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July 24, 2008 12:31 PM   Subscribe

On a sunny May morning, six plainclothes police officers, two uniformed policemen and a trio of functionaries from the state prosecutor's office closed in on a small apartment in Amsterdam. Their quarry: a skinny Dutch cartoonist with a rude sense of humor. Informed that he was suspected of sketching offensive drawings of Muslims and other minorities, the Dutchman surrendered without a struggle.

"I never expected the Spanish Inquisition," recalls Gregorius Nekschot, the cartoonist.
posted by plexi (111 comments total)

 
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"
posted by ericb at 12:34 PM on July 24, 2008 [9 favorites]


Damn you, ericb! Five minutes ago that would've been mine.
posted by greatgefilte at 12:39 PM on July 24, 2008


I also wanted to make that joke.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:46 PM on July 24, 2008


I also wanted to make that joke.

You and thousands of other unfunny nerds.
posted by cellphone at 12:48 PM on July 24, 2008 [68 favorites]


If you actually read the article, you'll see that Nekschot was perfectly aware that he was paraphrasing Monty Python. Back to the subject...

suspicion that he violated a Dutch law that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation

So if Nekschot were to draw hideous caricatures of everybody in equal proportion, he'd be in the clear, right?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:48 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well -- to be fair -- from the article:
"'I never expected the Spanish Inquisition,'recalls the cartoonist, who goes by the nom de plume Gregorius Nekschot, quoting the British comedy team Monty Python."
posted by ericb at 12:48 PM on July 24, 2008


Fear, surprise, and a ruthless sense of efficiency.
posted by three blind mice at 12:49 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


He hasn't been charged with a crime, but the prosecutor's office says he's been under investigation for three years on suspicion that he violated a Dutch law that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.

Isn't discrimination when you prevent or take away something of value? Discrimination is racism with loss. How can he be accused of discrimination when nobody is losing anything? The man is drawing cartoons. He's not hiring or firing anyone. He's not a teacher in a classroom. He's a cartoonist. He can be accused of bigotry but not discrimination. His arrest is ridiculous.
posted by LoriFLA at 12:51 PM on July 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


Hay cellphone, I hid some irony for you to find! See if you can find it!
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:54 PM on July 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Dear Gregorius Nekschot,

We are sorry to hear of your recent troubles with the Dutch authorities. We find it sad and disturbing that merely drawing cartoons should be considered an offense in any modern democracy.

That is why we'd like to extend a warm invitation to you to come to our shores, renowned for centuries as a refuge for all those "yearning to breathe free." Our First Amendment guarantees absolutely your right to draw offensive cartoons, and even branch out into offensive speeches, television shows, films, or pornography, if that is where your artistic spirit should see fit to take you in the future.

Yes here you could rest easy, knowing that no American will ever seek to prosecute you for your satirical cartoons, or understand them.

Sincerely,
The United States of America
posted by rusty at 12:57 PM on July 24, 2008 [11 favorites]


>Yes here you could rest easy, knowing that no American will ever seek to prosecute you for your satirical cartoons, or understand them.

Give it 10 years
posted by norabarnacl3 at 1:03 PM on July 24, 2008


A friend of a friend was on Jeopardy a few months back, and naturally, all his loving and nerdy friends were watching and rooting for him. During Final Jeopardy, the answer was: "What world happening was announced in Spain in 1493?" He incorrectly answered: "What was the Spanish Inquisition?"

Within minutes, his cell phone was packed full of voicemail, with everyone he knew calling to tell him that they never expected he'd say that.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:04 PM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Jesus and Mohammed
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:04 PM on July 24, 2008


I am now drawing a caricuature of a spineless dutch society.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:06 PM on July 24, 2008


Within minutes, his cell phone was packed full of voicemail, with everyone he knew calling to tell him that they never expected he'd say that.

We should start a support group and just read each other histories of the Spanish Inquisition, pausing every so often to let some poor, predictable soul feel like they're popular and accepted.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:13 PM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not to mention... an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope and nice red uniforms.

Wait, what are we talking about?
posted by miss lynnster at 1:15 PM on July 24, 2008


An unfortunate move by the Dutch authorities. They've turned a racist bigot into a martyr for free speech.
posted by justkevin at 1:17 PM on July 24, 2008


I am now drawing a caricuature of a spineless dutch society.

It's not just the Dutch. From the article:

In Britain, a local police force got caught up recently in a flap over its use of a German shepherd puppy to promote an emergency hotline. A Muslim councilor, noting that dogs are viewed as unclean in Islam, complained that the puppy could turn off believers. The police force apologized and regretted not consulting its diversity officer.

Apologized? For using a puppy? WTF?!?
posted by cjets at 1:24 PM on July 24, 2008


> Isn't discrimination when you prevent or take away something of value? Discrimination is racism with loss.

In a time when "He hurt my tender feelings" is actionable, there's never going to be any difficulty showing loss.
posted by jfuller at 1:28 PM on July 24, 2008


Apologized? For using a puppy? WTF?!?

I guess they're cat people, after all.
posted by fijiwriter at 1:31 PM on July 24, 2008


For all my good feelings about Europe, its accommodation between free speech and "cultural sensitivity" leaves me cold. Let us not forget all those laws against denying the Holocaust. I'd even mention the German laws banning goosestepping, but given their unique history, I'm going to give them a pass on that one.
posted by Edgewise at 1:31 PM on July 24, 2008


Yeah. On the one hand I'm totally for his free speech, his right to be offensive to any religion, and completely opposed to his prosecution.

On the other hand he's a right wing racist twit. I support his free speech in much the same way that I support the free speech of neo-Nazis; with my nose held and doing it for the sake of principle.

On the third hand cases involving freedom are generally cases with pretty loathsome defendants, no one ever gets arrested people seldom get arrested for saying something popular and inoffensive.
posted by sotonohito at 1:31 PM on July 24, 2008


You know what else nobody expected and who else didn't expect it and who knows who else didn't expect whatever it was?
posted by katillathehun at 1:35 PM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


In a time when "He hurt my tender feelings" is actionable

Cite, please.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:43 PM on July 24, 2008


I wish to complain about this well-known early-70's British comedy sketch reference what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
posted by designbot at 1:49 PM on July 24, 2008 [16 favorites]


You know what else nobody expected and who else didn't expect it and who knows who else didn't expect whatever it was?

Giles Coren?
posted by netbros at 1:52 PM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


I am now drawing a caricuature of a spineless dutch society.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:06 PM on July 24


I am now drawing a caricature of unfunny nerds.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:59 PM on July 24, 2008


a right wing racist twit, a racist bigot, etc.

Oh, of course. After all, I can't think of a single alternate explanation as to why a European cartoonist might dislike Islam and/or Muslim immigrants!
posted by vorfeed at 2:03 PM on July 24, 2008


ATTENTION:
You Must be THIS TALL-------------------------------------
To ride The Metafilter.

Thank You.
posted by Dizzy at 2:05 PM on July 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yes here you could rest easy, knowing that no American will ever seek to prosecute you for your satirical cartoons, or understand them.

Sincerely,
The United States of America
posted by rusty


rusty, I note that you live in Maine, a state where snorting oxycontin and swilling Mr. Boston coffee brandy are favorite ways to get through the eight month long winters, and where the women never cut their hair.

In the other 49 United States of of America, as many as ten or fifteen percent of us undertand and appreciate satire just fine.
posted by longsleeves at 2:22 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a job for bicycle repairman.
posted by fixedgear at 2:23 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


A few years ago I was backpacking through Spain with a bunch of Australians. We were spending some time in Barcelona where one of the guys had met a local girl. She was apparently quite a lusty woman, and in the afternoons while he waited for her to finish work he would describe their night-long love-making sessions. One day he met us at a cafe and told us an incredible story of how a friend of hers had met them for dinner the previous night and she ended up joining the couple for a wild threesome. It was a real cracker, mate! A real cracker! he said.

That evening he invited me to go out with them. I met the girl and she was very attractive, and as the night passed we really hit it off. Eventually we were back at her apartment, in her bed, in each other's arms. Everything was going well, she had undressed me, I had undressed her... and then she paused. She said she was sorry, she couldn't go through with it. She liked me, but she didn't feel it was right. She was feeling guilty about the threesome and didn't want to do something she regretted again. Now, I'm an understanding person, and I could see she was serious about this. But I was upset -- I felt I had been led on, teased. Mostly my pride was injured. I put on my clothes and stormed out. She ran after me, crying. She begged me to come back. I refused to look at her. Please, she pleaded, what were you expecting from me? Finally I turned and faced her. Damn it, I said. I wasn't expecting the Spanish inhibition.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:23 PM on July 24, 2008 [25 favorites]


I guess they're cat people, after all.


Actually, yeah. But you guys are all smart and know that major news sources love to exaggerate Muslim outrage, right?
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:35 PM on July 24, 2008


know that major news sources love to exaggerate Muslim outrage, right?

Surely you jest. It's amazing that Muslims have time to worship satan, what with all their being constantly outraged and everything.
posted by tkolar at 2:37 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am now drawing a caricature of unfunny nerds.

Sometimes a word is worth upwards of 60,000 pictures. In this case the word would be "MeFites".
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:46 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish to complain about this well-known early-70's British comedy sketch reference what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

It's not my fault; I wanted to be a lumberjack.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:55 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


sotonohito: I support his free speech in much the same way that I support the free speech of neo-Nazis; with my nose held and doing it for the sake of principle.

Supporting free speech for people with whom you agree is an empty and meaningless gesture. On the other hand, supporting the rights of those with whom you disagree is the very essence of free speech.
posted by dhammond at 3:01 PM on July 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


Supporting free speech for people with whom you agree is an empty and meaningless gesture.

No it's not. Unless you meant "Supporting free speech only for people..."?
posted by mw at 3:28 PM on July 24, 2008


For all my good feelings about Europe, its accommodation between free speech and "cultural sensitivity" leaves me cold. Let us not forget all those laws against denying the Holocaust.

Doesn't bother me. For the past few centuries, Europeans have gotten drunk on anti-semitism and related bigotries. Stinky-faced drunk. But, you see, the hangover from that last binge was a killer. 50m dead and the whole continent ruined. That shit is hard to forget and forgive. It's really not so much more complicated than that.

Like reformed alcoholics, most Europeans seem to accept the necessity of keeping dry.
posted by three blind mice at 3:32 PM on July 24, 2008 [8 favorites]


Here is a sample of the offensive cartoons, with some sort of gangsa rap laid over them.


http://www.wikio.com/video/232452


Oh, and here they are as well

http://www.hetvrijevolk.com/?pagina=6139

Pretty crude stuff, but I'm all for NOT KILLING PEOPLE OVER CARTOONS and especially for NOT ARRESTING PEOPLE FOR DRAWING CARTOONS THAT OTHER PEOPLE WOULD USE AS JUSTIFICATION FOR KILLING. But that's just me.
posted by Catblack at 3:36 PM on July 24, 2008


dhammond I agree, which is why, despite disliking the person's politics, I support his free speech. But since I dislike his politics I feel its necessary to add a caveat. Bashing Islam is the favored sport of right wing hacks who, if they see Christianity bashed on similar terms, would express outrage and a desire to censor and/or harm the basher of Christianity.

See PZ Myers and his many death threats from Christians during his recent [1] dustup WRT the Jesus crackers. Had he started with Islam bashing, rather than Christian bashing, the right wingers would be falling over themselves to claim he was a bold hero, since he started with Christian bashing the right wingers hate every fiber of his being.

Which brings me back to my support, however unwilling, for the Danish jerk. He's doing the trendy thing and expecting us to treat him as a bold hero. I do unreservedly support his free speech and his right to mock Islam; but I refuse to go along with his delusions of heroism due to his trendy choice of targets.

[1] And, IMO, more than slightly obnoxious.
posted by sotonohito at 3:37 PM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I judge people's public speech on how constructive it is.

This guy, not so much.

Everybody getting sandy is part of the problem IMO.
posted by yort at 3:40 PM on July 24, 2008


Oh, and it took me a few to find the link, but Dirk Deppey had this to say not too long ago:

First things first: Did you know that Dutch police have an actual division of the service devoted to policing cartoons for political correctness?
Take a moment, and let that one sink in.

posted by Catblack at 3:42 PM on July 24, 2008


He strikes me as the Dutch Sean DeLonas.
posted by ltracey at 3:54 PM on July 24, 2008


And don't forget the CartoonBombing of the Dutch Ministry of Justice!

Apparently the Dutch have had Cartoon Police at the Ministry of Justice since 2006.
posted by Catblack at 4:00 PM on July 24, 2008


>Yes here you could rest easy, knowing that no American will ever seek to prosecute you for your satirical cartoons, or understand them.

Give it 10 years


You're not being hard enough on these guys. What we need to do is put their comics on Digg and then open it up for comments.

They'll never pickup a pencil again.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2008


Far more than slightly obnoxious. Clearly offensive and quite jubilantly so. If this is what passes for "anti-Muslim satire" in his country, it surprises me much less that it is responded to with physical violence. Not excused, but explained. The problems caused by the medieval practices of the hard-core islamists in Europe will not be resolved and are sure to be worsened by pictures of bearded men getting fellated by children. (1) Provoke angry violent response, (2) Point out angry violence as further proof of enemy's non-humanity (3) Prophet!

That said, I cannot justify opposing city clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control pills "for religious reasons" without opposing EVEN MORE STRONGLY the even more awful abuses of "Freedom of Religion" by extremist muslims. The woman who refuses to remove her veil to become a citizen should never be a citizen. And my general opposition to Capital Punishment is weakened for the cases of scumballs who commit "Honor Killings".

I actually agree with Gregorius Nekschot in "loathing all ideologies and all religions as recipes for tyranny." But I don't see his cartoons as loathing an ideology as much as loathing PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE THAT, and he earns zero support from me.

Isn't it interesting that, if the Dutch police have been "policing cartoons" for three years, this is the FIRST arrest? America's Department of Homeland Security would NEVER have been so slow.
posted by wendell at 4:18 PM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


In a time when "He hurt my tender feelings" is actionable, there's never going to be any difficulty showing loss.

jfuller, I second Blazecock Pileon's request that you back this up with a cite. I think you're misinformed.
posted by applemeat at 4:20 PM on July 24, 2008


It's important to remember that even scumbags have rights. In fact, it's only when you're thought to be a scumbag that you really need them.

Rights for mainstream, conforming citizens are meaningless.
posted by Malor at 4:28 PM on July 24, 2008


sotonohito: Which brings me back to my support, however unwilling, for the Danish jerk."

The "Danish jerk" has been pretty outspoken against right-wing idiots even while he was living undercover under the protection of PET, the Danish equivalent of the CIA. He filed suit against a right-wing group who wanted to use his cartoon in an anti-Muslim rally. Actually after listening to him, one might say that he's not a jerk at all.
posted by sveskemus at 4:29 PM on July 24, 2008


He has a website, but it's in Dutch.
posted by Anderson_Localized at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2008


I have a lot to say about this. First, although the sense of Islam in which I was raised was the equivalent to (say) the average American Presbyterian's in its secular aspects, I'm still Muslim. And I've suffered for it. That said, I support this guy's right to free speech . . . let him draw his little cartoons all he wants, unhindered by anyone.

But they're horribly, horribly offensive. Not as much because of the offense which they may cause Muslims in a religious sense, but because in terms of portraying Muslims, they're as calculated to propagate intolerance and promote hateful stereotypes as the Nazi-era anti-Semitic cartoons were.

Sotonohito and others bring up a valid point, which is that much more benign cartoons which poke fun at Christian leaders are never defended by conservatives in the way that these cartoons will be. And that's in spite of the fact that these cartoons are probably more offensive, since they are geared less at individuals or specific policies, and more at all Muslim people and the entire Muslim faith. It's probably worth saying that they may cause much more harm to Muslims (or anyone perceived as Muslim) than equivalent anti-Christian cartoons would, which one might take into account.

And who will profit from these media attention? Well, mainly the cartoonist. The article already states that, despite the failure of two of his books in the past, his blog is more popular than ever, since this story broke. I imagine that today in the Netherlands, he has achieved a sort of household name status. As it is with me, most Muslims don't give a toss one way or another about this fellow. But I already know that the "play" this will receive on American talk radio will be all about how those horrid Muslims have no sense of humor, which is representative of their general nonhuman nature. Pure invention. There's little about this story to substantiate any real "Muslim" outrage, and those things are over-exaggerated in any case. Yet at the next quasi-intellectual pseudo-cosmopolitan function I attend, I will yet again be asked to speak for all Muslims. This is possible only because we are portrayed as one-dimensional, and it's believed even by those who know me, who are always amazed that I like dub reggae or go water-skiing . . . because Muslims don't do that, we are too busy being reactionary fanatics.

(And let me tell you a story: I am grateful that many people read what I wrote on the Karadžić thread and that they favorited it. It's important that people know about the war. In Sarajevo, we have a tradition of taking out big memorial "ads," with photographs, in the newspaper, to commemorate loved ones who were taken from us, on the anniversary of their death. This makes us feel better, to know that we are keeping their memories alive. Knowing people read the story about my parents made me feel better in just that same way. But as terrible as parts of my life have been, I am still very much the person I would have been otherwise, with interests in many things and a sense of humor and distinctive personality quirks. Here is my point: as much as I am the victim of a genocidal war, I am still a girl who looked at all those favorites and thought, gee . . . wouldn't it be cool if they could be converted into DSW gift cards? I'd have so many new shoes!)

I wish people would examine their double standards. On a BBC post, someone wrote that Muslims have no right to demand a trial for Karadžić while "they" let al-Bashir engage in genocide in Darfur. I won't even go into that, as it's just crazy. But it's interesting that these sorts of senseless connections are made all the time about Muslims, but no one chastises the entirety of Christianity for the fact that the Serbian Orthodox Church was and remains so clearly involved in harboring genocidal monsters. Nor should they, because it'd be stupid.

There is one more thing I want to say about the Netherlands. I am reading Geert Mak's totally enthralling book, entitled In Europe: Travels Through The 20th Century. In it, he talks about the relative survival rates of the Jewish population in various countries. He points out that the Netherlands was even then considered very liberal and tolerant, but despite having a relatively small contingent of Germans watching over the country during the war, the country was very thorough in its deportation of the Jews - a much smaller percentage of Dutch Jews survived than the Jews of Belgium, France and other western European countries. This he ascribes to a Dutch penchant for being very efficient in the sort of a humdrum bureaucratic work that moved the expulsion of Jews along, and rather weak at the emergence of individual conscience. A sort of innate Dutch tendency toward acts representative of what Hannah Arendt would call the banality of evil.

In that light, I am pleased the Dutch controversy over this issue. It displays an amount of societal evolution that may stem future nightmares from beginning. A "cartoon police" and overnight jail stays for racist cartoonists is probably too much, but I have some admiration for the Dutch government's attempts to put in safeguards where personal conscience has failed them in the past.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:00 PM on July 24, 2008 [16 favorites]


In a time when "He hurt my tender feelings" is actionable

This brought calls for citations from people apparently unfamiliar with the state of things up here in Canada. An example is a pastor from Alberta who was recently found guilty [PDF] of writing something "likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt." Not that they could find actual homosexuals who were exposed to these things as a result of the publication. I think this is close enough to the kind of thing jfuller mentions. The pastor was ordered, btw, to "cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals." Anything disparaging.

You can read about many more cases demonstrating the sorry state of free speech in Canada at the website of Ezra Levant.

There's also the case of the Irish politician Iris Robinson who was recently investigated for possible hate crimes offenses after expressing her opinions on homosexuality. This phenomenon is apparently not uncommon in the UK and, as the linked article states, politicians are trying (unsuccessfully, for the moment) to get even more restrictive laws passed.
posted by mw at 5:27 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I happen to know what every other American is thinking right now about this issue: "Do not let those weird Dutch into our country to threaten our free speech!" Yeah, like that.
posted by Brian B. at 6:07 PM on July 24, 2008


>> In a time when "He hurt my tender feelings" is actionable, there's never going to be any difficulty showing loss.
>
> jfuller, I second Blazecock Pileon's request that you back this up with a cite. I think you're misinformed.
> posted by applemeat at 7:20 PM on July 24 [+] [!]


Are you kidding? A very brief trawl through Google pulls up:

Sex-change paratrooper wins £250,000 for ‘hurt feelings’ A former paratrooper who had a sex-change operation has won a £250,000 payout for hurt feelings after being ordered to wear a man’s army uniform. Jan Hamilton, formerly Captain Ian Hamilton, was awarded the sum by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in an out-of-court settlement after claiming that she was humiliated by the order.

Birthday party snub sparks debate An eight-year-old boy has sparked an unlikely outcry in Sweden after failing to invite two of his classmates to his birthday party. The boy's school says he has violated the children's rights and has complained to the Swedish Parliament.

Muslim stylist wins £4,000 payout.The panel found that Ms Noah had been badly upset by the 15-minute interview. She was awarded £4,000 damages for "injury to feelings".

Convicted NZ murderer compensated for hurt feelings.

Muslim teacher loses veil appeal. A Leeds employment tribunal dismissed three of Mrs Azmi’s claims of discrimination and harassment, but found that she was victimised and awarded her £1,000 for “injury to feelings“.
posted by jfuller at 6:09 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


1. "Sex-change paratrooper wins £250,000 for ‘hurt feelings’ " Well if you read further you will learn that "Jan Hamilton, formerly Captain Ian Hamilton, was awarded the sum by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in an out-of-court settlement" People can contract for just about anything in a settlement. This story is not evidence that "hurt feelings" is actionable.

2. Birthday party snub sparks debate. Did you read this story, jfuller? The "snub" sparked debate. There's been no ruling. This is not evidence that "hurt feelings" is actionable.

3. Muslim stylist wins £4,000 payout. You're getting warmer now, but isn't this really a case of illegal job discrimination that happened to cause emotional injury as well?


You live in the U.S. Do you have any U.S. cites to demonstrate that "hurting" someone's "tender feelings is actionable?"
posted by applemeat at 6:45 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, those Dutch, bless their politically correct little hearts. Sure, they might go a little too far every once in a while, jailing cartoonists and all, but they make a damn good poffertje. Mmmmmm!!.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:32 PM on July 24, 2008


This he ascribes to a Dutch penchant for being very efficient in the sort of a humdrum bureaucratic work that moved the expulsion of Jews along, and rather weak at the emergence of individual conscience. A sort of innate Dutch tendency toward acts representative of what Hannah Arendt would call the banality of evil.
As this makes clear, the Dutch had interned and created files of refugees from Germany well before they were invaded.

Here is a chronology of the boiled-frog approach the Nazis used to exterminate the Jews in the Netherlands.

This site notes that the Netherlands lost a greater proportion of their Jews (104000/140000) than any country except Poland. It also has the highest NUMBER of recognized 'righteous gentiles.' See the commentary following The Walrus and the Carpenter.
posted by hexatron at 7:36 PM on July 24, 2008


Actually after listening to him, one might say that he's not a jerk at all.

Seeing as how most of us don't speak Dutch, you might want to help us out with that.
posted by afu at 7:37 PM on July 24, 2008


This story is not evidence that "hurt feelings" is actionable.

she threatened to sue and got 250,000 quid - how many organizations pay that kind of money if they think that their opponent's greivance is not "actionable"?

it clearly is, otherwise they wouldn't have paid
posted by pyramid termite at 8:39 PM on July 24, 2008


> You live in the U.S. Do you have any U.S. cites to demonstrate that "hurting" someone's "tender feelings is actionable?"

Venue-shopping, eh? But we haven't gone quite as far 'round the bend (about this particular matter) in the U.S. as they have elsewhere--e.g. Canada and Britain and the wacky, wonderful European Onion. We were discussing a case on the other side of the pond, and neither your nor blazecock's requests for specifics went so far as to specify a location.

Also it's late and I'm sleepy so instead of multiplying instances let's just head straight for Blackstone's, mmm?

p. 82
140 Remedies
(2) Compensation shall be assessed on the same basis as damages for breach of statutory duty and may include compensation for injury to feelings.


p. 176
17A Enforcement, remedies and procedure
... compensation in respect of discrimination in a way which is unlawful under this Part may include compensation for injury to feelings whether or not it includes compensation under any other head.


p. 440
39 Jurisdiction of county and sheriff courts.
... It is hereby declared that damages in respect of an unlawful act to which this regulation applies may include compensation for injury to feelings whether or not they include compensation under any other head.


p. 488
Example 20: Harassment
The complainant was awarded a total of around £33000 in compensation, including £22000 for injury to feelings.



Oh yeah, Noneconomic damages OK in termination claims, U.K. appeals court rules.

LONDON-A U.K. court ruling allowing noneconomic damages in an unfair dismissal case overturns a long-standing legal principle and exposes employers to new liability, attorneys say. The U.K. Court of Appeal's 2-to-1 decision on Feb. 11 allows victims of workplace bullying who are unfairly dismissed to seek noneconomic compensation, such as for stress, injury to feelings or loss of reputation. Previously, employment tribunals and courts have awarded damages only for calculable economic losses in cases of unfair dismissal.


(Yawn) nighty-night.
posted by jfuller at 8:52 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


We were discussing a case on the other side of the pond, and neither your nor blazecock's requests for specifics went so far as to specify a location

Goodness, that's quite the demonstration of how to weasel with words, given that you live in the United States and the setting of the post is the Netherlands, and not the UK. But you get an A+ for the try, though. Excellent effort.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:27 PM on July 24, 2008


Did anyone figure out why anyone in Amsterdam cares what a bawdy cartoonist thinks? What's really going on over there? They would only bother to censor them if they were true and I don't think that is the case here.
posted by Brian B. at 9:41 PM on July 24, 2008


-e.g. Canada

Eh? Cite, please; I'm unaware of any "hurt feelings" court cases that found for the plaintiff.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 PM on July 24, 2008


It's not terribly uncommon for a party who has had to pay a big settlement to try to publicly minimize the damage done and to be backed up by media weasels keeping to the popular "frivolous lawsuit" narrative. (Rhymes with Pantsy Face) Anybody who brings up the "Infamous McDonalds Hot Coffee Case" as an example of such is the kind of intentionally misinformed troublemaker who is best ignored.

I'll repeat a previous point. This Dutch "Cartoonist Squad" of the Secret Police has been working for 3 years and this is its first public action? No charges filed, just a seized computer? How many computers do "The War on Terror" and "War on Drugs" in the USA collect daily? The TSA seizes laptops at the airport for 'suspicious software' (which probably means non-Microsoft). This whole kerfuffle is beginning to give off the smell of a publicity stunt for the cartoonist.
posted by wendell at 12:02 AM on July 25, 2008


Hey, mw, does the idea of incitement to violence and hatred not seem criminal to you? I guess not, seeing as you defend Iris Robinson and link to the Mail.

But I've heard Iris describing teh gays as worse than paedophiles and murderers, and in Northern Ireland stuff like this, or more recently this, happens. It's not surprising, given the licence she and others like her give to the thugs and homophobes.

You can't make someone tolerant by law, but you can deter them giving the gay-bashers some insane religious justification. Apologies for partial derail, but it's not a bad example for some of these issues.
posted by imperium at 1:56 AM on July 25, 2008


It's probably worth saying that they may cause much more harm to Muslims (or anyone perceived as Muslim) than equivalent anti-Christian cartoons would, which one might take into account.

I've seen this opinion put forward in a few places, Dee Xtrovert, and I'm curious as to the justification behind it. Satire paints with a pretty broad brush, but it does so with everything: how is Mohammad-with-a-bomb-for-a-turban any different from, say, casting every Christian authority in the country as a pedophile, as happened with the Catholic Church scandal a couple years back? They're both overreactions, and I can see where it would offend some elements of the group, but at the end of the day, it's only satire--anyone who would be driven to intolerance or violence toward moderate Muslims/hatred toward Presbyterians by one of these is someone who was already pretty far gone to begin with.

But it's interesting that these sorts of senseless connections are made all the time about Muslims, but no one chastises the entirety of Christianity for the fact that the Serbian Orthodox Church was and remains so clearly involved in harboring genocidal monsters.

Ah, but we do. Or at least some of us do--you see it on MeFi all the time. That's not representative of the world at large, maybe, but you'd better believe I condemn Catholic leadership for not taking a stand against idiots like Chimoio, and that I hold mainstream Christianity culpable for not taking a more vocal stand against Fred Phelps. It's unfortunate that a group has to be held accountable for the actions of its least palatable subgroups, but the solution is simple: make whatever efforts you can to distance yourself from subgroups that don't represent you. I don't think it's fair to discourage criticism of those fringe elements of the whole that wholly deserve criticism, based on the notion that you might offend some members of the group at large.
posted by Mayor West at 5:09 AM on July 25, 2008


> Goodness, that's quite the demonstration of how to weasel with words, given that you
> live in the United States and the setting of the post is the Netherlands, and not the UK.
> But you get an A+ for the try, though. Excellent effort.
> posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:27 AM on July 25

You asked for citations to instances of persons being punished by the law for hurting others' feelings, to instantiate my claim that "He hurt my tender feelings" is actionable. I have provided several, from several countries, and can continue multiplying instances as long as Google stays up (e.g., four more immediately below, from Canada.) It's not at all uncommon. You can search just as well as I if you want others; but if you don't look you won't find. (No doubt that's a relief.)



> Cite, please; I'm unaware of any "hurt feelings" court cases that found for the plaintiff.
> posted by five fresh fish at 1:44 AM on July 25 [+] [!]

Let me help you out with that, fff. (Be it noted that you fellows do this kind of thing through your Human Rights Commission rather than through the courts, where the defendant might have some inconvenient procedural safeguards.) From the HRC's own website:

...The tribunal ordered the CF to pay each of the complainants $3,000 plus interest, for injury to feelings and self-respect.

...As part of the settlement of the complaint, the Coast Guard also agreed to pay Ms. Bagnell $5,332 in compensation for wages lost after the incident and $1,000 for hurt feelings.

...The tribunal ordered DND to pay Ms. Koeppel $10,063 in lost wages, her legal costs and $3,000 compensation for hurt feelings.

...The tribunal ordered CN Rail to pay Mr. Cramm back wages and to either rehire him or continue to pay his wages until he reaches 55. The tribunal also ordered CN and the union to each pay him $1,500 in damages for hurt feelings.


(P.S. I'd love to see the HRC's more recent legal reports--this site has them for 1997 through 2001 but not thereafter. Do they have later ones somewhere else, or did they just quit publishing the document?)



> Hey, mw, does the idea of incitement to violence and hatred not seem criminal to you? I guess not, seeing
> as you defend Iris Robinson and link to the Mail.

mw is defending you, imperium. Against the day this two-edged sword turns in your hand and cuts you, as it assuredly will.

"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed." - H. L. Mencken
posted by jfuller at 6:09 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, the HRC tribunal.

Agreed, they are wankers.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:27 AM on July 25, 2008


afu: "Actually after listening to him, one might say that he's not a jerk at all.

Seeing as how most of us don't speak Dutch, you might want to help us out with that.
"

I was talking about the Danish jerk, i.e. the original Mohammad cartoonist. I think it's pretty clear that this Dutch jerk is actually a jerk.
posted by sveskemus at 9:01 AM on July 25, 2008


I've seen this opinion put forward in a few places, Dee Xtrovert, and I'm curious as to the justification behind it. Satire paints with a pretty broad brush, but it does so with everything: how is Mohammad-with-a-bomb-for-a-turban any different from, say, casting every Christian authority in the country as a pedophile, as happened with the Catholic Church scandal a couple years back? They're both overreactions, and I can see where it would offend some elements of the group, but at the end of the day, it's only satire--anyone who would be driven to intolerance or violence toward moderate Muslims/hatred toward Presbyterians by one of these is someone who was already pretty far gone to begin with.

You're being disingenuous. The distinction is not one between mocking Mohammed or Allah or some mullahs and mocking their Christian equivalents. All religions have their unfortunate bits of scripture and their less-than-stellar leaders. The distinction is between mocking Christian leaders who've done wrong (and yes, sometimes painting the "group" too broadly) and mocking anyone who follows Islam at all, or identifies in any way as a Muslim. You simply don't see the equivalent sort of hatred directed in mainstream media towards anyone who follows Christianity. And if you do see something with a truly anti-Christian bias, it has little effect on any Christians, because by and large this is a Christian-oriented society, not a truly multi-cultural one.

It doesn't take a genius to know that a minority group is far more likely to be targeted than a group which represents a plurality of people. I'm not saying there should be special safeguards for minorities as such, just that one should be aware that an equal level of hate directed towards both a minority group and the majority group will have a much more intense and deleterious effect on the minority group. This is basic common sense. People perceive minority groups as having fewer dimensions than the majority; it's a form of nearsightedness.

If you met me on the street, you wouldn't necessarily think I was foreign. I look a little Slavic and I'm probably thinner than most Americans, but I'm within norms. I have a tiny accent, but it's unidentifiable, and most people mistake it for an East Coast American accent, not something even vaguely European. I dress well and somewhat fashionably. I'm Muslim, but I don't care much for religion and I perceive this as a cultural identity for the most part - I don't really follow any of the supposed tenets of my faith. Yet when once I was interviewed for a newspaper in 2002 and identified myself as a Bosnian Muslim - with no sort of anti-American slant or anything that even made me sound alien in any way, I said it the same way that one might say they have green eyes - I received anti-Islamic hate mail and threatening phone calls. Really scary phone calls, in fact. After 9/11, I was managing a shop and one of my regular customers came in and informed me that she would no longer shop there, because although she regretted "my situation" (losing my parents and all), she could no longer support "my kind." I would have liked to wonder, what? People who own Coach purses? Postpunk fans? Tall girls? But I knew what she meant. So do you.

I wrote: But it's interesting that these sorts of senseless connections are made all the time about Muslims, but no one chastises the entirety of Christianity for the fact that the Serbian Orthodox Church was and remains so clearly involved in harboring genocidal monsters.

You wrote: Ah, but we do. Or at least some of us do--you see it on MeFi all the time. That's not representative of the world at large, maybe, but you'd better believe I condemn Catholic leadership for not taking a stand against idiots like Chimoio, and that I hold mainstream Christianity culpable for not taking a more vocal stand against Fred Phelps.

Again, you're skirting the real issue. For the many cartoons and articles I've seen this week alone, holding all of Islam culpable for this or that, I have not seen in any mainstream media outlet, any condemnation of either the Serbian Orthodox Church (which would have foundation) or Christianity in general (which would be a bit ridiculous, as I've said before.) I'm glad that you condemn "Christian leadership" and "mainstream Christianity" in the right cases, but again . . . it's nowhere near the same thing as portraying all Muslims as savages who regularly fuck goats and have a sickening bloodlust.

Here I am, a hard-working American citizen with largely American values. I've worked hard to learn to speak and write good English. I am successful in work, I own a house, I've graduated from a good school. I have good taste in music and films and literature, and many of the older Americans I have met tell me that they admire me for achieving what I've achieved, while their own children, well . . . they're kind of slackers. I've tried to live a life that my parents would have respected. I've made my well-reasoned and reasonable political views known here. For instance, despite being a victim of intolerant terroristic death events myself, my attitude is not one where I believe that the Serbian people should be destroyed or that their war criminals should pay with their lives. This, of course, is a milder view than many spoiled Americans who've never been affected by war or terrorism at all have of their "enemies."

But I am a Muslim. And despite the fact that I know many, many people much like myself, as a group we exist neither in the minds of most Americans nor in the media. Pedophile priests and ministers with hypocritical sexual lives are much derided in America's press . . . but all of America knows that there are still many fine Christians who strive to live up to worthy ideals and lead good lives. Much of America doubts that the sort of person I am actually exists. (Of course, I know that Mefites are a relatively enlightened bunch; I am speaking broadly.)

On a recent NPR show, they did a "first word which comes to your mind" study.

The results:

Christian = good
Muslim = terrorist

I work as hard as I can to change that image, but - no surprise! - I have essentially zero effect on the mentality of the American public. The proof is in the pudding, as you say - despite your evidence of criticism of Christian leaders et al, the end results have been much worse for the minority. I'm not playing the victim card for myself - this is petty stuff compared to many of my experiences. The same is true when it's the Mexicans or the Jews or whomever. Criticism applied broadly to minority groups is more dangerous than a criticism of the "mainstream."
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:55 AM on July 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


You simply don't see the equivalent sort of hatred directed in mainstream media towards anyone who follows Christianity.

On the other hand, I see far, far worse when it comes to the Muslim media's portrayal of Jews and Israelis.

Two wrongs never make a right, but that shit makes these cartoons look completely innoccuous by comparison. And if you don't like the taking of it, it might be an idea to begin by stopping dishing that stuff out yourself?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:10 AM on July 26, 2008


On the other hand, I see far, far worse when it comes to the Muslim Arab media's portrayal of Jews and Israelis.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:16 AM on July 26, 2008


On the other hand, I see far, far worse when it comes to the Muslim media's portrayal of Jews and Israelis.

I couldn't agree more.

Two wrongs never make a right

I couldn't agree more. But the point is, by even bringing up Muslim media, you're making a de facto argument that . . . well, two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but two wrongs do allow for some excuse-making when one of the wrongs isn't as wrong. (More on Muslim media below.) Think about it honestly, Peter. That is the message you're conveying. No one actively taking part in this thread is attempting to speak on behalf of the righteousness of Islam. The original post has nothing to do at all with Muslim media or their racist messages at all. And you yourself make the claim that "two wrongs never make a right." So I don't see how bringing up Muslim media really does anything for this subject other than to make one wrong seem right, do you?

And if you don't like the taking of it, it might be an idea to begin by stopping dishing that stuff out yourself?

I have made assertions about individuals, based on specific evidence. But if you were to read my posts, I doubt you would find anything of substance to counter the claim that I avoid generalized and damaging remarks about entire peoples. While some people may have felt my comments to be, at times, less than necessary, I have never made them without actual thought and effort. It takes me longer than most people to do this, because I think and write in a language that I didn't know until recently. It's still foreign to me in many ways, and I struggle with idioms and maintaining clarity without diminishing my point. And so, leaving content aside, I promise I will never write anything as grammatically horrific as "You are so full of shit that it isn't even amusing on metafilter." Because when I do, you will know that I have abandoned my standards! I care what thinking people think, as I like to expand my point of view when I can, and I've found that good method of achieving that is to actually listen to what others have to say, and to represent myself as best I can in response.

So unless you are senselessly conflating me with all of Islam, I do not know what you are talking about.

I live by my certain standards, and I expect the West to at least live up to the standards that it claims to hold. Let me state plainly: much Muslim-world media is reprehensible. That's obvious to most of us in the West, and it ought to be obvious that I am no more responsible for the existence of anti-Jewish media in the Muslim world than you are. What concerns me is that few people seem willing to judge Western media and anti-minority bias (because, as I have stated countless times, I am not just talking about Muslims here) on the standards that the West and western media set for themselves. Dragging clearly awful doggerel from the media of some quasi-religious state determined to wipe out Israel simply isn't germane to the conversation. It's one of those kind of statements, like "If you don't like it here, go to Russia."

So when an issue like that of these Dutch cartoons comes up, the real question should be of the impact they have in the West, on established western standards and values, and on the delicate balance that must exist between freedom of expression and the jeopardy that a giant angry bite of the majority might have on its minorities. Living up to Western values is a struggle for everyone; as the world goes they are lofty values. I try to be a responsible citizen and take part in that struggle, because I've lived in a world without such values, and it was not a desirable thing. Dragging in issues of "what they do in Afghanistan" or "look how they make fun of Jews in Muslim media" - though those should be concerns for people - worry me, because they seem so obviously designed to preclude meaningful self-examination. It seems a bit lazy and redolent of taking things for granted. And from my sense of history, when one starts taking things for granted, all sorts of problems arise.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


And if you [Dee Xtrovert] don't like the taking of it, it might be an idea to begin by stopping dishing that stuff out yourself?

It's your kind of thinking that makes the problem in the first place, PMcD. Dee has not been dishing it; he has, in fact, been speaking out against it. Hating on him does nothing to solve the problem of Muslim extremism.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 AM on July 26, 2008


Dee is a girl! Even if she argues like a man at times. Though never like a caveman, it should be said. ;)

Thanks for actually reading what I wrote. I am happy to acknowledge that Muslim extremism, like many other extremisms, exists and is a problem. I've never disputed it, though I do take some exception to the categorization of this kind of extremism as "Muslim," when it rarely has much to do with historical Islam, actual religious doctrine or the thoughts and expressions of the great many people who consider themselves Muslim - any more than the actions of the Bush administration have anything to do with "Christian" extremism, despite Bush's pronouncements that God tells him what to do and whatnot.

Most Americans knows that's absurd, because they know plenty of Christians who do not adhere to the same (fairly radical and disruptive) beliefs that President Bush does. Unfortunately, few Americans know very many Muslims at all, so those sorts of tags stick a little better to Muslims - much as they do when applied to any minority. That's the idea behind most of what I've written in this thread. It seems simple and self-evident to me.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:41 AM on July 26, 2008


Sorry, Dee. I started out using the s/he form, 'cause I didn't know, but it got hacked in the editing.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:27 AM on July 26, 2008


so those sorts of tags stick a little better to Muslims

The tags stick just fine to Christians. It is not uncommon for reasonable Christians on MeFi to protest that extremist "Christians in name but not in behaviour" are not 'real' Christians.

The answer is always going to be that if they don't like that the name of their faith has been co-opted by creeps, they are the ones who are going to have to do something about it.

When the majority of Christians in good standing unite to publically condemn the creeps and essentially excommunicate them from the religion, change can happen. I, a non-believer, have no influence at all on the public perception of the Christian-ess of the haters.

The same responsibility falls to reasonable Muslims: only by publically denouncing the batshitinsane mullahs and fanatics, is public perception of the religion going to be changed.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:44 AM on July 26, 2008


The answer is always going to be that if they don't like that the name of their faith has been co-opted by creeps, they are the ones who are going to have to do something about it.


If you think carefully about what your saying here Mr. fish you very clearly are asking for a double standard to be applied. You seem to recognized that all Muslims are being painted with one brush but you seem to feel that this is a problem caused by the extremist Muslims and therefore Not-Your-Problem.

However you also claim (quite correctly) that "Christians" (really Western Civilization) are similarly one-brush-painted by the Muslim press, however in this case it's not us who must change it is again the extremist Muslims that are wrong and therefore it is Not-Your-Problem.

So which is it?
posted by Bonzai at 12:46 PM on July 26, 2008


The same responsibility falls to reasonable Muslims: only by publically denouncing the batshitinsane mullahs and fanatics, is public perception of the religion going to be changed.

Why does this apply more strictly to "reasonable Muslims" (presumably like myself) than humanity at large? We had no mullahs or fanatics in Bosnia. Our language and culture and values were Western. We didn't have anything to do with these people. The religion of these mullahs and fanatics is not Islam. To those who do follow a benign and true form of Islam, the mullahs and fanatics aren't any more Muslim than they are Buddhist.

The fact of the matter is that it's the responsibility of all reasonable people to speak out against repression of any sort. In many ways, "reasonable Muslims" are in the worst position to try to denounce what's wrongly done in the name of their faith.

Why? Well, for one, look at it this way: When the National Socialists started spreading their anti-Semitic invective, many Jewish people responded in a civil manner, with reasoned thought and an attempt at intelligent debate. The anti-Semites countered this with an almost Dadaistic tirade of irrelevancies - the Jews killed Christ, for centuries the Jews have kidnapped Gentile children and taken their blood for Passover matzo, skull studies clearly display that the beak-like structure of Jewish noses is indicative of criminal tendencies, and oh look, "The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion" - proof of your conspiracies, and so on. All ridiculous "talking points."

There were those who felt that, well, the Jews should probably respond to these allegations too, as absurd as they are. But with historical hindsight, this was pointless. All it really did was give greater airing to the absurdities and irrelevancies cast forth by the Nazis. For most people, who were neither Nazis nor Jews, this was a "Jewish problem." The Jews needed to fix it themselves.

And let's face it - when a "Muslim-looking" family is detained at an airport due to their collective appearance, they have (in reality) already lost a fundamental right that the rest of us enjoy, the right to protest discriminatory behavior with some expectation that it will not cause them further headaches, harassment or a greater denial of rights. In a different post, I mentioned threatening phone calls (and other expressions of displeasure apparently aimed at the simple fact of my existence) which I received after having been described a Bosnian Muslim in a paper. My inclination was to report this to the police, although that seemed a pointless.

In fact, I didn't know what to do or how to respond. I understood though, that to make any case of it would only create the possibility of more media attention - it was sort of thing that the papers would love to have covered. And the likely result for me, would it have been a greater understanding of the existence of tolerant and liberal, fully-Western Muslims? Probably not. It would have likely meant more anonymous threats to me. And given how poorly people seem to read even here on Mefi, it's possible that, in the minds of many, the result would have been the tought: Oooh - evidently we've got some scary Muslims around here.

I hate to trot out clichés, but people seem to have missed the point:

"First they came for the Communists,
- but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
- but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
- but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."

- Pastor Martin Niemöller

I've been a victim, and in whatever small way I can, I try to get people to understand what I went through so that the same mistakes which led to my problems - or even the same mental processes which led to those mistakes - aren't made again. I don't have too, but I write plenty about it, and I've spoken at schools, and I'm usually happy to drop whatever else I may do to fill somebody in on things when they ask a question about it. It's not especially rewarding in any way. And not every survivor of the war who suffered feels this way; many remain silent. I respect that. It's hard sometimes to get by without worrying about a heavy past.

When my town and my family were bombed under the banner of Christian superiority, it never occurred to me to think that Christians bore some special responsibility to "denounce" what was being done in a false understanding of Christian ideals. I am a human being before I am anything else. And I thought that all fellow human beings should have been appalled enough to speak out against it. Didn't happen, though.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


However you also claim (quite correctly) that "Christians" (really Western Civilization) are similarly one-brush-painted by the Muslim press

I did not realize that MetaFilter was part of the Muslim press. You'd think I'd have noticed by now.

No, what I said is that extremist "Christians" in America, like Phelps and some of the worse televangelists and the clinic firebombers, are rightly brought to task on MetaFilter and in the press. And when this happens, some of our Christian religionists on MeFi raise a hue and cry about how those douchebags aren't "real" Christians and how we shouldn't judge all Christendom by their actions.

Whether those jerks are or are not Christian is up to their fellow Christians to decide. Come up with a new name for them and start calling them out for their wicked malfeasance, and the rest of us will no longer associate them with the Christian group.

The same applies to the Muslim world. Start publically denying that the extremists are following the faith, or they will continue to taint the faith.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2008


they are the ones who are going to have to do something about it

Okay, then. So whose problem is this, and how do you propose they address it?
posted by flabdablet at 8:28 PM on July 26, 2008


Australia's. Any hate speech laws on the books Down Under? How about, oh I don't know, some common fucking courtesy toward the people they've only recently admitted were indeed human?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 PM on July 26, 2008


Australia's, mate. Kevin Bloody Wilson is — or should be — a national embarrassment to them. If Australians want that to change, they should be raising a hew and cry about what an blood-encrusted asshole he is, how he's not representative of true, modern Australians, and doing what they can to ensure he can't find advertising support or venues for his hateful songs.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:21 AM on July 27, 2008


Well, since part of my deleted response from this thread was re-quoted against me, I am forced to defend myself again. This all started for me when I contradicted something she was special pleading at the time, when I linked a BBC news article exposing the fact that Muslim apostates are routinely murdered as a matter of traditional Muslim beliefs. My entire response to accompany the link consisted of only these words: “Except in Islam.” She responded at length, by accusing me of spreading “bile” against Muslims, alluding to being threatened by these sentiments in America and in this thread, and claiming that only non-Muslim inspired “savages” do those bad things as a vestige of their former culture, not as a result of their faith in Islam. You be the judge of the veracity of those claims, but they were embedded in statement after statement explicitly promoting her mission, American victimology, Muslim authority, moral goodness and superior knowledge, explicitly opposed to my ignorant upbringing that threatened her, which lent another implication towards my inherent evil. Then I told her she was attacking the messenger, and then called her a fraud in my book (because she wasn’t rational, and was obviously an apologist for her faith and not for religious freedom at all). In reply came more lengthy self-promotion, and the explicit accusation that I was a “monster” (using the same words she used to describe genocide), comparing me to all kinds of evil. It was clear to me that I was set up as the archetype of who she believed was posting threats or calls to her, in the context of a carefully laid emotional defense to her low apologetics. I responded by totally dismissing her, quoted above. Then one of her fan base, who is synonymous with a shrill posting style around here, picked up on that and tried to rally a moral condemnation, which mostly backfired, but left the last thing I wrote in place.

As an aside, the fact that public apostates are murdered in most Islamic (not just Arab) cultures is one reason why church and state are never ideally separated under Islam. You can’t have such enforcement without the latter. Simply appealing to self-authority or anecdotal knowledge of Muslims cannot change reported facts. Denial should also be expected and pointed out in any fundamentalist mindset, not entertained. Finally, absurdly excommunicating about half of the Muslim world to make a convenient argument is more than ludicrous.
posted by Brian B. at 10:47 AM on July 27, 2008


OK, good. We all seem to be on the same page regarding Kevin Bloody Wilson. So, is this set of parallels not reasonable?

Kevin Bloody Wilson // Gregorius Nekschot
Indigenous Australians // Muslims
Drunken Aboriginal welfare cheats // Extremist Muslim terrorists
Wider Australian society // Wider society

It seems reasonable to me. So I have trouble with this:

The same responsibility falls to reasonable Muslims: only by publically denouncing the batshitinsane mullahs and fanatics, is public perception of the religion going to be changed.

Because it seems to me that if that suggestion is held to be fair and reasonable, then so should this one be:

"The same responsibility falls to reasonable indigenous Australians: only by publicly denouncing the drunken welfare cheats and petrol sniffers is public perception of the race going to be changed."

It seems to me that everything that's wrong with this suggestion (and it clearly is quite a useless suggestion) is also wrong with fff's original version.

I'm with Dee Xtrovert here, who wrote

I work as hard as I can to change that image, but - no surprise! - I have essentially zero effect on the mentality of the American public.

Similarly, Kevin Bloody Wilson gets lots of laughs in this country, and I can't think of anything that Noel Pearson or Galarrwuy Yunupingu could do to change that.

If you're going to change people's minds about who it is or is not OK to despise, you've got an insanely uphill battle on your hands if you are already one of the despised. That's why the problems of which Gregorius Nekschot and Kevin Bloody Wilson are visible symptoms really do need to be addressed by wider society.
posted by flabdablet at 5:32 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wider society does address the problem. You see batshitinsane Christianity denounced all the time on MeFi by those who are not Christians. What you do not see are the major Christian religions coming together to say that the hate-mongering bastards on televisions are not Christian.

Until such a thing happens, those bastards are going to continue dragging the name of Christianity through the mud while violating the spirit and word of Christ.

Heck, even the Pope has managed to say that Creationists are out to lunch. It can't be much of a stretch from that to outright denouncing the batshitinsane apocalyptic society-destroyers as wholly anti-Christian.

Yadda yadda re: Muslim extremism, Kevin Douchebag Wilson, and all the other hate-mongering freaks and fuckwads out there. It's time to take a fucking stand, people, and rid ourselves of their influence.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:59 PM on July 27, 2008


What you do not see are the major Christian religions coming together to say that the hate-mongering bastards on televisions are not Christian.

See, this is where we have a subtle difference in point of view. I don't think any amount of such denunciation would make one iota of difference.

Until such a thing happens, those bastards are going to continue dragging the name of Christianity through the mud while violating the spirit and word of Christ.

Fixed that for you.

Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: distraction, noise, a ruthless dishonesty, and a fanatical devotion to self-promotion... antisocial bastards are always going to seek to distract attention from the vileness of their behaviour by wrapping themselves in whatever flag seems handy. This manoeuvre has always worked incredibly well. It's aided and abetted by stereotypes such as those put about by Nekschot (Muslims fuck goats), Wilson (Abos are drunks) and our own Brian B. (Muslims murder apostates), all of whom seem to prefer attacking the flag because there are bastards wrapped in it to attacking the ability of bastards to wrap themselves in the flags.

My point is that reducing, for example, Fred Phelps's ability to get away with labelling himself a Christian would not make Fred Phelps's positions any less hateful, or any less appealing to those who already think he's wonderful. He'd just get martyr points from his supporters, pick some other flag to wrap himself in, and carry on regardless. But Phelps is not the problem. The attitude of Phelps's supporters is the problem. Phelps is the whitehead on a very nasty boil.

And I can't see how attempts to suppress artists like Nekschot or Wilson are going to help fix that problem. Bullshit artists they may well be, but artists they certainly are, and artists don't get noticed unless they have an audience and don't get famous unless they have an appreciative audience. Artists are the canaries in our coalmine. What they do tells us something important about what's going on in our communities.

If we consider certain actions (e.g. tormenting homosexuals or rorting the welfare system or torturing prisoners or occupying other countries) deplorable, we ought to be acting in opposition to those actions. Denouncing the people who perform those actions wastes time and leads to unnecessary distractions, let alone denouncing entire countries, races or religions.

I'm loath to get all "hate the sin, love the sinner" on you, fff, but it really does seem to me that lumping all the people we don't like together as "hate-mongering freaks and fuckwads" is unhelpful, and takes us down a path leading to unacceptable amounts of collateral damage. What we need in general public discourse is more of "fff, I think your position on X wants reconsidering because of Y and Z" and less of "who gives a fuck what some fuckwad Canuck thinks?"
posted by flabdablet at 9:38 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


This manoeuvre has always worked incredibly well. It's aided and abetted by stereotypes such as those put about by Nekschot (Muslims fuck goats), Wilson (Abos are drunks) and our own Brian B. (Muslims murder apostates), all of whom seem to prefer attacking the flag because there are bastards wrapped in it to attacking the ability of bastards to wrap themselves in the flags.

Denial never surprises me when discussing religion.

posted by Brian B. at 10:05 PM on July 27, 2008


My point is that reducing, for example, Fred Phelps's ability to get away with labelling himself a Christian would not make Fred Phelps's positions any less hateful, or any less appealing to those who already think he's wonderful.

I am not suggesting that it would make his positions less hateful. That ain't ever going to happen. It would, however, remove his taint from the overall organization of Christianity.

IOW, people would no longer associate Christianity with the hate Phelps spews. And that can only be a good thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 PM on July 27, 2008


Artists are the canaries in our coalmine. What they do tells us something important about what's going on in our communities.

And when those artists are reviled and denounced by the very people they claim to represent, they are made illegitimate and their authority is reduced.

It is incumbent upon people who are being misrepresented to stand up and speak out against those who misrepresent them.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:51 PM on July 27, 2008


If, like Brian B, you want to find hate, intolerance and homicide in some group, it's likely you will. I can't argue - and I haven't argued - that Muslims haven't killed converts to Christianity or killed people for reasons that seem crazy to me and many Muslims and the Christian world. But that's not really the point. Christians can, have and do kill as well, on the basis of their religion - all the time. (And these people - Muslim or Christian - aren't actually adhering to their religious beliefs, so I use their religious appellations for convenience only. I do not consider them to be representative of the faiths they claim for themselves.)

I know you want to believe that I am a religious zealot, but I'm not religious at all. But we're partially defined by others; I lost a lot because I am "Muslim," and so to an extent, I couldn't extricate that aspect of identity from "me" even if I wanted to - at least not if I wanted to be honest about myself. And I apologize for calling you a 'monster.' My whole message to you was sincere - you will recall that I wished you the best of luck and all that. But English is not my native language. I haven't spoken it for long, and it's not always apparent to me that someone is a good or bad writer as long as I'm picking up on what they say. But when I thought about the quality of your comment - "You are so full of shit that it isn't even amusing on metafilter" - I realized that you probably have no idea that I put the term 'monster' in those quotes based on what I learn studying English grammar. English is a difficult language. In addition to learning the proper usage of the comma and the difference between "who" and "whom," I learned that putting those quotation marks around a word insinuates ironic detachment - especially when they are used to show differentiation in meaning from previous use of the word or term. In other words, it was a gentle jibe. I was differentiating you from genocidal war criminals and implying that you have little in common, aside from the grossly racist stereotyping of entire peoples. Think of it this way: Tickle-Me-Elmo is also a monster. So, possibly, are Bert and Ernie, although in their case, I'm not as sure. However, many people find them all adorable!

Here's my main point. To support his unpleasant generalizations, Brian B points to ". . . a BBC news article exposing the fact that Muslim apostates are routinely murdered as a matter of traditional Muslim beliefs . . ."

I find the BBC credible, so that should be some pretty damning evidence. Let's look at the article, and then what Brian B had to say about it. The parts in bold are either headlines or text placed below pictures:

What Islam says on religious freedom
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC Arab affairs analyst


There is no clear-cut text in the Koran calling apostates to be killed

Afghan Abdul Rahman, who converted to Christianity, had been charged with rejecting Islam and potentially faced the death penalty.

But what do Islamic teachings say about the issue?

Freedom of belief is enshrined in the Koran - the foremost textual authority in laying down the principles of Islamic law. But there is disagreement among Muslim scholars as to the limits of that freedom.


"There is no compulsion in religion" (al-Baqarah, 256); is one of the most quoted phrases from the Koran to back up freedom of belief.

There is no clear-cut text in the Koran, however, that calls for the killing of apostates. But those who call for the execution of Muslims who abandon their faith base their judgement primarily on the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, also known as the hadith.

"If someone changes from Islam to kufr (unbelief), that has to remain a personal matter, and he should not make it public"
Abdelsabour Shahin,
Islamist writer, Cairo University


These constitute a secondary textual authority - albeit weaker than the Koran itself - used in formulating Islamic law, or Sharia.

Abdelsabour Shahin, an Islamist writer and academic at Cairo University, told the BBC that although Islam in principle enshrined freedom of belief, there were severe restrictions on that freedom.

"If someone changes from Islam to kufr (unbelief), that has to remain a personal matter, and he should not make it public," he said.

In other words, an apostate in a Muslim society, according to this view, forfeits his freedom of expression. If he goes public he should be executed, says Dr Shahin.

But if the Koran has not stipulated the killing of apostates, how does Dr Shahin come to this judgement?

Abdul Rahman converted to Christianity 16 years ago

He says there is an authoritative and unambiguous hadith (saying of the prophet) which calls for the killing of the apostate - "He who changes his religion should be killed", says Dr Shahin, quoting from the sayings of the prophet.

Others disagree. Professor Abdelmouti Bayoumi of the Islamic Research Academy in Cairo told the BBC that the generality of the aforementioned hadith has been restricted by another hadith from the prophet.

Dr Bayoumi says that according to that hadith changing one's religion alone is not enough for applying capital punishment.

He says the apostate has also to be found working against the interests of the Muslim society or nation - only then should he be executed.

Interests of the state

Dr Bayoumi's stance is a good example of modernisers, who try to reconcile between Islamic tradition and modern practice.

An apostate in this perspective is a traitor. He is punished, not for what he believes in, but for what he does and which could be harmful to the interests of the state.

But Dr Shahin says the mere fact that someone goes public with his apostasy "amounts to fitna (sedition, or civil strife), he is thus like someone fighting Islam, and should therefore be killed."

"Each and every individual has the right to change his religion without any conditions whatsoever"
Gamal al-Banna,
Islamic thinker


Writers like Dr Shahin derive their position from the interpretations of classical scholars, all of whom have endorsed the principle of capital punishment for apostates.

The question is, how have they adopted this stance in the face of abundant evidence from the Koran itself in favour of freedom of belief?

Gamal al-Banna - an Islamic thinker and brother of the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood - says the reason for that is political and has nothing to do with the Koran itself.

Mr al-Banna says the classical interpretations are more than 1,000 years old, and were formulated at a time of state building where conformity and social cohesion were deemed more important than personal freedom.

He adds that "each and every individual has the right to change his religion without any conditions whatsoever.

"That person has also the right to campaign for his views, provided he does so peacefully," he told the BBC.

Today, views like that of Mr al-Banna are in the minority.


1) Now the first thing about the supposed routine killing of apostates by Muslims is that the BBC has "exposed" it. That's a pretty sensationalistic word. If you rang someone up and said, "Tomorrow I'm going to expose the truth about your father," well, you'd either be kind of nervous or you'd be wondering what sort of secrets your father had that were worthy of exposure. It's a loaded word. But wait, the BBC does no such thing, because, quite simply . . .

2) . . . about those apostates who are "routinely murdered" (to directly quote Brian on the article) - there aren't any! Not only is there not one single thing in the article about even a single apostate who has actually been killed, there is nothing to even vaguely derive the idea that these alleged murders are in any way "routine." What's "routine?" You could look it up in the dictionary, or you could think of how you use it - same old routine, my morning routine, etc. It's means commonplace and ordinary. Rote. Almost boring. Is it misleading that Brian B characterizes this article as one which exposes such "routine" murders? No, it's a very straightforward lie. Read the article again!

3) And not only does the article "expose" nothing really - it's essentially a discussion of what the Koran and the hadiths say or don't say about apostasy - it clearly shows that there isn't much agreement on the subject. That's a far cry from the very definite sounding about "the traditional Muslim beliefs" which he claims were "exposed" about the "routine" killing of apostates.

So when I asked Brian of being disingenuous, I was being polite: he has mischaracterized and lief about the content of a media piece which he intended to support his article, as plainly as day.

Think of his racist and damning statement: "a BBC news article exposing the fact that Muslim apostates are routinely murdered as a matter of traditional Muslim beliefs," then read the article itself and ask yourself, what kind of "messenger" is he? He wrote: "I told her she was attacking the messenger," but what sort of messenger picks only the messages he wishes to deliver, and even then misconstrues and distorts their comments?

There is a Bosnia saying, which is funny and alliterative. Unfortunately, I can't think of how it goes exactly and it would be difficult to translate anyway, but I will try to capture the idea. In Bosnian, there is a word (several, actually) for someone coming from the village who is considered "special" for that village - not smart enough to work or to read. I can't think of the English word for that, but I know there is one, so I will use the word "peasant" instead, which is mean of me, but it's as close as I can think of it, and it fits the alliteration. Besides, I am not an official translator. It comes from a folk tale in which this "special" person sees people reading books and showing them to others to prove their points when having a debate - they argue about when to plant certain crops or how to groom a horse. But if someone supports their position with a book, they have more credibleness. The "peasant" sees this, but he can't read - he thinks books are magic. He finds a book and does the same thing as the educated villagers, only his points are silly and illogical and often positively insane. (It's a funny story.) The villagers pretend to be convinced by his "readings," because they are kinder than me, and many funny things happen in the village due to this. I don't get to tell these stories much - maybe if I had kids I would or something. But this seems like an occasion. The saying is something like this:

"Only the peasant perjures the printed page."

____

One more thing: I'm writing all you lovely people back as fast as I can, but my head is spinning because it's a lot of work. I don't really check my posted e-mail address much, so please send mail to my Mefi box if you write. And several people wrote to say they "believe" me, in reply to Brian B calling me a fraud. People can be skeptical, and that's okay, even though I wouldn't lie. I don't want to take up the time of a moderator like Jessamyn needlessly, and I'd rather not reveal my name, but I could forward to her (or some other trusted person) proof of my identity, plus links to any number of major media articles about me, if that's going to make a difference to someone.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:32 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I meant "Bosnian" saying. That was a typo. And I realize now that "credibility" is a word, and "credibleness" is not, because my new OED told me so. Sorry about that.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:40 AM on July 28, 2008


I can't think of the English word for that

I believe the term is "village idiot".
posted by Grangousier at 2:30 AM on July 28, 2008


I'd suggest "fool" for that comment. It's a bit more general and probably fits the theme better.

Funny, I heard essentially the same story from a friend who emigrated from Poland...perhaps it is better know than you thought.
posted by mystyk at 4:04 AM on July 28, 2008


Brian, it may well be the case that there is clerical support for putting Islamic apostates to death. That says as little, though, about the attitudes of most of today's Muslims toward killing apostates as Humanae Vitae says about the attitudes of most of today's Christians toward family planning.

To claim that most Muslims practice a peaceful and tolerant religion does not involve denial that Islam, like every other religion and ideology, has frequently been held up as an excuse for assorted abuses of power.

Self-identifying as Muslim does not imply tacit support for such abuses. Nor does the fact of being labelled Muslim by others.

It would, however, remove his taint from the overall organization of Christianity

The point I'm trying to make is that Phelps's brand of evil is itself the problem that requires addressing, not the fact that the name of a particular group is currently used to whitewash it. It seems to me that arguing about how best to distance an evil from a particular group serves as a distraction and a source of unnecessary friction between otherwise good-hearted people.

I don't see how it's useful to fight amongst ourselves about side issues like whether rabid homophobia disqualifies a person from being a Christian, or whether support for cleric-sanctioned murder is a necessary part of being Muslim. It seems to me that we'd all be better off if good people everywhere* could just put aside their petty differences and concentrate on opposing abuse of power in any form by anybody at any time.

The simple fact is that most people are peaceful and decent, when given a chance to be so. Unfortunately, it's disturbingly easy for a small minority of well-organized power abusers to ruin things for the rest of us. Limiting the power available to its abusers is therefore something we all need to keep working at all the time. It makes me sad to see, in an age where communication between disparate groups is easier than it's ever been before, how effective the classic bait-and-switch distractions remain.

*Except the fucking Judean People's Front. Splitters.
posted by flabdablet at 4:07 AM on July 28, 2008


I don't want to take up the time of a moderator like Jessamyn needlessly, and I'd rather not reveal my name, but I could forward to her (or some other trusted person) proof of my identity, plus links to any number of major media articles about me, if that's going to make a difference to someone.

I don't demand any proof that you are real. My meaning for fraud in regards to the question of local apostates is defined as a convenient sincerity when in the presence of non-believers, demanding special rights you don't seem eager to afford neighbors, for example. Your defense seems to deny an issue under the surface. Some of here seem to too willing to believe that there is no issue with apostates under Islam, and you seem happy to feed them that. The West likes moral consistency under our childish belief that equality is a world sentiment and value, so we are easily duped. But, to avoid misunderstanding here, I retract the word in question. You are not a fraud in any sense that you take it to mean. I simply don't think you speak to a religious context across divides. I'm not the only one who is perplexed by it.
posted by Brian B. at 7:15 AM on July 28, 2008


Brian, I think you should read this part again, carefully:

I can't argue - and I haven't argued - that Muslims haven't killed converts to Christianity or killed people for reasons that seem crazy to me and many Muslims and the Christian world. But that's not really the point. Christians can, have and do kill as well, on the basis of their religion - all the time. (And these people - Muslim or Christian - aren't actually adhering to their religious beliefs, so I use their religious appellations for convenience only. I do not consider them to be representative of the faiths they claim for themselves.)

I know you want to believe that I am a religious zealot, but I'm not religious at all. But we're partially defined by others; I lost a lot because I am "Muslim," and so to an extent, I couldn't extricate that aspect of identity from "me" even if I wanted to - at least not if I wanted to be honest about myself.


and then apologize, and then reconsider your writing style, which comes over as pointlessly combative.

I don't think it's reasonable to accuse a person of fraud in any sense without evidence that anything even approaching fraud has been committed.

Specifically, I absolutely cannot see how any of the points you've raised about Islamic clerical positions on apostasy have anything at all to say about Dee Xtrovert or her personal beliefs and standards.

If, as I suspect, this is the point that sticks in your craw:

And these people - Muslim or Christian - aren't actually adhering to their religious beliefs, so I use their religious appellations for convenience only. I do not consider them to be representative of the faiths they claim for themselves

then instead of posting three-word "points" accompanied by links that seem to support your position to you and then bickering about the resulting misunderstandings, perhaps you could instead spend some time reflecting on what you think "religious beliefs" actually means.

The idea that "religious belief" necessarily implies complete acceptance of some arbitrary body of dogma seems very limited to me.

I think you'll find that many people who consider themselves in any sense religious will have looked at the religious source works - be those the Qu'ran, the New Testament, the writings of the Buddha or whatever - and got the gist of all that poetry and metaphor. Even as an atheist, that's certainly my position.

I think you'll find that anybody who has come to their own understanding of the faith tradition they grew up in will be at least as distressed as you are by the various evils that have been and continue to be perpetrated in the name of that faith.

Having dwelt on that for a while, perhaps you might be able to imagine yourself in Dee Xtrovert's position, and consider how you might feel about any suggestion that you are personally responsible in some way for some of those evils.
posted by flabdablet at 4:38 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


The point I'm trying to make is that Phelps's brand of evil is itself the problem that requires addressing, not the fact that the name of a particular group is currently used to whitewash it.

Or, you know, do both. Address both the evil nature of his views and simultaneously remove his ability to make an appeal to authority. When his claim of representing Christianity is rejected by those who we know are Christian, his claim is mooted: he is an outcast.

The Roman Catholic church does this internally. And, heck, even externally: the Pope has essentially stated that Creationists are batshitinsane and their opinion not given any weight. If the heads of other major Christian groups — Anglicans/Episcopalians, Lutherns, Presbyterians, etc — were to unite on that issue, the power of the Creationist dummies to screw up school curriculia would diminish.

It's a pincer movement: address the faults or stupidity, and simultaneously remove the ability to appeal to authority.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:26 PM on July 28, 2008


When his claim of representing Christianity is rejected by those who we know are Christian, his claim is mooted: he is an outcast

I have no confidence that he would stay an outcast, because I am sure he is cunning enough to see that arm of the pincer coming, and shift his representation claims sideways from Christianity to Patriotism or Family Values or whatever as soon as he thinks the numbers make that necessary.

I'm also not convinced that people who think Phelps's ideas are fine and dandy are mostly doing so because of Phelps. I suspect that Phelps acts as a lightning rod for a whole bunch of really ugly community opinion, which it seems to me that undermining Phelps's claims to Christianity would do very very little to change.

Further seems to me that there's a significant opportunity cost in time spent trying to diminish Phelps-as-figurehead, and that people who care about this issue would be better of spending time trying to help people see that homosexuality is not the threat-to-all-that's-good-and-right that they currently perceive it to be. We'd get much better mileage out of getting Peter Jensen onside than bothering with the likes of Phelps.

Seems to me that hate is a hydra. Cut off its head, and it just grows two more. The only way to weaken hate is to stop feeding it... or is that just me being easily duped due to my childish belief that a preference for peace is a world sentiment and value? :-)
posted by flabdablet at 11:49 PM on July 28, 2008


Keep in mind that Phelps is just an extreme example. There are many others, from the batshitinsane Creationists that are destroying the education system, to radical Muslims who are terrorizing their countrymen.

These people need to be expelled from their communities: excommunicated, marginalized, made unwelcome. It's all well and good when an nonbeliever calls them on their shit, but the real sting comes when their peers push them away.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:59 PM on July 28, 2008


The idea that "religious belief" necessarily implies complete acceptance of some arbitrary body of dogma seems very limited to me.

I think you'll find that many people who consider themselves in any sense religious will have looked at the religious source works - be those the Qu'ran, the New Testament, the writings of the Buddha or whatever - and got the gist of all that poetry and metaphor. Even as an atheist, that's certainly my position.

I think you'll find that anybody who has come to their own understanding of the faith tradition they grew up in will be at least as distressed as you are by the various evils that have been and continue to be perpetrated in the name of that faith.

These statements are, to me, right on.

Brian B has discussed the dangers of dogma, which certainly do exist, and I've always acknowledged that in any of my posts. I don't feel any great need to define the specifics of my spiritual beliefs very narrowly; I enjoy and see the value in many aspects of religion - both internal (spiritual) and external (sense of community, holidays and customs) - and not just those which stem from Islam, but also Judaism, Christianity and others. But essentially, I'm fairly atheistic.

The problem with any dogma really tends to be that it's generally formed on a purely theoretical basis and is divorced from practical reality. My belief, that most people of most religions and ethnicities and all are basically good, can't really be called "dogma," in that's it's not been laid down by any heavy force and isn't properly a "principle" either. It's just a thought I carry.

When I was very little, we used to learn about the ideas of Marx and Engels and Lenin (among others) in school. I was in the Young Pioneers; there were clear attempts at Communist indoctrination directed towards us. And at the time, quite a lot of the world was under the power of rulers who based their rule (to varying extents, but largely) on the teachings of these people.

Say what you will about Marx and all, they affected the world. Negatively to be sure, but not entirely. Their ideas had something to do with rights that workers were granted in the West, especially prior to the Second World War. And in the East, for example, women achieved levels of equality in many areas in which the West still lags behind three or four decades later.

But Marx and his pals failed the real test: all the countries which fell under the spell of these writers became failed states, or have had to so alter their strategies as to lose most Marxist signifiers, such as China.

For me, the reason's always been obvious. We heard about the "selfless" way in which Marx struggled to delineate his "revolutionary" theories on paper, while his wife and children starved and all of them faced winters with no heat and the constant threat of eviction. To Yugoslavs who'd worked under this Communist system for forty decades, it was already a disaster. And the attitude of most bright people under Communism was that Marx should have gone out and gotten a job so he could support his family - and how much better would the world be if he had!

In short, Marx lacked wisdom. That is, the special intelligence that's only garnered by living in the real world. A theory which excludes such things as the inherent selfishness of some people, the resentment that otherwise generous people might have for a system which compelled them to work "for the benefit of others," the special satisfaction that people receive by success of their own personal work, thoughts and actions? A system which so totally ignored human qualities - positive and negative - was bound to fail, and it did. But it took generations and ruined many lives in the process.

Brian, I'm a little disappointed that you had to lie about the content of an article to try to prove a point, rather than being honest and asking yourself, gee . . . do most Muslims really live with the threat of daily murders for apostasy? Because it's ridiculous to think they do. They don't. It would help if you were to check MetaFilter's thread yesterday on the hopes and aspirations and values of Muslims. They are - no surprise - about the same as anyone else's. It's also weak that when totally busted on concrete misrepresentations, you can't even apologize. You made something up. You lied, and you posted the proof yourself. These debates can get testy, but be fair . . . that's pretty low.

But the good news is that thinking things through in a sort of theoretical sense is the first step to creating a mind which will one day be able to "factor in" the myriad dimensions - good and bad - of various dogmas and of religious faith, and the aspects of human psychology which were neglected by ultimately failed theoreticians such as Marx, Engels and Lenin. Today I read about how these wonderful people in Knoxville, TN (not one of America's more tolerant areas) reached out to a group of people who are widely hated . . . and how these fine people paid with their lives because of it. Tomorrow, they'll try to forgive the intolerant murderer, in a gesture of deeper love than most people could ever hope to muster under the same conditions. How can one not admire something about the faith of those people?

One more thing . . . go out and try to meet a few different kinds of Muslims. Even if you hate them, it would add to your credibility if your posts provided even the barest hint that you've actually met one or two. I know this sounds sarcastic, but it's not - you come across as if Muslims to you are what Venusians are to me - almost imaginary entities which can be described in colorful yet totally unrealistic ways. You've described my posts as using elements which to you are of an emotional or personal nature. And that's totally true. But the world is a place full of emotions and personal traits. You can't make your argument very seriously if you attempt to deny this, in the manner of Karl Marx. The world is a messy place, and "theory-based" arguments can be a lot more entertaining in some ways. But they really lead you to a truly human truth.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:59 AM on July 29, 2008


the real sting comes when their peers push them away

The point I'm belabouring is that the only peers that matter in this kind of discussion are the people who currently agree with the wingnuts. Those are the people from whom the wingnuts derive such power and influence as they have. And these people are, by and large, a self-identified group, who may or may not have much in common with the wider group whose name the wingnut is co-opting to prop up an illusion of legitimacy.

Going back to the Phelps example, it seems that fff is suggesting that worthwhile change could be achieved if large numbers of well-respected Christian leaders could be persuaded to denounce Phelps and publicly deny his right to call himself a Christian. The thing is, if you put the Phelps question to any well-respected Christian leader, that is precisely what they will already say - but their saying that makes no difference to Phelps's followers, because they just go all No True Scotsman on you and keep on behaving as if they are the only ones in step.

It really does seem to me as if the only way there's a hope of ridding the world of Phelps and his ilk is chipping away at the hearts and minds of his supporters, one by one by ill-informed one; and that starting from a position where most of what you've written consists of resounding denunciations of their Beloved Leader is likely to hurt, not help, that effort.

In other words: the undermining of Phelps and the irrelevance of Nekschot should be the side effect of what needs to be done, rather than the primary goal. The primary goal should be to help people understand how unnecessary and unhelpful so many of their current prejudices actually are.
posted by flabdablet at 5:42 AM on July 29, 2008


Brian, I'm a little disappointed that you had to lie about the content of an article to try to prove a point, rather than being honest and asking yourself, gee . . . do most Muslims really live with the threat of daily murders for apostasy?

On the contrary. You seem to have an issue with me saying that "a BBC news article exposing the fact that Muslim apostates are routinely murdered as a matter of traditional Muslim beliefs." A casual search on the internet also exposes this fact, with their founding prophet leading the way. His words will never be denounced and it is supported by the majority according to the source. Also, exposing something doesn't mean filing the first report ever, and routinely can mean any number of things ranging from the general mindset that doesn't question it--a matter of routine decision. Anyone living in a state of Islam is under that threat. They choose not to speak out because of this threat. A Muslim professor was once thrown out of a high window for casually exposing a theory of Syrian Christian influence on early Islam to his University students. This violence seems routine at some point. I was watching a Nat'l Geographic documentary last night about a group of American Green Berets in Afghanistan, the guys who got blown up while on camera from a IED (recommended to watch). The chatter from the radio from the enemy was, "Death to America and apostates." That simple. That explains the mindset. It wasn't a freak utterance knowing what I know now, thanks to scattered articles exposing it, resisting pressure to paint a rosey picture I'm sure.
posted by Brian B. at 7:17 AM on July 29, 2008


A casual search on the internet also exposes this fact

Casual searches on the internet expose all kinds of stuff, a great deal of which is uninformed opinion and relatively little of which is fact. Casual internet searches are also really really good at propping up confirmation bias. Use them with caution.

Anyone living in a state of Islam is under that threat

I assume you mean that anyone living under an Islamic government is under that threat, as opposed to anyone whose religion is Islam.

I agree with you that separation of church and state is a good idea. However, abuses of power - even deadly abuses of power - occur under all governments, not just Islamic ones. Until you have specific numbers to back your points, though, this claim will also probably generate more heat than light.

A Muslim professor was once thrown out of a high window for casually exposing a theory of Syrian Christian influence on early Islam to his University students

Cite, please.

This violence seems routine at some point

See above re. confirmation bias.

The chatter from the radio from the enemy was, "Death to America and apostates." That simple. That explains the mindset.

Well, it might illuminate the mindset of extremists who feel a need to blow up American troops in Afghanistan, but it's not reasonable to project that mindset onto the general Muslim population, which is what the tone of your points has been so far. If that's not the tone you intended, perhaps some clarification is in order.

Extremism leads to ugly results, regardless of the particular religion whose name it co-opts.
posted by flabdablet at 4:51 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


A few years ago, one of his colleagues at the University of Nablus in Palestine, Suliman Bashear, was thrown out of the window by his scandalized Muslim students.

I guess by not waiting to follow him home and kill him, they just walked across the room and tossed him out. Like it was automatic; as if it was a routine. I guess you've been exposed to that now. Also, Flabdablet, you can special plead anything you want to deny anything you want, but denial can only get old, no new information comes from it. Fifty lines later and you're still sandbagging. And you can't pretend to have deeper emotions to tend in order to judge people who know better, because it doesn't work in debate. Most people instinctively know that pretending to have superior emotions is a bluff, because they are passive aggressive about showing it. Some minds even think they can imitate an emotion associated with higher intelligence in order to fool others into thinking they are intelligent. Good luck.

but it's not reasonable to project that mindset onto the general Muslim population,

Who is projecting what? I don't underestimate believers in words, just look at the idiots in the Christian right. Oh, but according to some here, if Christians do it, then it's okay for everyone.

Extremism leads to ugly results, regardless of the particular religion whose name it co-opts.

You must mean, "regardless of the particular religion that co-opts it." It's absurd otherwise, and happily ignores the point of adapting to other cultures that fundemantalists emigrate to. You seem to use those subjective slogans to cope with your contradictions. Equality will never be extreme so I don't need to worry about it.
posted by Brian B. at 5:52 PM on July 29, 2008


fundemantalists

Nice.
posted by Brian B. at 6:06 PM on July 29, 2008


Thanks for the cite.

From the earliest account of the window incident I could find online:

And when the Arab scholar Suliman Bashear argued that Islam developed as a religion gradually rather than emerging fully formed from the mouth of the Prophet, he was injured after being thrown from a second-story window by his students at the University of Nablus in the West Bank.

From later in the same article:

But many Muslims find the tone and claims of revisionism offensive. ''I think the broader implications of some of the revisionist scholarship is to say that the Koran is not an authentic book, that it was fabricated 150 years later,'' says Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religious studies at Duke University, as well as a Muslim cleric whose liberal theological leanings earned him the animosity of fundamentalists in South Africa, which he left after his house was firebombed.

Defenestration and firebombing strike me as utterly inappropriate reactions to feeling offended, and I would be very very surprised to find any MeFite, Muslim or otherwise, who honestly disagrees.

but according to some here, if Christians do it, then it's okay for everyone

I think that's a misreading. It is beyond dispute that some people who describe themselves as Christian (or Hindu, or Buddhist, or...) do perpetrate heinous acts of violence and claim to be doing so in the name of their religion. It doesn't follow that this is OK. It does follow that it's unsound to treat examples of Muslim violence as evidence that Islam is inherently extremist.

To mount a convincing argument that the percentage of extremists is notably higher amongst Muslims than amongst people of other religions, you'll need reliable survey results. Anecdotal violence doesn't cut it. You'll also want to control carefully for confounding factors such as socioeconomic status, colonial history, literacy rates and so forth.

I can't find anything coherent to respond to in your points about special pleading, denial, sandbagging, deeper emotions, judging people who know better, bluffing, passive aggression, higher intelligence, fundamentalist emigration, subjective slogans, contradictions or equality never being extreme.
posted by flabdablet at 4:26 AM on July 30, 2008


I think that's a misreading.

Or maybe in was translated poorly.

I can't find anything coherent to respond to in your points about special pleading, denial, sandbagging, deeper emotions, judging people who know better, bluffing, passive aggression, higher intelligence, fundamentalist emigration, subjective slogans, contradictions or equality never being extreme.

Because it was about you.
posted by Brian B. at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2008


Oh, and thanks too for the article, flabdablet. A must read. I found this line to be especially strange:

So, for example, the virgins who are supposedly awaiting good Islamic martyrs as their reward in paradise are in reality ''white raisins'' of crystal clarity rather than fair maidens.
posted by Brian B. at 6:57 AM on July 30, 2008


Virgin births, virgins in paradise, blessed are the cheesemakers...

By the way, had you noticed that in the article you linked to, Christoph Luxenberg (pseudonymous colleague of the defenestrated Bashear) doesn't appear to believe that "Muslim" and "extremist" are synonymous?

Q. - To many Muslim believers, for whom the Koran is the holy book and the only truth, your conclusions could seem blasphemous. What reactions have you noticed up until now?

A. - "In Pakistan, the sale of the edition of ´Newsweek´ that contained an article on my book was banned. Otherwise, I must say that, in my encounters with Muslims, I have not noticed any hostile attitudes. On the contrary, they have appreciated the commitment of a non-Muslim to studies aimed at an objective comprehension of their sacred text. My work could be judged as blasphemous only by those who decide to cling to errors in the interpretation of the word of God. But in the Koran it is written, ´No one can bring to the right way those whom God induces to error.´"

Q. - Aren´t you afraid of a fatwa, a death sentence like the one pronounced against Salman Rushdie?

A. - "I am not a Muslim, so I don´t run that risk. Besides, I haven´t offended against the Koran."

Q. - But you still preferred to use a pseudonym.

A. - "I did that on the advice of Muslim friends who were afraid that some enthusiastic fundamentalist would act of his own initiative, without waiting for a fatwa."

posted by flabdablet at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2008


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