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March 7, 2007 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Is it racist to condemn fanaticism? Phyllis Chesler, the Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York, writes of her time as bride of a charming and Westernised Afghan Muslim.
posted by four panels (86 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Racism is fanatical (and unreasonable and stupid, etc).

Condemning racism is condemning fanaticism in that regard.
posted by nofundy at 8:01 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


To begin with, Islam isn't a race, so condemning it cannot be racist.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:05 AM on March 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


I maybe should have added this Wikipedia link:

"The term race serves to distinguish between populations or groups of people based on different sets of characteristics which is commonly determined through social conventions. The most widely used human racial categories are based on visible traits (especially skin color, facial features and hair texture), genes, and self-identification. Conceptions of race, as well as specific racial groupings, vary by culture and over time, and are often controversial, for scientific reasons as well as because of their impact on social identity and identity politics. Most biological and social scientists regard the concept of race primarily as a social construct, while some maintain it has a genetic basis."
posted by four panels at 8:14 AM on March 7, 2007


Is it racist to condemn fanaticism?

No, but these dyas I see a shitload of racism using the condemnation of fanaticism as it's excuse.

"To begin with, Islam isn't a race, so condemning it cannot be racist."

Americans love that get out for some reason. I don't partiocularly buy it: 1) It;s clear theres a HUGE racial element and 2) Basically if you're being some other kind of bigot it's A-OK? WTF?
posted by Artw at 8:16 AM on March 7, 2007


Racism is making a judgment about someone purely based on appearances. That is completely different than judging someone based on the choices he or she has made.

Participation in a religion is a choice, regardless of the social pressures placed upon you. To presume someone is Islamic because he or she is an Arab is different than to presume someone is barbaric because he/she is Islamic. Whether or not either presumption is fair is another discussion.
posted by tempestuoso at 8:22 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the guardian article:

"(...) so much so that many feminists are now much more concerned with the occupation of a country that doesn't exist - namely Palestine - than they are concerned with the occupation of women's bodies worldwide".

WTF? It seems she has another agenda that has nothing to do with feminism.
posted by Sijeka at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2007


No, but these dyas I see a shitload of racism using the condemnation of fanaticism as it's excuse.

What I see is people (especially in media or politics) afraid to condemn fanaticism as strongly as it deserves out of fear of being labelled racist.
posted by rocket88 at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Well, I'll agree that we're seeing racists using the uglyness of radical Islam as their excuse. But, that doesn't make radical Islam any less ugly. I'm a feminist, I'm a multiculturalist, I'm religiously tolerant, but that doesn't mean that I can't see something wrong just because it is present in another culture. The way women are treated in Islamic nations is, purely and simply, wrong.

However, I think that Chesler is guilty of the typical rightwing foolishness. When describing why she declared feminism to be dead she said that she was responding to people who said "We have to be multiculturally relativist. We cannot uphold a single, or absolute, standard of human rights. And, therefore, we can't condemn Islamic culture, because their countries have been previously colonised." I call BS on that.

There may be the occasional loon on the left who says stuff like that, but mostly I'm hearing it from the right these days to excuse their pathetic mishandling of Afghanistan and Iraq. Us on the left get uncomfortable when we hear people talk about absolute morality because we've seen how easily that sort of rhetoric gets used to justify all sorts of nastyness.

But, that said, I've never met a liberal type who didn't believe that there were absolute standards of human rights. Ask yourself who aggitates for human rights in China, or Saudi Arabia? The left, or the right? And the answer is: the left, because the right is too busy profiting from the lack of human rights in China, while the left really believes in human rights. Our only president not only isn't pushing for any change in Saudi Arabia, he's personal friends with the villans who have made Saudi Arabia such a hellhole.

So, meh to Phyllis Chesler, sounds to me as if she's another flopped liberal who is now busy tearing down the liberalism that gave her the freedom to become what she is.
posted by sotonohito at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


Nevertheless, Western intellectual-ideologues, including feminists, have demonised me as a reactionary and racist “Islamophobe” for arguing that Islam, not Israel, is the largest practitioner of both sexual and religious apartheid in the world and that if Westerners do not stand up to this apartheid, morally, economically and militarily, we will not only have the blood of innocents on our hands; we will also be overrun by Sharia in the West.

You need to be neck deep in the Kool Aid vat to think our policy in the Middle East has anything to do with standing up to religious and sexual apartheid morally, economically, or even militarily for that matter.
posted by The Straightener at 8:32 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


While I am stickler for semantic accuracy, Pastabagel - and you are correct, Islam is not a race - the word has come to have some broader meaning. The Jewish people are not a distinct race either, in biological terms, but they have a very distinct culture and anti-Semitic attacks have routinely been accepted as rascism.

That being said, I couldnt find the word 'rascism" or an allusion to it in anything save the subtitle of the article or in any of the other links. The subtitle looks like an editors or copywriters addition.
posted by elendil71 at 8:34 AM on March 7, 2007


2) Basically if you're being some other kind of bigot it's A-OK?

Are you saying that rejecting an ideology and its adherents is a form of bigotry?

That false premise - automoatically equating opposition with bigotry - is the biggest gift that militant political correctnesss ever gave to agents of intolerance. Sorry, but bigotry only applies to IMMUTABLE CHARACTERISTICS that people have no control over. Disliking someone because of the color of their skin or where they were born or who their parents were is bigotry. Disliking them because they adhere to an ideology that you find odious is not bigotry, it's an ethical and philosophical position.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 8:35 AM on March 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


Qualification: much to my embarrassed surprise, I see that the formal definition of bigotry does indeed apply to "creed, belief or opinion." Anyone else share my impression that popular American usage of the term is overwhelming focused on the racial/ethnic element of bigotry, or is me just stopit?
posted by MaxVonCretin at 8:43 AM on March 7, 2007


Everything is racist, didn't you know that? Including this typeface. That you are reading. It's racist.
posted by psmealey at 9:01 AM on March 7, 2007


Racist Sans.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2007


Including this typeface. That you are reading. It's racist.

Well, that's true, but only because I used a Greasemonkey script to change all Internet typefaces to Fractur.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:04 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm in ur typface hatin ur somethin or other
posted by spicynuts at 9:10 AM on March 7, 2007


But her views have found favour with some of the most enlightened people alive! Why are you even bothering to argue?
posted by biffa at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2007


“What we need now is an age of enlightenment in the Islamic world. Without critical examination of Islam, it will remain dogmatic, fanatical and intolerant and will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality and truth."

This is true, and it needs to be indigenous as possible not imposed by the West. On the other hand, the Religious Right is still fairly successfully resisting the West's own.

Of course part of me thinks that there should be a society dedicated to distributing copies of Hume and Kant across the world --sort of like the Gideons. Shouldn't every hotel room have a copy of the Critique of Pure Reason?
posted by MasonDixon at 9:17 AM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


I am struggling lately with the term "radical Islam". It seems to have been expanding in its definition to mean "anything distasteful in Islam". is what Chesler describes in her article "radical" Islam? When I hear "radical" I think Al Queda and suicide bombers. This cloistering and repressing of women isn't particularly new in dominant Islamic cultures, is it? I mean, it's not some new concept that came out of a wahhabist madrassa 40 years ago. Even if it's not explicitly supported by the Koran (and I have no idea but I've heard the claim), it's not really part of a radical offshoot practiced by a few bad apples tainting the whole thing for everyone else, is it? Culturally what is the day to day position of women in most dominant Islamic societies like?

These honestly aren't rhetorical questions. I have gotten very lost in the minefield of not condemning Islam as a religion but at the same time dealing with the ugly aspects of many/most of the Islamic societies in the world and their origins. "people are shitty" just isn't satisfying anymore, because different people are shitty in different ways.

'Scuse the babbling.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:21 AM on March 7, 2007


There are most likely people who are opposed to Islam without being racist, bigoted or Islamophobic. However, if you're a white American and you call Islam "barbaric," you are most likely not one of them. If your anti-Muslim screed then goes on to say that Israel is "scapegoated," you are certainly not.

You can't take any of this without context. Fundamentalist Islam as we understand it wouldn't exist without the US and Israel. The reason it is an influential current is that all other alternatives have been destroyed, mostly by physical force. Secular and nationalist movements in the Arab and Muslim worlds have been systematically crushed for over half a century in the power games the US has played. The dictatorships of the Middle East would hardly be sustainable without US involvement. I would love to see secular national liberation movements in the Middle East -- but that's not the way things are going, and more US involvement will never change this.

Decontextualized attacks on Islam and Muslims are bigotry, and deserve to be denounced. The US will not bring enlightenment to Muslims. It can bring war, bloodshed and devastation, as much as it wants. But it isn't bringing a shred of human enlightenment. All the neoconservative screeds in the world won't change that.
posted by graymouser at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


I am struggling lately with the term "radical Islam". It seems to have been expanding in its definition to mean "anything distasteful in Islam". is what Chesler describes in her article "radical" Islam?

Yeah--why not call out radical Mormonism for enlightening? Or radical Judaism? Or Southern Baptism? Or any of the other "hateful" ideologies that take unenlightened positions on feminist issues?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Lets gface it, colonialism hasd never brought enlightenment or democracy to anyone, and NEVER WILL. That colonialism has that ability is a self serving racist myth.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ins't this similar to ascribing the targeted prosecution of blacks and disproportionate sentencing of blacks and hispanics to Christians. And similarily incorrect.
posted by sfts2 at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2007


I'm so sick of you racists making sport of Scientology.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:38 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Now that I've actually read the article: I say, Harrumph. As an immigrant from Frankfurt, Germany, to deep South Florida in the mid 70's, my mom's impressions of American culture were eerily similar to those reported by Chesler. So does that mean Democracy is a brutal ideology? No. It means small town life can be full of small-minded people, no matter where you go in the world, and we in the West are too insulated in our own culture to realize that feminist progress in the rest of the world hasn't kept pace.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:39 AM on March 7, 2007


If your anti-Muslim screed then goes on to say that Israel is "scapegoated," you are certainly not.

Funny how crying "Islamophobia" is now considered a sufficient rebuttal of any defense of Israel.

Fundamentalist Islam as we understand it wouldn't exist without the US and Israel.

Given that the issue of Israel is, for most Islamic nations, simply a convenient excuse, what makes you think another excuse wouldn't have been found?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2007


I maybe should have added this Wikipedia link:

Four Panels: Nothing what you quoted indicates that Islam is a race. Please learn to read. Spesifically it says: The most widely used human racial categories are based on visible traits. It certanly dosn't say anywhere that you can arbitrarally group people and call it a race, or that you can use mutable properties like religions.
posted by delmoi at 9:43 AM on March 7, 2007


Yeah--why not call out radical Mormonism for enlightening? Or radical Judaism? Or Southern Baptism? Or any of the other "hateful" ideologies that take unenlightened positions on feminist issues?

Because of the relative numbers of people affected?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2007


Funny how crying "Islamophobia" is now considered a sufficient rebuttal of any defense of Israel.

Like how any attack on israel is rebuted with charges of anti-semitism!
posted by delmoi at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't want to come of as apologistic for the barbarities that do occur (at least ostensibly) due to Islam, but I think the ease with which people accept this sorts of potentially racist positions is due to a failure to recognize a few very important facts:

i) The history of islam is not a history of sexism anymore than for any other religion. The ebbs and flows that have caused followers of a religion to exemplify the passages that emphasize the sexist the passages in their holy volumes rarely has anything to do with the books themselves.

ii) Please don't assume that we enlightened westerners have everything figured out. We live in a pervasively sexist society where woman are constantly confronted and forced into ideas of sexuality and beauty that lead to depression, anorexia, and general misery. This isn't to say that this is on the same level as honor killings, but assuming that a whole sale transference of our cultural norms is only going to have a positive outcome is completely naive.

iii) You can't perform whole sale transferences of culture. It doesn't work. Cultures change and evolves. If you want women to 'become more free' you have to enable and allow, not force. Make sure women have the opportunity to vote, do not, however, ban their burkas.
posted by Alex404 at 9:56 AM on March 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


On review: Editing is a good idea.
posted by Alex404 at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2007


Yeah--why not call out radical Mormonism for enlightening? Or radical Judaism? Or Southern Baptism? Or any of the other "hateful" ideologies that take unenlightened positions on feminist issues?

People do this (and, usually, quite rightly) all the time, and without their hands tied. The cognitive dissonance in discussing Islam appears to stem from the point where your classically liberal ideals come in conflict with your countervailing political and cultural taboos. In the context of Metafilter, it's easier to rail against Evangelicals without violating these taboos.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:01 AM on March 7, 2007


It almost goes without saying, but google Phyllis Chesler.
Check out her website. I would say that her concern for
women's rights in Islamic theocracies is subordinated to her
Zionist ideology.
Her strange Neocon bedfellows taint the concern she professes
for womens' status in the Middle East, for me.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:24 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I married a guy who turned out to be a jerk. Therefore I am an idiot who should be more careful who I marry... I am an idiot who should have realized things might be a little different in Afghanistan... Islam is a vicious, evil religion that must be eradicated!!"

I'm sorry for what this woman went through, but she got herself into it, and her reaction is repugnant. If she'd married a Christian who treated her like shit, would she be waving around a copy of the New Testament with Paul's more sexist comments underlined and ranting about the evils of Christianity? If she did, would anyone listen to her?

Just to spell it out for those who have somehow missed the obvious: Afghanistan is a country with a difficult history that has left it somewhat backwards in the civilization department, and all sorts of tribal/cultural customs have been attached to Islam (as they are elsewhere), even when they have nothing to do with it. There are plenty of modern Muslims around the world who would no more think of abusing their wives or confining them to quarters than anyone else. But because the right-wing agenda in many Western countries calls for it, Islam-bashing is popular and lucrative. Pathetic.
posted by languagehat at 10:28 AM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


people come up with lots of excuses to treat each other like crap. religion has always been one of the more popular ones.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:33 AM on March 7, 2007


I think these debates fail to distinguish between culture and religion. There a complex relationship between the two, of course, but they're not reducible to one another.

E.g., there are enlightened, non-fanatical Christians and there barbaric, fanatical Christians. The religion alone isn't to blame.

One can point to religious texts advocating violence and oppression (e.g., the Old Testament), but such texts necessarily reflect the values, ideas, etc., that were pervasive when and where they were written, and only certain factions will continue to use those texts to justify their behavior.

As for race, it seems barbaric behaviors are pretty much equally distributed among all of them/us.
posted by treepour at 10:36 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Phyllis Chesler is racist, a hater, keeps poor company and is stooopid.
posted by nofundy at 10:42 AM on March 7, 2007


war on terror =
war on Islam (bring on armageddon!! woohoo!!) =
war to resubjugate the brown people (ht to patriotboy)
posted by nofundy at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2007


Very sadly, it has been clear in riverbend's blog and the recent Channel 4 documentaries by Iraqi reporters (professional and amateur), the occupation has made things worse for women in Iraq. In Bagdad, women who did not go veiled before the occupation now need to veil for their own safety, because the power vacuum has allowed religious fanatics to become more powerful.

Similarly, Iran does not have a very good stand on women's rights relative to the first world, but women have more rights there than they do in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates or many other "friendly" middle-eastern countries. They vote, serve in parliament and many are trying to improve their own position (the excellent BBC documentary linked to mefi a little while ago profiles some professional women within Iran). However, the more sabre rattling the United States and other nations do, the more power the fanatics gain, and the more the reformers lose.

It tears my heart out to know that anywhere in the world women do not have the same rights as men, and that is one of the aspects of traditional culture - including European traditional culture - I will never respect, even as there are many others which I do.

But I also know that looking to impose my ideas from the outside with force will not help - they will only strengthen the reactionaries. I would rather aid the forces of reform, by providing peaceful support and advocacy.
posted by jb at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2007


all sorts of tribal/cultural customs have been attached to Islam (as they are elsewhere), even when they have nothing to do with it .... There are plenty of modern Muslims around the world who would no more think of abusing their wives or confining them to quarters

As the "bride of a charming and Westernised Afghan Bangladeshi Muslim", I'm amazed at some of the bizarre notions people have about those of us who fall for those swarthy Muslim immgrants .... among my in-laws (and our wider circle of Bengali friends & contacts, all varying levels of devout) the women very much wear the pants in the marriages. My husband would be too scared of what his mother & sisters would do to him to mistreat me in any way!
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2007


"I learnt not to romanticise Third World countries...I also learnt that sexual and religious apartheid in Muslim countries is indigenous and not the result of Western crimes — and that such “colourful tribal customs” are absolutely, not relatively, evil."

Myth of the noble savage is alive and well apparently.

I'm not defending U.S. policy in this regard. She seems to be calling more for a critical look at Islam (re: Ibn Warraq). And certain forms of radical behavior whatever their basis are completely in opposition to human rights. We don't tolerate cannibalism or slavery. I see no reason to tolerate apartheid or any form of political, economic, or legal discrimination simply because it's religiously based.
Although Chesler seems to be arguing the point (with Susan Okin) that concern for the preservation of cultural diversity should not overshadow the discriminatory nature of gender roles - indeed she states: "...adopt a universal standard of human rights and abandon our loyalty to multicultural relativism."

Not sure what she's alluding to in terms of what's to be actually done (beyond standing with the dissidents - but I'll stand with anyone in favor of critical thought and human rights). Not much in terms of what 'stand' means tho.
I'd have to go with Alex404 - 'you have to enable and allow, not force.'

But I think what Chesler is really doing is slipping us a cold deck with all this (apparently contradictory in places) stuff and sliding in this sort of "hey, Israel is cool" sorta thing ("tiny Israel is routinely, unbelievably scapegoated").

*rereads*

Yeah, I think she's just jimmying the argument to make a case for Israel here. And there's not much to counter to. Plenty o'strawman as sotonohito mentioned.
But uh, if Israel is scapegoated...uh...they shouldn't be. Ok?

The problem here also is that "judging' between civilisation and barbarism" fails because it's predicated on "Western intellectuals who claim to be antiracists" doing that.

It appears to me she's arguing against multicultural racism on the basis of a superior culture doing the judging. Well I'd think you'd want an impersonal, transcultural, rational position - human rights stem from well, in some notable cases 'God', but in all cases that position beyond the cultural or individual whatever it's called. Hence the whole "unalienable" aspect of them.

Yeah, I don't think she's arguing what she think she's arguing.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:02 AM on March 7, 2007


"ii) Please don't assume that we enlightened westerners have everything figured out. We live in a pervasively sexist society where woman are constantly confronted and forced into ideas of sexuality and beauty that lead to depression, anorexia, and general misery. This isn't to say that this is on the same level as honor killings, but assuming that a whole sale transference of our cultural norms is only going to have a positive outcome is completely naive."


But too often this reflexive self-criticism in the West undermines the moral clarity necessary for condemning the barbaric practices of backwards stump-humpers. Y'know what? Our culture isn't perfect, but, say, stoning women for adultery is WRONG. Just like the prisoner abuses in China are WRONG, the execution of dissidents around the world is WRONG, pervasive social sexism is WRONG, etc. etc. This tu quoque bullshit, which frequently comes out of places like China, needs to be called out.

I will agree with you that the fundamental problem is still "Yeah, it's wrong. What can we effectively do about it?" which is often "Not much," since the imposition of cultural norms tends to radicalize more than liberate.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 AM on March 7, 2007


"Yeah--why not call out radical Mormonism for enlightening? Or radical Judaism? Or Southern Baptism? Or any of the other "hateful" ideologies that take unenlightened positions on feminist issues?"

I do! I even call out nice UU-types for being counterproductive and pointless! I actually went to a UU presentation on the Mythology of Feminism once and, being the only adult male who opened his mouth, wondered why the likes of Mary and Minerva got mentioned but poor Kali got ignored. What kind of Feminism is it when women still get typecast as Sensitive and Nurturing?
posted by davy at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2007


It appears to me she's arguing against multicultural racism on the basis of a superior culture doing the judging. Well I'd think you'd want an impersonal, transcultural, rational position - human rights stem from well, in some notable cases 'God', but in all cases that position beyond the cultural or individual whatever it's called. Hence the whole "unalienable" aspect of them.

But I believe it's sometimes asserted that the very notion of an "impersonal, transcultural, rational position" is itself a Western invention.

In a way, there's something to that -- it seems to me that the notion comes primarily from the Enlightenment. But was the Enlightenment truly a Western phenomenon or was it something that happened in the West that could also happen in other cultures? It seems to me she takes the latter position, which I find interesting and, truthfully, rather compelling. I'm not sure how else it's possible to uphold ideas stemming from the Enlightenment (like human rights) as universal.
posted by treepour at 1:36 PM on March 7, 2007


Like others, she's obsessed with Israel and this colors everything she does-- she literally cannot understand how someone could be both a feminist and a supporter of a two-state solution, which is just bizarre. Just because she briefly married a Muslim man in 1961 doesn't mean she has any special insight into Islam or even Afghanistan.
posted by cell divide at 1:54 PM on March 7, 2007


I'm deeply suspicious of all religious people. That said, even thought I think all religious beliefs are forms of mental defects, some are clearly less benign than others.

Similarly, sufferers of paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression both have mental illnesses, but I certainly have a preference about with whom I'd rather be locked in a room.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2007


Thank you, Me-Fites for seeing through this intellectually bankrupt woman's crap. Her claims of being a true feminist and being virulently pro-Zionist are untimely given the allegations of rape and sexual harrassment in the highest corridors of powers in Tel Aviv. What does that say about Judaism or Jews?

Nothing, other than criminals are criminals regardless of creed. All three Abrahamic religions are inherently misogynistic--why has the Vatican never appointed a woman priest? Why have Orthodox Jews not done so? Why has no woman because granted Ayatollah status? Because, the Da Vinci Code notwithstanding, all three religions are deeply patriarchal and anti-women.

I do agree with the person who posted above that criticism of 'barbarism' is legitimate. However, ultimately, it will backfire if that criticism is externally applied and pre-empts (and nips in the bud) the percolation of internal criticism. For example, if the Europeans and/or Canadians, who have allowed gay marriage, kept harping on American barbarism for not allowing the same, much as many of us may find it entertaining, it would backfire. Equally, if the criticism of barbaric interrogation practices within the US army came disproportionately from other countries, it would at best be ignored within the US. American distrust of international law and international legal norms bear this view out.

Similarly, external condemnation of societal norms of another society is limited in its use and is frequently counter-productive. Every culture and country has skeletons in the closet and plenty of ugliness; most prefer to sweep it under the carpet. The protectors of each country/culture are more effectively sweep such ugliness aside if attacked from another culture that per se will have its own ugliness, which will deflect from the issue at hand. Ultimately, it is for the Afghan people to decide how to treat each other and their women, so long as they protect minority rights. That is the democratic way.

Where Israel is a different kettle of fish is because of its illegal occupation of land and people who are per se lesser citizens (Christian and Muslim Israelis) or stateless (Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank) because they are not Jewish. That includes women, men and children.

Many Muslim countries have a poor record with women and minorities which is deplorable. Reform and enlightenment is needed but not coming from thinly-veiled (excuse the pun) racist (yes) bigots.
posted by Azaadistani at 2:39 PM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]



I don't see why you can't support Israel and be a feminist and attack fundamentalist Islam for being oppressive to women.

Why are you disqualified from sharing a very pertinent personal experience if you happen to also support Israel?

Phyllis Chesler is a leading feminist academic, not some random Zionist-- her Women and Madness is a classic text and her editor on this piece should have done her a favor and cut the Israel stuff out because it is simply being used to detract from her very valid argument that really has nothing to do with Israel.

She is not a racist or a bigot: she's saying what feminists should have said years ago which is that some cultures *are* better than others in terms of the way they treat women and those cultures *should be* considered better on that dimension, period.

The fact that the West has anorexia and depression and has not achieved perfect mental health for all does not detract from the fact that it's a damn sight better for women than the oppressive Islamic regimes she is criticizing. Anorexia, btw, predates advertising by centuries.

Cultures make choices about values -- some of these choices are better than others, objectively. But when people like Ayan Hirsi Ali and Phyllis Chesler speak out, they are put in their place by so-called liberals who say they are being racist when they are simply telling the truth.

It is not racist to attack a sexist culture. It is not racist for a feminist -- whaever color she may be--to attack misogynistic rap music, for example. It doesn't matter if Chesler loves Israel or hates Israel or couldn't give a shit about Israel: her point is that fundamentalist Islam and Sharia law are currently harmful sexist ideologies that must be confronted and not simply "respected because that's their culture."
posted by Maias at 2:41 PM on March 7, 2007


But she's not "criticizing a culture," she's attacking a religion. Her basic theme is "Islam sucks." That may not be racist, but it's stupid and repugnant and in my view disqualifies her from serious consideration, whatever her credentials as "a leading feminist academic." And come on, she's deriving her argument from her experience of being married to a jerk. That's pretty lame.
posted by languagehat at 2:52 PM on March 7, 2007


languagehat
Her basic theme is "Islam sucks."

I think it's more "Islam as practiced in Afghanistan by her husband sucks for me." But I do think she overgeneralizes to a great degree, so she is practicing prejudice in its basest form.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:20 PM on March 7, 2007


Er, "...by my husband..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:21 PM on March 7, 2007


It's Chesler who links what she says is the occupation of a "country which does not exist" to feminism. It's her doing the linkage, not others. I have no problem with her criticizing a culture of misogyny, but when she links that to support for Zionism, she's crossed a line which a. doesn't make much sense and b. shows that as long as it's "her people" doing the oppression, she has no problem with it.
posted by cell divide at 3:57 PM on March 7, 2007


Wow! Wonderful article. Yes, Islam sucks, period. But Christianity has all the same basic problems (if not quite a sever these days).

I'm not sure why people still fear the racism label for condeming Islam. Consider the French head scarf ban: Who supports it? school teachers, French Muslem women, any *knowledgeable* lefty. Who opposes it? Le Pen & Islamic fundamentalist. Gee, who is the racist there?
posted by jeffburdges at 4:03 PM on March 7, 2007


Ultimately, it is for the Afghan people to decide how to treat each other and their women, so long as they protect minority human rights. That is the democratic way.

There, fixed that for you.

Human rights should trump culture. Always. If that is a Western idea and makes me a bigot, then I suppose I am one.

It's funny that everybody rails on about how "yes, the culture should change, but it should be an organic internal change." Yes, I agree, but look at the reality for a second. There are plenty of dissidents trying to change these cultures from within. And for every vocal critic of the status quo in these countries, there are thousands more who disapprove but cannot speak out. And yet, even these dissidents are characterized as Islamophobic more often or not, mostly because they happen to tangentially agree with some right-wing rhetorical point.

This woman was invited to be the chairperson at the opening panel of a meeting of leading secular Muslims and dissidents. These are the people we supposedly glorify, the indigenous culture-warriors trying hard to bring about enlightenment and change their cultures from within. Is their attitude to say "No thanks. We can fight this battle ourselves. We want to change our culture ourselves, and reject any outside influence. We can criticize our culture, but Westerners can't."? Clearly not. They appreciate that this woman has the moral clarity to speak out against an obvious wrong rather than excusing these human-rights abuses as cultural necessities. I'm reminded of the movie Ghandi, when a wealthy, Western doctor approaches Ghandi at the beginning of his civil disobedience campaign and says that he is sympathetic to the cause and would like to help. He then asks Gandhi if he is surprised. Gandhi's reply is something along the lines of "I'm not surprised. When you are fighting for a just cause, people tend to come out of the woodwork to lend it support." This fight is one between justice and injustice, not between East and West. Why should we be afraid to make common cause with those striving for justice? Why should our impulse be to doubt the sincerity of these people?

I think it's our duty as human beings to speak out whenever any government oppresses any people. It's not like we don't have a stake in this because we are foreign to their culture. We are all human.
posted by SBMike at 4:04 PM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This was precious, and indicative of how obnoxious she is: The man with whom I had discussed Camus, Dostoevsky, Tennessee Williams and the Italian cinema became a stranger.

Ah, yes. Because knowing how to "talk the talk" is indicative of deep, sincere commitments to freedom and justice. ("Italian cinema"? Oh, how sophisticated! I must become your wife!)

And this: Ibn Warraq has written a devastating work that will be out by the summer. It is entitled Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Will Western intellectuals also dare to defend the West?

Oh dear, what a delightful coincidence. My anecdotal experience with a fuckwit Muslim man dovetails with this exciting new book about fuckwit Muslims in general!

Said's Orientalism might have some issues, but it is not an "attack" on the "the West." His whole frickin' point is that to divide history and culture into binarisms like "the East and West" and "the Normal and the Exotic" is shoddy scholarship, at best.

Meh.
posted by bardic at 4:29 PM on March 7, 2007


Israel isn't relevant here, fyi. Yes, she expresses some sympathy. But, if your demonizing her for that little expression of sympathy, your not even worth speaking to.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:32 PM on March 7, 2007


Human rights should trump culture.

I agree entirely. I've forgotten though, so please remind me. What are the human rights that we all agree on that can always be applied?

Freedom? For pedophiles, murderers, rapists?
Thou shall not kill? In war, in self defense?
Don't steal? If you're starving? What if you're stealing what's yours? Can such a thing be done?

Give me human rights and I'll give you confusion. I'm not relativistic to the idea of goodness and humanity, but don't tell me that their understanding and application is easy.
posted by Alex404 at 5:00 PM on March 7, 2007


Yes, Islam sucks, period.

Ah, another bigot. Have a good time in the gutter.
posted by languagehat at 5:01 PM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Alex404: Luckily, some very smart people have already gotten together and decided on a few of the main principles.
posted by SBMike at 5:13 PM on March 7, 2007


Human rights: women are human and deserve the same rights as men. Period.
posted by Maias at 5:22 PM on March 7, 2007



Wait a minute... where are the Christians, Buddhists, and Jews blowing themselves and civilians up and claiming that everyone else should live under their particular totalitarian system of religious law which demands the oppression and control of women, the stoning of adulterers etc?

Last I checked, there were no Christian, Buddhist, or Jewish suicide bombers working together and killing people in the name of trying to get everyone else to live under their totalitarian religious regime. Sure, there are a few lone nuts everywhere and plenty of fundamentalists of other religions and weird cults who might like to see a theocracy.

But the only ones I see taking violent collective action with the support of a network and covert support of some governments are those associated with Islam. And when formerly Moslem people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak out, they are called Islamophobic instead of heroic.

The fact that other religions have been associated with this sort of crap in the past doesn't excuse it now or make them currently guilty of it.
posted by Maias at 5:40 PM on March 7, 2007


Maias:

These people are not "speaking out" and they are not heroes. Islam is not being decried in a vacuum, for crying out loud. What people like Chesler and like Ayaan Hirsi Ali are doing is to justify endless war and oppression and give a "feminist" and "human rights" veneer to it. When they say "Islam is barbaric," they are implying that the United States, Israel, or allies are right to bomb, shoot, and torture Muslims, to invade their countries at will, to make them prisoners in their own towns and cities, to destroy their homes and vital infrastructure. After all, they're being liberated. This argument is not taking place in a vacuum. Every day, real barbarism -- in the name of "liberation", of course -- is on display in the news. And it has a Western face.
posted by graymouser at 6:02 PM on March 7, 2007


Until the late 1980s, the term Moslem was commonly used. However, translated, Moslem is the Arabic word for "one who is evil and unjust."- thus the word is now most commonly written "Muslim". [1] The word is pronounced /muslem/ in Arabic, but often /mʊślɪm/ or /'mʌz.ləm/ in English.
posted by psmealey at 6:05 PM on March 7, 2007


Graymouser, if you had your genitals cut off in the name of a religion, you'd probably not be especially moderate about it.

Speaking out against the oppression of women by Islamic regimes does not mean condoning torture of Muslims or any invasion of anything.

But if you don't want to be invaded, it's probably not a good idea to harbor terrorists who bomb the United States the way Afghanistan did. (I'm not justifying the US invasion of Iraq). And if you don't want to be seen as barbaric, it's probably not such a great idea to kill your own people when they are worshipping because they are in a different sect than you'd prefer. Nor is it a great idea to stand by while a genocide of your people (ie Darfur) goes on. Nor is it a great idea not to speak out against the violence because "that would justify hatred of Islam."

Sure, there's been a zillion such events in the past done by Christians and others. But they aren't doing it now.

Women's rights are not negotiable because "it's their culture." And oppression is wrong no matter who does it and speaking out against it is right. All this "well you might justify hatred if you speak out against this aspect of Islam" is relativism run amuck.
posted by Maias at 6:52 PM on March 7, 2007


Human rights: women are human and deserve the same rights as men. Period.

You've just defined human rights in terms of human rights. I've learned nothing.

And oppression is wrong no matter who does it and speaking out against it is right.

I know that. I'm not a monster.

Free the oppressed.
Protect the innocent.
Find something good to do, and do it.

Of course.

What the hell am I supposed to do with these words though? I can't see oppression nor can I smell freedom. Behind any set of principles and actual fucking reality is interpretation. If you don't believe, that, you make the same mistake as fundamentalists - as Dawkins for calling religions stupid.

We could have the perfect human code, but they will always be misapplied, at least some of the time.

Stop assuming human rights is easy.

No one ever thinks they're being evil, because they tend to justify themselves with the same principles as everyone else.

This is not relativism run amok, this is reality.
posted by Alex404 at 7:03 PM on March 7, 2007


Maias --

I am not saying "you might justify hatred" by "speaking out" on Islam. I am saying that people who campaign against Islam are engaged in apologia for imperialist wars, that their role has nothing to do with "standing up" for any principle. I do not oppose them because of any kind of cultural relativism, but because I am against imperialism. None of the phenomena you mention are unique or inherent to Islam. The whole notion that Islam=barbarism is itself a justification for yet more barbarism.
posted by graymouser at 7:12 PM on March 7, 2007


Graymouser, if you had your genitals cut off in the name of a religion, you'd probably not be especially moderate about it.

Was it Plato or Aristotle who discussed the virtues of arguments based on appeals to what it would be like if your schlong got chopped off? Well played Maias. You've enlightened us all.

More to the point, a little Said would be helpful here. This woman had a bad experience with a Muslim husband. Because he's "the other," so to speak, the swarthy, exotic male threat speaking, at times, in jibber-jabber, he is made to figuratively speak for all muslims at all times. But as Maias is quick to point out, when a Christian murders someone, he's simply a "lone nut job" and the exception to the general rule.

If you can't see the inherent double standard, please go read this book (the very one the author indirectly slams at the end of her piece. Or just part of it -- it's very long and somewhat redundant.)
posted by bardic at 7:35 PM on March 7, 2007


where are the Christians, Buddhists, and Jews blowing themselves and civilians up

Maias: Suicide bombing was invented by the Tamil Tigers as a part of Sri Lanka's ongoing civil war (Tamils are a Hindu minority within Sri Lanka).

India has been rocked by violence by Hindu nationalists against the Muslim minority, Buddhist monks in Korea (I believe) have riots fighting each other, Christian terrorists murder doctors and blow up government buildings in the United States (they prefer to kill small children without sacraficing themselves), and the King David Hotel bombing in 1946 was conducted by a militant Zionist organisation.

So where are they? In all the bits of history you are clearly very ignorant of.
posted by jb at 6:21 AM on March 8, 2007


Also, fundamentalist Christian polygamists in the United States are currently doing horrible things to women, as bad as the Taliban in Afghanistan. No burkas, but they do have rampant underage marriage, forced marrigae, rape, incest. If you want to fight a war to protect women, how about invading Bountiful, British Columbia?
posted by jb at 6:29 AM on March 8, 2007


"Graymouser, if you had your genitals cut off in the name of a religion, you'd probably not be especially moderate about it."

Wow, you actually had your genitals cut off? sux2bu. Or are you just using that as an emotional claim? That'd make sense, especially once you realize that Islam has nothing to do with the genital cutting. That's a tribal practice, not a religious one (which is why Christians and Animists in West Africa do it too, and why, say, Indonesian Muslims don't).
posted by klangklangston at 7:57 AM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"But I believe it's sometimes asserted that the very notion of an "impersonal, transcultural, rational position" is itself a Western invention."

Gunpowder was a Chinese invention. Propelling bits of metal with it was a western invention. Everyone uses those principles now. I don't see why one concept should be out of bounds merely because it's practical applications aren't immediately apparent.
Gotta go with SBMike on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We've got laws. We've got law enforcement. We have force behind that. All it takes is the will. But many people are in business together and some very powerful people (in whatever culture) are hung up on their culture being the best or the right way, so justice is occasionally deflected.
I like to take things slow and avoid mistakes such as running roughshod over someone's culture. You can't justifiably destroy the Burkas along with the apartheid. But the injustice must go. The problem is that people who suffering might not be as patient. It's better to avoid doing worse damage by moving too fast. But the world is changing. So far (from a broader historical perspective) for the better.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:53 AM on March 8, 2007


If she'd married a Christian who treated her like shit, would she be waving around a copy of the New Testament with Paul's more sexist comments underlined and ranting about the evils of Christianity? If she did, would anyone listen to her?

Probably yes, if he took her home to a third world country where the extremes of Pauline doctrine (as well as polygamy, corporal and capital punishment, female genital mutilation, inequality of women before the law, execution for apostasy (read- free thought), honor killings, slavery) were given the full force of custom and law. And probably yes again, if years later the US sort of kind of was trying to occupy said country. Even without those qualifications, lots of people, Mefites even, are happy to dig at Christianity- just look at the comments here. No skeletons too old for that historical closet.

As to her marriage- this was 1961, remember, before such light classics as Not Without My Daughter. She was young and in love, by definition hopeful and foolish. I can imagine her imagining herself and her husband as torch bearers of a New Generation, of his blazing a path in Afghanistan's New Frontier. I've seen some bad early and/or mixed marriages go south. I'd cut her a little slack for marrying straight out of college and well out of her own culture. (Whatever happened to the mister, I wonder.)

Islam has nothing to do with the genital cutting.

Indeed it does not. But you might hope they would try to discourage it. As you might hope other animists and Christians would.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:58 AM on March 8, 2007


No, Ayan Hirsi Ali had her genitals cut, and it was done in the name of Islam in her tribe.

And, while I am well aware of the Tamil Tigers etc., those are all regional organizations that do not have an agenda of imposing their view of their religion and its laws on the entire world.

Similarly, there has not been an abortion center bombing for years (perhaps since 9/11?-- certainly no fatalities since then) and while the oppression of women in some cults in the U.S. and Canada is horrible, it is not enforced by law and/or much of society as it is in Afghanistan.

Of course there are plenty of moderate Muslims etc.-- but to claim that there isn't a serious problematic thread in Muslim fundamentalism is delusional, I believe. And just because such a thread exists in other religions doesn't make it right in Islam-- it makes it wrong everywhere.
posted by Maias at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2007


because such a thread exists in other religions doesn't make it right in Islam-- it makes it wrong everywhere.

But what you're ignoring is that the thread of sexism and intolerance that runs through fundamentalist Islam, to the extent there is one, is exactly the same thread that runs through Judaism and Christianity, with its origin in Abrahamic religious traditions more generally. There's absolutely no justification for viewing the problem as a uniquely religious one. It's more an institutional problem--in fact, in most of the areas you cite, the problem more than anything is probably the lack of centralized governmental power. Local tribal leaders make the rules in places like Afghanistan in no small part due to persistent efforts on the part of historical colonial interests to prevent the emergence of stable centralized national governments (democratic or otherwise) in the middle east. The power gap allows these regions to be dominated by warring tribal factions with exaggerated notions of their own group identity (fanatical tendencies, in other words).

The relative emphases that practitioners of the various Abrahamic religions place on sexist and otherwise intolerant dimensions of their faiths is a direct result of regional and cultural differences in interpretations of the faith, not a result of any fundamental differences among the faiths themselves. So, again, regardless of what ultimately causes fanatical fundamentalism, the problem is a bottom-up grass-roots problem, not a top-down (or ideological) one. That's hard for us intellectual types to grasp sometimes, because we're really only comfortable waging war on abstractions: Things like Communism, Terrorism, etc. The prospect that America's adversaries throughout the world may simply be masses of very angry individuals who are angry at us for a litany of reasons too numerous to summarize tidily in an essay is just too difficult to face, so we don't. And so we never even come close to recognizing the truth of the situation.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2007


Um, "emphases"... "are"
posted by saulgoodman at 10:20 AM on March 8, 2007


And just because such a thread exists in other religions doesn't make it right in Islam-- it makes it wrong everywhere.

They do exist in just about every religion, so why, again, are we targeting Islam?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:21 AM on March 8, 2007


And just because such a thread exists in other religions doesn't make it right in Islam-- it makes it wrong everywhere.

Strictly speaking, I don't disagree with you on this, but in reality, context is everything. You are actively denying the fact that, in the cultural and political context of the modern world, these attacks on Islam are being used to justify murderous occupations and wars on Muslims. It is a vile mockery of the whole notion of women's liberation to use it to justify a war like the one in Iraq, where women's living conditions have dropped sharply, rape is epidemic (though barely reported), and women's rights and health care are worse by whole orders of magnitude. And these women, who you want us to admire, are pushing for more of that.
posted by graymouser at 10:38 AM on March 8, 2007


No, Ayan Hirsi Ali had her genitals cut, and it was done in the name of Islam in her tribe.

Actually, it was done by her grandmother, against the wishes of her father He had spoken out against female genital mutilation. As noted in this article, "[Female circumcision] is the issue that most offends Hirsi Ali's Muslim opponents; not because she has spoken out against the practice - plenty of Muslims have done that before - but because her critics insist that she has described it either as a universal feature of Muslim life, or one that is explicitly sanctioned by the Qur'an. Neither is the case. Rather, Hirsi Ali views it as a product of specific tribal practice combined with a broader cult of virginity, which is indeed upheld by the Qur'an (as it is by the Old Testament)."

So, people got mad at her because they thought she said FGM was Islamic, but she didn't. She said it was part of her tribe's culture.

Female genital mutilation is an African, not an Islamic tradition; it is not practiced through most of the Middle East, while it is practiced in many non-Muslim cultures in Africa.

It's also, like footbinding in China, something which women do to women. It doesn't involve the male Muslim heirarchy - it is a women's ritual. If there is to be any sucessful campaign against it, it will involve educating women, and changing their attitudes about themselves and their daughters. I heard Hirsi Ali talking in an interview about it. At the time, she wanted it to happen. She was young, and she said that the other girls at her school would make fun of anyone who didn't have it done. They called a girl who wasn't cut "dirty". Women fear that their daughters or granddaughters won't be able to marry. And yet, polls of men with multiple wives show that they prefer having sex with their wives who have not been cut.

-- fascinating note about how being circumcised by a man was better than being circumcised by a woman -- "As a child it is something you are proud of," Hirsi Ali says. "I remember the celebrations. I remember the goodies and the gifts. And I remember being caught by these two women - one of them my grandmother. But they couldn't find a woman to do it. They found a man, and fortunately for those girls circumcised by men, it's much milder. So I wasn't circumcised in the way that I should have been."

It's a serious, and complex issue. But it is not essentially Islamic. It was adopted into Islam, just as many pre-Christian traditions were adopted into Christianity in Europe (like arranged marriages, which the medieval Church did not like, but could not stop altogether). And if you want to change it, attacking the religion is counter-productive. That will just make people angry at you. Rather, use Islam to attack female genital mutilation as a horrific practice not condoned by God, whatever name he has.

----------------

To second what graymouser is saying: the occupation in Iraq has had a concrete and definite effect on women's rights -- they are being being destroyed by it. Women who used to travel alone, unveiled, now only travel with accompaniment and wearing veils. Things are worse. And the sabre rattling at Iran will make things worse there.

Fear and uncertaintly strengthens fanatics of all stripes, and will destroy all that we liberals - whether in the Middle East or in the West - hold dear.
posted by jb at 11:03 AM on March 8, 2007


And, while I am well aware of the Tamil Tigers etc., those are all regional organizations that do not have an agenda of imposing their view of their religion and its laws on the entire world.

And Palestinian suicide bombers are also a regional organisation which just wants to have a homeland - I don't like them either.

You are willing to look for the worst in Islam, and when people point out that horrific things are practiced by fanatics all over the world, of many religions and ideologies, somehow those are different. That's called discrimination. Textbook case. With a hefty dash of ignorance.

------------------------------

Recently heard on a British comedy show (and completely paraphrased)-

one terrorist boasts to another about how much money he has raised from Americans.
"How did you do that?" asks the other.
"I asked in an Irish accent."

(it's funny, but the darkness is intentional. The British haved feared terrorism for far longer than Americans; the downtown of the city my husband was born in was gutted by a bomb when he was a child, but they don't go around talking about Catholicism as a "religion of hate" - they recognise that evil is done by fanatics, who use religion/ethnicity/politics as an excuse. it is their fanaticism that is the real source of the evil, whether Muslim or Christian or Communist or Facist.)
posted by jb at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2007



Well, compare the way the IRA chose its targets to the way the Islamic suicide bombers do: the IRA generally tried to avoid killing civilians, targeting buildings and soldiers and giving warnings. That doesn't seem to happen with the Islamic bombers.

And, similarly, I'm talking about matters of degree with regard to the current threads dominating fundamentalist Islam and how people promoting it are acting. If other religions were doing similarly and had attacked the city I love, I'd speak out against them. But I don't see it happening on the same scale and I don't see it happening with the same tacit popular and governmental support in some countries.

I am not saying that Islam is bad or worse than any other religion-- I'm saying that people are doing bad stuff in its name *now* without the kind of outrage you'd expect from its moderates, which suggests to me, support. Now there may be good reasons for this-- from "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" to media failing to include enough moderate Islamic voices, etc.

But moderate Islam is doing a very poor job at media relations, basically.

And until I hear louder voices within Islam calling Al Qaeda a wacky cult and suicide bombing an abomination, I'm going to be wary. Especially given the vicious attacks on any Islamic woman-- from the Iranian who wrote that book about Lolita to Ayaan Hirsi Ali-- who tries to speak.
posted by Maias at 12:45 PM on March 8, 2007


But moderate Islam is doing a very poor job at media relations, basically.

BS. Moderate Islamic groups have been speaking out consistently and clearly since day one after 9-11. That the American news media is too busy watching the freakshow surrounding Anna Nicole Smith's funeral and speculating like schoolyard gossips over the significance of what the latest alleged Jon Benet Ramsey murderer had to eat on his in-flight meal to take notice is not the fault of the moderates in the Islamic community.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:56 PM on March 8, 2007


amen, saulgoodman. The moderate Muslim groups have denounced violence over and over, but no one listens to them, and just continue to insult their religion.

compare the way the IRA chose its targets to the way the Islamic suicide bombers do: the IRA generally tried to avoid killing civilians, targeting buildings and soldiers and giving warnings

Yes, obviously the Cabinet (and their wives) count as soldiers, as do the women in a regiment kitchen, the families of soldiers (1974), 21 people in a pub in Birmingham (pubs being well known military strong points in England), and two small boys shopping in the City. They could have grown up to be soldiers, after all. Those warnings were great too - they gave the police a whole hour and 20 minutes to evacuate Manchester, and only 200 people were injured. They could have bombed at night, but they chose to do so in the middle of a shopping rush, and chose a very strategic target: the Marks and Spencers. Clearly, Britain would be crippled by the loss of a regular supply of high qualiy groceries and well-made if less than fashionable clothing.

I made be making jokes, but I'm not laughing at them. Read the articles. I used to believe as you do, that the IRA tried not to kill people; they have very effective propaganda in North America. I was wrong. And this is just in England - both sides have done far worse in Northern Ireland.
posted by jb at 8:51 PM on March 8, 2007


the IRA generally tried to avoid killing civilians

Well they were'nt very good at it then, Wikipedia quotes studies suggesting they killed approximately 1 civilian for every 2 military personnel, 621 out 1821 casualties. This included taxi drivers targeted specifically in their vehicles and bombs set off in the centre of a non-military town the day before mother's day.

I suspect the difference in US support is that US citizens weren't being targeted and the US media wasn't interested.

moderate Islam is doing a very poor job at media relations

Is this because there is no way to actually promote the idea through western media that most of Islam isn't psychotic? The US media reflects the political position of its owners. The news agenda, indeed much of the debate, is effectively captured by this perspective.
posted by biffa at 5:45 AM on March 9, 2007


Maias: Suicide bombing was invented by the Tamil Tigers as a part of Sri Lanka's ongoing civil war (Tamils are a Hindu minority within Sri Lanka).

@jb: I agree with the point that you are making but am obliged to correct the generalisation; there are also Christian, Muslim and Buddhist Tamils. Religion is not the governing factor in that particular conflict.
posted by Talvalin at 8:42 AM on March 9, 2007


Talvalin - thank you for the correction. I had just heard on the radio the Tamils described as a Hindu minority next to the Sinhalese(? radio does not help me spell) majority who were described as primarily Buddhist. Is religion a source of conflict within the Tamil community, affecting support for the rebels, or is it not a factor?
posted by jb at 8:42 AM on March 11, 2007


Like how any attack on israel is rebuted with charges of anti-semitism!

Except only one gets called out. Even the favourites count on our comments agrees.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:59 AM on March 17, 2007


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