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"Unacceptable" that Islam and Muslims Are "Represented ... as the Enemies of Freedom of Speech":

From a press release at the Organization of the Islamic Conference site:

He [the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu] also found it unacceptable that Islam as a religion and Muslims as a whole were represented, through this campaign of hatred of the Danish media, as the enemies of freedom of speech.

After all, "the Muslims have no problem with the freedom of speech as a fundamental human right, but [are] only expecting a minimum level of respect and responsibility in the exercise of this right."

Well, here's my thinking: If you think that it's unacceptable that people are representing your ideological system as an enemy of free speech, then don't argue that it should be a crime to publish cartoons that criticize your Prophet, or for that matter that it should be a crime to publish any "advocacy of ... religious hatred that constitute[s] incitement to ... hostility ...." Calls for such censorship (even when coupled, as in the statement, with denunciations of private violence) themselves lead to eminently justified hostility towards the religious view that promotes the censorship.

Waldensian (mail):

the Muslims have no problem with the freedom of speech as a fundamental human right, but

So many attacks on individual liberties have this sentence construction:

"I'm in favor of free speech, but..."
"I think they should have the same rights as anyone else, but..."

etc.
2.25.2008 2:32pm
PersonFromPorlock:
EV, one of these days you'll see the light: a religion whose name means 'submission' and which has its own governmental system built in simply can't regard political freedom as anything but an occasion of sin.
2.25.2008 2:34pm
The Unbeliever (mail):
I vote we adopt Ihsanoglu's weasly structure and apply it to all kinds of absurd disagreements. For example:

"The Democrats have no problem with the freedom of a Republican to be elected to public office as a fundamental American right, but [are] only expecting a minimum level of respect and responsibility in the exercise of this right."

(Needlessly provocative choice, but the original formulation amused me too much to leave unsnarked.)
2.25.2008 2:42pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Every culture has sanctions for behavior beyond the bounds of human decency; the trouble is when the bounds of human decency differ from culture to culture. In our culture, libel, slander, fighting words, obscenity, etc. are all unprotected by the first amendment. Other cultures prohibit talking smack about their monarchs; Islam demands respect for their prophet. Even in our culture, people oppose the use of an American flag as a doormat, and art consisting of putting a crucifix in a beaker of urine.
2.25.2008 2:47pm
MXE (mail):
Even in our culture, people oppose the use of an American flag as a doormat, and art consisting of putting a crucifix in a beaker of urine.

True, but you don't see violent riots over these issues.
2.25.2008 2:57pm
tarheel:

True, but you don't see violent riots over these issues.

Try burning a flag at midday in downtown Fayetteville, NC (home of Fort Bragg).

Not saying the OIC is correct in its view of the First Amendment, but let's not overstate the respect and understanding some Americans have for true free speech either.
2.25.2008 3:10pm
methodact:
How nice for Islam to create for themselves, that fiction: that they tolerate criticism of their terrorism. That is simply tactical dissemblance upon their part. Criticize Islam and you risk that they will kill you. Stoning and the institutionalized ritual abuse of women is terrorisim. Under the mistaken notion of being tolerant of all religions, we have opened the door to inviting terrorists to thrive.
2.25.2008 3:16pm
Hoosier:
"and art consisting of putting a crucifix in a beaker of urine."--Look, no one is asking the OIC to *fund* the goddam cartoons. Which was the issue with "Piss Christ." And the Vatican wasn't calling for the murder of the gallery's Board of Directors.

I must say, I like the use of the word "unacceptable" to describe speech that questions the Islamic world's commitment to free speech.
2.25.2008 3:25pm
Tom952 (mail):
The fact yhat they would issue such a press release illustrates their dangerous irrationality. They are stating that they believe in freedom of speech as long as they approve of what is being said, and they can't see what is wrong with that attitude.
2.25.2008 3:46pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Try burning a flag at midday in downtown Fayetteville, NC (home of Fort Bragg).


You might get your rear end kicked, but I doubt a murder plot would be hatched against you or a right break out. Moreover there wouldnt be a movement to supress criticism of your murder in the name of political correctness. Just the opposite.
2.25.2008 4:05pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
right break out? Er, riot break out.
2.25.2008 4:06pm
Markus:
I think along the same common sense lines as Tony Tutins above.
Being a Dane and the son af a protestant reverend, the whole story goes a bit beyond the academic to me.

I find the whole discussion rather depressing, because it seems to me that the message we are sending as a openminded and tolerant society goes something like this:
"We will not accept you as civilized, unless you - on a collective level - can tolerate the gravest insults you can imagine without consorting to violence"
What kind of message is that to send, especially from a civilization that condones and practices industrialized warfare?
2.25.2008 4:29pm
ejo:
not that it's a secret, but the tolerance being demanded by these folks is one way. as to the strange flag burning attempt at moral equivalence, do you think the members of the 82nd Airborne would launch into full scale screaming riot mode, threatening to kill all flagburners and infidels if they didn't convert? I tend to doubt it.
2.25.2008 4:30pm
ejo:
perhaps the message that might be sent is don't consort to violence, probably not a bad message, particularly if your way of life doesn't reciprocate the respect it demands of others. perhaps it might encourage the throwbacks to stay in their own countries? perhaps it might even encourage or reward good behavior? as a Dane, you might want to give some thought to the behavior you want to encourage in your society?
2.25.2008 4:33pm
whit:
what they are saying here is eerily reminiscent of the speech codes of canada and other nations under their race relations acts and similar legislation.

you can say whatever you want, as long as it doesn't make people feel icky about who they are.
2.25.2008 4:36pm
pete (mail) (www):

"We will not accept you as civilized, unless you - on a collective level - can tolerate the gravest insults you can imagine without consorting to violence"
What kind of message is that to send, especially from a civilization that condones and practices industrialized warfare?


It seems like a pretty good message as it defines what most of us consider basic civilized behavior, i.e. not killing someone over an insult. I missed the last time Denmark or the United States went to war because someone painted an offensive picture of George Washington or Jesus or some other figure.

And if these cartoons are the gravest insult you can imagine you have a pretty pathetic imagination. I can think of a lot more offensive ways to portray Mohammed than the rather mild images these cartoonists created.
2.25.2008 4:42pm
autolykos:
"What kind of message is that to send, especially from a civilization that condones and practices industrialized warfare?"

What does the fact that we use tanks and planes in warfare have to do with the antecedant question?
2.25.2008 4:43pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"We will not accept you as civilized, unless you - on a collective level - can tolerate the gravest insults you can imagine without consorting to violence"


Sounds like a pretty reasonable definition of "civilized" to me, on both the personal and group levels.
2.25.2008 4:44pm
a.non. (mail):
And if these cartoons are the gravest insult you can imagine you have a pretty pathetic imagination.

By the dried camel jizz in Mohammed's beard, you can say that again!
2.25.2008 4:47pm
ejo:
the other problem is that the insults don't have to be all that grave to result in the full fledged psychotic islamic meltdown. insults to the prophet-check. using piggy banks-check. requiring islamic physcians to wash their hands-check. making one have to tolerate the presence of jews and breath the same air they breath-check. all are grave and egregious insults which, in some circumstances, demand lethal counter-action.
2.25.2008 4:48pm
tarheel:
I make no claims of moral equivalence because they are not equivalent in any way. The riots and killings (or threats of killing) are not defensible in a civilized society.

My only point was that many in this country do not have the same view of the First Amendment that most posters here do. You would get your ass kicked in many American towns for burning a flag and those doing the kicking would feel quite strongly that your actions are not protected speech.
2.25.2008 4:56pm
tarheel:
As, I might point out, would a portion of our Supreme Court.
2.25.2008 4:58pm
Anderson (mail):
I'm glad to hear that Ihsanoglu will be speaking out against Muslims who call for censorship or vengeance against those who criticize Muhammed or Islam.

After all, those Muslims are the chief reason why Islam is regarded as opposed to freedom of speech.
2.25.2008 5:01pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
Remember when all those South Koreans sent death threats to Apolo Anton Ohno because a referee disqualified his South Korean opponent in the 2002 Olympics?
2.25.2008 5:04pm
autolykos:
And if these cartoons are the gravest insult you can imagine you have a pretty pathetic imagination. I can think of a lot more offensive ways to portray Mohammed than the rather mild images these cartoonists created.


The larger point is that, despite Mr. Ihsanoglu's protestations to the contrary, what he's looking for is not "a minimum level of respect and responsibility" - it's a close to blanket prohibition on criticism of Islam and/or its prophet.

Painting these kind of blanket prohibitions as minor impositions isn't really a novel argument - I've seen the same thing in arguments for collegiate speech codes - but it's disingenuous nonetheless.
2.25.2008 5:05pm
Dangermouse:
"We will not accept you as civilized, unless you - on a collective level - can tolerate the gravest insults you can imagine without consorting to violence"

Gee, that sounds awfully familiar. I think I remember reading someone saying something about that. Oh yeah:


If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.


Well, no wonder why that's rejected. They're just following the West's more general rejection of Christianity. I mean, there are placed in America where you can die over an insult.
2.25.2008 5:10pm
autolykos:
My only point was that many in this country do not have the same view of the First Amendment that most posters here do. You would get your ass kicked in many American towns for burning a flag and those doing the kicking would feel quite strongly that your actions are not protected speech.


and???

Nobody is expecting Islamic states to control the thoughts and/or actions of all of their citizens. What we do expect is that they (i) punish those who commit criminal acts, (ii) stop encouraging riots and (iii) stop making excuses for riots.
2.25.2008 5:14pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
.Well, here's my thinking: If you think that it's unacceptable that people are representing your ideological system as an enemy of free speech, then don't argue that it should be a crime to publish cartoons that criticize your Prophet
Straw man. The OIC does not make such a claim. They are claiming that printing such cartoons may sometimes constitute a "campaign of hatred against the Muslims of that country and of the world by insulting their beliefs and their most sacred spiritual values and symbols" but they do not claim such cartoons should be a crime per se. At the very least the prints would have to be so numerous, and so hostile, as to constitute a "campaign of hatred".
or for that matter that it should be a crime to publish any "advocacy of ... religious hatred that constitute[s] incitement to ... hostility ...." Calls for such censorship (even when coupled, as in the statement, with denunciations of private violence) themselves lead to eminently justified hostility towards the religious view that promotes the censorship.
I was not aware that Islam, or any sect thereof, incorporated the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which is what you're quoting. Apparently OIC accepts it (or at least purports to) but objection to the ICCPR is hardly the same as objection to OIC's religious views.
2.25.2008 5:16pm
neurodoc:
(The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference) further added that the Muslim World was waiting for an unequivocal stand from the Danish authorities, who bear moral responsibility to protect the rights of their citizens from acts of intolerance and incitement to hatred, under the "International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights" of 1996 which forbids any form of incitement to religious hatred by stating in its Article 20 para 2 that "…any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law".
Has the Secretary General ever condemned the fervid "advocacy of national...(and)... religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence" against Israel and Jews everywhere that is so commonplace in the Islamic world? If so, I missed it.
2.25.2008 5:17pm
The Unbeliever (mail):
You would get your ass kicked in many American towns for burning a flag and those doing the kicking would feel quite strongly that your actions are not protected speech.

Those doing the kicking would be wrong if they were expounding on a view of Constitutional law. (Fists and federal philosophy, live tonight on Pay Per View! ...nevermind)

But your analogy fails in that the same patriotically minded kickers-of-ass would not then riot, destroy property at random, start plots to bomb newspaper outlets, threaten the flag burner's families with murder, etc.

In the interests of heading off the inevitable "but it's still violence" argument, I'd like to point out the key difference in the reactions. One might punch a flag burner, but that can be viewed as an isolated crime in the heat of the moment, borne of misguided patriotism but expressed in a way not condoned by society. However the Muslim response to the cartoons was a planned, sustained, anti-social reaction, expressing outrage not only against the primary offender but against the society which produced it and the basic institutional freedom which permits it.

Or to put it another way: punching a hippy in the nose has philosophical underpinnings significantly different from that of an agitator trying to change the functional definition of freedom of speech.
2.25.2008 5:18pm
neurodoc:
anonymouseducator: Remember when all those South Koreans sent death threats to Apolo Anton Ohno because a referee disqualified his South Korean opponent in the 2002 Olympics?
Yes, we remember. So what?
2.25.2008 5:27pm
Avatar (mail):
I think people are overstating the case a little. Sure, people are going to think pretty badly of you if you go to Fort Bragg and burn a flag there. You'll get dirty looks, you might even get yelled at, or spat at (though probably not actually upon.) But you're not actually likely to get so much as a slap.

Take Berkeley's anti-Marine crusade. Plenty of head-shaking, some political posturing, lots of "those idiots in Berkeley" type of talk (even from some of the residents... my brother's out there). But is anyone going out to bust up people's property over the issue? No, huh? Not only that, but the very idea that I should go riot because someone somewhere is insulting the US is wholly alien. It's not just irrational, but it's irrational in a way that I'm not prepared to accept - it requires rationality to be put by the wayside in several areas that I am not prepared to accept others abandoning rationality.

We're prepared to accept peace with Islam, allow them to practice their religion, attempt to win converts, adhere to their peculiar customs, and what have you, the same as anyone else. But I'm not prepared to live with anyone who's going to riot because they saw a cartoon they didn't like, -regardless of their motivations-. If Islam truly demands that, then Islam has to go. If Islam doesn't truly demand that, then they need to disavow it...

All that said, there isn't any of that sort of thing going on in the US - I'm not saying that Muslims here are any happier about Mohammed-mocking, but they aren't staging urban violence on the subject.
2.25.2008 5:32pm
GEORGE LARSON (mail):
Will Islam accept pagans in their midst without resorting to violence? Will Islam accept Christians trying to spread Christianity in their community without Islam resorting to violence? Moslems are peaceful in this country. I am worried about the Moslems overseas who are not peaceful and claim they are the true Moslems and the peaceful ones are not true to their faith.
2.25.2008 5:44pm
pete (mail) (www):

The larger point is that, despite Mr. Ihsanoglu's protestations to the contrary, what he's looking for is not "a minimum level of respect and responsibility" - it's a close to blanket prohibition on criticism of Islam and/or its prophet.


There are two related points to this: First the cartoon rioters are upset that an infidel even dared to make any image of Muhammad. Muslims are, in general, opposed to representational art of Muhammed, but are especially opposed to non-muslims creating images of him. The cartoon rioters response runs in direct opposition to the general attitude of tolerance and pluralism towards speech that the west has adopted.

The second related point is that respect he demands is all one way. He does not have to give respect, but he expects others to go out of their way to avoid offending him. I suspect that this is typical of the people who are willing to resort to violence when "disrepected" in honor centered cultures.
2.25.2008 5:55pm
Warmongering Lunatic:
So, a Muslim leader has declared it unacceptable to say that Muslims oppose free speech.

Hmm. Maybe he can get a law passed that makes it illegal to say that Muslims oppose free speech.
2.25.2008 6:00pm
tarheel:

Those doing the kicking would be wrong if they were expounding on a view of Constitutional law.

And I was making a point about most Americans' understanding of the constitutional law on this issue.

But your analogy fails in that the same patriotically minded kickers-of-ass would not then riot, destroy property at random, start plots to bomb newspaper outlets, threaten the flag burner's families with murder, etc.

I have already said that. I agree completely. Thus my comment that I was not stating a moral equivalence. It was not an analogy; it was simply a comment that there are gradations among Americans in how they view the First Amendment.
2.25.2008 6:10pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Well, here's my thinking: If you think that it's unacceptable that people are representing your ideological system as an enemy of free speech, then don't argue that it should be a crime to publish cartoons that criticize your Prophet,

Or showing movies that criticize your prophet? Like The Last Temptation of Christ, which was banned in Oklahoma and several countries and "On October 22, 1988, a French Catholic fundamentalist group launched molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel movie theater to protest against the film. This terrorist attack injured thirteen people, four of whom were severely burned.[2]" (Wikipedia). Given incidents like that, would you say it's acceptable to say Christianity and Christians be represented as the enemies of freedom of speech?
2.25.2008 6:10pm
neurodoc:
Syd Henderson: Given incidents like that, would you say it's acceptable to say Christianity and Christians be represented as the enemies of freedom of speech?
Sure, go ahead and say it, or just about anything else you might wish to say. Stupid utterances are as protected by the First Amendment as are more intelligent ones.
2.25.2008 6:39pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Syd, do you have trouble with reading comprehension? The last temptation of Christ was not banned in Oklahoma. The film Banned in Okalahoma is a documentary that covers the 1997 Oklahoma confiscation of the film "The Tin Drum" due to a judicial ruling of child pornography, and the six years of legal wranglings that ensued.
2.25.2008 6:43pm
Ted10 (mail):
"We will not accept you as civilized, unless you - on a collective level - can tolerate the gravest insults you can imagine without consorting to violence"

Sounds like a pretty reasonable definition of "civilized" to me, on both the personal and group levels.


I agree wholeheartedly with this post, but in America we're getting pretty good at defining 'hate crimes' and ensuring those guilty of them get enhanced sentences. It wouldn't surprise me if Obama or Clinton would want to see those types of 'protections' expanded even further (cause we sure have a lot more groups that need it). 20 years ago they didn't exist, 20 years from now they might get you the death penalty. America's getting closer to extreme Islam day by day....
2.25.2008 7:03pm
Hey Skipper (www):
markus:

"We will not accept you as civilized, unless you - on a collective level - can tolerate the gravest insults you can imagine without consorting to violence"

Considering what Islam has to say about non-believers, and what should happen to us, we should regard Islam with all the derision we can muster.

Hard to think of a graver insult than a death threat.
2.25.2008 7:28pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
My small part:

The allegedly "blasphemous" book Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam by Mariwan Halabjaee is available online with the author's permission at:
Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam
http://charlesrcblog.googlepages.com/home

The site also contains interviews with, and information regarding, the author, Mariwan Halabjaee,* "the Salman Rushdie of Iraqi Kurdistan."

The book has also been published as two music videos:
Alice Cooper - Only Women Bleed (Sex, Sharia remix) music video
http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZSPnJ-FXTmg

Open Season - Stuck Mojo (Sex, Sharia remix) music video
http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZSPnJ-FXTmg

* Mariwan Halabjaee (sp. Marywan / Halabjay, Halabjayee, Halabjaye, Halabjayi)
2.25.2008 8:14pm
scattergood:
The problem is this. Fundamental to the freedom of speech are the freedom to offend and the freedom to think and worship as you wish. Fundamental to Islam is the lack of the freedom to offend and the lack of the ability to worship as one wants.

One only has to read the Koran and Hadith regarding the death penalty being applied to those who create 'mischief in the land', with 'mischief' being described as disbelief in Allah and his prophet Mohammed or stopping people from worshiping Allah in the ways prescribed by Islam. Such theologies specifically rule out freedom of speech, thought, or worship.
2.25.2008 9:01pm
LM (mail):

"We will not accept you as civilized, unless you - on a collective level - can tolerate the gravest insults you can imagine without consorting to violence"

That's sounds like a straw man. The only ultimatum is, "obey our laws, as every country has a right to demand." Who accepts who else as civilized or not is too personal and ad hoc to be accurately represented that broadly.
2.25.2008 9:12pm
LM (mail):
That's
2.25.2008 9:12pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I suggest it's time all religions accept the proposition that nobody except their own members has any respect for them. Ant even that number is dwindling.
2.25.2008 9:28pm
LM (mail):
EV said,

Calls for such censorship (even when coupled, as in the statement, with denunciations of private violence) themselves lead to eminently justified hostility towards the religious view that promotes the censorship.

Is it really the religious view that's promoting the censorship? Isn't it the personal or academic view of this scholar/cleric (among others)? Certainly tens, maybe hundreds of millions of Muslims would agree with him, but does the promotion of legal censorship in a non-Muslim majority nation necessarily follow from the religious stricture against depicting the Prophet? If it does, I stand corrected, and I'm happy to be so informed. But if it doesn't, isn't the suggestion that the religious view is justifiably resented too broad an invitation against a religion that probably also includes many millions who wouldn't agree that such legal censorship necessarily follows from the religious injunction or that legal censorship should be demanded?
2.25.2008 9:31pm
Chem_geek:
Y'know, it's almost time for the college basketball championships here in the States. We won't see any riots or bad behaviour on the winner's or losers' campi...

How many soccer riots have the readers here heard of? Heard of the Soccer War down in South or Central America?

Take the beam out of thine own eye.
2.25.2008 10:07pm
A Law Unto Himself:
LM:

I would suggest to you that there is NO Imam anywhere in Islam who would stand up publically and say that it is acceptable for nonbelievers to blaspheme the prophet.

No sect of Islamic jurisprudence accepts that level of tolerance.

David
2.25.2008 10:12pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Likewise, I don't think we would find any imam who would deny that Sharia law applies to everyone on earth.
2.25.2008 10:32pm
LM (mail):

I would suggest to you that there is NO Imam anywhere in Islam who would stand up publically and say that it is acceptable for nonbelievers to blaspheme the prophet.

Nor did I suggest they would, publicly or even privately. I only questioned whether it necessarily follows that Muslims are religiously required to demand that civil authorities everywhere in the world not subject to sharia law in practice impose their own prohibitions to duplicate sharia law.

Again, I'm not being coy. I don't know the answer, but I assume there is one.
2.25.2008 10:47pm
Hoosier:
Chem_geek--Is it possible that you really can't tell the difference between these cases? Did I miss something, or has a spokesman for the UEFA say that it is unacceptable for Brazil to win the World Cup?
2.25.2008 11:10pm
Hoosier:
Charles Chapman--Something wrong with the PDF. All I get is a bunch of squiggly lines.
2.25.2008 11:15pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'You would get your ass kicked in many American towns for burning a flag'

Either largely or entirely untrue, but one thing we can say for sure, you could burn a warehouse full of American flags and the Congress and the Supreme Court would not put a price on your head.

Maybe we should start assembling a patchwork quilt commemorating all the speakers who have been murdered by Muslims, starting with (perhaps) Rushdie's Japanese translator.

Then everytime some Islamic goon like Ihsanoglu attacks human rights, the quilt could be hung in the square in front of his home mosque.
2.25.2008 11:23pm
LM (mail):
Elliot123,

Likewise, I don't think we would find any imam who would deny that Sharia law applies to everyone on earth.

Again, begs the question about demanding extra-clerical prohibitions.
2.25.2008 11:28pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
The Catholic church burned at the stake, and continued the practice for many centuries, those who did not accept the orthodoxy from the Vatican. There was no right to criticize Christianity nor right to speak freely in much of Europe, for hundreds of years. Indeed, in the name of Catholicism/Christianity, millions of people were killed. Is Catholicism/Christianity therefore a religion of intolerance and hatred? I know--that was many years ago-but I haven't heard the christian churches apologizing for their past transgressions, much less denouncing them. Indeed, I have heard so-called Christian leaders (Pat Robertson) advocating violent action against others (planting a nuclear bomb in the State Department). So, I think some are applying a double standard to Islam.
2.25.2008 11:34pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Every culture has sanctions for behavior beyond the bounds of human decency; the trouble is when the bounds of human decency differ from culture to culture."

That's really not much of a problem. In Islamic cultures people are free to forbid depictions of Mohamed. In Western cultures people are free to depict him. As you say, each culture is different.
2.25.2008 11:38pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Slight correction: John Paul II did offer a vague apology for some of the Catholic church's past persecutions. See this story
2.26.2008 12:02am
Warmongering Lunatic:
You know, usually people making moral equivalence arguments stick to present evils. They don't use, say, the abuses of Louis XVI to excuse Fidel Castro. So, Mr. Cooke, I have to say, you've taken the repugnant pseudologic of moral equivalence to a whole new level.
2.26.2008 12:20am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Or to put it another way: punching a hippy in the nose has philosophical underpinnings significantly different from that of an agitator trying to change the functional definition of freedom of speech.

In Islamic cultures people are free to forbid depictions of Mohamed. In Western cultures people are free to depict him.


Just to point out that our functional definition of freedom of speech doesn't include fighting words. Disrespect to their prophet constitutes fighting words to Muslims. Arguing for example, that in my culture, I'm free to call you a motherf***** wouldn't make it acceptable to you. The argument that you should just suck it up and get over it because my view of freedom of speech is more normative than yours, would hardly persuade you.
2.26.2008 12:27am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Here in Tucson, some crazy (literally) homeless pulled down a publicly owned-flag and began to burn it. A trucker stopped, got out, and proclaimed he was ready to kick their asses. Police responded, separated the two, and arrested the homeless (because what they were burning was not their property). They were assessed a fine.

That is tolerance. One cannot equate it, in even the most general sense, with people plotting to murder the persons who burned the flag. If anyone had plotted to kill the "artist" who created Piss Christ, the charge would have been conspiracy to murder with, I suspect, no claims that religious tolerance were in order. That is, dare I say it, civilization.

Isn't the argument to the contrary rather like "Your intolerance of intolerance is intolerable"?
2.26.2008 12:33am
A Guest:
Counterexample to those who think that burning a US flag would cause a ruckus akin to the Muslim reaction to Danish cartoons.

Back in 1987, at the *extremely* liberal university I went to, it was decided by some of the students to have a very large, publicly pre-announced multiple flag burning. Given that the university was located in a very working-class, blue-collar sort of small town, this attracted a large set of counter-protesters, lots of military, veterans, bikers, etc.

Unlike the situation in many of the Muslim countries after the cartoons' publication, the police arrived, enforced the law, and kept the two groups apart, enabling the students to burn their flags and the other folks to protest loudly. After a couple of hours, everybody chilled out and went home, the media having been satisfied, with no violence and no long-term vendettas or retribution.

So, yes, in a society, there will be people with different ideas about free speech, different opinions, but the government should be quieting things down and preventing outbursts, not inflaming them.
2.26.2008 12:37am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Actually, my point is not to forget the sins of our own past when we condemn others. Maybe the Islamic world is where Western Europe and Christianity were (in terms of lack of tolerance) a few hundred years ago.
2.26.2008 1:03am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Christopher Cooke: Of course many of the strains of the Christianity in past centuries were violent and intolerant. So what? Fortunately, Christianity (at least as to its most powerful denominations) and the Christian world have gotten much better on that score. Unfortunately, Islam has not.

Indeed, "Maybe the Islamic world is indeed where Western Europe and Christianity were (in terms of lack of tolerance) a few hundreds ago." That is precisely the problem.
2.26.2008 2:54am
Russ (mail):
Professor Volokh,

You stole my point. We are talking about current states of societies, not those centuries in the past, before any of us were born.

I won't condemn muslims 500 years in the future for the transgressions of their ancestors, but, Christopher Cooke, please remember the context.
2.26.2008 3:11am
davod (mail):
"However the Muslim response to the cartoons was a planned, sustained, anti-social reaction, expressing outrage not only against the primary offender but against the society which produced it and the basic institutional freedom which permits it."

You must also remember that the worst cartoons presented by the Imam from Denmark to Arabs were drawn by the Imam and his friends.

Additionally, those defending Muslims right to be upset because we in the USA can get just as upset about some things forget one main difference; In the US the upsettedness (is this a word) is normally personal. In the Muslim world, not only can the insult result in death, the death can be government sancioned.
2.26.2008 6:52am
Archon (mail):
So now Moslems don't want you to be able to call, "a spade, a spade" either. Interesting....
2.26.2008 9:18am
pst314 (mail):
"I haven't heard the christian churches apologizing for their past transgressions"

Then you haven't been listening.
2.26.2008 9:29am
pst314 (mail):
"Is Catholicism/Christianity therefore a religion of intolerance and hatred?"

Jesus never said to make war until all the world submits to Christian domination. Mohammad, however, said that and many other nasty things--and put them into practice, too.
2.26.2008 9:35am
Tern (mail):
What makes the Muslim approach to free speech so repugnant, as shown by the cartoon incidents, is the following:

1. In Muslim countries, the riots and other violent reactions are done under the color of law.

2. In non-Muslim countries, the riots and other violent reactions are condoned, not condemned, by Muslim leaders.

3. Some Muslim speakers uses these riots and other violent reactions to advocate what amounts to an especially violent hecker's veto.

4. Given the fairly vicious and nasty things that many Muslims say about other faiths, particularly the Jews, their rage at criticism and even mockery seems hypocritical.

5. Free speech, even if not to the extent that we enjoy in the United States, is a cornerstone of Western civilization as we know it today. The Muslim attack on free speech can be reasonably taken as an assault on Western civilization.

6. The reactions of non-Muslims who advocate some sort of censorship regarding criticism of Muslims/Islam/Mohammed come across as cowardly - a reaction naturally abhorrent to staunch advocates of free speech.

The multicultural argument falls flat because while one can easily find examples of violent nontolerance in any culture, even Western civilization, it is much harder to find any contemporary examples of such widespread violent nontolerance, particularly that done under the color of law and/or condoned by relevant religious or political leaders.

The closest I can come to an American example of such violent nontolerance is some of the actions taken by White southerners during the Civil Rights movement. While I cannot speak to how they were viewed by other Americans at the time, today it is understood that such actions were reprehensible. Why not apply this standard to the Muslim rioters and their enablers?
2.26.2008 12:35pm
pst314 (mail):
"the actions taken by White southerners during the Civil Rights movement."

An apt comparison. The white supremacists were using violence to stop "uppity" blacks who "didn't know their place." Mainstream traditional Islamic law prescribes a subordinate status for non-Muslims and mandates deadly violence against infidels who get uppity.
2.26.2008 12:43pm
pst314 (mail):
"While I cannot speak to how they were viewed by other Americans at the time, today it is understood that such actions were reprehensible."

I'm old enough to remember those events. Most Americans viewed them with shock and horror. Newspaper editorials and cartoons were unsparing in criticizing Southern culture for producing such violence. If anybody suggested that such criticism should be muted or silenced lest moderate Southerners be offended, liberals would have laughed at them.
2.26.2008 12:46pm
Mark Field (mail):

I'm old enough to remember those events. Most Americans viewed them with shock and horror. Newspaper editorials and cartoons were unsparing in criticizing Southern culture for producing such violence. If anybody suggested that such criticism should be muted or silenced lest moderate Southerners be offended, liberals would have laughed at them.


There certainly were those who wanted to mute the criticism of the South. Most of those were in the South, of course, but they do qualify as Americans. Here's an interesting discussion of the whole issue.
2.26.2008 1:36pm
pst314 (mail):
Mark, please re-read what I wrote: "...liberals would have laughed at them." My purpose was to point out how liberals were able to take a strong stand against white American racists but seem to have trouble when faced with another sort of enemy today.
2.26.2008 1:59pm
LM (mail):
From the the above-cited discussion:

When the FBI came to Dawson, Georgia, in 1958 to investigate allegations of police brutality and civil rights violations, the local county sheriff, Z. T. "Zeke" Matthews, blamed the situation on television news broadcasts originating in the North that stirred up local African Americans to protest. Television and the "communists," he suggested, were the point of origin for all disorder and difficulty in the county. "There isn't a nigger in Georgia who wouldn't take over if he could," Matthews stated plainly. "I've noticed things have gotten worse since television," Matthews pointed out,

They all got television sets up there and hear the news over NBC and CBS, telling what the Supreme Court has done and what the Federal Courts say and all about civil rights, and they begin thinking.


Thinking! Damn that liberal media!
2.26.2008 2:01pm
autolykos:

Back in 1987, at the *extremely* liberal university I went to, it was decided by some of the students to have a very large, publicly pre-announced multiple flag burning. Given that the university was located in a very working-class, blue-collar sort of small town, this attracted a large set of counter-protesters, lots of military, veterans, bikers, etc.


You don't have to go back to 1987 to find an obscure example. All you have to do is look at the Westboro Baptist Church and their actions at the funerals of a number of American servicemen. If any group deserved to be beaten for their speech, it's these guys, but as far as I know, no harm has been done to them.
2.26.2008 2:50pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Just to point out that our functional definition of freedom of speech doesn't include fighting words. Disrespect to their prophet constitutes fighting words to Muslims."

Those definitions are indeed a function of culture. They are fighitng words in Islamic cultures, and are not fighting words in western cultures. Our freedom of speech does include the right to insult Mohamed, Jesus, Buddha, and Pee Wee Herman, just as it includes the right this blog has used to publish a cartoon of Mohamed.
2.26.2008 3:12pm
Mark Field (mail):

Mark, please re-read what I wrote: "...liberals would have laughed at them." My purpose was to point out how liberals were able to take a strong stand against white American racists but seem to have trouble when faced with another sort of enemy today.


I read your opening clause ("If anybody suggested...") as implicitly saying that nobody did make such suggestions. If you weren't saying that, my bad.

As for your reference to liberals "having trouble" on this issue, I guess I see no evidence of that, at least not on this thread. The usual suspects -- Anderson, me, Justin, J.F. Thomas, Thales, Mr. Liberal, etc. -- haven't said boo. FWIW, I agree with Prof. Volokh.
2.26.2008 3:25pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Actually, my point is not to forget the sins of our own past when we condemn others. Maybe the Islamic world is where Western Europe and Christianity were (in terms of lack of tolerance) a few hundred years ago."

If someone is trying to kill us, there is really no reason to pay any attention to the sins of the past. Nor is there any reason to care if Christianity or Islam is violent and intolerant. It is the behavior of living groups of people that matters.

Many of the people who attack claim to be acting according to Islamic dictates. So what? I doubt anyone contends our response to attacks hinges on the current or historical violent character of either religion.

Suppose we all agreed that Christianity has a violent, bloody, and intlerant history. OK. How does that effect our response to Jihadis?

Suppose we agree to the same about Islam, and even add that it is now violent, bloody, and intolerant? How does that effect our response?

While we are mired in violence and intolerance, can someone tell us of any group that does not have such a history?
2.26.2008 3:31pm
A.C.:
Quakers? Unless being on the receiving end counts...
2.26.2008 4:10pm
Mark Field (mail):
Zen Buddhists? Jains? Bahai's?
2.26.2008 4:24pm
LM (mail):

Suppose we all agreed that Christianity has a violent, bloody, and intlerant history. OK. How does that effect our response to Jihadis?

That's a false dichotomy. We can learn from history without gazing at our navels while under attack. One of the lessons to take from the Christian past and the Islamic present is humility. The worst excesses always seem to be accompanied by an arrogant certainty, a quality not required to defeat our enemies.
2.26.2008 5:55pm
Tern (mail):
We are not judging the Muslims by their actions in the more distant past, nor by the standards in the past. Thus, other's actions in the past are equally irrelevant.

We are judging the Muslims by the standards of today. In terms of free speech, they fall sadly short.
2.26.2008 6:28pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"That's a false dichotomy. We can learn from history without gazing at our navels while under attack. One of the lessons to take from the Christian past and the Islamic present is humility. The worst excesses always seem to be accompanied by an arrogant certainty, a quality not required to defeat our enemies."

It's not a dichotomy. The question I asked is how acknowledging a bloody Christian past would effect our response to Jihadis. How would this effect our response?

Conversely, how would denial of a bloody Christian past effect our response? Does our response await an in depth study of Christian history?

People are surely free to study whatever history they choose. But what does Christian history have to do with fighting Jihadis today?
2.26.2008 9:26pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
The early Quakers were not non-violent. There was even, briefly, a Quaker army.

But it was armed with clubs.
2.26.2008 10:44pm
quaker:
To those who see an equivalence between Western mob violence and the subject at hand, please compare and contrast

- isolated episodes of average Joes (or sub-average Joes) causing mischief, e.g. Chem_Geek's college basketball hooligans or Syd's angry Catholics
vs.
- the Sec Gen of the OIC, planet Earth's 2nd largest international organization, in essence blessing violence as official policy -- violence that has included murder.

Can you imagine, I dunno, the Speaker of the European Parliament proclaiming that the world needs more sports violence? I can't. The Western mind doesn't work that way. Apparently the Islamic mind does.

There is no symmetry, no equivalence.

Chem_Geek, is it Westerners who really have the beam in their eye? The speck, fine, but the beam? I think you have it backwards.
2.27.2008 2:20am
LM (mail):
Elliot123,

You're right about the false dichotomy. I skimmed over your comment too quickly, and took an inference that doesn't hold up in full context. So I stand corrected.

The rest of my response still applies to your claim that "[i]f someone is trying to kill us, there is really no reason to pay any attention to the sins of the past." It also applies to the questions in your most recent comment. If you're asking how, specifically, historical context and humility might impact how we fight our enemies, just think back over all the blunders of arrogance that have hampered our efforts to date, and a good deal of the answer should be self-evident.
2.27.2008 5:06am
Elliot123 (mail):
"If you're asking how, specifically, historical context and humility might impact how we fight our enemies, just think back over all the blunders of arrogance that have hampered our efforts to date, and a good deal of the answer should be self-evident."

Well, how about indulging us by stating the self-evident? Perhaps I'm the only one who doesn't know the answer, but I doubt it. If we all go around saying something is self evident, but never say exactly what is self-evident, it's pretty hard to get anything done.
2.27.2008 5:58pm
LM (mail):
Elliot,

I'm not inclined to re-litigate the last six years of national security debate. If you're among the majority of Americans who think we've made some pretty bad blunders along the way, and if you think arrogance was behind any of them, I'd be happy to tell you the self-evident ways I think we could do better with the benefit of humility. But if you think we haven't or that it wasn't, then there's probably no point starting down that road. We might as well just agree to disagree.
2.28.2008 3:29am