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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Welcome to the West

Posted by on February 1 at 17:49 PM

Don’t like freedom of the press? Don’t like freedom of expression? Can’t stand a little blasphemy now and then? Then, well, gee—I hate to sound all xenophobic and shit, but, like, um, get the fuck out of the West then. Freedom of expression—including expression that this Pope, that Mullah, or the other Rabbi might find blasphemous—is part of the price of admission. It’s right up there with having to see women voting and driving themselves around in cars, homosexuals kissing each other, and places of worship where people are praying to some other brand of deity.

In case you’re just tuning in, a newspaper in Denmark printed a full-page comic that made fun of Islam and the Mohammad. Individuals Muslims and Islamic states all over the world are—can you guess?—outraged. They’re boycotting Danish products, burning Danish flags in the streets, and—can you guess?—issuing death threats. The editors of other newspapers in Europe, rightly concerned for their hard-won freedom to publish whatever they wish, have been re-printing the comic in solidarity with the beleaguered Danish paper.

You can see the comic here. You can read the latest here. You can enjoy a little Stranger-style blasphemy here.

And, again, I hate to sound xenophobic, but I’d rather sound xenophobic than go all wobbly on freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the freedom to offend.

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Headin' out to buy some Danish havarti right now.

Mmmmmm. . . danish. . . .

I can't make out what the cartoons say, not that I can read Danish or anything, but the cartoons don't look nearly as bad as I imagined. I was picturing Mohammed prancing around in his underwear, kissing a man, eating pork, something that's actually offensive.

Right? How the hell could you boycott danishes???

Well, unless you're diabetic. Effin' pancreas. I miss breakfast pastries.

Er, I mean something that Muslims might find offensive. I personally have no problem with prancing, kissing, or eating bacon.

No one thought you did Keshmeshi.

My boyfriend and I spent three days in Denmark last summer. It was lovely, and I recommend it to everyone who's thinking about going to Europe this summer.

In the meantime I'm going to make a list of Danish products folks in Seattle can buy.

Did Dan Savage really write that, or has he been hacked by Chris Matthews?? The concession stand in one of our government buildings started serving "freedom fries" because France disagreed with the invasion of Iraq. Boycotts and outrage are an even bigger part of the West than in the Muslim world.

The comics aren't even funny, people. Apart from standing up to death threats, there's nothing courageous about unfunny Danes standing behind redneck humor.

I thought the dopes who went on and on about "freedom fries" were, well, dopes and crypto-fascists. And I think the dopes who are burning Danish flags and insisting that freedom of expression doesn't cover blasphemy are dopes too, and Islamofascists.

My position is consistent.

Hey the West/ Europe respects free speech. They invented it, right? That's why they subjected the rest of the planet to about 4 decades of colonial rule! To spread freedom! Thank god that's over.

Too bad about all those non-Western people who still issue boycotts and have symbolic protests (ooooh, burning flags...) in response to a political cartoon: Did we colonize them for nothing? That's not free speech! Send them back to where they're from if they don't like freedom...

... Which in this case, would probably be a US client state like Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where freedom of speech is almost non-existent, democracy is held in check by authoritarian rule, and torture is a necessary part of keeping popular movements critical of the U.S. from gaining power.

Who are those movements that are pushing against corrupt regimes for the freedom to criticize the US (and its Western allies)? Why, they're ISLAMIST movements. Fascist? No. Not one Islamist movement actually espouses a political philosophy that borrows from fascism. I wonder why? Maybe it's because fascism was invented by the WEST?

Sorry: I meant 4 centuries. If only it had been 4 decades...

Actually, every Islamicist movement borrows heavily from Western fascism. Heard of a little book called "Mein Kampf"? Massive bestseller over there, TODAY. How about the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (one of Henry Ford's faves)? Recent television miniseries in several countries.

In fact, the Founding Fathers of Islamofascism, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, borrowed large chunks of their whole program from the same Western philosophical sources Eurofascism did. Islamofascism, or Islamism if you insist, is an ideology predominantly of WESTERN origin -- but, like the Axis kind, it can't take root without a very fertile soil of religious prejudice.

The difference between Hitlerian Fascism and Islamofascism is that the former is exctinct, and whatever the colonial faults of the West, we did go to some bother to get rid of it. Over there, it's spreading like wildfire.

The editor of France Soir, which reprinted the cartoon, has been fired. I hope that doesn't stand unchallenged. I think the Stranger ought to print the cartoon.

Freedom of speech is a very important human right, but it is not more important than other rights, like equality, self-determination and dignity towards you as a human being. What happens then, to people that sheltered on the first ammendment, promotes hate to a certain group? Bellieve me, being a gay man from a conservative country, i know how it feels to be hated and made fun of on the press because of my sexual orientation.

You have the right to be protected in your person but you do not have the right to not be hated.

FNARF is right—we have no right, as homos or Muslims or anything else, to be protected from the low opinions of others.

And, I'm sorry, but I feel that freedom of speech is the most important right.

Anti-Semitism is not a fascist social theory: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was written before fascism ever became a political movement.

And being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Semitic, anti-West, or anti-free speech.

Islamofascism is a chauvanistic and racist term. It's a hypocritical attempt to call people non-Western by associating them with a distinctly Western political philosophy that they don't even espouse.

Invoking Islamofascism also a smokescreen for the denial of democracy: by US client states, by Israel (sorry, 20 percent of the population is Arab and has second class citizenship), and of course by Iraq's puppet government. As if the only anti-democratic forces in the Middle East were Islamicist...

Oh: and who kickstarted the radical movement that eventually became Al-Qaeda? I believe that was the United States, in Afghanistan, in the 1980s. See Richard Dryfuss's new book. But of course they're totally non-Western...

Millions of people around the world wish that the West actually did stand for free speech. But it doesn't and won't so long as the US throws its weight behind neo-colonial occupations, military dictatorships, corrupt cabals, and racist regimes who purport to be democratic.

The Stranger can print some stupid cartoon or not. The effect will be nil. If it wants to promote free speech, it needs to take an regular axe to US foreign policy instead of telling immigrants to go back home to places that the US has made more or less uninhabitable.

Western Fascism,
FNARF is right, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood jump started the fascist movement in the Middle East. (I'll use the term fascist instead of Islamofascist so you don't have a smokescreen tangent to rant on....but I gotta say, despite all your cultural imperialism mumbo jumbo, they're still fascists). As for the Muslim Brotherhood, that movement was more a reaction to Nasser (Soviet puppet), than it was to the West. The nascent fascist movement in Egypt, starring Zawahiri (now bin Laden's #2) exploded in Egypt in the late '60s and early '70s when Nasser was in full-on Third World/Socialist/Soviet mode.

You're right that we aided the militant muslim resistance to the Soviets. But what's your point? If we aided bin Laden by helping the Mujahadeen kick the Soviets out of Afghanistan...and then we got out too...that kinda makes bin Laden's rage at us hypocritical...not the other way around.

WF's anti-West rage and bin Laden's are not as dissimilar as you might think. The man who made the Muslim Brotherhood what it is today, Sayyid Qutb, was educated in the United States, where he learned to attack the degeneracy of the West from reading Nietzche, Spengler, and T. S. Eliot. He also watched slatternly American girls dancing at sock hops, which makes him a forerunner of Mr. Falwell and company as well.

Extreme right, extreme left -- they always reach around and meet at the back.

Yes, I know about Sayyid Qutb's stay in the U.S. in the late 40s etc..
And certainly In the Shade of the Koran and Milestones and his other reactionary utopian (fascist) writings were a response to the "decadent" west. However, it was Nasser's secular Socialist shtick—and his clampdown on Qutb in '66—that sparked the broad-based religious fascist movement.

Regardless of whether Islamist movements grew as a response to Soviet or US/European influence in the Middle East, the main point is that "the West" has no monopoly on tolerance, and cannot claim that, to be crass, it's shit doesn't stink. Once you acknowledge that basic point, America’s innate moral high ground is lost, even if it still has a capacity to promote freedom and democracy that we should not dismiss-- a capacity, I might add, that exists in movements outside "the west" as well.

Dan was basically responding to intolerance with more intolerance, to cultural chauvinism with more chauvinism. That’s what I was calling out. I wasn't saying that the Danish editor should be fired or subjected to death threats. Saying that does not make me anti-West. Nor does it make me similar to Bin Laden. And anyway: neither Nietzsche, Spengler, or Eliot were anything close to leftist.

Technical historical side note: According to Wikipedia, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 as a movement against BRITISH imperialism, and had nearly one million members before Nasser ever came to power. Yes it morphed in response to Nasser's persecution and the torture of its members. But most of the attempts I’ve seen to link it to fascism have not dealt with this transformation, and instead willfully and inaccurately blur the lines between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Young Egypt Party, which was explicitly fascist.

That is my favorite Stranger cover of all time. Please, please, please do more covers with Dina Martina!

Eerie to read a Michelle Malkin column and agree. (*shiver*) I totally support the right of Muslims to protest and boycott Danish goods. That IS freedom. Good for them. But I find it sad that some armed Muslims "protest" by raiding hotels looking for Danes and throwing grenades at embassies (and then object to the portrayal of Muslims as terrorists). That's just being a bully.

But it's also freedom (at least in the West) to caricature Mohammed, Allah, Jesus, Hale-Bopp, or any other religious deity. I hope the Stranger musters up the courage to reprint the pictures - not because they're funny or insightful (they aren't), but because they represent something. It's standing up (peacefully) to the bullies of the world (and yes, the US is the biggest bully of all, but that's irrelevant to the issue of drawing caricatures of Mohammed).

That said, I'm going to Denmark in 2 weeks and am going to love it.

Story updates:

(1) The first people killed as a result of the debates over the Danish cartoons weren't Europeans. They were two Afghan protesters. Shot dead by police. While excercising their freedom of speech. In an American puppet state. Whoops.

(2) The same Danish editor who published the cartoons critical of Islam refused to publish cartoons critical of Jesus three years ago.

Holla and Happy Thanksgiving.

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