Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Some are More Equal than Others

There is a lot of hoopla over the Danish cartoons blasting Mohammed. I’ve even written a bit about it myself. But what I find fascinating is the reaction to be had from some in this country. America prides itself on being a bastion of freedom, and few champion free speech like progressives. Yet they seem to have two standards of speech and when it should be “free”.

Some say there is no difference between the Muslim rioters and Christians who protest against anti-Christian cartoons or other works. Some on the Left draw parallels, saying that outrage over Michael Moore speaking at a particular venue and the threats against him are equivalent to (and, by implication, the cause of) rioting, destruction, and actual murder throughout the Muslim world. This moral equivalency is a mask for the essential differences in the two stories. A few individuals in Utah threatened to do something, and were roundly criticized by their own people. A few million individuals all over the Muslim world are burning buildings and committing murder while being encouraged by some of their leaders. These are key, elemental differences.

The depiction of Jesus in horrible, mocking terms is common around the world, as is the terrible defamation of the Virgin Mary, Saints, and Christians in general. Protests against these vicious attacks, however, usually result in the Left claiming the right to freedom of expression, especially if it is offensive and accusing the protestors of hating freedom, or of being fascists. But the response to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed and, more critically, how the Left and various governments have responded, clearly indicate that some people are “more equal” than others, that certain religions are to be protected, others to be mocked.

The U.S. State Department issued a release indicating that the press should self-censor over these images. I am unaware of any similar statement being issued about the plethora of anti-Christian and anti-Judaic images published all over the world. Democratic politicians and pundits have spoken out against the cartoons Muslims find offensive, but take a position of silence or support for anti-Christian works.

There are clear indications that Muslims, at least some of them, want to limit freedom of speech, yet Christians that complain (without the rioting and murder, mind you) are labeled ‘fascists’ by the Left.

The biggest indicator of the difference in levels of respect comes from the media. In Nigeria Muslim rioters slaughtered Christians; when Christians fought back in kind the AP reported on “anti-Muslim riots”, barely mentioning that the violence began as anti-Christian riots by Muslims angry over cartoons in a distant country. Yet when covering the original riots (when Muslims burned churches and killed Christians), the AP did not refer to ‘anti-Christian riots’, but instead called the destruction of churches and murder of Christians a “protest”.

The New York Times refused to print the cartoons that upset Muslims, citing ‘sensitivity to religion’; they also printed articles blasting the cartoons. In the past, however, they compared Christians outraged at anti-Christian imagery (which they printed) to Nazis and recently printed a picture known to be offensive to Christians to make their point about how offensive the Danish cartoons are! If the refusal to show pictures offensive to Muslims is demonstrative of a sensitivity to Islam, is this proof they are insensitive to Christianity? Other media outlets, including CNN (who will routinely show images offensive to Christians), NBC, home to a wide range of anti-Christian shows and news, refused to display the cartoons for fear of offending Muslims.

Some college newspapers have published the cartoons, others have not. Some have said the violence is somewhat justified. None have taken a stand against anti-Christian cartoons/art/articles, nor have they discussed the ramifications in as much depth. Some of the college editors were fired, but I am unaware of any ever fired for an anti-Christian stance.

Throughout the media and the blogosphere, leftists are tying themselves into knots trying to show that the violence is justified or that all religions are equally to blame. NPR ran a piece that called for censorship of images offensive to Muslims.

There are some arguments that the refusal to display the Danish cartoons is out of pure fear, and there is some evidence that this is true. Despite their numbers in the West, Christians tend not to riot and murder, Muslims do. But in reality, it is larger than that. the real failure here is the failure of the Liberal concept of Identity Politics. A variety of writers point to identity politics as a sort of ‘colonial legacy’, a patronizing concept that Islam cannot stand or fall on its own, but needs protection because it is not ‘progressive’ enough. This condescending attitude toward Islamic ideas while Muslims come to the West has ironically formed and fueled the rise of militant Islam.

One of the core ideas of Identity Politics is that the groups identified must be marginal, oppressed, or both. So the self-identified groups are consigned to an eternal adolescence, never quite big enough or powerful enough to choose for themselves or speak on equal footing. The egotistical patronizing is stunning when looked at this way: women can *never* have parity, Muslims will *always* be ‘outside’, minorities will *forever* be oppressed – and, in addition, without the action of enlightened members of the majority, they wouldn’t even have a ‘voice’.

What are we to do? Reject the language of Identity Politics. There are over 1 billion Muslims and a number of nations ruled by Islamic law (Sharia) – they don’t need coddling. Incitement to riot is no excuse to riot – stop apologizing for how others are committing murder. Use legitimate, nn-violent forms of protest if you are offended, and speak out in return.

Pretty simple, really.

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