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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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77 Responses

  1. P.T.Smith
    P.T.Smith November 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm |

    It’s not expressed in the part you quoted, and the part you quoted doesn’t encourage me to wade through the rest, but do you think there’s anything to the idea that by constantly treating people as if they are terrorists because of their religion or skin color, by having that be the assumed and enforced identity, that identity is actually proliferated? Not that people are consciously thinking, “hey if everyone thinks I’m a terrorist, I may as well blow some shit up”, but that the result nonetheless is an increase in that identity?

  2. igglanova
    igglanova November 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm |

    Those delicious office buildings were just asking to be firebombed, I suppose.

  3. Sid
    Sid November 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm |

    I think that might be a little ungenerous reading; his problem seems to be with Hebdo and its ilk actively provoking acts like these from extremists in order to fulfill their auto-prophecy/self-martyrdom complex. He seems to believe that these actions are in now way justifiable or excusable with the last line in his piece.

  4. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    Obviously the author has completely missed the whole point of the principle of free speech. If you do not defend the right to offensive speech, then you are not defending free speech at all.

    And Islamophobia is a very problematic term since it is greatly overused as a silencing tactic. This makes any meaningful discussion about the very real anti-Muslim feelings in Europe difficult.

  5. Random
    Random November 2, 2011 at 3:07 pm |

    He seems to believe that these actions are in no wway justifiable or excusable with the last line in his piece.

    Well, no, that’s the second to last line. The actual last line seems to imply that the only difference between obnoxious satire and bombing is that one of them is illegal. He’s more moderate at times, but this article still seems pretty misguided.

  6. igglanova
    igglanova November 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm |

    You mean he doesn’t literally believe that pearl-clutching asswipes should be allowed to firebomb buildings? Well that’s a relief.

    That we live in a world where publishing inflammatory rhetoric is considered provocation enough to make a fucking bombing an understandable reaction is deeply sick.

  7. Manju
    Manju November 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm |

    Plus, we don’t know if the terrorists are Muslim. After all, Pim Fortuyn’s assassin was a secular, white, non-immigrant, Dutch Lefty.

  8. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm |

    @Sid: Ungenerous? I thought Jill was very soft in her criticism considering the utterly reprehensible content of the article.

  9. Sid
    Sid November 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    Random: Well, no, that’s the second to last line. The actual last line seems to imply that the only difference between obnoxious satire and bombing is that one of them is illegal. He’s more moderate at times, but this article still seems pretty misguided.

    Well there’s also his second to last paragraph, so sorry, I didn’t get the exact details right. I don’t think its a great article either, but to say, he’s patronizing Muslims is I don’t think entirely fair.

  10. Manju
    Manju November 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm |

    his problem seems to be with Hebdo and its ilk actively provoking acts like these from extremists in order to fulfill their auto-prophecy/self-martyrdom complex

    The problem with his problem is that he’s boxed himself in.

    If Hebdo crime is provocation, why single him out? After all, surely Jill or someone of her ilk has mocked Christian Fundies in the face of their terrorism. If not Jill, maybe Amanda Marcotte? You can always count on her for a good merciless mocking. Why are they not provocateurs too? There are two possibilities:

    1. He believes Muslims are different, so the singling out is justified. Problem is he’s also complaining that “France’s estimated five million Muslims feeling stigmatized and singled out for discriminatory treatment”.

    2. He doesn’t believe Muslims are different. But if that’s the case, how exactly is Hebdo fulfilling an auto-prophecy?

  11. Cagey
    Cagey November 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    The entire piece reads like “I’m not saying that the firebombing is okay, just that you were asking for it. Gross. That final line is particularly disgusting, as if a firebombing and a satirical* newspaper are in the same category of extremeness.

    *I hesitate to call this “satire”. If you’re using “humor” to reinforce the status quo and its prejudiced ideas, you don’t deserve to call what you do satire.

  12. Raja
    Raja November 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    I agree with the author of the original post.

  13. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm |

    Jill: Just because feelings are “real” doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a negative name. There are very real anti-gay feelings in the United States and elsewhere; those feelings are still homophobic. There are very real anti-nonwhite-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Latin@, etc etc feelings in the United States and elsewhere; those feelings are still racist.

    Yes, what I was trying to say was that there are indeed real problems. There are true racist feelings out there and there are problematic and somewhat intractable conflicts between ethnic groups. But very often the term “Islamophobia” becomes more of a hindrance than a help when discussing these issues since it is used to silence debate rather than moving it forward.

  14. Jadey
    Jadey November 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm |

    matlun: But very often the term “Islamophobia” becomes more of a hindrance than a help when discussing these issues since it is used to silence debate rather than moving it forward.

    Except that this type of statement is itself a rhetorical move that is often used to shut down discussions of “real” Islamophobia, akin to people saying that we must never call anything “racist” because the term is too inflammatory. It’s inflammatory because racists don’t like having their racism pointed out, much like people engaging in Islamophobia don’t like having that pointed out either. I won’t say that people don’t take the application of terms to an extreme sometimes, but for all the whinging that goes on about “P.C. language”, regulating social action through language proscriptions is often a tactic of those trying to perpetuate social inequality, even if they describe it differently when they do it.

  15. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    Whether my above posts are a justified critisism of the OP depends on how “I agree that Islamophobic antics are futile and childish” should be read. This was in reference to

    petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies?

    In that sense Jill’s comment could be seen as defending the stance in the referenced article that we should indeed curb free speech to avoid upsetting Islamic sensibilities.

  16. AnonForThis
    AnonForThis November 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    It seems more than a little condescending and insulting to suggest that Muslims as a group just can’t help getting all bomb-y when someone pisses them off.

    Muslims as a group? No. Muslims as a subset of monotheists? Absolutely. The abrahamic religions don’t have too good a record when it comes to dealing with dissent and secularism. Thats doubly true when they overlap with cultures who haven’t yet become heavily secular and pluralistic. Monotheists believe that they have the One Right Answer. That makes them dangerous. You don’t have to look much further than our own evangelical war against women’s rights to see that.

  17. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm |

    @Jadey: I think that “racist” is a better word in the cases where it applies. Islamophobia would seem to imply that it is wrong to attack Islam, but any religion should be open to attack in the same way as for example political ideologies.

    Furthermore it is often not clear if Islam has much to do with the roots of the ethnic conflicts. Often this is just classical anti-immigration feelings (They are taking our jobs! And in the cases they are not, then they are not working and just sucking our tax money).

    The only point where Islam itself becomes a strong factor comes when you consider Islamism and fundamentalist Islam. Which is not something that should be defended.

  18. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm |

    matlun: And Islamophobia is a very problematic term since it is greatly overused as a silencing tactic.

    It’s a problematic term because these people hate Muslims and want YOU to be afraid of them. So I think it’s not strong enough.

  19. Jadey
    Jadey November 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    matlun: Islamophobia would seem to imply that it is wrong to attack Islam, but any religion should be open to attack in the same way as for example political ideologies.

    I completely disagree with this interpretation of the word. I’m personally not a fan of the “-phobia” suffix in general (researchers have stopped talking about “homophobia” and tend to use “homonegativity” and “heterosexism” as more precise concepts for different types of negative responses to gay people, for instance), but I think we can acknowledge that even an imperfect etymology doesn’t preclude an appropriate connotation to the word. I have never seen “Islamophobia” used as a common way to justify a position that the religion should never be criticized, except by people claiming that their bigotry is being “oppressed”. (And I’m talking mainstream use – obviously extreme uses will exist.)

  20. BHuesca
    BHuesca November 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm |

    matlun:
    Obviously the author has completely missed the whole point of the principle of free speech. If you do not defend the right to offensive speech, then you are not defending free speech at all.

    And Islamophobia is a very problematic term since it is greatly overused as a silencing tactic. This makes any meaningful discussion about the very real anti-Muslim feelings in Europe difficult.

    I think Islamophobia is a meaningless term. Any group formed by voluntary use, such as a religion or the Rotary or a sports team, MUST be open to criticism and scrutiny by a (classical) liberal society.

  21. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm |

    Jadey: I have never seen “Islamophobia” used as a common way to justify a position that the religion should never be criticized

    What about the article referenced in the OP and possibly the OP itself?
    Or the debate during the whole Danish cartoon incident?
    It is not an uncommon usage.

  22. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm |

    Off-topic tip regarding quoting text: Select the text you want to quote before pressing “Quote this comment” and it should not run together.

  23. Shoshie
    Shoshie November 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    BHuesca: I think Islamophobia is a meaningless term. Any group formed by voluntary use, such as a religion or the Rotary or a sports team, MUST be open to criticism and scrutiny by a (classical) liberal society.

    Really? REALLY?? We’re going to have this conversation?

    Fighting bigotry against religious groups != disallowing criticism of those groups.

    In fact, some (many!) people both criticize religion/religious extremism/institutional religion/whatver AND fight against bigotry towards religious groups.

    FFS, people.

  24. Cagey
    Cagey November 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    If the question is whether the term is truly applicable or not in a given instance, I would note that the people who usually question the applicability of terms like “racism” are often the people least qualified to recognize when it’s happening, will alter the problem to something they feel is “worth” discussing (“it’s really about class, not race” and so on) and are often the kind of people who ask us to focus on “real problems” in relation to these terms, where “real” is defined as any instance of bigotry so blatant that not even they can deny the seriousness of it. Saying a “better” term (to describe something you don’t actually experience) is racism is akin to saying “it’s actually a class issue” where that argument is an attempt to deny the specific manifestations of a type of oppression by moving it to one that the person feels is worth legitimizing and thus denying that we might have a specific type of problem with Muslims. Race is certainly a part of the problem, but so is cultural and religious prejudices, as well as assumptions made along an axis of Western privilege. It’s not necessarily about Islam, but the fact that the people engaging in it often don’t distinguish between Islam and Muslims, or religious practice and cultural practice when picking targets for attack and methods for attack is not something that’s incidental or irrelevant.

  25. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    Hmmm. . .

    1) I agree that this stuff doesn’t excuse firebombing. HOWEVER. . .

    2) I think the article was (badly) pointing out that given the context (a society that bans/criminalizes outward symbols of Islam and demonizes Muslims), the supposedly satiritical paper was spoiling for a fight and that it was disingenuous to bat their eyes oh-so-innocently and say, what? What’s the problem?

    3) I have no problems with criticisms of Islam. That’s not Islamophobia. Freaking out over a woman wearing the hijab or a mosque being built is Islamophobia. Acting like Muslims are all slavering to institute Sharia law (when our bigger worry is Christian dominionists who are trying and succeeding to institute their own theocratic rule) is Islamophobia. Crying about how Muslims are the enemies of democracy when their freedom of religion has been curtailed is Islamophobic (and disingenuous).

  26. Sid
    Sid November 2, 2011 at 6:21 pm |

    Manju: The problem with his problem is that he’s boxed himself in.

    If Hebdo crime is provocation, why single him out? After all, surely Jill or someone of her ilk has mocked Christian Fundies in the face of their terrorism. If not Jill, maybe Amanda Marcotte? You can always count on her for a good merciless mocking. Why are they not provocateurs too? There are two possibilities:

    1. He believes Muslims are different, so the singling out is justified. Problem is he’s also complaining that “France’s estimated five million Muslims feeling stigmatized and singled out for discriminatory treatment”.

    2. He doesn’t believe Muslims are different. But if that’s the case, how exactly is Hebdo fulfilling an auto-prophecy?

    Right, because mocking Christian fundamentalists in the US is any way comparable to mocking the religious beliefs of a stigmatized minority? And the vast majority of scorn directed at christian fundamentalists isn’t because of their beliefs perse, but how they influence the public sphere. Muslims in France have next to no public power. The analogy is strained.

    Its rather clear he believes Muslims are “different,” in the sense they are being legally differentiated. He cites various actions which have been taken largely targeted towards them since the early 2000s. That seems to be precisely why he is not in favor of actions taken by the publication.

  27. the_leanover
    the_leanover November 2, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    Erm, for those relating this to free speech and religious critique, it’s worth bearing in mind that the ‘satire’ in question doesn’t seem to have been some kind of searing critique of Islamic fundamentalism but more along the lines of ‘lol look, we drew mohammed!’ Which is pretty clearly just childish jeering at the Muslim faith in general rather than at THE BAD BOMBER GUYS and THE OPPRESSIVE BITS which we are all obviously perfectly entitled to criticise. Childish jeering is not “criticism and scrutiny”; let’s not pretend that this kinda thing is qualitatively any different than “but I have a RIGHT to make rape jokes because FREE SPEECH!” Presumably we’re not gonna condone the firebombing of people who make rape jokes but neither should we have to “defend” them in the name of free speech.

  28. N.
    N. November 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    Um, Jill, I haven’t read the original article and I won’t bother, but the bit you quoted says “but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from *extremists* their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good”

    Extremists.
    Not Muslims in general.

  29. Iam138
    Iam138 November 2, 2011 at 8:47 pm |

    Aren’t the vast majority of Muslim people just like the vast majority of everyone else in the world? Trying to live their lives the best way they know how and making the world better for their children than it was for them?

  30. rae
    rae November 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm |

    Jill is right that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not and will never become terrorists. However, under the right circumstances – say, desperate poverty + colonial invasion – the number of violent extremists in any given group of people will rise. When people are provoked and have no peaceful means to air their greivances and advocate for change, some people who would have otherwise availed themselves of those peaceful means will turn to violence in the absence of alternatives. So while it is true that conservative blowhards are unlikely to convince well-integrated Muslim Americans to commit acts of violence, if those conservative blowhards successfully advocate for invading predominantly Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, it should be no surprise to anyone that their remarks become recruiting tools for terrorist organizations and that people who are put in untenable circumstances due to their actions will sometimes turn to violence.

  31. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein November 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm |

    Clearly, the Global Spin piece Jill linked to was a piece of victim-blaming shit.

    On the other hand, I disapprove of the Draw Mohammed people because they’re gleefully taking advantage of the “Get Out of Racism and Xenophobia Free” zone created by terrorists who firebomb newspapers.

    These firebombers are so heinous that whatever cheap shots you might take against them (or, more importantly, against their larger “group,” as you define it), you’re going to look like a class act in comparison.

    It’s a race to the bottom where you know in advance that whoever firebombs he first building wins/loses, so whatever you do on the way down is cool. Well, not really.

  32. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 2, 2011 at 10:31 pm |

    rae: Jill is right that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not and will never become terrorists. However, under the right circumstances – say, desperate poverty + colonial invasion – the number of violent extremists in any given group of people will rise. When people are provoked and have no peaceful means to air their greivances and advocate for change, some people who would have otherwise availed themselves of those peaceful means will turn to violence in the absence of alternatives. So while it is true that conservative blowhards are unlikely to convince well-integrated Muslim Americans to commit acts of violence, if those conservative blowhards successfully advocate for invading predominantly Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, it should be no surprise to anyone that their remarks become recruiting tools for terrorist organizations and that people who are put in untenable circumstances due to their actions will sometimes turn to violence.

    We’re not talking about something like the Israel/Palestine situation or the Sectarian violence in Northern Ireland where you have a specific group of people who are being oppressed and yes, are driven by desperation, poverty and a number of things you mention. However the people who committed 9/11 and the London Bombings and the Madrid attacks, as well as most of the homegrown terrorists in the US and UK, are from primarily privileged (or at least middle class) backgrounds, and have no more to do with Islam than The Manson Family had to do with Christianity, except that they have managed to convince themselves that they are the true keepers of the faith because they are a bunch of megalomaniacs. If you can convince someone to blow up a car bomb in New York, by using the War in Iraq to justify it, then you could probably convince them of anything.

  33. TIME Dhimmi 2 Firebombed French Mag: You Had It Coming! | Jake Finnegan

    […] fairness Feministe gets it absolutely right here… Again: I agree that Islamophobic antics are “futile and […]

  34. AnonForThis
    AnonForThis November 3, 2011 at 8:30 am |

    On the other hand, I disapprove of the Draw Mohammed people because they’re gleefully taking advantage of the “Get Out of Racism and Xenophobia Free” zone created by terrorists who firebomb newspapers.

    I think its more than that. When Scorsese directed The Last Temptation of Christ or Monty Python did The Life of Brian there was a push back from conservative Christians who were offended. Society told them to politely go fuck themselves and moved on. Free speech simply cannot abide a sacred cow. Without the political context the Draw Mohammed people might just be obnoxious and tasteless, but once you’ve added the context of violent extremists trying to enforce their idea of blasphemy on others I think the act changes from obnoxious and tasteless to civil disobedience and political action. Drawing Mohammed, like burning a flag, seems like a pointless offense…except when theres a point.

  35. Miguel Bloomfontosis
    Miguel Bloomfontosis November 3, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    There’s a big difference between mocking a belief system and slandering a people. For example, if I want to draw cartoons that depict Jesus Christ hanging out in a fetish bar, wearing stilettos and a corset, I should be able to do that without being called “Christian-o-phobic” (or whatever). On the other hand, if I were to say, “Evangelical Christians are filthy pigs”, then that statement would rightly be considered offensive.
    The Time Magazine essay Jill links to is terrible; the writer essentially says that the firebombed newspaper should have self-censored. But when Jill responds by saying “You don’t get to use violence in response to rhetoric, no matter how abhorrent the rhetoric” I have to wonder, what is so abhorrent about “mocking” religion? Mocking religion serves an important purpose in opening minds and freeing people from dogma and superstition. On this point I would strongly encourage everyone to read Christopher Hitchens’ essay The case for mocking religion .

  36. matlun
    matlun November 3, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    AnonForThis: Without the political context the Draw Mohammed people might just be obnoxious and tasteless, but once you’ve added the context of violent extremists trying to enforce their idea of blasphemy on others I think the act changes from obnoxious and tasteless to civil disobedience and political action. Drawing Mohammed, like burning a flag, seems like a pointless offense…except when theres a point.

    QFT. Very well put.

  37. Crys T
    Crys T November 3, 2011 at 10:59 am |

    @ #34: There’s not just a point but a context, and that context is the historical relationship between Christianity and Islam. It was Christianity that launched multiple Crusades against Islam, not the othe way round.

    There is also the cultural/political context of whose culture is dominating who and which is the group that’s marginalised.

    And on top of that, there is the question of who is doing the mocking: there is simply no equivalence between Scorsese or Python, all of whom come from Christian culture if not actual religious Christian backgrounds, criticising or parodying Christianity and a load of people from a Christian culture doing the same to Islam. And it’s not just the in-group/out-group thing, either. It’s tied in to the dominant/marginalised positions of the respective groups as well.

  38. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein November 3, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    If the humor is targeted to only make fun at the sort of people who blow up buildings over blasphemy, then they’re not taking advantage of any “Get Out of Racism Free Zone.” But if you set out to degrade all Muslims on the assumption that you’ll end up baiting some extremists to violence, you’re not doing the Enlightenment any favors.

    A lot of these caricatures of Mohammed rely on grotesque anti-Semitic imagery, like the hooked nose, that would be considered unacceptable anywhere else. If you want to make fun of the rule against drawing Mohammed by drawing a nice-looking young man in a space suit, go for it. Draw a stick figure and label it “Mohammed.” It’s silly and lighthearted and anyone who gets bent out of shape deserves to be rattled. Don’t fall back on race-baiting imagery to make a point about the stupidity of anti-blasphemy laws. That just confuses some people into thinking that taboos against blasphemy are good and necessary because you’ve broken the taboo in a racist way, as opposed to a harmless way.

    Even race baiters deserve free speech and physical security. But I’m going to use my free speech to tell them to quit being so racist because they’re tainting a cause I believe in.

  39. D
    D November 3, 2011 at 11:11 am |

    Cryst T: Well, if we’re going to dredge up ancient history and play the “they started it” game, I’ll point out that the Crusades were predated by the Muslim invasion of the Levant, North Africa and Spain.

  40. Sid
    Sid November 3, 2011 at 11:41 am |

    Well, there isn’t just a political context to these cartoons, there is a larger and important social one as well; one in which a trampled minority is made to feel even further marginalized. Scorsese and Monty Python took on dominant paradigms and while they ruffled a few feathers, didn’t violate prevalent edicts within those traditions nor were they particularly racist in overtones. In any case, what “political action” are they inspiring? After all, it would be “civil disobedience” to publish holocaust denials, and yet I’m skeptical this publication would oblige in the name of free speech.

  41. matlun
    matlun November 3, 2011 at 11:43 am |

    @Lindsay Beyerstein: You are still arguing about which people it is ok to make fun of. The point is that there is huge difference of principle between attacking Muslims and attacking Islam as a religion.

    If I want to claim that Islam is a morally bankrupt ideology based on ignorance and superstition, then this is not in principle an attack on Muslims. It is a viewpoint many Muslims will find offensive, but that is a different issue.

  42. matlun
    matlun November 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    Sid: In any case, what “political action” are they inspiring?

    The original cartoons set out to prove that the authors would not be scared into self censorship and to start a debate about this issue. In the end they failed.

  43. Shoshie
    Shoshie November 3, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    matlun: If I want to claim that Islam is a morally bankrupt ideology based on ignorance and superstition, then this is not in principle an attack on Muslims. It is a viewpoint many Muslims will find offensive, but that is a different issue.

    OK, so I’m not Muslim, and I can’t speak for Muslims on this. But, as a Jew, I know that I feel decidedly uncomfortable when critiques of Judaism are public matters of discussion. Not because I disagree (and, often, I agree with them!) or because I hate dissent or I’m Offended! but because I always worry about violent repercussion, which tends to increase with these kinds of public discussions.

  44. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein November 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm |

    Matlun, I’m against using racist tropes to make fun of anybody.

    Go ahead, poke fun at Islam. Just don’t resort to drawing Mohammed with a grotesque hook nose, filthy swarthy Mohammed, Mohammed’s head on the body of some kind of vermin, or Mohammed as Osama bin Laden. That’s mostly what I see when I google “Draw Mohammed” and it’s ugly.

    If you can’t think of a way to make fun of Islam that doesn’t look like it was clipped from the StormFront newsletter, maybe you don’t understand Islam well enough to satirize it.

    Life of Brian was funny because it was witty. The Monty Python crew had obviously thought deeply about Christianity, as you’d expect from a group with classical educations like theirs. Only the most humorless and doctrinaire Christian could dismiss it as hate speech, and those who did looked stupid.

    Many LOB fans, if not most, were raised in some type of Judeo-Christian tradition. I’ve known liberal pastors who list LOB among their favorite movies. You don’t see a lot of liberal Muslims or Muslims-turned-atheists gravitating towards “Draw Mohammed Day,” even though these are the people you’d expect to have the best take on the absurdities of the religion, just like Monty Python was well-placed to appreciate the absurdities of Christianity. I submit that skeptical Muslims aren’t joining in because so many of these images come off as slurs rather than jokes.

  45. Cagey
    Cagey November 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm |

    There is a keen difference between people with experience within the religion and thorough education poking fun at certain aspects of it and expecting others with similar backgrounds to laugh with them versus people outside the religion with extremely limited knowledge of it doing something they recognize as offensive and trying to pass it off as satire or political action for the enjoyment of others who are also outside of that religion. It’s the difference between “let’s all laugh at ourselves” and “let’s all laugh at those people over there”. This is why these “public conversations” end up doing very little except to spread more fear, misinformation, and mutual mistrust among everyone, because they rarely involve someone who took more than a cursory glance at the related religious texts and actually has first-hand experience with the religion and the various people and cultures that practice it. This conversation is also conveniently ignoring the position that Muslim people occupy in the West today as a marginalized group. Generalizing it to “religious critique” manages to conveniently neglect the power differential between certain religions. This is historically what happens, the dominant religion works over time to paint the religion of marginalized people as more savage and more ridiculous. It creates an environment where that belief is stigmatized and ridiculed for being seen as dangerous and the people who practice it are seen as suspect.

    We can’t pretend that we live in some vacuum and manifestations of critiques of Islam–which somehow always manage in the mainstream to be or become “critiques” of Muslim people rather than their religion–aren’t loaded when we have people fear mongering about Sharia Law, trying to ban mosques, actively assaulting mosques and passing or trying to pass laws attempting to curtail Muslim religious and/or cultural expression in public. Some may be well-intentioned and making critiques that are geared at the religion and that’s fine, but it’s clear other people are not and we shouldn’t presume they are acting in good faith when we can plainly see they aren’t. Preserving the right to mock religion doesn’t mean we get to stick our heads in the sand and pretend not to see the harmful and prejudiced attitudes that are clearly being shown to us. We have to be careful that these criticisms don’t end up resembling the anti-Muslim sentiments on display all over the place.

  46. Raja
    Raja November 3, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

    Crys T:
    @#34:There’snotjustapointbutacontext,andthatcontextisthehistoricalrelationshipbetweenChristianityandIslam.ItwasChristianitythatlaunchedmultipleCrusadesagainstIslam,nottheothewayround.

    Thereisalsothecultural/politicalcontextofwhosecultureisdominatingwhoandwhichisthegroupthat’smarginalised.

    Andontopofthat,thereisthequestionofwhoisdoingthemocking:thereissimplynoequivalencebetweenScorseseorPython,allofwhomcomefromChristiancultureifnotactualreligiousChristianbackgrounds,criticisingorparodyingChristianityandaloadofpeoplefromaChristianculturedoingthesametoIslam.Andit’snotjustthein-group/out-groupthing,either.It’stiedintothedominant/marginalisedpositionsoftherespectivegroupsaswell.

    Oh god….really? As someone who originated from a country which was subject to Muslim domination in the past this actually offends me. Please go read a history book or two and than come back after your done. Islam has had more of its fair share of expansionism like Christanity. Oh, look up the Mongols while your at it, they did far more damage to the muslim world than the Crusades ever did. Their sacking of Bagdad alone makes our initial bombings during the Iraq War look tame.

  47. matlun
    matlun November 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm |

    Lindsay Beyerstein: Matlun, I’m against using racist tropes to make fun of anybody.

    Go ahead, poke fun at Islam. Just don’t resort to drawing Mohammed with a grotesque hook nose, filthy swarthy Mohammed, Mohammed’s head on the body of some kind of vermin, or Mohammed as Osama bin Laden. That’s mostly what I see when I google “Draw Mohammed” and it’s ugly.

    I am not sure which pictures you are looking at, but for example the original cartoons are viewable through wikipedia. Hardly great art, but I do not see any racism.

  48. matlun
    matlun November 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm |

    Shoshie: But, as a Jew, I know that I feel decidedly uncomfortable when critiques of Judaism are public matters of discussion. Not because I disagree (and, often, I agree with them!) or because I hate dissent or I’m Offended! but because I always worry about violent repercussion, which tends to increase with these kinds of public discussions.

    There is that, but we can not allow that worry to silence honest criticism.

    To be honest, whether the criticism is well founded or not will matter little to the racist elements who will use any material they can find. There is a strong possibility that any forceful criticism will be repeated and referenced by people you do not want to be associated with.

    But again, what is the alternative?
    If we claim to stand for equality and enlightenment values then we need to strenuously oppose these dangerous ideologies.

  49. Crys T
    Crys T November 4, 2011 at 4:34 am |

    Yeah D, cos the Crusades and their aftermath TOTALLY have had no lasting effects on the politics and culture of today. And don’t lecture me about the Moors–I’m Spanish, so….yeah. The difference is that the Moors ceased to be any sort of power at least 500 years ago. While Christian Europe has spent those selfsame 500 years colonising and otherwise dominating and oppressing pretty much the rest of the world. Including those countries where Muslims are in the majority. And in those countries, the justification for the oppression frequently took the form of invoking Islamophobia.

    @Raja: see above. I don’t know what your specific culture is, but I’m talking about the European West’s relationship with Islam. Especially the much more recent history of colonial domination and economic exploitation which is within living memory of a lot of people. Which any number of historians cite as the primary reason for current conflict. Which YOU would know if YOU ever picked up a book yourself.

    And what the holy hell have the Mongols got to do with anything at all? There are people from Islam-dominated cultures today across the world that have personal experience of cultural and economic domination by Western powers that call themselves Christian. There are Muslims living now in self-defined Christian cultures that are subject to bigotry and marginalisation. Are you implying that the Mongols in the 20th & 21st Centuries have had the same sort of political and economic power as the Christian West? Then why did you bring them up? Past wrongs done by powers that no longer even exist* may have an effect, but it is nowhere near as potent as past wrong committed by powers that are still committing wrongs against you. And in case it has heretofore escaped your attention, the Christian West is still alive, well, and oppressing.

    *yes, yes: I realise that the descendants of the Mongols still exist, but there is no freaking culture/centre of power in the present world that defines itself or is defined by others as “The Mongols.” And the fact that I feel the need to type that out because I just know that someone is going to come back with some dumbass line about how the Mongols didn’t just disappear, and aren’t I an idiot, shows everything that’s wrong with internet debates.

  50. AnonForThis
    AnonForThis November 4, 2011 at 8:28 am |

    And it’s not just the in-group/out-group thing, either. It’s tied in to the dominant/marginalised positions of the respective groups as well.

    I’ll be honest: as someone who is not a Christian, who values liberty at basically any cost, and who has no love whatsoever for the abrahamic religions I can honestly say that I don’t give a shit if someone is in the in-group or out-group, dominant or marginalized. All tyranny, all censorship, all demands that I respect religious sensibilities which by their very nature will never respect me can go straight to whatever hell their vile patriarchs have been selling for the last however many thousand years of brutal oppression, violent conversion, and aggressive expansionism. Maybe that hurts their peoples, I’ll remember to cry a tear after I’m done mourning all the genocides they’ve racked up over the years.

  51. timberwraith
    timberwraith November 4, 2011 at 9:58 am |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see that some people are actually discussing these issues with an awareness of colonialism and the oppression that has been integral to Western global domination. It seems that during the ten years that have followed 9/11, this awareness has somehow disappeared into progressives’ collective memory hole. It seems that the conversation in much of the left has degraded into “Islam is bad just like all forms of religion and that’s why they want to bomb us.”

    I’m not supportive of violence, but I’d be pretty delusional if I ignored a simple fact about human beings: if group A treats group B like shit for a long period of time, a subset of group B will start to kill and injure members of group A. I don’t like the fact that humans use violence toward each other, but this relationship has held true across eons and cultures. Economic, cultural, political, and military violence generate violence in return. We ignore this reality at our own peril.

    An additional caveat: often times, the people in group B who have the greatest means to injure and harm group A are those who have access to greater means than their peers. It takes resources and planning to effectively punch through the protective barriers that group A has created to insulate itself from the anger and hatred of those it has harmed.

    Anyway, we can talk about notions of free speech from dawn to dusk, but I’m guessing those ideals pale in comparison to the hatred and anger generated by decades upon decades of Western violence. The great thing about being Westerners, however, is that we have the luxury of ignoring the violence our societies perpetrate upon others… until terrorism brings the response to that violence to our front doorsteps.

    Fear not.

    Our military, our politicians, and our large corporations will protect us.

  52. Crys T
    Crys T November 4, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    Wow, AnonForThis, you’re like, a total rebel or something!

    As an atheist, I feel about people like you (and Dawkins, Myers et al.) exactly the same as I do as a vegetarian aoubt PETA: not in my fucking name, douche.

    timberwraith said:

    often times, the people in group B who have the greatest means to injure and harm group A are those who have access to greater means than their peers.

    Most definitely. I believe that often, even in movements that began for absolutely justifiable reasons, the leaders of these movements are mostly in it for their own personal benefit anyway and exploit the very real suffering and resentment of those further down in the hierarchy for their own ends. But the reason they often have popular support is because of Group A’s actions.

  53. timberwraith
    timberwraith November 4, 2011 at 10:59 am |

    Crys T

    As an atheist, I feel about people like you (and Dawkins, Myers et al.) exactly the same as I do as a vegetarian aoubt PETA: not in my fucking name, douche.

    Heh, I never drew that parallel before, but as a fellow atheist and vegetarian, that actually hits home rather well.

    Most definitely. I believe that often, even in movements that began for absolutely justifiable reasons, the leaders of these movements are mostly in it for their own personal benefit anyway and exploit the very real suffering and resentment of those further down in the hierarchy for their own ends. But the reason they often have popular support is because of Group A’s actions.

    That’s a very good point. And of course, political/social leaders in the west do their own version of this. Nothing generates political support quite like the specter of an external threat and the promise of violence.

  54. AnonForThis
    AnonForThis November 4, 2011 at 10:59 am |

    As an atheist, I feel about people like you (and Dawkins, Myers et al.) exactly the same as I do as a vegetarian aoubt PETA: not in my fucking name, douche.

    I’m not an Atheist, I’m a pagan. My faith doesn’t demand forgiveness and people of pre-abrahamic faiths have been directly targeted by both Christians and Muslims for extermination and forcible conversion from the very moment that those faiths gained political power. Yeah, I’m a little salty about that. No, I don’t feel too terribly bad that maybe people with a history of murdering infidels might now have to face the comparatively gentle oppression of a secular society that doesn’t treat their faiths like fine china. As far as I’m concerned the conflict between Christianity and Islam comes down to two violent, oppressive, cultures fighting over who gets to be King Dick of Patriarch Mountain. I’m not going to cry for either of them. Fuck ‘em, you reap what you sow.

  55. timberwraith
    timberwraith November 4, 2011 at 11:10 am |

    comparatively gentle oppression of a secular society

    Yes, because missiles, bullets, carpet bombing, “collateral damage”, and the near total destruction of a country’s infrastructure is comparatively gentle.

  56. timberwraith
    timberwraith November 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    Oh, I forgot the mention the hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed, injured, and permanently maimed.

    So sweet. So tender. So gentle.

  57. Raja
    Raja November 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm |

    AnonForThis: I’mnotanAtheist,I’mapagan.Myfaithdoesn’tdemandforgivenessandpeopleofpre-abrahamicfaithshavebeendirectlytargetedbybothChristiansandMuslimsforexterminationandforcibleconversionfromtheverymomentthatthosefaithsgainedpoliticalpower.Yeah,I’malittlesaltyaboutthat.No,Idon’tfeeltooterriblybadthatmaybepeoplewithahistoryofmurderinginfidelsmightnowhavetofacethecomparativelygentleoppressionofasecularsocietythatdoesn’ttreattheirfaithslikefinechina.AsfarasI’mconcernedtheconflictbetweenChristianityandIslamcomesdowntotwoviolent,oppressive,culturesfightingoverwhogetstobeKingDickofPatriarchMountain.I’mnotgoingtocryforeitherofthem.Fuck‘em,youreapwhatyousow.

    Yeah, pretty much this.

  58. Raja
    Raja November 4, 2011 at 1:01 pm |

    I want to add I do not endorse any of the new conflicts today in the middle east startedby the west

  59. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines November 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    Just wondering where my comment went. It had a really good link in it and everything.

    I see matlun is still trying to define Islamophobia and racism for everyone and stop those nasty Muslims silencing people.

    Anonforthis – You’re not so anon to me. I remember you on a previous thread swearing up and down that Muslims were just a big bunch of crybabies and we were lying about the problems with Islamophobia in Europe (and deserved all we got anyway, you charmer, you). That thread took place the week before Andreas Brevik went on his Islamophobically-motivated killing spree. Didn’t have much to say about it after that did you?

    If anyone really has an doubt of what Islamophobia is and that it exists, Islamophobia Watch, Loonwatch and Gates of Vienna watch are good places to start.

  60. matlun
    matlun November 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    Safiya Outlines: I see matlun is still trying to define Islamophobia and racism for everyone and stop those nasty Muslims silencing people.

    I have not really changed my opinion, no. And I do find those who firebomb newspapers pretty nasty people. But you are free to disagree.

  61. Sonia
    Sonia November 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm |

    The thing about Muslims doing this because they are marginalized doesn’t really wash. The reaction is the same even in countries in which they are completely dominant. They bomb any criticism in Pakistan (which has always been an ally of the US) and they bomb any criticism in Europe. If this was about being marginalized you would expect this behavior to be correlated to how marginalized they are in the region.

    Hell, they are still executing people for ‘sorcery’ in Saudi Arabia. It is going to be a long time before things move to the 21st century.

  62. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines November 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    matlun – My strong disapproval of the article linked in the OP was stated in my first comment which hasn’t shown up here. But yes, stating that Islamophobia is real obviously means I support terrorism, thanks for proving my point.

    Sonia – Repeat after me “Muslims are not a monolith, their lives are not solely governed by religious factors, economic and political factors are also ever present.” Why does everyone else get to live amongst in in relation to complex interweaving systems, but Muslims, no matter where we live in the world, we’re a bunch of two dimensional stereotypes. Othering much?

    Have you not paid the slightest attention to the news this year? Also, referencing Saudi Arabia is a tedious cliche. Less then 12% of the world’s Muslim population is Arab, even fewer is Saudi, so using the behaviour of the Western backed Saudi dictatorship to shame us Muslims with our supposed backwardness is derailing and unfair.

    WTF does “They bomb any criticism” even mean?

    Have I wandered into Jihad Watch by accident?

  63. Shoshie
    Shoshie November 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    matlun: I have not really changed my opinion, no. And I do find those who firebomb newspapers pretty nasty people. But you are free to disagree.

    Sonia: The thing about Muslims doing this because they are marginalized doesn’t really wash.

    Yeah, except no one here is actually arguing that. No one is saying that firebombing buildings is acceptable. Some of us are arguing that religious criticism doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and we should always be aware of whose toes we might be stepping on. I don’t think it’s acceptable to write off attacks on religious minorities as collateral damage. Islamophobia: it exists. Islamophobic attacks: they happen. So we would be wise to be aware of our own prejudices and power imbalances when we criticize any marginalized group, including religious minorities. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m just saying that it may be more productive to consider your own biases beforehand.

  64. matlun
    matlun November 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm |

    Safiya Outlines: matlun – My strong disapproval of the article linked in the OP was stated in my first comment which hasn’t shown up here. But yes, stating that Islamophobia is real obviously means I support terrorism, thanks for proving my point.

    I am sorry that I did not take your first comment into consideration, but since it is not in fact not in this thread perhaps I can be excused?

    And you were implying that “Muslim silencing criticism” was some kind of silly prejudice. On a thread about the firebombing of a newspaper. But if you believe you have a valid point feel free to make it.

  65. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines November 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    matlun – So giving some links to sites that, in contrast to the ham fisted and offensive article linked in the OP, actually explain and document Islamophobia and the Muslim take on it, is not a valid comment? I thought it was not only a valid comment, but pretty servicey myself.

  66. matlun
    matlun November 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm |

    Safiya Outlines: matlun – So giving some links to sites that, in contrast to the ham fisted and offensive article linked in the OP, actually explain and document Islamophobia and the Muslim take on it, is not a valid comment? I thought it was not only a valid comment, but pretty servicey myself.

    I did not say that – I was responding to your response to me. But no, not actually making any argument but just throwing in a few random references (as opposed to links) are not that useful a comment. Especially as these are well established sites that I suspect everyone that cares about this discussion will be familiar with anyway. (Ok, I was not familiar with “Gates of Vienna Watch”. Is there actually a specific blog to counter “Gates of Vienna”. Interesting.)

  67. D
    D November 4, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    CrysT:
    Honestly, I agree with a lot of what you said. But you want to draw an incredibly simplistic picture of “dominant” Christianity and “oppressed” Islam that stretches back to time immemorial when that pattern only emerged in the past 300 years.

  68. William
    William November 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm |

    You’re not so anon to me. I remember you…

    Next time I say religious folk have more privilege than they know, remember that you felt perfectly comfortable outing me. Remember that you did so with stomping and huffing and misrepresentation. Remember that you failed to engage, ridicule, or attack what I had said head on and instead decided to try to frame the discussion in an aggressive and intellectually dishonest manner. Remember that you lacked the courage to actually be overt but instead left bread crumbs and the subtle threat that you could do more. Remember that you attacked. Remember that you felt you had the right. Most of all, remember that I did not slink away and instead looked your bullshit in the face and took away the teeth of your threat by coming out on my own. I’ve lived through worse, you don’t have the power to make me live in fear.

  69. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines November 4, 2011 at 7:19 pm |

    William – Yes, I am absolutely sure that you’ve had worse done to you then someone pointing out that you made exactly the same statements, with exactly the same wording, under your usual user name.

    I’m not sure how that counts as such horrific behaviour. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to pretend that you didn’t previously make those statements. You were quick to pull out the insults then, and you’re just as quick to do so now. Why should I forget that?

    Now I understand that as a Muslim, I am obviously very evil and bad, but I am completely missing the part where I threatened you with worse.

    Saying “oh hello, I recognise this argument and the person making it” is not a threat. Recounting your previous arguments is not a threat.

    Anyway, threat to do more? Do more what? What?

  70. igglanova
    igglanova November 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm |

    Does anyone have a link to the original material that ‘incited’ the firebombing? I’d like to see if it was actually Islamophobic or just criticism of Islam before assuming that the paper was being oppressive rather than simply offensive.

  71. Sonia
    Sonia November 4, 2011 at 11:42 pm |

    You were quick to pull out the insults then, and you’re just as quick to do so now. Why should I forget that?

    What insults did he pull out?

  72. Raja
    Raja November 5, 2011 at 1:52 am |

    D:
    CrysT:
    Honestly,Iagreewithalotofwhatyousaid.Butyouwanttodrawanincrediblysimplisticpictureof“dominant”Christianityand“oppressed”Islamthatstretchesbacktotimeimmemorialwhenthatpatternonlyemergedinthepast300years. Yeah, espicially when christians have a history of being second class seconds in that area. Ask the Assyrians; the indengious people of Iraq, many of them fled after Saddam’s govt fell because of the violence they faced from other Muslims due to the fact that they were Christians not to mention they are a minority in their own country. Sounds awfully familiar

  73. Raja
    Raja November 5, 2011 at 1:54 am |

    Shit, accidently put my own statement in quotes.

  74. shfree
    shfree November 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    Safiya Outlines: AnonForThis doesn’t take issue only with Islam, but also with Christianity and Judaism, which zie posted about at length in another thread.

  75. Henry
    Henry November 7, 2011 at 1:18 am |

    I don’t know why this thread has devolved into a discussion about colonialism, which group did what to which other group and when – you can point to countless examples of christains and/or western nations and muslims and/or arab nations doing bad shit to each other, and some examples of them cooperating (e.g. Libya). It’s fairly simple:

    Is it rascist to draw nasty cartoons about Islam: yes
    Do people offended by said racism get to burn buildings in response: no

    Otherwise many of us would have a long list of people’s houses to get to…

  76. Mandolin
    Mandolin November 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm |

    “Is it rascist to draw nasty cartoons about Islam: yes”

    Is this, actually, a simple statement? It’s certainly not uncontested.

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