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Fighting Fire With Kleenex
And now, let's again give a big hand to newspaper editors across America for bravely going where they've gone far too many times before:

respecthuh.jpg

Please repost, link to, and/or circulate this cartoon.

It also seems an opportune time to repost an excerpt from this letter, written this past summer by a friend of mine who's lived in Paris, eyes wide open, for over three decades:

Chère Amie,

In the humble opinion of Mme Tout le monde (= Jane Q. Public) that I am, and at having seen the situation on both sides of the Atlantic & all the way up to Holland, Denmark & Sweden...it is not what anyone in the West does that will make a difference. These people are out to kill us all & they begin hitting us at our weak point, our Achilles' heel, or should I say the specific way in which democracy works in each country, to hurt us. It it interesting to watch how they use our democratic ways against us starting with freedom of speech, hence the hateful "prèches" (=imam's preachings). The most galling is their treatment of their women whom they force by either threat or brainwashing to wear the veil & that they turn into walking tents – these poor women who, for the most part - want to wear modern dresses, jeans & make-up. In their will to destroy us, most obvious are the symbols of US capitalism & might both inside & outside the US, and the freedom enjoyed in all Western countries, with its great corollary, freedom of speech.

Like said in one of the articles I sent you, they want to impose the dark ages back upon us, which is a difficult pill to swallow for us in the Occident, children of the Siècle des Lumières. Since the end of the 18h century, in aspiration of freedom & equality, most western countries, starting with the United States & France, went thru some type of revolution (rather violent in France). It has taken us over two centuries to attain all the rights for all citizens & as we seem to reach to point of accomplishment, these dark fanatic knights want to bring us back to the time of Inquisition.

...You ask if there is a difference in the way immigrants are dealt with in France vis-à-vis English “multi-culturalism” vs French “integration”. The way I understand it, this is not the problem. Whether they are treated well or not, put in ghettos or not, are given equal opportunities or not, nothing will change the fact that they want to do away with our way of life. Period. France has been a land of immigration & integration for centuries. Refugees came to France for the same reasons tourists do. Its freedom, its way of life, its facility of assimilation after one generation, i.e. thru their children who attend French schools, l’école de la République. It is very much the same in the United States. On the other hand, the Muslims do not want to assimilate or to integrate, whichever way you want to say it. They do not want their children to be educated as petits Français. You should see how these kids disrupt classes, how they refuse to study certain subjects.

My hair stands straight on my head when I hear Americans speak of the way Muslims in France live in “ghettos” & how they are treated by the French. It simply is not true. If in their quarters there is violence (knifing, gang rapes, beatings, delinquency, drug dealing etc.), it is not gangs of French kids going there to do it, it is the Muslims (or whatever they should be called) who are doing it. It is Muslim gang against Muslim gang. The many gang rapes are of their own young neighbor Arab girls! Then they go out & gang up against the French. When you hear of anti-Semitism in France, of vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, do you believe one minute French people do it? No, it is the delinquent Arabs in France. But nobody is saying it because these “Arab kids” are second or third generation, thus French nationals. And also because stupid "political correctness" is a must. So, who destroyed graves in a Jewish cemetery? “French” people!

Amy, I have lived in France a long time -- over thirty years -- and for a quite a long time, I have foreseen what’s going on in France now. In fact, in the 1980s, I was telling a very dear American friend of mine (we are like sisters) in California my fears for the future of France. She could not believe me & said “You are racist.” Racist I was not, I just was picking on things that were shocking me. Like a conversation I had with an Arab man – rich, handsome, de culture Européenne as the French like to say. That man told me, “Do you know why we come here to study & work? Simply to learn your ways, know you, understand you & eventually do away with you.” I was flabbergasted by the turn the conversation had taken. That guy could not have been clearer.

Nowadays, I still talk to Arabs whenever the occasion arises, never to those of “quartiers difficiles”, but to well-to-do ones who live in the better parts of Paris or suburb. I wish you would try it sometimes! Within ten minutes at the most, the conversation turns into a litany of our ills, then pure hatred of the Occident comes out. I am yet to hear one of these men (or women, as they are as vicious) have a word of compassion for 9/11 or any terrorist act perpetrated in Europe, because Europe already got its share of bombings, which many Americans in the U.S. do not seem to be aware of. Ask the Parisians about les attentats du métro Saint-Michel ou de la Rue de Rennes (bombing attacks in Paris, about ten years ago), to mention only these two !

In the opinion of most French people, it is only a matter of time for terrorism to hit again. And it is my opinion also. What will be hit in France beside public transportation, department stores & markets? I see the Louvre, Notre Dame cathedral, Versailles, nuclear power plants, schools, hospitals…I also think that Arabs will be killing Arabs in France, Arabs such as the rector of the Mosquée de Paris. They’ll slit his throat right in the Mosquée because he shows no hatred for the French.

Amy, forgive me for sounding so pessimistic, but that is the way I see the future in Europe. With these people, there is no talk possible, no common grounds, only escalation of the hatred & killing of the Infidel. It is going to be a bloody war of religion. And yes, it is going to be WWIII.

cartoon link via egoist

Posted by aalkon at February 5, 2006 11:25 AM

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Comments

Posted by: Jim Treacher at February 5, 2006 6:22 AM

> bravely going where they've gone far
> too many times before

I'm less patient with our newspapers this morning.

Part of the problem may be that your average, marginally-literate, impoverished Muslim doesn't see so many images over the course of his life, so a sketch of a turban with a fuse gets taken a little too seriously.

Many people have made the point that the cartoons are stupid. But that's how we handle imagery in the west. Think of all the tawdry images that have come through your life in the United States. Advertisments, jokes, trivia... Much of it through newspapers. (I've made a living through casual imagery working in TV for thirty years.) But patience with all of this imagery, and selection of favorites, is a big part of what makes western life so rich, and western judgment so sharp.

The newspapers are dancing to the extremist's tune. The newspapers are quite happy to scurry to the shadow of doubt described by Hitchens, and presumably to stay there until the money runs out. While pretending that they're only trying to be nice, they're mocking the very freedom they pretend to hold so dear. (Does anyone remember the stink about Judy & Scooter?)

Posted by: Crid at February 5, 2006 8:18 AM

Two buts in one graph... I feel bad about that.

Posted by: Crid at February 5, 2006 8:22 AM

Hate to disagree with you on this one, Amy, but were I in the decision-making position, I wouldn't run the offending cartoon.

As has been said elsewhere, it's easy enough to describe, and I see no reason to intentionally offend an entire religion just because I disagree with a fraction of them -- any more than I (not a believer) would run an "offensive" cartoon of Jesus just because I disagree with the Pat Robertsons -- and worse -- of the world.

A phrase that comes to my mind when doing something questionable is justified by someone else having done it (or something similar) first:
"But we're supposed to be better than that!"


As for the insights to France: I won't believe them until confirmed by Susan Spano.

Posted by: Todd Everett at February 5, 2006 11:55 AM

I have no problem with a particular newspaper deciding not to run a cartoon because it's potentially offensive, because we can always go elsewhere (ie, competing newspapers) if we really want it. What disgusts me, however, is the administration issuing a blanket condemnation of cartoons or any other visual/verbal representations because they happen to offend some religious people. Shit offends me all the time, but that's just the costs of doing business in a society without human muzzles.

Lena

PS: It's fun to make fun of Jesus. He was so goddamn sincere.

Posted by: Lena's voting for Satan in '08 at February 5, 2006 12:31 PM

How people got deluded into thinking that freedom means never having to encounter something that offends them is beyond me.

I overheard a woman at starbucks discussing the subject of whether or not she should tell this moron playing music loudly on his laptop to turn it down, to which the girl with her replied:

"sometimes you just have to kick ghandi in the balls and move on"

I smiled warmly.

Posted by: Jake at February 5, 2006 3:32 PM

> I see no reason to intentionally
> offend an entire religion

Todd, this isn't meant to attack, this is just to ask where you'd draw the line.

First of all, it won't be the entire religion. There are plenty of Muslims leading most of their lives in the secular realm without touchiness. Fanatics don't represent the best, most common, or most authentic expression of religious faith. (Commenters have been trying to convince Amy of this for years.)

Secondly, what if there *were* a reason? What if there was a circumstance where the civilized world had to say 'Uh, Sorry Achmed, but this is going to sting a little...' You're still on board, right?

Everyone in America should get a look at these cartoons to see how mild they are, both as political statements and as cultural artifacts. Americans deserve to know what it takes to send embassies up in flames. It's information we need to have.

> "But we're supposed to be
> better than that!"

Better than what, exactly? The Danish cartoons are TREMENDOUSLY simple, guileless pieces of expression... Little nibbles of meaning that don't pretend to tell the whole story. A lot of what we read in newspapers is like that. (In terms of graven imagery, the Cathy cartoons always seemed like a putrid assault on the human spirit... But nobody burned any flags over them.) The point is that newspapers are ALREADY doing far worse "than that!" Inoffensive newspapers are worthless; the "New York Times thrives across a continent of bastards, while the Elletsville, Indiana "Pennysaver" collects only friends.

People who won't face this head-on are willing live in a condition of doubt, second-guessing their every move in the service of imaginary boogiemen. It's precisely, precisely what extremists want.

Posted by: Crid at February 5, 2006 6:37 PM

What Crid said.

And to make myself somewhat useful in light of Crid doing the comments section heavy lifting, here's the link to the Tim Cavanaugh Reason piece he mentioned before.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 5, 2006 7:01 PM

As I understand it, it's against Islamic law to illustrate the deity -- what Christians would refer to as "graven images," though not many Christians pay that much attention to that commandment.

With that in mind, I would expect any Muslim (not just the fundamentalists) to be offended to see such a law broken, and I see no reason to offend them as a group. As I tried to say above, it's a matter of personal taste and perhaps even class to me, rather than freedom of speech.

Were I in charge of such decisions for a media outlet (to repeat myself), I would decline to print the pictures, though I would defend my right as an American to print them if I wanted to be that kind of a person or I for some reason felt it necessary. Which I'm not, and I don't.

In any event, I don't see why the embassies are being trashed, when it's the newspapers who printed the pictures.

Well, of course I do see why, but the protests as they stand are wrongheaded. And, to judge from most of the opinions floating around the Blogosphere (even mine, and in this respect I'm on the protestors' side with the qualifications stated above), they're also counterproductive.

Posted by: Todd Everett at February 5, 2006 9:11 PM

> it's against Islamic law to
> illustrate the deity

In wLA, it's against the law to park on the east side of the street between noon and three on Thursdays. Twice, for infraction in front of my own tax-paying home, I've paid the sanction. I don't expect those fines to mean anything to anyone in Damascus.

> though not many Christians
> pay that much attention to
> that commandment.

Don't be glib. The Christians you're talking about live in literate, capitalist, tolerant safety among non-believers who'd give their own lives in defense of the right of the Christians to express themselves.

> I would expect any Muslim
> (not just the fundamentalists)
> to be offended

There's that word again. Feelings, whether of pleasure or offense, are NOT the measure of decency. We haven't heard from Paglia about this yet, but she has a catchphrase for people who can't handle the expression of human nature "in the arena": Stay home and do your nails.

> it's a matter of personal
> taste

Then the grivance should be expressed in interpersonal contexts ("Hey Niels- Last Thursday's cartoon sucked MAJOR hose!"), and not by burning flags and embassies.

> and perhaps even class to me

What could this possibly mean?

> I don't see why the embassies
> are being trashed, when it's
> the newspapers who printed the
> pictures.

We don't want newspapers trashed, either. We want the trashers to pull their fucking shit together.

Posted by: Crid at February 5, 2006 10:00 PM

> it's against Islamic law to

> illustrate the deity


Not according to the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4674864.stm):

What does the Koran, the holy book of Islam, say on the issue?


There is no specific, or explicit ban on images of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad - be they carved, painted or drawn.


The article goes on to explain the current Muslim beliefs about images.

Posted by: Norman at February 6, 2006 12:58 AM

Thanks for that, Norman.

I did say "As I understand it." Guess you can't always believe (a) what you read in the papers and/or (b) what zealots tell you.

My entire stand, as outlined above, was based on my having believed what I read in the papers. Having had a few days to think this out, though, I think I'd still pass on printing the pictures. No point in giving them more ammo.

I'm not trying to convert anybody here or elsewhere. You want to print the illustrations, go ahead. I'd feel better about myself, though, if I didn't.

The right to freedom of speech isn't a mandade to exercise it at every opportunity.

Posted by: TE at February 6, 2006 10:36 AM

So where are all these middle of the road Muslims, who deplore their extermist brethern? I didn't see many mainstream Christians having parades for Timothy McVey. Muslims who want to live in a democratic coutnry, partaking of all the benefits therein, need to speak up.

Posted by: KateCo at February 6, 2006 2:18 PM

Lena writes:

I have no problem with a particular newspaper deciding not to run a cartoon because it's potentially offensive, because we can always go elsewhere (ie, competing newspapers) if we really want it. What disgusts me, however, is the administration issuing a blanket condemnation of cartoons or any other visual/verbal representations because they happen to offend some religious people. Shit offends me all the time, but that's just the costs of doing business in a society without human muzzles.

Lena

PS: It's fun to make fun of Jesus. He was so goddamn sincere.


Posted by: Lena's voting for Satan in '08 at February 5, 2006 12:31 PM

LENA! How wonderful to see you again. The only problem I have with your post, actually, is the signature. He's served the last two terms. He can't be elected to a third.

Posted by: Patrick, The Goddess Fan at February 6, 2006 3:21 PM

Hey Patrick...

Pat Robertson, son of a senator, is calling in some favors; there's going to be an Amendment.

Har! Just Kidding! Hah hah!

Posted by: Crid at February 6, 2006 7:33 PM

If it's merely about free speech, then the answer is plain - publish the cartoons. Unfortunately it wasn't - it was in the context of a war in Iraq, anti-immigration policies in Europe, and the growth of xenophobia and anti-Muslim nationalism. All this did was prove to Muslims that yes, we're out to get them.

Everyone has a right to use words like wap, dago, or nigger. But it doesn't mean we need to use them to show how enlightened and liberated we are.

Posted by: John Wilkins at February 7, 2006 3:12 PM

Read my friend's piece and spend a little time in Europe to get a sense of how fucked the Europeans are by letting in all these immigrants. Unlike Mexicans who come into our country, who want to become a part of the "American Dream," the dream of those immigrants is to stay separate and take over the countries, by violence or by having 12 babies at a time, all on the dole. I loathe the fact that we're in Iraq, and I am pro LEGAL immigration. But my idea of immigration is the way it used to work, when my relatives came here - they came here to be part of America, not to blow it up and take it over. Englightenment, John, is not putting your head in the sand and singing the praises of those who'd shut down free speech. That's the antithesis of enlightenment, of course.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 7, 2006 3:23 PM

> All this did was prove to Muslims
> that yes, we're out to get them.

How exactly did these cartoons "get them"? One of shows Mohammed walking through the desert with a donkey... Perhaps the worst was a wisecrack about the 72 virgins awaiting martyrs. Was this an assault? And what do you mean "we"? Even if it had been an ‘attack’, would the entire nation of Denmark be held accountable?

The rioting primitives don't know about newspapers, or any of the other tools by which ideas get disseminated. That's because they're not into the dissemination of ideas. It's a safe bet that most had never HEARD of Copenhagen before they were called to the street to riot last week.

Don’t worry about provoking them; this is not about provocation. These people are *going* to find something that upsets them. The point is not to be precious about their silly boundaries. The point is to be clear and righteous about your own.

Posted by: Crid at February 7, 2006 5:28 PM

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