Thursday, February 09, 2006

Drawing Muhammad Out

I have a dream. Not quite a nightmare but still one that wakes me and leaves a feeling of angst and unease behind it. I am in a situation of potential danger. Say I’m in the path of a car and unable to move or something like that. The situation is dangerous but not intrinsically critical. As soon as someone sees me a simple action will remove the danger but suddenly I find I have lost my voice. I scream but no sound comes out. My rage and frustration come not from the idea of dying, I think I could cope with that but from the bitterness at being let down by a simple primal act like screaming.

The Internet has made it possible for the quiet voice from the back of the hall to become audible to anybody interested enough to go listening for it. People of a similar mind will soon pick up on it while those who disagree will soon pick on it and before you know it another voice has entered the fray. So where is the Muslim Shaigetz? Where is The Haramzada asking his community where the hell they think they are going with this cartoon business? Is there no dissenting voice, even anonymously? Are red beards better than black and white ones at keeping their subjects in check?

I don’t believe most orthodox Muslims or Jews really understand the concept of freedom of expression and speech at all. The idea you can hate what another says but defend to the death their right to say it does not exist in either of our cultures. There is no doubt in my mind that this crisis (even before it was hijacked by those diligently waiting in the wings for such an opportunity) has little to do with the actual cartoons just as I know that many normal and law-abiding Muslims are genuinely offended by them and that that does not change anything.

It is quite obvious if you hear the Islamic demonstrators speak that they have no idea how unreasonable their arguments come across to a western audience. “One and a half billion Muslims are offended because we do not allow pictures of the prophets already hundreds of years!” is the standard rationale or “How would you like to see baby Jesus with a bomb in his loincloth?” Then there are the others who come back with “Look how offended you are when we make a cartoon of Hitler in bed with Anna Frank.” If our society has not been able to bring home to these people why these arguments are correct but not valid for burnt out buildings and dead bodies then I personally think we should be out there braying for the head of the education minister on a plate.

Our lack of understanding is very possibly part of the reason we are unable to deal with their frustration. I notice that on the talk shows and other places where Muslims are represented the established media tends to choose the unthreatening and ‘normal’ looking spokespeople to represent the Muslim view. As an orthodox Jew I know how ridiculous it must look to the religious Muslim to see a bareheaded, comely woman and a suited, shaved and comfortably sanitised kufr sitting in a studio explaining that the radicals don’t represent the true Islam. So the atheist in a crumpled grey suit, a crew cut and glasses represents Islam by dint of being Arab and having stopped practicing? Gimmeabreak!

It reminds me of how laughable it is to us when our Chief Rabbi in his western suit and carefully nurtured Episcopal appearance goes on the record saying what an inspiration John Lennon was to us all. Not particularly offensive to me personally, I happen to like Lennon, but for many Chassidim “Imagine there’s no heaven …and no religion too” seem to have been far too much of an inspiration to him. So our comfortably assimilated landsmen smile and nod their heads appreciatively of how cultured and normal all we Jews are while my community looks on in bewilderment.

I remember too having my teeth set on edge by President G. W. lecturing the Muslims after 9/11 as to what real Islam is about. With his especially stern but earnest face carefully practiced he patronisingly explained that the fundamentalists do not represent Islam. Who was he trying to convince? Them? Are we westerners so arrogant that we don’t see how ridiculous it looks to a scholar who has been studying his religion for fifteen solid years to have an ex-oil executive who runs a ranch tell him what the nature of Islam is?

To be really honest we should admit that there is no logic to religion, much as the western kufr wishes to convince us there is. To a believer in the absolute truth of his cause the values of free speech and pluralism are pure rubbish and we might as well admit that. Two and two are four and I don’t accommodate the opinion of those who think it might be 177. If there is one God and He said, “See there should be no graven images of me” then what the Danish minister of culture thinks is largely irrelevant and the west would do well to understand that. The only question is how the believer should juggle his conviction with the threat of the legal system’s.

Until the understanding of our western values system and its inherent advantages develops within their community, and it will because it is in human nature to want to be free, western governments should take into account that it is impossible to force-teach abstract concepts and should stick to firm and fair enforcement of the law. Peaceful demonstration is legal so it has to be allowed but calls for violence should be dealt with harshly and decisively. Freedom of speech is not just designed to allow bloggers to cock their hoops at their establishment; it is a cornerstone of the western civilisation that has never before been questioned in the UK in two centuries. I, for one, do not want to go back to thought control under the Imams, the Rabbis, the Archbishop or the Prime Minister and I am utterly convinced Haramzada does not either.

Meanwhile the Danes have promised to print cartoons of the Holocaust that the Iranians are promoting in retaliation. While it kowtows to terrorist pressure it does also fall under the category of freedom of expression and in my opinion prostitutes have to agree to serve any client who wants to come (or doesn’t) and screaming can be part of the show.

And just for the record I personally find four of the cartoons absolutely hilarious.

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