The Cartoon Controversies

By lex, on April 29th, 2010

The outrage over the Mohammad cartoons was manufactured soup to nuts, according to Kenan Malik:

(If) there is no universal prohibition to the depiction of Mohammad, why were Muslims universally appalled by the caricatures? They weren’t. And those that were, were driven by political zeal rather than theological fervour.

The publications of the cartoons in September 2005 caused no immediate reaction, even in Denmark. Only when journalists, disappointed by the lack of controversy, contacted a number of imams for their response, did Islamists begin to recognise the opportunity provided not just by the caricatures themselves but also by the sensitivity of Danish society to their publication.

Among the first contacted was the controversial cleric Ahmed Abu Laban, infamous for his support for Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks. He seized upon the cartoons to transform himself into a spokesman for Denmark’s Muslims. Yet however hard he pushed, he initially found it difficult to provoke major outrage in Denmark or abroad. It took more than four months of often hysterical campaigning, and considerable arm-twisting by Saudi diplomats, to create a major controversy. At the end of January 2006, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Denmark and launched a consumer boycott of Danish goods.

The consequence?

Within Muslim communities these developments have helped undermine progressive trends and strengthened the hand of religious bigots. Secular Muslims have come to be regarded as betraying their culture, while radical Islam has become not just more acceptable but, to many, more authentic. As the secular tradition has been squeezed out, the only place offering shelter to disaffected youth has been militant Islam.

The perpetrators?

Multi-culturalist liberals, according to Malik, who sought – like the worst of Edward Said’s “Orientalists” – to define and “otherize” Islam. Only these modern Orientalists did not seek to define Islam by its most illiberal and reactionary elements as a way of demonstrating the cultural superiority of the West so much as to declare that all cultural comparisons are inherently invidious. In doing so they empowered radicalism while silencing Western criticism and cutting the ground out from underneath those who would happily adopt the superior elements of Western culture while eschewing its excesses.

Thus do freedom of speech advocates self-edit. Thus does cultural confidence give way to doubt, and doubt to the impositions of alien certainties. Thus do we elevate those who would tyrannize us.

Thus are we liberalized into subservience.

 

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