Friday, February 10, 2006

Cartoon Controversy

So, a Danish newspaper prints cartoons of Islam's prophet Muhammad several months ago, and the issue flares up two weeks ago into mass protests, flag-burnings, death threats, boycotts, attacks on embassies and missions...

One of the common misconceptions in mainstream reports about the "cartoon row" is that Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere did not riot because some of the cartoons depicted Muhammad in an unflattering manner, but because they depicted Muhammad at all. Visual depiction of Muhammad is strictly forbidden under Islamic law.

Fair enough - but Denmark, Europe, and the US for that matter, don't live under Islamic law, do they? In fact, they follow a set of laws protecting the freedom of expression (at least on paper). So in these countries, depiction of Muhammad - while some may consider it sinful - is not illegal.

This is where ignorance comes in. See, the cartoons were commissioned as commentary on self-censorship by illustrators who balked at drawing Muhammad for a children's book, fearful of provoking just this sort of reaction. Ironically, the book was supposed to teach Danish children tolerance towards Islam. But whoever was behind it obviously had no clue whatsoever that Muslims consider visual representations of their prophet a sin. Nor were they aware that in Islam, sin and crime and pretty much one and the same, because it is not just a faith, it is a social order. And not just that - it is a universal faith and social order, considered by its followers to be the ultimate divine revelation. Islam respects Judaism and Christianity's right to exist insofar as they are considered previous, "flawed" revelations of the divine message. As such, they get special, second-class status in Islamic societies, while all other faiths are deemed idolatrous and condemned to extermination. But they are not, under any circumstances, ever considered equal to Islam.

And because Islam considers itself universal and ultimate, it does not allow for coexistence with other social, religious or political systems: the dar-al-Islam is in constant conflict with dar-al-harb, the dark world of infidels who dare not accept the final revelation of god. To tell a Muslim that he should tolerate the freedom of a Dane to draw a picture of Muhammad is absurd; the injunction against it is at the heart of Islam, and thus applies everywhere, to everyone, especially the infidels. To deny the universal and ultimate character of Islam is to become apostate - and Islamic law says apostasy is punishable by death.

That is not to say that burning Danish embassies is the only response available to Muslims. Though violence in the name of the faith is considered a sacred charge, Muslims had many choices in how to react to the publication. Someone might have written to the editor and said, "Look, you are infidels and you do not understand. Any depiction of the Prophet is sacrilege to us, and we ask you to respect that." In today's West, obsessed with political correctness and "human rights," do you think anyone would deny this request?

But those who chose to make the cartoons into a focal point of mob violence did so on purpose. They wanted the riots, craved the outrage, desired violence, as it promoted their position within Islam as advocates of jihad against the West. The violence also played up old racist animosities; it should not surprise that Iranian papers thought a fitting response would be a cartoon depicting Anne Frank in bed with Hitler.

In a battle between free speech and "multi-culturalism," in today's Europe, free speech is bound to lose. The post-modern, post-Christian West simply cannot comprehend a religion like Islam, whose followers resort to aggression and murder at the smallest slight. Christians don't burn embassies when someone exhibits a crucifix soaked in urine, do they? Which goes to explain why Christianity is under constant attack by the secular state, and Islam is appeased at every step.

Again, the post-modern, post-Christian society running the West has only one religion - power - and only one saint, violence. Force is the only thing they worship, and the only thing they respect. When Christians are offended by something, they protest with words, and are answered with mockery. When Muslims are offended, people die - and Muslims are answered with apologies and claptrap about sensitivity, respect and tolerance: words they see in a completely different context, one the post-religious West doesn't understand.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Something you can do

It's a twisted, crazy, surreal world we live in, where guardians of Official Truth are telling us things are exactly the opposite of what they appear to be. Oppression is celebrated as liberty and liberty denigrated as treason. Patriotism is labeled criminal, and nihilistic globalism celebrated as progress. What you see, hear and read in the media often contradicts itself, let alone independent observation.

What can one do against such vile corruption? Refuse to accept it, of course. Seek out the truth, wherever it may still survive, and challenge the lies. One way to do this is to support those who challenge the Official Truth: and, to name just two.

Ask youself: how much is liberty worth to you? How much should the truth cost? What is the price of sanity? Then reach into your wallet, or don't. It's up to you - and it should be. You fund the omnipotent state, the perpetual war and perpetual inflation because you have to; the government takes your money no matter what. But you can choose to fight it. This is one way.


Friday, February 03, 2006

A Glaring Omission

There is an excellent piece by H. Arthur Scott Trask on LRC today, dealing with the state of perpetual war so beloved of the Imperial government these days. It makes a lot of good points about the Cold War, the imperial mentality and the current "war" on terrorism or whatnot. But it makes one glaring omission: the Balkans.

In Trask's piece, 9-11 follows the 1991 Gulf War, drawing on the continuity between the Bushes. I beg to differ. It was Clinton who ran on an interventionist platform in 1992, and presided over the transformation of NATO into an aggressive alliance, first in Bosnia (1995) then Serbia (1999). It was Clinton who sent troops into Somalia and Haiti, and waged a lengthy air war on Iraq from 1998-99 (stopping only to switch to Serbia). British historian Kate Hudson saw this in 2003, when she called attention to a "pattern of aggression" characterizing the US foreign policy.

Another important aspect of Balkans interventions is that they were gradual. Involvement in Bosnia began as one demilitarized zone for humanitarian aid delivery (Sarajevo airport), then expanded to the no-fly zone, "safe havens," punitive air strikes, and finally a joint military operation with local proxy forces on the ground. Then that precedent was used in 1998 to threaten Serbia over Kosovo, and ratcheted up to full conventional war in March 1999, without even a fig leaf of UN authorization. "Desert Storm" was grounded in international law and authorized by the UN; "Allied Force" was emphatically neither. Can anyone seriously argue that without all those precedents, it would have been possible for Bush II to invade Iraq in the manner he did?

It isn't just the "neocons" that are the problem. Clinton's wars were engineered by "neoliberals," while the neocons cheered on. Both are united in the cause of American Empire, which is the problem. Much as I agree with Trask's article, and the points it's making, I don't see how anyone can fully understand how the Empire came about after the end of the Cold War if the ground-work done in the 1990s isn't at least mentioned. That, rather than personal attachments to the region, is the primary reason I still write about the Balkans.