Monday, February 06, 2006

I am not Muslim. I do not know how it feels to hold a strong religious belief because I am increasingly losing central beliefs my Protestant Christian upbringing taught me. Like the existence of God.

I'm on the fence, taking my time, weighing the options and seeing despair in the pointless violence that so many men justify through religion.

This cartoon thing has had me wondering. Yes, we everybody has the right of freedom of speech, yes we should be allowed to express our opinions openly and without fear of reprisals by those who hold different views. I listen to and read about people who hold different views from mine all the time. They challenge and jostle ideas, they forcefully encourage justifications and ensure consistency.

But can't we be a little sensitive about it all? Can't we foresee the potential for clumsy cartoons being highjacked by extremists with ulterior motives? Can't we decide that maybe this isn't the way to defend freedom of speech? That this isn't the path to follow towards a peaceful world?

This speech was written by a Christian Arab-American, and is very well worth reading. There's also a fascinating 'understanding Islam' forum which has a big section on inter-faith understanding and dedicated members trying to break through the barriers between stubbornly held positions.

I wouldn't class myself as Christian, Muslim, Jew or Buddhist. I would rather not class others as anything more or less than human.

16 Comments:

At 5:24 pm, Blogger BrainSyke said...

Muslims in the third /opressed/coerced world has developed an heightened level of sensativity and emotion. To me it is surprising that media-worthy stories usually tend to be the ones prediting violence and anger.

However, at the same time majority of the Muslims world wide are encouraging and reminding everyone of the Prophetic legacy. They must look in to the teaching of Quran and reflect upon history to deal with this offensive defamation appropriately. They must look at :
- How the Prophet Muhammad dealt with personal attacks
- Precluding punishment for the people of Taif
- Offering kindness to abusive neighbors
- Offering amnesty to former enemies in Mecca
- Ignorance can only be countered by education and personal examples of good character

=====================
The issue is not of freedom of speach, it is of speach of hate. Muslims do not expect non-muslims to follow their believes. Depicting prophet muhammed is prophibited in Islam. That is however a separate issue. The offence is the incensativity and hate protrayed via the cartoons. If prophet Jesus, Moses, David, Abraham, and all the prophets in between were depicted in the same way, the Muslims have an equal responsiblity to react and denounce it. It is only a issue of respect. The secular media responded very reactively in fear of losing its secular democratic policies. Muslims do not have against secular democratic policies so long as it doesn t spell opression on Muslim civilians.

Muslims arnt terrorist. Each on of us can become a terrorist. But considerable propapanda has been done to paint a "terrorist" image in the worlds mind. The mere mention of the word conjures of an image of a eastern looking face covered with green/white or black cherecked cloth with the words "There is no god by God" written in arabic. In my view the fight is between godless opressors, and believing armies of Muslims, Christians and Jews.

 
At 5:24 pm, Blogger BrainSyke said...

Muslims in the third /opressed/coerced world has developed an heightened level of sensativity and emotion. To me it is surprising that media-worthy stories usually tend to be the ones prediting violence and anger.

However, at the same time majority of the Muslims world wide are encouraging and reminding everyone of the Prophetic legacy. They must look in to the teaching of Quran and reflect upon history to deal with this offensive defamation appropriately. They must look at :
- How the Prophet Muhammad dealt with personal attacks
- Precluding punishment for the people of Taif
- Offering kindness to abusive neighbors
- Offering amnesty to former enemies in Mecca
- Ignorance can only be countered by education and personal examples of good character

=====================
The issue is not of freedom of speach, it is of speach of hate. Muslims do not expect non-muslims to follow their believes. Depicting prophet muhammed is prophibited in Islam. That is however a separate issue. The offence is the incensativity and hate protrayed via the cartoons. If prophet Jesus, Moses, David, Abraham, and all the prophets in between were depicted in the same way, the Muslims have an equal responsiblity to react and denounce it. It is only a issue of respect. The secular media responded very reactively in fear of losing its secular democratic policies. Muslims do not have against secular democratic policies so long as it doesn t spell opression on Muslim civilians.

Muslims arnt terrorist. Each on of us can become a terrorist. But considerable propapanda has been done to paint a "terrorist" image in the worlds mind. The mere mention of the word conjures of an image of a eastern looking face covered with green/white or black cherecked cloth with the words "There is no god by God" written in arabic. In my view the fight is between godless opressors, and believing armies of Muslims, Christians and Jews.

 
At 5:35 pm, Blogger Becca said...

Welcome brainsyke. Thanks for your input.

I agree that it is an issue of respect and sensitivity, which seems to have been misjudged, and highjacked as a way to inflame tensions.

I have to admit though I would not view this as a 'fight' between those who believe in a God and those who don't. A struggle for all people to get the rights they deserve would fit my perspective better.

 
At 5:59 pm, Anonymous Dezso said...

Just a general comment - sort of.
What you seem to loose and you feel others are using as a big jacket to hide ugly things under (largely covered by the media of course) is not a religion or religious feeling/life. Rather just a belief or belief system.
That said, you are on a right way to enlightment. When you stop believing and you start questioning, you will have the desire to go deeper...
Which is really good in my opinion!
Excelsior,

 
At 6:02 pm, Blogger Becca said...

I hope you're right dezso, but I feel I have a belief system, it just revolves around humans rather than dieties.

But one thing is sure, the questioning will continue and continue...

 
At 6:19 am, Blogger Mussolini said...

If "free speech" requires silence to avoid offending someone, then there is no "free speech."

No christians went on international rampages over piss-christ or dung-Mary. No priests were shot (like last night in Turkey). No buildings were burned down.

Christians recognized the right of free speech to portray the disgusting. Christians used their economic rights to protest their tax dollars supporting such speech.

In this case, aside from the fact that the rampaging lunatics are muslim, I have a serious issue with the whole meaning to the riots and murders. If depicting Muhammed is bad because it might cause veneration, then there should be no riots!

How can anyone venerate an unflattering cartoon?

These riots are a broader effort in a wider war.

Using restricted speech and ideas to avoid offending someone who thinks what you say is hate speech is a slippery slope to total speech restriction. Everyone gets offended over something. Hate speech has broadened from racial to whatever offends.

Let me tell you - speeches of economic independence offended nazis and communists. Should we have muzzled ourselves then?

Free speech is free speech - unmuzzled.

 
At 4:31 pm, Blogger Bassizzzt said...

We are witnessing the catastrophic collision of civilizations come to play here. Muslims claim that it is forbidden by the Quran to display any images of Mohammed yet we see images of Mohammed in plenty of postcards that come from the Middle East.

Not to sway the topic here, but the world is about to witness how a rat calls a mouse a rodent, and the case is Iran.

Iran is hosting a "contest" of sorts, to see who can create the best Holocaust cartoon.

But as of late, didn't the Iranian government declare that the Holocaust never even existed? Yeah, we shall see alright.

Regarding your statements about religion, you are dead on. Never forget that religion is man-made. Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross, but he never in a million years wanted religion in His name to turn out this way.

 
At 9:21 pm, Blogger Edd said...

The thing that really gets me is that a whole country is being villified because some individuals published something there. It seems like most protestors are treating these cartoons as a government press release, or propaganda in a government-owned paper. (Perhaps this is just the most natural assumption in some of these countries)

Since Denmark *does* have freedom of the press (though I hear anti-blasphemy laws are in place) as far as I'm concerned, the paper can publish any cartoons it likes, and anyone who isn't a bigot can decide the cartoons are distasteful, and read something else. Let the paper market itself to its readers. Let the country in which it operates sanction or punish it, should they wish to.

I hate that any religious group will react to something like this as if it was *directed* at them, it's the arrogance of the fundamentally religious that really repulses me.

For once, I'm looking at a group of outraged people and I'm having trouble finding *any* empathy with them. I mean, should the people of Denmark burn down the Lebanese embassy because some people in Lebanon burned their flag (deeply disrespectful and probably, by danish law, illegal) despite the Lebanese government's condemnations of the rioters? No. They shouldn't, but the logic of sacred absolutes would tell them they should. These cartoons could have easily been ignored. Every group that identifies itself as a group will be attacked from someone, and so many daily attacks are ignored.

Hate exists everywhere, and surfaces when it can, and it's up to us to give it the (lack of) credence it deserves. Not expose and encourage it with revenge, retribution, violence.

What I have been taught of Islam is high and peaceful ideals, co-existent with other cultures and beliefs. This is consistent with Brainsyke's point about respect. But you cannot deal with a broach of respect with this kind of reaction and make that claim (obviously most muslims are not, don't get me wrong), and quite frankly Iran's government is starting to piss me off. Again, this is a single government I'm talking about, not an entire religion.

Let it go, they were talking to someone else, and they don't deserve your attention anyway.

 
At 10:16 pm, Blogger Mussolini said...

Westerners have a hard time with the Danish thing.

We blink and shake our heads that the islamic countries from ALL OVER the middle east are demanding that the Danish government apologize, censor, punish, behead, or otherwise do something satisfyingly violent to the cartoonists there.

We think that this is a silly notion - that any government should have control over a free press to censor for religious reasons.

In Islam, there is no separation between the faithful and government. In Islam, religion is the rule, the government, the authority. There can be no separation because Islam embodies all of it together - faith, political movement, and the inevitable dominance of Islam.

This is why Islam cannot ever co-exist with a secular democracy and I have been saying that "spreading democracy" to islam will not work; muslims will simply elect Islamic leaders who will enforce sharia law.

Islam top-down rule. Democracy bottom-up rule. The two are incompatible.

Muslims fully believe that government should castigate by beheading those cartoonists, because (to them) the government IS the religion.

I know Becca hates me "always bringing muslim/christian" into things, but ignoring the truth behind these outbreaks isn't going to help any. Muslims are rampaging against European embassies not because they are the most convenient targets available, but because those embassies are government sources and to islam, all of the West represents the Christian crusades. They still refer to all westerners as "crusaders."

By attacking the embassies, they are therefore expressing outrage against christianity for allowing its people to mock Muhammed. This is why the churches were burned. This is why christians were stoned. This is why the catholic priest was shot two nights ago in Turkey while the murderer screamed "allahu akbar!"

It's all connected and it isn't MY fault.

 
At 8:53 am, Blogger Becca said...

No, Mussolini my problem is more that once again you are talking about 'Muslims' instead of extremists. Islam *can* exist within a secular democracy, some Muslims are appalled at the violence that has resulted from these cartoons and it is simply not true to say that all 'Muslims fully believe that government should castigate by beheading those cartoonists'. The views of extremist and moderate Muslims vary considerably.

There are some interesting different views being put forward by Open Democracy. I found the part written by the Polish journalist in Warsaw especially interesting.

I'm not sure freedom of speech can be an absolute. It's something I've wondered about before and I haven't come up with a definite answer, rather a lot of questions. Should freedom of speech include freedom to praise child abuse? or to glorify other violent acts such as rape? Sure, we would hope that such distasteful topics would be widely condemned but it's still a question. In an ideal world I would have to say that freedom of speech would be absolute and everyone would have the common sense to use it appropriately. Unfortunately we live in a far from ideal world.

My original post was trying to make the point that freedom of speech is the kind of right that we all should hold. Absolutely. But in using that right we have a responsibility: a whole lot of other concerns need to be taken into consideration, and respect for other humans is one of them.

Obviously the violence is completely unjustifiable, a wrong way of responding to the situation, and with no possible commendable outcome. I don't put the blame on the cartoonists for this violence, but the extremists who have hijacked once again this opportunity to split the world. However, I think the cartoonists have gained nothing by their 'shows of solidarity'.

 
At 3:52 pm, Blogger Mussolini said...

In raw terms, there isn't "absolute" freedom of speech, as I claim to support.

You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater; you'll get arrested.

 
At 12:20 am, Blogger beatroot said...

Can I say that this is becoming a very good blog. Go Becca!

the cartoons thing: is it not possible to, like becca is saying, to stand by the right of freedom of speech, and at the same time say that the editor who published those cartoons - in a reaction to the censorship of a children's book cover - was wrong to do so because it was a childish reaction to censorship.

I would not have published those cartoons because it has not done a lot of good for free speech.It makes things harder,

At the same time, religious people can not be an exceptional group - if I want to ridicule what you believe then you should be free to do the same.

But don't make this just an Islamic thing. Here in Poland we have a creeping influence of the religious lobby in the government. The flight from the Enlightenment continues and is global...

 
At 2:33 am, Blogger Mussolini said...

Err... the enlightenment came about when the church (in an ironic move) adopted Aristotelian philosophy.

Discover knowledge for the glory of god - and all that.

 
At 7:07 pm, Blogger Bassizzzt said...

But would you class yourself as one being tolerant toward intolerance?

This is where the fine line is drawn. You may not be christian, muslim, Jew, or Buddhist, but you certainly class yourself as a pacifist sympathizer toward muslims.

 
At 9:20 am, Blogger Becca said...

I think that would be *you* classifying me as a pacifist sympathiser towards Muslims actually.

 
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