARE offensive - but the response by many Muslims is more than offensive. Death threats, armed men taking over offices, threats against places of worship, etc. ARE offensive, illegal, immoral, unjust, and against the very spirit of Islam. Threatening to blow up churches in Palestine because a newspaper in Denmark (which is a predominantly Christian country) ran offensive cartoons means that these clowns are saying that every Christian in the world is responsible for the actions of anyone in the Christian world. This is madness just as much as those who hold the same attitude towards Muslims and Islam.

This sort of criminal, insane behavior plays right into the hands of the Islamaphobes and those who want to bring about a clash of civilizations. Even a just cause does not give anyone the right to use illegitimate means or deny others their rights.

There have been individual Muslims who have committed injustices against people of other faiths. There have been newspapers in Muslim countries that have carried offensive cartoons about Jews. There have been Muslims who have carried out violent acts against people of other faiths. As Muslims we need to be even more strong and outspoken in our objections to this perversion of Islam. We need to do everything we can do to reign in our own extremists.

If, as Muslims, we want to show respect for the Prophet, for the Qur'an, and for Islam, then we need to set a noble example of justice, tolerance, and respect. If we want respect from others we need to show them equal respect.
Ms. Musaji isn't proposing that the Muslim community let the latest (and truly stupid) insult from Europe go unanswered. Rather she is proposing that Muslims show their displeasure in the same manner as do other cultures - boycott them, and shame them. In short, respond righteously, but reasonably.

Take issues to court under the laws of the country in which you live - cancel your subscription - organize boycotts to exert economic pressure - send your message out peacefully - explain your position - lobby to enforce or change existing laws - take concerted action within the law - use legitimate, peaceful means - remain calm so that you can act and not simply react - get your own house in order - demand the same rights and privileges for ALL - engage in respectful dialogue.

This kind of responsible reaction would be welcomed in the West, I should think. But is any such dialog possible if the values Ms. Musaji espousees are not impressed upon young Muslims by their teachers and clergy? If all that is taught is the lesson of the sword, then our paths will wind inexorably deeper into the dark pit of cultural hatred.
"Muslims of the world, be reasonable," said the editor-in-chief of the weekly independent newspaper Al-Shihan in Jordan in an editorial alongside some of the cartoons, including the one showing the Muslim religion's founder wearing a bomb-shaped turban. "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?" wrote Jihad Momani.

What indeed.

You should read the whole of Ms. Massji's article. In fact, you should bookmark alt.muslim.
It may wind up being the last refuge for the "reasonable" Muslim in the whole Islamic world.


Cassandra said...

Nice job - I have a feeling there are a lot of Muslims who would agree with her. Too bad their voices are drowned out by the unreasonable minority.

Thanks for the tip.

Pile On® said...

I dunno. As time goes by I am inclined to beleive that mainstream Islamic thought is closer to the gentleman in the picture than it is to the authors of alt.muslim.

Cassandra said...

I think most people probably have that impression.

The question is: when are the moderates going to realize that and do something about it? I think that's starting to happen to some extent.

spd rdr said...

Is it too little, too late, though. Hamas is running Palestine. Al Nutjob is President of Iran. And even Madrid and Bali have been made to look like Beruit. If there are "moderate" Mulsims, why do I think that they are already all living in America?

Cassandra said...

It's scary.

I think we're about to see whether human politics have evolved beyond tribal alliances or not. I think it's possible we have, but I continue to maintain that the spread of universal democratic ideals and capitalism is the best antidote to violent extremism. It may not be perfect, but it's all we have: in a war of ideas, you have to bring ideas to the table.

Reason is all we have to fight unreason, and maybe I'm naive but I think all cultures have men and women of reason. It just remains to be seen whether the critical mass exists in the Muslim world to tip the balance.

I hope so.

a former european said...

"Moderate" Muslims are the ones who let you have the traditional blindfold and cigarette before you are put up against the wall and shot.

I have reached a level of disgust with the jihadis almost equal to that of the french.

Muslims to me are like the spazzy mental kids I knew in high school. They seemed normal most of the time, but you never knew when the powderkeg would explode and they would absolutely lose it.

We could try and determine this empirically. Go to the Mideast and find a crowd of peaceful, normal-looking Muslims. Then start screaming "Allah akbar", "jihad", and "death to the infidel defilers" in arabic. I believe you would have an insta-mob rioting, blowing up people and things, and setting fires in less time than the average NFL player can run the 40-yard dash.

Violence and mayhem seem to have become so ingrained into Muslim culture, that I don't know if this can ever be reversed. After all, these are people who have no problem trampling to death fellow Muslims every year at the Hajj. They don't bat an eye when jihadis blow-up and behead women, children, and the handicapped. They are barbarous savages who appear unable to comport with civilized standards of behavior.

spd rdr said...

Hmmmm...afe, have you gone off your medication again?

Interesting point you raise, however, equating the majority Muslim world community with the "Emo's" that my daughters and their friends fear will one day go Columbine all over the high school or college campus. These persons are recognized by the society they inhabit as unstable and dangerous individuals because of their propensity to disdain and threaten others not sharing their world-view, however sensible or insensible that view might be. It's not their message, it's their delivery.

The capacity to cause fear in the West may well be the brass ring for Islam as a whole, radical or moderate. The radical faction will resort to murder, as has been well established. But the moderate Muslim...when might he go "postal" over what he is told is a religious slight by his clergy? It is unknown to us here in the West. We can no longer conceive of the Pope declaring a Holy Crusade against those who followed another Prophet. That was like, what, 800 years ago?

Fear is the currency of modern cultural communications, I fear. And I'm not having any of it.

Grow up. And when you do, kiss me.

a former european said...

I'll give you a sloppy one right now, Spd, but I didn't know you swung that way:)

Seriously, I have been concerned about the West's inability to discern true evil, or take a moral stand anymore. The decay is much worse in Western Europe, of course, but it still exists here.

I believe in calling a spade a spade. I believe that the problems with Islam are cultural and religious in nature. If that offends you, then so be it.

There can be no question that the jihadis are barbarous savages. Their acts over DECADES have eliminated any notion that their barbarity is a once-in-a-while aberration. Remember Leon Klinghoffer? Beslan? That reporter beheaded in Pakistan?

My problem with the so-called moderate Muslims is their extreme unwillingness to confront the behavior of the jihadis. Indeed, I remember those pictures of thousands of Palestinians dancing in the streets with glee when the twin towers fell. Is this the true feeling of the arab "street", covered up to not make the muslims look bad?

I have several Muslim friends who I generally think are good people. Still, every once in a while they will lose it and go on some anti-Israel, pro-Ayatollah rant. When discussing politics, they will denounce terrorism in general terms, but seem remarkably reluctant to do so specifically. This is about the same soft attitude I see with Muslim "spokespersons" I see on TV and read in the paper.

You bring up Columbine, but I don't see the connection. A few disturbed psychopaths can appear in any group of peoples. Is this a culture-wide phenomenon though? Other than the typical leftie wingnuts blaming "society" for Columbine, etc., I don't recall thousands of apologists springing up to justify the shooters' behavior. This is not the case in the Muslim world where religious fanaticism and instant cultural hatred seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

The "moderate" Muslims perpetuate the existing double-standard whereby endless excuses are offered to explain away the jihadis (i.e. we must understand their rage), while the West must walk on eggshells to avoid offending the Muslims' oh-so-delicate sensibilities. Frankly, just by existing, Western culture is an affront to, and thus offends, many Muslims. I say, too bad for them. I'm tired of demands to appease and kowtow to extremists.

By failing to take steps to put their own house in order, or even take a stand against the extremists in their midst, Moderate Muslims are either cowards or they imply a certain level of solidarity with the jihadis. Why then should they get a pass for such behavior?

Muslim culture and society are deeply flawed. Once a bright light of civilization, it has degenerated into a primitive, tribalistic, and savage world. If the moderate Muslims will not rise up to be part of the solution to end such degeneracy, then they are part of the problem. If you believe otherwise, then you are living in a pipe dream.

spd rdr said...

I wouldn't kiss you on a bet, afe. :-)

a former european said...

But I shaved real close today!