Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

The "Right" to Spit on Those Below You

In a display of anti-Muslim sentiment couched in terms of "free speech," newspapers across Europe reprinted a series of cartoons that originally appeared in the Danish press, that depicted the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist (doubly offensive to Muslims, as Islam considers any depiction of the prophet Muhammad blasphemous).
[France Soir]'s front-page headline declared: "Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God"...
Now here's the question: who was trying to take away that right? The Danish government did not censor the original cartoons (which were published in September). So where exactly is this "threat" to free speech coming from? Where in Europe has it become impossible to ridicule Muslims? This concept that somehow it is the duty of other European newspapers to reprint this absolutely offensive crap out of a show of solidarity is ridiculous. What if a Danish newspaper had printed an anti-Semitic cartoon? Would it then be the responsibility of other newspapers around the world to reprint it? If they didn't, would free speech be in peril? It's just such a bogus pretense.

Really, I think, it is simply evidence of the commonplace anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe. It wasn't that there were governments trying to quash free speech. Rather, it seemed that the Muslims were getting a bit too "uppity." What, they think that we shouldn't print cartoons that mock their religious beliefs? Well, we'll show them! And I guess some did... and gave free speech a bad name in the process.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

 

Don't be fooled by Richard Cohen

It looks like it took Richard Cohen, the smarmy, pompous Washington Post columnist, to get me writing in this blog again. Today Richard Cohen has a brilliant analysis of the Hamas victory in the latest Palestinian parliamentary elections: Here come the Nazis!
History speaks on this matter. If you asked a random German in, say, 1932 whether by voting for the Nazis he was voting for the murder of Jews and a destructive European war of unimaginable scope and horror, he would have said, "Nein!" What he really wanted was an end to the brawling in the streets, a robust foreign policy and a big thumbs-up to traditional German culture -- no more of this smutty modern art and filthy plays: "Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome." Not any more. The cabaret is closed!

I saved for this paragraph any reference to Hitler himself so as to postpone the reflexive outburst of "Nothing can be compared to the Nazis!"
But surely Cohen knows that nothing can be compared to the Nazis, except for Arabs (especially Palestinians), and so he is treading on safe ground. A simple google search of "Hitler" and "Arafat" or "Palestinian" and "Nazi" will show that the comparison is commonplace among the virulent right-wing and pro-Israel crowd in the U.S. and in Israel as well (in fact, one of the first news stories you might find would be Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel, comparing the rise of Hamas to the rise of the Nazis). Demonizing Palestinians is nothing uncommon, so stop trying to knock down that straw man Richard!

Cohen then tries to sell us the same old song and dance about the destruction of Israel. I mean, let's be honest, for all these years of people being committed to the destruction of Israel, it sure hasn't happened... oh wait, probably because Israel is a massive military power occupying Palestine, and not the other way around.

Cohen decides that for all Fatah's faults, at least it wasn't Hamas -- you know, it was a "modern" movement, like Zionism. If Cohen had bothered to do a little research, he might have noticed that Fatah grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, the same Muslim Brotherhood whose role as the foundation of Hamas is "medieval." He also forgets that back in the day, it was a little too modern, a little too friendly with the Soviets, had a few too many members talking about "Popular Fronts" and things of that nature. And of course, instead of understanding it as a reaction to the Palestinians' dispossession of their land and their subjugation under Israeli military rule, it was simply part of the vanguard of the latest international threat (at that time it was communism, now it's Islamofascism, in case you forgot).

Meanwhile, Cohen writes:
The mistake of the Bush administration is to think, based on not much thinking to begin with, that people are people -- pretty much the same the world over. This is why the president extols democracy. It must be what everyone wants because it is what everyone here wants. To denigrate this kind of talk suggests racism -- You mean we are not all the same? -- or a musty neocolonialism. But the hard truth is that culture and religion matter, and we should not expect moderation just because that's how we would react. Toto knows the truth. The Middle East is not Kansas.
So first of all, to have ideas that do not essentialize and demonize Arabs and Muslims is suddenly to be associated with the Bush administration. Sorry, Richie, you're not going to fit this square peg into that round hole. And just because you take down the straw men of racism and neocolonialism doesn't mean that you aren't a racist, a bigot, and a neocolonialist. Because, by all means, you are all three. Christianity (note the reference to Kansas) and Judaism are simply strong faiths, part of our progressive, modern Judeo-Christian heritage. Islam, on the other hand, is "medeival." Sharon can change. Hamas cannot. Settler fanatics are "virtually" racist, but certainly don't approve of killing innocents (from an old op-ed of his), but Hamas is the Third Reich reincarnate! Richard Cohen is almost a charicature of the Arab-loathing Orientalist and yet he takes the ideas of FrontPageMag and other flagrantly racist websites, blogs, and magazines, and sells them to the broader public in the Washington Post, telling them not to be "fooled."

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