Resisting fundamentalism

The ongoing uproar over the publishing of those cartoons is so much more than just another news story. Let’s face it: somebody, somewhere, is offended by something they have seen in the media every second of every day. What this story illustrates is the extent of the division between western, secular democracy which cherishes and upholds freedom of speech and expression, against that of unreconstructed Islam which is, in some extreme cases, prepared to kill to ensure words are not said and images not displayed that they find ‘offensive’. Unreconstructed Islam which cannot differentiate between state law and personal freedom and does not grasp the concept that the actions of a newspaper are not the responsibility or business of the government. So we get futile lobbying of the Danish embassy, an organised boycott of Danish goods and – oh my – the burning of the Danish flag. These, of course, were mild responses compared to the burning and looting of the Danish embassy in Beirut, and the attacks on similar buildings in Iran and Syria.

This is, in every sense, a battle between debate and dogma, freedom and doctrine, liberty and fascism. The papers that have reprinted those pictures are totally within their right to do so and defenders of the sanctity of freedom of the press should absolutely refuse to capitulate to the dogmatic thugs insisting otherwise. These freedoms are much more precious than some archaic belief system that forbids any representation of its main prophet. And that goes for religious fundamentalists of every persuasion, by the way: Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, whatever. The government is under no obligation to protect your faith from being affronted, nor should it ever feel any – once you start, where do you stop?

The irony is that the cartoons which whipped up the most anger weren’t even published in the first place. According to a piece in the Guardian on Saturday, a group of imams from Copenhagen, not satisfied with the response the story was getting in their own country (remember, they were originally published back in September), took the offending items on a ‘tour’ of the middle east to whip up fury. According to the article:

At this point a group of ultra-conservative Danish imams decided to take matters into their own hands, setting off on an ambitious tour of Saudi Arabia and Egypt with a dossier containing the inflammatory cartoons. 

According to Jyllands-Posten, the imams from the organisation Islamisk Trossamfund took three other mysteriously unsourced drawings as well, showing Muhammad with the face of a pig; a dog sodomising a praying Muslim; and Muhammad as a paedophile. “This was pure disinformation. We never published them,” Lund complained. But the campaign worked. Outwardly the row appeared to be calming down. But in Muslim cyber-chatrooms, on blogs, and across the internet, outrage was building fast.

I wonder how many of the people who took to the streets globally this weekend have actually seen these cartoons in their entirety. The depressing thing is that, as a body of satirical work, the cartoons were actually pretty poor. The most offensive thing about them to my mind is that they weren’t particularly funny in the first place. But then Danes are not famed for their sense of humour. In fact, as I said elsewhere, Danes aren’t famed for anything in particular apart from Carlsberg and Danepak. Oh, and Lego. That is, until now.

The sad fact is, most of the people that protested chose to be offended by something they probably hadn’t even seen with their own eyes. So they took to the streets of London, dressed as suicide bombers, adorning babies with I Love al-Qaida hats and carrying placards with such lovely sentiments as: “Massacre those who insult Islam”, “Butcher those who mock Islam”, “Europe you’ll come crawling when Mujahideen come roaring”, “Britain you will pay: 7/7 on its way”.

Meanwhile, papers in the Middle East routinely run ‘satirical’ cartoons that are blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-western. If you want an example, take a look here. An Iranian newspaper has now launched a competition to find the ‘best’ 12 cartoons about the Holocaust, as if there weren’t enough similarities already between Islamic extremists and Nazis.

Because that is what a lot of those protesters in London at the weekend reminded me of, and it’s absurd that the extremist elements were not challenged and arrested. If the BNP held a rally in London, with hundreds of people on the streets promising death to non-whites, while others dressed as Hitler holding placards saying “Kill all Jews” or “Holocaust now”, they wouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. And if we don’t tolerate this behaviour from white supremacists, we shouldn’t tolerate it from Islamofascists either.

Fortunately, those that took to the streets to preach hatred and incite murder of innocent people are still very much a minority within the Muslim faith and it was encouraging to see the chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee openly condemn their actions. Even the idiot who dressed as the suicide bomber on Friday has now apologised. Apparently he “had not intended to cause offence.”

Ah yes, offence. Of course. Wasn’t that the abstract concept that kicked this whole issue off in the first place?


Centrist. Atlanticist. Dry liberal. Anti-totalitarian. Post-ideological pragmatist. Child of The Enlightenment. Toucan.

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13 comments on “Resisting fundamentalism
  1. Anonymous says:

    Spot on again Sane. I find it unbelievable whats going on at the moment and think its up to European Governments and Press to defend our way of life.

    However I do worry that sometimes our media whip up the situation. For example there were probably only a couple of hundred extremists at the London demonstration but when its plastered over the front pages thats what people think of all the 1.5m muslims in the country. This was reflected in the conversations I couldn’t help but hear down the pub watching Sundays glorious victory for Ipswich Town against the lowerly Norwich City (sorry couldn’t help myself). Some pretty extreme views there too. Its no wonder moderate muslims feel alienated.

    Anywho, here is an article that suggests not all muslims trash embassies or want to butcher us (I know that wasn’t your point Sane).


  2. Devil's Advocate says:

    … furthermore, the Iranian newspaper’s response highlights their totally disproportionate response and sheer hyprocrisy.

    How someone can class the “offence” of insulting the figurehead of a religion with “satirising” mass genocide is beyond me. Then again, I thought the PM was insisting that it never happened in the first place.

    And I must say this is a problem specific to Islam. While Jerry Springer, Life of Brian etc had their protests, the central figure in Christianity was mocked, abused and murdered himself in one of the worst ways imaginable. This is why you will not hear many – or indeed, any – Christians – preaching death to those who insult their religion.


  3. Citizen Sane says:

    Still, at least that hook-handed tosser Abu Hamza has been given seven years for inciting murder and stirring race hate.

  4. FamilyValues says:

    Except that, the so-called ‘rule of law’ is not quite as color-blind as you make out Citizen. I hold no brief for nutters like Hamza, but how on earth can a British jury find Nazi BNP leader Nick Griffin not guilty of the same charges that Abu Hamza goes down for, when Griffin’s on film calling for race war, and calling Muslims degenerate? Why should Muslims respect our supposedly wonderful western values, when they clearly only apply to white people?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thing is familyvalues, I very much doubt you or most other commentators were present at both trials so do not know what evidence was presented at both. You are just assuming Griffin was found not guilty because of a racist or sympathetic jury, maybe there was insufficient evidence? People get acquited all the time in courts (Hamza was found not guilty on 4 counts), they may not be nice people or even innocent but you have to prove their guilt.

    When Hamza was found guilty yesterday I knew it would be less than 24 hours before someone played the race card. Anyhow, Griffin is going for a retrial so maybe he will still be sent down.


  6. Citizen Sane says:

    Totally agree with GB. Nick Griffin is guilty of many things in my opinion but unfortunately, for whatever reason, the jury that decided his fate were not convinced of that in court. There could be many reasons for this.

    I do not accept that Griffin was found not guilty because he was white and Hamza found guilty because he was Muslim. There is no reason to suspect this at all. In fact, if the jury was anything like the one that I sat on last year, it will be extremely varied in race, background and religion. The idea of an all white, all middle class jury (in London at least) is a deluded, leftist fallacy.

    Hamza is guilty. That odious shit Griffin will have to wait until another time. Hopefully not too long.

  7. Devil's Advocate says:

    I think it may have centred around the fact that Griffin insulted the religion of Islam, not its specific followers.

    I think by taking him to court on such a flimsy case only serves to give Griffin the chance to make himself look a martyr – which he absolutely loves. Why give him the publicity? He’s a second-rate politician, speaker, whatever. He’s a nobody.

  8. Citizen Sane says:

    Agreed. But it’s unfortunate that if there was any group rubbing their hands together over the events of the last week, it would be Griffin and his band of dim witted troglodytes down at the BNP. It’s more grist to their mill.

  9. FamilyValues says:

    GB, DA, Citizen, I accept your points about the Griffin jury. On closer examination it seems that DA is right that Griffin got off because he proved he was attacking Islam and not Asians, which would have convicted him under race hate laws. If this is the case, I now regret celebrating here the collapse of the Religious Hatred Bill if it allows the BNP to abuse, threaten and create fear amongst muslims via a legal loophole. It’s clear he’s targetting the people themselves, not engaging in a debate about Islam.

    But on the wider point, I still think that western states are racist in the way they operate. Look at the countless brutal Mid-East dictatorships we prop up despite our committment to democracy, but then invade Iraq in breach of international law when it suits us, and ignore Israeli nuclear weapons and UN resolutions but clamp down on the Palestinians. Until this changes, many of us will continue to view western governments as racist hypocrites.

  10. tafka PP says:

    Family Values- I assume you meant “clamp down on Iran” as opposed to the Palestinians?

    Last I checked, nobody European has been doing any clamping down on the Palestinians. Fleeing their beseiged embassies in the West Bank, yes, but no clamping.

  11. Citizen Sane says:

    I’m not sure what Middle Eastern dictatorships we “prop up” either to be honest. Iran? Syria? Saudi Arabia? We don’t prop any of them up. We’d like to see them all pulled down and started over, sure. And we’ve meddled in their history many times too. But we don’t prop any of them up!

    As for Israeli nuclear weapons. . . well, officially they don’t have any do they? There’s also a crucial distinction between Israel having nukes and, say Iran. Namely, Israel is not a theocracy ruled by foaming at the mouth lunatics. Nor has Israel ever pledged to wipe a neighbouring country from the map. So while it may be, technically, hypocritical to oppose a nuclear Iran and support a nuclear Israel, it is also sensible.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Just a point about Mr Griffin and his BNP pals. The influence they have on Britain has been exaggerated by the liberal left for years. It was a purely politcal ploy by the left to frighten the average citizens of the UK into accepting the pro minority agendas of the left. Several years ago Bromley town centre was flooded by over 300 police, horses, dogs riot control etc etc. The BNP then held a ‘march’ of 50 yards, consisting of 5 pensioners and a couple of flags. I think such an over reaction says something about the perceived strength of these people

    Islam and the cartoon – I am afaid that I have been left with a view that Muslims (and I do not just mean extremists), are immature and childish. Unfortunately unless they move into adulthood, dialog with the west will be pointless, unless conducted in the way of a parent child relationship, which of course they will resent
    I have worked in the Middle East with many muslims, and I am afraid to say they are completely indoctrinated and will beleive almost anything bad about Israel/Jews/America

    The reason that I am not particularly bothered about Israel having Nuclear weapons but I am about Iran, is that Iran is governed by an unstable dictator who beleives that the holocaust was made up and that a close neighbour ought to be wiped out. Unstable dictators never bring happiness to the world

  13. ph says:

    Family values

    I find it interesting that without knowing much about the trial you jumped up and played the race card as soon as Griffiths got off.
    Unfortunately for far too long this sort of reaction has governed the thinking of people in positions of influence in Britain.

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