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Whom Did Opus Offend?

The Washington Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, investigates the reasons the Post and other papers refused to run two recent installments of Berke Breathed's "Opus" comic strip. The purported justification was that the strips could be offensive to Muslims. Yet as Howell discovers, it does not seem that Muslims were offended.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights and advocacy group, wasn't offended. " 'Opus' poked fun at the strip's characters, not Muslims or Islam. I see hundreds worse on the Internet every day," he said.

Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University, also wasn't offended. He said there is a strong Muslim tradition of satire and self-deprecation. "I think there is a danger of us becoming so politically correct that we end up by blunting the critics' bent and the satirists' wit. Muslims need to be sensitive to the fact that in Western culture there is a healthy tradition of not taking things too seriously."

FantasiaWHT:
Ok, now let's ask if the Muslims who called for the deaths of cartoonists who portrayed Mohammed are offended by these Opus comics. We already know that many Muslims aren't offended by these sorts of things.
9.15.2007 4:35pm
Randy R. (mail):
Today's Washington Post has a good article about atheists in the west are becoming more vocal and tired of religion always pushing it's face everywhere.

it's about time, as far as I'm concerned. If any religion can't laugh at itself, or can't withstand criticism, then it certainly isn't a religion worth adherring to.
9.15.2007 4:47pm
whatup:
ANYTHING--and i mean ANYTHING that mentions Islam in a comic genre must be ipso facto insensitive, disrespectful, and insensitive, because its adherents have no power. However, the most vile and repugnant comments on christianism should be an occasion to celebrate the First Amendment. Why? The Constitution protects the weak from the strong, NOT the other way around. Straight white male christianists have all the power. They don't need protection. Rather, academics should be subversives in and out of the classroom, transgressing straight white christianist male power. Anyone who disagrees with me is a nazi or a fascist.

Artistic depictions of ALLAH such as the one below should subject the artist to hate crime prosecution:

HI--I'M ALLAH, CHUMP!
**
<
--
9.15.2007 5:35pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Look this happened because the Post used the same flawed strategy that society in general has adopted to see if a particular statement/publication is potentially over the line. They went and asked the members of the potentially offended group that they know how they felt about it and some of the muslims who work at the post expressed concern.

This standard is inherintly problematic because it doesn't correct for the extreme statistical bias it induces. Probably most reporters and editors at the post are christian or jewish so when they run things that poke fun at these religions they just query themselves or their (socially liberal) big city friends in the next cubicle and so end up running things that might even be fairly offensive to a socially conservative rural christian.

On the other hand when it comes to articles that might upset muslisms the muslims they aren't drawing from a population that is so heavily skewed towards the tolerant end of the spectrum as the christians and jews they query. Worse they probably overlook the particularly tolernat muslims they know because these are probably also the ones who don't bother praying five times a day or otherwise behave in a way that lets people know they are muslims. Now some people might not call these people muslims but they are as much muslims as many of the jews and christians at a big paper are members of their faith.

Fundamentally this isn't a problem with the Post but with societies standard for discussion of religious topics. Unlike other topics where the person taking offense , while perhaps catered to, is viewed as the one in the wrong it is the person who says something religiously offensive who is seen as being in the wrong. We need to treat statements about religion the same as statements about any other strongly held belief. We certainly need to stop letting groups define what counts as offensive statements about their own practices.
9.15.2007 5:58pm
John (mail):
The cartoon weren't blocked because they were offensive, and the editor of the Washington Post was lying when he said so. If offensiveness were in fact a test, then many, many items would never see the light of day in the Washington Post that have, in fact, seen the light of day.

The only explanation that fits the facts is that the editor was afraid of an uproar that might pose some danger to him or his staff--perhaps a prudent, but certainly a cowardly reaction for a newspaperman.

Perhaps the editor should see if he could enter a convent.
9.15.2007 6:28pm
whit:
the difference is that in the case of OPUS, at least one newspaper consulted some people in the islamic community before (not) printing the strip. iow, they sought out the opinion of (supposedly) representative muslims, listened to their opinion, THEN decided not to publish.

i strongly doubt they have ever done this with stuff (that might be) offensive to christians, jews, republicans, etc.

again, its the double standard that's ridiculous.
9.15.2007 6:53pm
Brian K (mail):
i strongly doubt they have ever done this with stuff (that might be) offensive to christians, jews,

as truepath said above: they just query themselves or their (socially liberal) big city friends in the next cubicle. so yes, they do consult someone of the religion before they print it.

As for the "republican" example, when was the last time a republican asked a democrat if something was offensive before saying it? almost none of the conservative pundits would have a job if they had to. but that's a great double standard you have there.
9.15.2007 7:17pm
whit:
"as truepath said above: they just query themselves or their (socially liberal) big city friends in the next cubicle. so yes, they do consult someone of the religion before they print it. "

cmon. stop being disingenuous. they consulted (their conception of) representative muslims in regards to Opus.

clearly, they didn't do the same when they referenced piss-christ, etc.

nobody doubts the nyt and their ilk have a very biased view. here, though, they go behind it. they consult a community to avoid offense, but ONLY the muslim community

PERSONALLY, i have no problem with them being offensive, if they wouldn't do so hypocritically, by only offending when they know it will give them cred among leftists AND won't get them killed

that's hardly courageous

*i* don't have a double standard. i LIKE to read offensive stuff because it challenges me. that's why i read democratic underground, etc.

what i am saying is that the NYT is selectively offensive - offensive when it costs them nothing, brings them cheers from their leftist readership, and doesn't put them at any risk whatsoever

offend christians AND muslims AND jews AND liberals AND conservatives and you are deserving of a respect that the NYT does not currently deserve

or just admit you are an organ of the left.

and of course, after giving a 120k discount to moveon.org for their ad, i am SURE they do the same for the minutemen for example (rolls eyes)
9.15.2007 7:33pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
It's very simple - they're afraid of the 6th century jihadist types doing violence to their persons. Nobody fears violent Christians or Jews.
9.15.2007 7:42pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
This same NYT had no problems running the offensive ad "General Be-tray-us". Hypocrites.
9.15.2007 7:45pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Opus simply gave people at the WP an opportunity to to be moral exhibitionists. They jumped at it, and I'm sure they were dumbfouded when they were ridiculed rather than praised for their phony sensitivity.
9.15.2007 8:04pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Moral exhibitionist to whom I might ask? CAiR? I wouldn't be proud to have that crowd applauding me.
9.15.2007 8:12pm
Brian K (mail):
cmon. stop being disingenuous. they consulted (their conception of) representative muslims in regards to Opus.

cmon. stop being disingenuous. you clearly did not read the article linked in the original post.

from the article: He consulted with other editors, one of whom talked to a Muslim staff member, who believed the strip was problematic. (emphasis mine)
they did exactly as was described above...which is the same thing they do for everything else. just because the staff member they found has a thinner skin that other christian or jewish staff members doesn't make this a double standard.

the quotes from CAIR and ahmed did not come until after the face.

PERSONALLY, i have no problem with them being offensive, if they wouldn't do so hypocritically, by only offending when they know it will give them cred among leftists AND won't get them killed
it sure seems like you have a problem with it. (and i'll note that there was absolutely no indication that they feared physical violence...so you have a problem with facts too.)
9.15.2007 9:07pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Moral exhibitionist to whom I might ask? CAiR? I wouldn't be proud to have that crowd applauding me."

They were preening for the rest of the liberal PC crowd. I doubt they care any more for CAIR or Mulsims than they do for Christians or Jews. But, sensitivity to minority sensitivities has a long history of exploitation.
9.15.2007 9:52pm
Mark F. (mail):
It's very simple - they're afraid of the 6th century jihadist types doing violence to their persons. Nobody fears violent Christians or Jews.

Are people really so afraid of Muslim jihadist types? Why is it that people like Michelle Malkin, Joseph Farah, Sam Harris and David Horowitz don't have fatwahs on their heads? How come Presidential candidates can suggest the nuking of Mecca and not fear for their safety? The fear of Islamic crackpots seems to be a bit exagerrated, if you ask me.
9.16.2007 12:56am
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
truepath, these papers censor themselves to avoid even the slightest chance of offending muslims and they publish condescending editorials to admonish us to be sensitive to tender muslim feelings. By contrast, when something actually does offend Christians, instead of the sensitivity lecture, we get the condescending lecture about how Christians really need to suck it up and learn to just live with things that offend us. And we don't have to read it if we don't like it. And if Christians really complain about it a lot, then we get to hear about how we are trying to censor the offenders and how we don't respect the first amendment.

With this blatant difference in treatment, it's hard to credit your theory about the double standard arising from an accident.
9.16.2007 1:05am
Brian K (mail):
we get the condescending lecture about how Christians really need to suck it up and learn to just live with things that offend us.

Really? no one has been telling muslims that they need to suck it up and deal with it? You are joking right?
9.16.2007 1:26am
Lev:

there is a strong Muslim tradition of satire and self-deprecation.


Ha!
9.16.2007 1:29am
Ken Arromdee:
Are people really so afraid of Muslim jihadist types? Why is it that people like Michelle Malkin, Joseph Farah, Sam Harris and David Horowitz don't have fatwahs on their heads?

Because who gets the fatwa, among the people who offend, is totally random. There were other people who made cartoons as offensive as the Danish ones (or the Opus ones); it's just that the Danish ones were the ones some fanatics actually got ahold of.
9.16.2007 1:53am
neurodoc:
Mark F.: "Are people really so afraid of Muslim jihadist types? Why is it that people like Michelle Malkin, Joseph Farah, Sam Harris and David Horowitz don't have fatwahs on their heads? How come Presidential candidates can suggest the nuking of Mecca and not fear for their safety? The fear of Islamic crackpots seems to be a bit exagerrated, if you ask me."
I dunno, maybe those "Islamic crackpots" flying the planes on 9/11 didn't know where to find those individuals that day, or they were pre-occupied with hitting the targets they went after and killing as many of us as they could in a short space of time. Or maybe they think all of us deserving of death, so see no reason to single out the individuals you named. They did know where to find Theo Van Gogh, though, didn't they?
9.16.2007 4:50am
Lonetown (mail):
Simply another case of political correctness run amok.

Must be those brilliant "progressives" at work again.
9.16.2007 7:02am
Redlands (mail):
Over the lunch break a cadre of my colleagues gathers to watch various CD's that someone will bring to watch. The other day there was some TV show, Season 1 of something I'd never seen, being shown that was nothing more than 30 minutes, sans commercials, of a pillorying of the Catholic faith. (Catholics are much better at it since they better know the subject matter. It wasn't all that funny to me.) But I don't think I've ever seen anything near as pointedly anti-Islamic on the TV, especially in a comedy format. Given the history of Islamic reaction to Mr. Rushdie, political cartoons, etc., do you think Hollywood is scared? Or do I not watch enough TV and have simply missed it?
9.16.2007 11:05am
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Brian K, I propose that you spend a little more time trying to understand what someone is saying before you respond to them. It should have been obvious that I was talking about the behavior of the particular newspapers who self-censored Opus and not the world in general. Certainly a tiny number of other people are telling muslims that they should just be more tolerant, but not these particular newspapers. To these newspapers, only christians have a duty to take offense gracefully and to be inoffensive themselves. Blacks don't, gays don't, illegal immigrants don't, muslims don't. Just christians (and jews, unless they are offended by christians, in which case they get to be as intolerant as they want).

The double standard is so blatant that it seems a little Twilight-Zone that anyone has to point it out. Is there some mysterious alien influence going on so that we are actually reading different columns?
9.16.2007 2:18pm