Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Humourless Rant

There are no jokes below. I am hacked off.

I may be writing from an inherently blinkered Western secular perspective inescapably touched by my upbringing, comfortable atheist beliefs and cultural norms, but the astonishing and ridiculous overreaction by the fundamentalist elements of the Islamic world to the Danish newspaper cartoons has utterly bamboozled me. How, precisely, is torching the Danish embassy proportional retaliation for a couple of stupid and offensive but, in global terms, pitifully inconsequential and eminently forgettable pictures??? This kind of preposterously exaggerated reaction has no place in a world where Neo-Nazi groups propagate filth on the Internet, dangerous white supremacist groups commit violent acts coloured by bigoted racial and religious hatred and suicide bombers routinely murder innocent people who have absolutely nothing to do with the policies of their government and bare less than no responsibility for them, thereby destroying support for their movements and committing acts as vile as anything performed against them. These are of no importance by comparison - they are cartoons, the insensate and supremely irrelevant scribblings of two or three fools endorsed by a single newspaper and absolutely no-one else. In a sane world the artist(s) would have been quietly condemned, a profuse apology issued to Muslims among the readership offended by the pictures and no-one would have batted an eyelid. Why the hell should the Danish prime minister have to publicly apologise for the actions of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the thoughts, actions and policies of him or his administration??

I also believe that the pictures satirise the view of Islam perpetuated by crazed fanatics by portraying Mohammed in the light fundamentalists portray him in, and do not satirise Mohammed himself or Islam itself. The fact that Mohammed is portrayed at all is to make a far more profound and considered point - namely that Mohammed is, of course, not a suicide bomber but is regarded by fanatics as someone who advocates and encourages suicide bombing. The cartoon which portrays Mohammed as a suicide bomber is making precisely this point - it satirises the ridiculous view of Islam held by radical morons, not Islam itself. The cartoon of paradise accompanied with the slogan 'Stop - we've run out of virgins!' is, again, a satire of the ridiculous beliefs held by the fanatics and the fanatics alone - namely that paradise is some kind of everlasting misogynistic brothel for murderers. It is decidedly not a satire of Islam or Islamic beliefs, but simply a satire of those views held by a minority of fundamentalist adherents who are condemned as much by Muslims as by anyone else. This distinction may appear irrelevant as Mohammed should not appear as a graven image regardless of the nuances of the satire, but it does at least partially excuse the artist. It is one thing to find the cartoons offensive - if I was religious, I would certainly feel uneasy about someone depicting God as, for example, a murderer of homosexuals and heathens even if the cartoon was aimed to satirise the views of crazed Christian fundamentalists (of which there are plenty) as opposed to demonstrating any anti-Christian beliefs of the author. It is another to deliberately misinterpret them, ascribe a meaning to them that they do not have and idiotically blame the poorly judged mistake of a handful of people on a continent of millions.

What really infuriates me is that certain Arabic newspapers have 'retaliated' by posting cartoons satirising the Holocaust, ingenuously protesting an equivalent 'freedom of expression' that seems frustratingly alien to them. How can this possibly be regarded as in any way 'equivalent'?? Since when did the cartoons endorse a brutal gas chamber assisted mass genocide of Muslims?? A fair, equitable and justifiable response would actually have been to publish cartoons satirising Christian fundamentalist perspectives of God (something which, incidentally, occurs on a regular basis in the media in this country and which does not remotely bother anyone apart from strange radicals) or, more suitably, satirising us godless, secular, extremely bewildered people.

Finally, it has to be said that the medieval rhetoric which has accompanied this whole affair is laughable. I saw a placard carrying the idiotic slogan 'Death to freedom of expression' as if Stalinist oppression and being spoon-fed ludicrous fundamentalist dogma is somehow preferable to the occasional abuse of this right. Crazed sweeping generalisations are all-pervasive:

'Oh look, a Danish newspaper published offensive cartoons. As I can't be bothered to make the subtle distinction, let's blame the entire Danish population of millions for the actions of about five people who have absolutely nothing to do with them. French and Polish newspapers reproduced them? Let's blame the whole of Europe, most of the population of which is watching on in utter, baffled, uncomprehending bemusement'

This is a sad, sad indictment of the world.

Ed's Mood: Disillusioned and baffled

Ed's Incessant Auto-Repeat Musical Tip: U2 - New Year's Day

8 Comments:

Blogger Ugly Jesus said...

Are the jihadists really upset because it was just a little old timey bomb depicted in Mohammeds turbin instead of a real nuke like the "Christian" nations have?

As an American artist, should I depict Jesus with a nuke protruding out of his cloak?

5:53 PM  
Blogger bob said...

Ed,

I too watched with baffled ears and baffled eyes. In a twisted sort of way, I can understand their anger - being fundamentalists and all. However, as you correctly point out, this kind of anti-mohammed humor is everywhere, so why such bother now? And why such an irrational response? It is beyond my comprehension.

If God doesn't have a sense of humor, heaven sure isn't going to be much fun.

Rob

1:42 AM  
Blogger Chandler said...

No, and I wouldn't want to go there.

The reaction has been ludicrously extreme - you would have thought that European nations had issued a joint statement saying 'it is correct to kill Muslims wherever you find them', set every mosque they could find on fire and slaughtered anyone vaguely Islamic in appearance. How can a couple of idiot Danes releasing eleven or twelve inconsequential cartoons in an irrelevant newspaper justify mass protests, embassy burnings, embargoes on European consumer goods etc??

Ed

4:54 AM  
Blogger bob said...

There is a link to a conspiracy here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/02/04/do0402.xml

(1) How come there were so many danish flags in the middle east to be burnt? Was a group stockpiling them?
(2) The cartoons came out in september - but only caused uproar last month
etc.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Zeddie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:55 AM  
Blogger Zeddie said...

I whole heartedly agree with you here. I think the best way for the Muslims of the world to respond would have been to write about it and explain to the non Muslims the reasons for why they are so angry. Burning embassies and hurting innocent people does not achieve anything. It just brands us as a bunch of thugs and removes the essence of our religion which is Peace and Tolerance.

Being a Muslim, I do adore our Prophet and have a lot of respect for my religion. Insulting our prophet like that was very offensive to Muslims all across the world. My Christian friends have asked me the question "If the same was done with a cartoon of Jesus Christ then we would just laugh at it. The world would laugh" It must be understood however that most decent Muslims take their religion very seriously. Pray 5 times a day and believe in it very strongly. It’s a part of their lives and we love the Prophet like we love our own sons and daughters. I don’t know many Christians today who regularly visit Church on Sunday or believe in their religion with so much conviction. But the ones who are practicing Christians will surely be upset if such a cartoon was published of Jesus Christ.

The point I am making is that yes you are right. They were wrong to react in the way they did. Very wrong, and I strongly condemn it. The image of Islam seems to be deteriorating dramatically. I wish these rioters would read the Quran and understand it. Our religion denounces violence and encourages understanding. These fundamentalists seem to come up with their own rules and spread them to young Muslims by preaching lies and filth which encourage them to hate.

I hope there will be enough decent Muslims left in the world so that the true message of Islam can be seen and understood.

God bless all of you :)

Zed

4:56 AM  
Blogger Chandler said...

Thanks Zed! I feel better about the state of the world now.

Was good to read today about the more proportional, peaceful reaction from real Muslims, who (justifiably) criticised the cartoons without suggesting that a fair reaction would be (like the fundamentalists suggested) to torch 'Western' embassies, behead non-believers etc.

The cartoons were idiotic - but then so were the fundamentalist ripostes. Like Rob pointed out, the fact that radical clerics had to effectively *order* others to 'become angry' suggests that something far more sinister resided behind their thoughts other than simple outrage at a couple of Danish cartoonists.

This whole matter should have been resolved in a matter of days with a peaceful protest, an apology from the artists (NOT the Danish prime minister!)and condemnation for the original publication for its insensitivity. The reality has been totally surreal, and in particular the embargoes on Danish goods. What exactly do Lego have to do with a couple of bad Danish artists?!

Ed

1:47 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Hi Ed. Check out my brank spanking new blog.

http://ministryofslack.blogspot.com

Yeah, it's only got one post on it. And yeah, I'll probably forget about it in a couple of...ooh, shiny!

3:25 PM  

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