When Fanatics Attack, Blame the Victim

So, there’s an outside chance you’ve heard about a certain column by Nancy Graham Holm, who gifted the world with her thoughts on the ax attack on Kurt Westergaard earlier this month. Although we got a bit sidetracked, I still want to write a direct response to what she said, because I think there are some lessons to be drawn from it.

Muslims failed to see Westergaard’s cartoon as satire. Instead, they saw in it a defamatory and humiliating message: Muslims are terrorists. Humiliation is a devastating feeling…

Why did the editors of Jyllands-Posten want to mock Islam in this way? Some of us believed it was in bad taste and also cruel. Intentional humiliation is an aggressive act.

…The free society precept is merely an attempt to give the perpetrators the moral high ground when actually it is a smokescreen for a deeply rooted prejudice, not against Muslims, but against religion per se.

Really, I’m marveling at that last sentence. “The perpetrators“, she says. And who are the perpetrators, according to Nancy Graham Holm? Not the people who’ve plotted to murder Kurt Westergaard – including, let me say it again, the fanatic who bashed down his door with an ax – but the people who drew cartoons that certain Muslims didn’t want to be drawn. Those cartoonists are the ones who started this; they deserve the blame for their “aggressive act”; they’ve unjustly sought to claim “the moral high ground”. Presumably, if any of them actually are murdered by religious fanatics, Holm will tell us that it was their fault.

Is there an informative parallel here? Why, yes, there is; I’m so glad you asked. The parallel that I’d draw is to the people who claim that rape victims are at fault for being raped, because they “invited” their own sexual assault by dressing or acting provocatively and we all know men just can’t be expected to control themselves when that happens:

The survey also found that 26 per cent of adults believed that a women was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing. Some 22 per cent held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners. Similarly, 30 per cent said that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk.

Another parallel is with the “gay panic” defense, which claims that men who are the recipients of unwanted homosexual advances are legally justified in murdering the other person:

Weighing the options, [the jury] chose to believe Biedermann and his lawyer, Sam Adam, Jr., who also successfully represented R. Kelly in his 2008 child pornography charges, and who is also ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich’s defense attorney. They accepted as reasonable the premise that it had taken Biedermann 61 stab wounds in order to successfully fend off an unwanted sexual advance from another man.

The exact same reasoning is deployed by Nancy Graham Holm, here, in her argument that Danish cartoonists “provoked” the Muslim segment of society with their aggressive cartoons and therefore deserve what they get. As if any act of speech, regardless of the speaker’s intent, could ever justify others committing violence against them! This is nothing less than a rejection of the charter of rights that makes democratic society possible in the first place. It’s an abject surrender to the vicious thugs who would blackmail everyone else into submission by the threat of violence – as if it was our job to “back down” and “apologize” to them, both of which she calls on the Danes to do.

It’s also, though Holm doesn’t realize it, extremely prejudiced against Muslims. She criticizes the Danes for acting immaturely:

As a journalist now living in the same town as Westergaard, I thought some at Jyllands-Posten had acted like petulant adolescents.

Yet if Danish people are to be judged “petulant adolescents”, the consequences of her view for Muslims are far worse. Her view treats Muslims as if they were wild animals – dangerous creatures who can’t be counted on not to lash out if provoked. We, in contrast, view them as human beings, and accordingly expect that they should be able to listen to criticism and respond to it with an appropriate degree of maturity. In many cases, of course, this turns out not to be true. But arguing that we should censor ourselves so as not to anger them is as futile and offensive as arguing that women should never wear revealing clothes so they don’t get raped, or arguing that homosexuals should stay in the closet so as not to be murdered by homophobic crazies. In a free society, we should all have the right to express ourselves in any way we choose. Why are some people so eager to call for the revocation of that right the moment a bunch of ignorant thugs object to it?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • CybrgnX

    This is all in the holey BuyBull and the in the other pile of BS.
    Don’t remember the actual sections but…
    A woman is raped–she is to be stoned for immoral behavior.
    Homosexual is an abomination – which basically is a free ticket to kill them.
    Making fun of g0d or prophets can get bears after your ass.

    Her statements are no more surprising then the ax attack.
    If islam is a wild animal then that will make her one as well
    but she has a muzzle that prevents her from biting.
    I have a very high opinion of religious people.

  • http://generalsystemsvehicle.blogspot.com Mandrellian

    I’m speechless. If someone’s god is so small and meek that he needs to be defended from a mere cartoon with an AXE, he hardly deserves anyone’s fealty or worship, much less to be called a god in the first place.

    It’s shameful that, in the case of a psychopath invading someone’s home with the express intent to muder them, Holm chooses to defend the psychopath – a psychopath who is likely to have killed Westergaard’s innocent grandchild as well.

    It seems that not only does religion create poisonous fanatics who seek to kill for their god at the slightest provocation, it somehow – bafflingly – evokes sympathy for those same fanatics from allegedly reasonable people.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    I shall follow the time-honored tradition of “last in, first out” in fixing things for you, CybrgnX.

    First, the number one threat to our nation: BEARS! That story can be found in 2 Kings 2. Also in this edifying documentary, shot in real time.

    Second, Leviticus 20 mandates queer-bashing.

    Third, Deuteronomy 22 says that a woman can be killed for not being a virgin on her wedding night, or for being raped in a city and not yelling with the result that others come and find her.

    A crack research team is me! And it only took a few minutes!

  • Demonhype

    Yes, and if the abused wife doesn’t want her jaw broken, she’d better learn not to mouth off….

    I find it amazing, as always, how twisted people’s opinions can be on this sort of thing. It just suggests to me that the individual who supports such actions relates more to the poor axe-wielding “victim” who can’t fight against ideas he doesn’t like in any other way. It suggests to me a kind of fatwa envy, that they themselves would like to do such a thing when someone disagrees with them and they are kind of living vicariously through the fanatic. Either that, or the supporter of such behavior wants to feel “safe”, as in “whew, I know I’ll never get raped because I’m not a SLUT” or “I know I’ll never get attacked by a fanatical Muslim because I’m willing to submissively urinate in their terrifying presence as per their demands”.

    Poor, helpless, sensitive babies who can’t take criticism. My heart weeps blood for those poor, defenseless, axe-wielding innocents, so cruelly victimized by the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

    There have been times when the circumstances of a rape have left me cold, leaving me to wonder “what the HELL was she thinking!” but that doesn’t in any way constitute responsibility, either partial or in full, for having a CRIME COMMITTED on her! And how anyone could possibly think otherwise is beyond anything I can imagine.

    I guess a purse snatcher is entirely not to blame either. That purse hanging there by a spaghetti strap….such an easy target, dangling there, taunting him with it’s promise of a quick and easy gain. What choice did he have, when you’ve made it so tempting? Perhaps he didn’t steal the purse…perhaps the purse stole him! How dare that purse owner victimize that poor helpless purse snatcher that way? ;)

    Damn, but people are ignorant and annoying bigots even today.

  • Bruce The Moose

    A mature person can respond to an insult without resorting to violence. This attack, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and so many other things about how sensitive Muslims are to criticism makes me think how immature Islam is. But then again, it’s only 1431 years old (or less, one of the most important historical roles of religion was getting the calendar straight, but they can’t even do that). When Christianity was 1400, it was rather immature, what with being busy burning heretics and apostates with later phases of the Inquisition and the reformation yet to come. It’s no wonder that so many comics come out of Judaism, the old man of the monotheistic middle-eastern religions. They’ve been around long enough to realize the being “God’s chosen people” means the joke is on them. It’s hard to get a fix on when Judaism was 1400, but if Abraham was born 1812 BCE, that’d be about 400 BCE, a time when stoning people for pretty much spitting on the sidewalk was still practiced. They’ve had many a comeuppance since. A Muslim comic is pretty much an oxymoron. F*ck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adambolton Lysander L’amour ملحدكافر

    Maybe we should all get together and go hack down Mrs. Holm’s door and come after her with an axe, and then blame her for being the one to provoke the attack by writing such mindless drivel? Maybe then, she’d realize the flaw in her reasoning.

  • Cyberguy

    A very revealing analysis has been done by Bob Altemeyer. It is called “The Authoritarians” and can be found here: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    In the introduction on his website he writes:

    “Let me ask you, as we’re passing the time here, how many ordinary people do you think an evil authority would have to order to kill you before he found someone who would, unjustly, out of sheer obedience, just because the authority said to? What sort of person is most likely to follow such an order? What kind of official is most likely to give that order, if it suited his purposes? Look at what experiments tell us, as I did.”

    Why does this make me immediately think of Nancy Graham Holm?

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Any system of ethics requires that people define rights and responsibilities. Clearly Holm has never thought through the implications of her ridiculous position. It’s a shallow, uninformed editorial that runs roughshod over every democratic principle.

    Holm just wants everyone in the world to be “nice.” She thinks core-level cultural conflicts can be resolved by politeness between bitter ideological foes. She refuses to accept that there is a right and a wrong side to history. She ignores that the right side of history is always moving toward increased freedom, not “tolerance” of repression. If all such positions were considered worthy of respect, regardless of their merits, we’d quickly degenerate into mob rule. Everyone would consider it perfectly acceptable to retaliate disproportionately with violence for every perceived intellectual slight.

    Of course, I already made my thoughts clear about the cowardly approach of the news media. At this rate, we may not deserve to keep our democracies. They may not survive this kind of blistering ignorance. If we want freedom, we simply must be willing to draw appropriate boundaries, and insist on unequivocal respect for human rights.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    Thanks for the link, Cyberguy! That book looks fascinating, and I can’t wait to read it (soon as I finish The Lucifer Effect, that is).

    Demonhype, I was this close to making a similar comparison to pickpockets in the Sexism thread. That’s a great analogy!

  • Steven Carr

    ‘…actually it is a smokescreen for a deeply rooted prejudice, not against Muslims, but against religion per se.’

    I guess that cartoonist is now going to use being attacked in his own home with an axe as a smokescreen for his prejudice against Islam.

    We can only hope and pray that Nancy never mocks atheists, or else she is liable to have a blog entry written about her.

    There are no depths that atheists will not sink to when mocked. First it will be blog entries, then they will write letters to newspapers. It won’t be long after that before they go on radio talk shows.

    But, of course, nobody dares to mock atheists, because they are scared of the consequences.

    Only religion gets mocked, because that is a soft target.

  • Penguin_Factory

    “The survey also found that 26 per cent of adults believed that a women was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing. Some 22 per cent held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners. Similarly, 30 per cent said that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk. ”

    This quote makes me lose faith in humanity.

  • http://godlizard.com godlizard

    Tyranny is a quiet thing at first, a prim and proper lady pursing her lips and shaking her head disapprovingly, asking, well what were you doing (wearing that dress, walking home at that hour, expressing those inappropriate thoughts) anyway? It’s subtle and insidious, disguised as reasonable precautions which become more and more oppressive over time, until our lives are defined by the things we must avoid. She’s easy enough to agree with, after all, she’s only trying to help — and yet she’s one of the most dangerous influences we face, because if she prevails, it puts the raping, robbing, axe-wielding madmen of the world in complete control. Eventually they’ll barely need to wield a thing, all they’ll have to do is leer menacingly and we fall all over ourselves trying to placate them.

    Awesome article and great comments, good to see people standing against this kind of nonsense.

  • 5acos(phi/2)

    Maybe off-topic but,

    @Cyberguy:

    Thanks a lot for the link!! :) I just finished the 1st chapter (including all the notes – “Dr.Bob” really likes to share his fun, doesn’t he?) and I just have to recommend it to anyone who has the time and enough patience to go and read it. As a layman in social science, that’s one very interesting aspect I’ve never looked into before and I think it would answer a lot of questions we have about religious and other “troublesome” mindsets.

    Well, I’ll be on my way into the 2nd chapter now. ;)

  • Alex Weaver

    Nancy Holm would fit right in with the average K-12 school administration staff. This is not a charge I make lightly, but this level of blinkered, negligent, blame-the-victim stupidity deserves nothing less.

    “The survey also found that 26 per cent of adults believed that a women was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing. Some 22 per cent held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners. Similarly, 30 per cent said that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk. ”

    This quote makes me lose faith in humanity.

    I dunno. These people, at least some of them, are probably correctable with the right education and explicit leading-to-examine-their-prejudices; the ones that really disturb me are the people who metaphorically “assault” logic by insisting that “pointing out that getting drunk in an unfamiliar, potentially unsafe environment isn’t really the best idea” is the same as “saying that a woman who is sexually assaulted under those circumstances was to blame for it” (at least one Pharyngula thread devolved into this, though damned if I can remember which one).

  • http://www.undergroundgames.dk Slater

    Why did the editors of Jyllands-Posten want to mock Islam in this way?

    I am SO sick of this stupid assertion. Jyllands-Posten has never said they did it to humiliate, they did it to show that we, in Denmark, have a long-standing cultural tradition of mocking everything, and we shouldn’t give that up because a few whiny religious people are offended.
    Of course it is possible that Jyllands-Posten were lying, and really are just a bunch of racist hypocrites trying to offend Muslims, but how does she know? And even if that were the case, how would that make them worse than those trying to kill them for it?

    No words will ever justify violence.

  • JawsForJesus

    Very well said. I was in college at the time the cartoons were originally printed, and I was shocked to hear some classmates – progressive-minded people I highly respected – express rage at the “hate speech” of the Dutch cartoonists.

    One man’s “hate speech” is another’s “religious conviction”, and neither should be met with censorship or violent retribution.

  • Paul

    I’m not willing to read her atrocious attempt at blaming the victim, but does she at all mention that the death threats and assassination attempts came a few months after the Jyllands-Posten publication, in response the dossier that Islamic Imams put together including several pictures that were not even part of the original publication? They deliberately set out to inflame other Muslims. Trying to blame the cartoonists is ignorant; Imams deliberately set out to anger Muslims as much as possible, as opposed to just condemning the printing of the caricatures. That’s clearly an offensive, as opposed to defensive, action (leaving aside the issue of physically attacking never being a reasonable response to verbal criticism).

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    “They accepted as reasonable the premise that it had taken Biedermann 61 stab wounds in order to successfully fend off an unwanted sexual advance from another man.”

    Wow, those gay men sure can’t take a hint!

  • CybrgnX

    It is even worse then you mentioned,Mandrellian, because they are not defending their g0d but some silly male who was so insecure that he could only marry little girls and not a real woman.
    But what do you expect from a bunch of head bangers that pray to a rock.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    It makes perfet sense. After all, God blames the victim[s] too.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    One man’s “hate speech” is another’s “religious conviction”, and neither should be met with censorship or violent retribution.
    – JawsForJesus, #16

    QFT. Civilization means getting along even when you’re not getting your way.

  • http://piepalace.ca/blog Erigami

    One man’s “hate speech” is another’s “religious conviction”, and neither should be met with censorship or violent retribution.

    JawsForJesus: hate speech should be censored. Here in Canada, we have a pretty simple definition of hate speech (something along the lines of “does it incite violence towards a particular group”). Nature produces enough violent wackos. We shouldn’t let them egg each other on.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Paul’s comment needs to be bolded in 72-point font somewhere. The cartoons actually published ranged from excellent mockery to mildly offensive… and no one cared initially! It was only through massive lying by a group of religious leaders that sparked the massive outrage and threats of violence. I even recall reading that the legitimately racist ones were produced at the behest of those leaders to stir up the masses.

  • Jormungund

    Of course it is possible that Jyllands-Posten were lying, and really are just a bunch of racist hypocrites trying to offend Muslims, but how does she know?

    Not only that, but even petty racists get freedom of speech. We shouldn’t even want to silence racists. We should let them have their say and then disagree with them.
    When Francis Crick claims that black people are inherently stupid, no one says that he deserves to be axe murdered or stabbed to death in response. We just denounce his racism and move on without knifing anyone. Why can’t European Muslims be that way? Why is it that when Theo Van Gogh claims that they treat women poorly they go on murder sprees to try and silence it? Why is it that they have tried to suicide bomb Salman Rushdie? This is why I support a severe reduction in the number of Muslims allowed to immigrate into Western Europe: they just don’t seem to have the same level-headedness that the rest of us do. We argue when someone criticizes us, they stab someone to death and pin a death threat against other people to his corpse with a knife (that actually happened).

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com/ Steve Bowen

    actually it is Watson that has been accused of racism, not Crick.

    I think we have to be careful of tarring all Muslims with the same brush. There is an inherent intolerance in the Quran which some Muslims will use to justify this behaviour but most Muslims, like most Christians are more moderate than that.

  • http://www.punkassblog.com Antigone

    I don’t know- in this case I often wonder if they can’t both be right?

    The cartoons were prejudiced against Middle Eastern Muslims. A violent reaction was still completely unjustified.

    Alex-

    The difference is, after a woman gets raped, that sort of advice is kind of evil. Sort of a “you brought this on yourself by being stupid” sort of thing. Additionally, it does constrain a woman’s actions to tell her she should not drink, and since most rapes are committed by close partners, is counter helpful to actually stopping the rape epidemic.

  • Broggly

    “Humiliation is a devastating feeling…”
    This fits with your analogy very well. Having lurked around some of the worse parts of the internet, I’ve seen so many misogynists excuse themselves with the humiliation women inflict by not wanting to have sex with them.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Jormungund “This is why I support a severe reduction in the number of Muslims allowed to immigrate into Western Europe…”
    How about trying to integrate them as they arrive, rather than (as seems to be the case with France) simply viewing them as cheap (and disposable) labour? The first generation will always have trouble integrating (they generally don’t know the language, customs, etc), but not trying to help them, surprisingly, doesn’t help them. Keeping aliens alien, importantly, doesn’t help their kids. Coming to a country as an “other” is hard enough. Growing up as one is that much worse.

    “…they just don’t seem to have the same level-headedness that the rest of us do.”
    Oh, woe! The White Man’s Burden!

    “We argue when someone criticizes us…”
    We do not!

    “…they stab someone to death and pin a death threat against other people to his corpse with a knife (that actually happened).”
    So did we, pretty much, not so long ago.

    Steve Bowen “…actually it is Watson that has been accused of racism, not Crick.”
    Crick is still evil, though. I mean, just look at those eyebrows!

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    So did we, pretty much, not so long ago.

    “We” who? And whoever did it was evil for doing that.

    It’s not prejudice to laugh at violent fanatics for being violent fanatics. Treating all members of that larger group as if they were violent fanatics, however, is prejudice. Jormungund, because your proposed rule would discriminate against individual Muslims for belonging to a group that happens to also contain violent fanatics, it’s a bad rule (though I can understand you wanting to do it). It would be like assuming that just because I was raised fundagelical, I’m still fundagelical – sure, a lot of people don’t change their religious views, and a lot of Muslims are violent fanatics. But assuming that an individual of a group shares in the worst parts of that group is prejudice.

    That said, making fun of all and only those violent fanatics is not prejudice, so long as one confines one’s ridicule to those actions and persons which are independently worthy of ridicule. “Being a Muslim” means you believe silly things, about as silly as any Christian or Jew or moon-landing-denialist; it does not necessarily mean that you’re a violent fanatic. But being a violent fanatic does mean that you’re a violent fanatic, and justifying that violent fanaticism as the will of your invisible sky genie means that you’re a religiously motivated violent fanatic. That’s worthy of ridicule.

  • Eric

    If I had the power to put people on the no-fly list, Nancy Graham Holm would be on it. Obvious terrorist sympathizer.

  • Zietlos

    I remember the cartoon “In the news today, atheists killed a man for drawing a picture of Nothing with a bomb on its head” (or something like that), when these cartoon stories come out. It is tragic… Kant once thought that the world would continuously progress to be better in all aspects of life… I guess Nietzsche was right about him.

    The artist made the cartoons knowing there would be some anger. People react irrationally to everything. If that was all, an expected response would be his house being egged, or his business getting a nasty open letter depending on the maturity of those insulted. I would say there “no foul” because that response matches the initial (scarequotes) “attack” in an expected way. One cannot expect priests of the religion to make false additional comics, pass them to terrorist cells to distribute, and cause a disinformation cloak-and-dagger campaign by an entire religion against one man. There is no longer contributory negligence, because the result was entirely unforeseeable.

    Meta-wise, I always thought it was funny, even the false comics, got people angry because they depicted them as violent revenge-driven maniacs… So a small group proved the comics true in protest.

    In a way, this is what the extremist religious communities, all of them, want: To be equated as a mindless, psychotic animal, lashing out randomly. If they can get their opponents to believe this, then they can feel justified in killing them, since they were not taken as human beings. A purposefully created positive feedback loop of hatred. Ingenious, in its own way. They may not act too bright, but to make other people, in systematic small groups, hate you in order to get your indoctrinated subjects more willing to expand your territory by their deaths and therefore not be around to fight you once they realize their error, is a move Machiavelli would be proud of…

  • Jormungund

    Jormungund, because your proposed rule would discriminate against individual Muslims for belonging to a group that happens to also contain violent fanatics, it’s a bad rule (though I can understand you wanting to do it).

    In the case of Denmark and the Netherlands, I would prefer open discrimination rather than allowing massive hordes of largely poor and uneducated Muslims in. They wouldn’t even have to make it seem as though they are picking on Muslims. They could just announce a policy of sharply reduced immigration. Reducing immigration rates would stop some peaceful Muslims from being able to come in. On the other hand it would also stop the flood of Muslims that clamor for the destruction of Western culture and for Europe to be converted into a group of Muslim theocratic nations. The governments of Denmark and the Netherlands could stand to be a bit more discriminating about who they let in and in what numbers they allow immigrants in.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    They could just announce a policy of sharply reduced immigration.

    If it’s the same reduction across the board and no group is singled out, then it’s not discriminatory. Problem solved!

  • Archimedez

    antigone,

    You wrote:
    “The cartoons were prejudiced against Middle Eastern Muslims. A violent reaction was still completely unjustified.”

    I doubt that any of “the cartoons” (let’s focus on the original 12 cartoons/illustrations in Jyllands-Posten) were especially or specifically “prejudiced” against “Middle Eastern Muslims.” From your claim that the cartoons are “prejudiced” against Middle Eastern Muslims, I believe it is reasonable to suppose that you believe (a) the cartoons are about all or most Middle Eastern Muslims, and that (b) in these cartoons, the artists are making strongly negative and untrue propositions about all or most Middle Eastern Muslims.

    1. Some of the 12 “cartoons” were not even about Middle Easterners or Muslims; some of the cartoons lampooned and criticized Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that initiated the Muhammad illustration event.

    2. One of the illustrations is not intended to make fun of Muhammad or any Muslims at all; it was actually an illustration for an educational children’s book about Islam and Muhammad.

    3. Muhammad was a Middle Eastern Muslim, specifically, an Arab-speaking Middle Eastern Muslim, according to the foundational Islamic texts (Hadith and Sira). Are you suggesting that, by virtue of being a Middle Eastern Muslim, Muhammad–unlike other religious, political, and military leaders–should not be lampooned or criticized in the media?

    4. This is partly a matter of interpretation, but I personally don’t find anything in the cartoons that is “prejudiced” against Middle Easterners. The “Middle Eastern” aspect of your allegations against the cartoonists, I find, not convincing. For example, what in these cartoons, distinguishes Middle Eastern from, say, Central Asian, or South Asian, North African, or North American or European Muslims? To conclude that the cartoons are prejudiced against Middle Eastern Muslims, I’d have to see much more specific evidence supporting that interpretation. Not only would the cartoons have to be shown to be depicting Middle Eastern Muslims, but the depictions would have to be shown to be bigoted/prejudiced/racist, as you claim. Given the ambiguity in visual depiction (e.g., depicting a Muslim carrying a sword doesn’t mean that the artist believes all Muslims are eager to take up swords), we’d have to see more specific evidence, such as captions that contain prejudiced comments specifically directed at Middle Eastern Muslims. But none of the captions say that. As I recall from reading some of the interviews with the cartoonists, though, some of the cartoonists clearly indicated that they were not trying to make statements about all Muslims, and I gather “all Muslims” includes Middle Eastern Muslims. None of the cartoons appear to me to ridicule people for being Muslim or Middle Eastern. At most, a few of the cartoons, such as the one by Kurt Westergaard that has generally been deemed most controversial (Muhammad with a bomb for a turban), are intended to mock/criticize only those violent terroristic jihadists who use Muhammad’s example to promote their militant political objectives. (Westergaard has said this in an interview about the original controversy). The linkage between Muhammad and violence is made by the violent terroristic jihadists, and Westergaard is depicting the linkage that they have made.

    5. You say that the violent reaction to the cartoons was not justified. But it is reasonable to suppose that you believe that the cartoons and thus the cartoonists and perhaps others involved in publishing them, should be condemned publicly as “prejudiced against Middle Eastern Muslims.” Do you believe that the cartoonists and/or publisher should face criminal prosecution and penalty for producing these “prejudiced” cartoons? In other words, you believe that these cartoonists have done something seriously bad, so what do you believe ought to be done to punish them, besides publicly accusing them of being “prejudiced”?

  • http://www.punkassblog.com Antigone

    I don’t know about all 12, the one I saw was the one with a man, who is supposed to be Mohammed (who, as far as I understand, is Middle Eastern) with a bomb for a turban.

    (http://flapsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/Mohammed-Cartoon-Bomb.jpg)

    And, yes, I do think this illustration does make the point, pretty clearly, that the artist thinks the religion is violent, or prone to violent extremism, and that is prejudiced against that religion, and particularly Middle Easterns. It didn’t show Central Asians, or South Asians, or any other race other than Middle Easterners.

    In addition, Westergaard has made statements expressing his desire to see less immigration, and particularly saying that he thinks Muslims are incapable of integration. He said “As I see it, many of the immigrants who came to Denmark, they had nothing. We gave them everything – money, apartments, their own schools, free university, health care. In return, we asked one thing – respect for democratic values, including free speech. Do they agree? This is my simple test.”

    Read more: http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/10/05/jonathan-kay-on-kurt-westergaard-free-speech-and-leftist-refuseniks.aspx#ixzz0cqJTX0qC

    I have yet to see someone who was anti-immigration who also didn’t have more than the amount of prejudice against the “other” than everyone else has. That statement could have been lifted straight out of anti-Irish immigration in the United States, or anti-Mexican immigration now.

    And, I don’t know how you get from my statement “the cartoon is prejudiced” that Islam should have any particular protection against criticism or lampooning. I said it was prejudiced, not bigoted or racist. Aside from the fact that it would make me a hypocrite of epic proportions considering how much critisim I level against religions of all stripes, to say that sort of cartoon should be illegal or not be published would be contrary to values I hold about free speech. You don’t face criminal prosecution for being a bigot (unless it drifts into incitement).

    There’s nothing that I think they deserve to have done to the cartoonist or the publisher other than to say that the cartoons are prejudiced against Muslims. That’s it. That’s how an open society WORKS- X says something, Y says something back, X responds, we go in the grand tradition of public debate. They have, absolutely, the right to print anything they like, prejudiced, biased, bigoted, funny, insightful, what have you. I absolutely have the right to say it’s singling out one religion and claiming it’s violent in a prejudicial fashion.

  • Alex Weaver

    Alex-

    The difference is, after a woman gets raped, that sort of advice is kind of evil. Sort of a “you brought this on yourself by being stupid” sort of thing.

    There is no logical or quasi-logical reason to infer that intent, particularly when it’s made in a general sense. Sitting down and telling an individual victim that is pretty tone deaf, but the specific claim I intended to counter was that it is inherently victim-blaming to insert that observation into the broader discourse at all.

  • Archimedez

    Antigone,

    You wrote:

    “I don’t know about all 12, the one I saw was the one with a man, who is supposed to be Mohammed (who, as far as I understand, is Middle Eastern) with a bomb for a turban.”

    You referred to the “cartoons,” and claimed they were “prejudiced against Middle Easterners Muslims” generally.

    You wrote:

    “And, yes, I do think this illustration does make the point, pretty clearly, that the artist thinks the religion is violent, or prone to violent extremism, and that is prejudiced against that religion, and particularly Middle Easterns.”

    You are ignoring the problems with your interpretation, not the least of which, as I said in the previous post, is that the artist himself was not intending to refer to all Muslims, much less all Middle Eastern Muslims, but rather in his cartoon was referring to violent extremist terroristic jihadists who use Muhammad for their ends.

    You persist with an allegation about “Middle Easterns,” even though the Muhammad-bomb cartoon is not about Middle Easterners specifically, nor per se. (Are you aware that many people in the Middle East, even today, are not Muslims, much less the violent subgroup which is not limited to the Middle East?) But perhaps you reason that because Muhammad was believed to be Middle Eastern, therefore depicting Muhammad in this way must be against Middle Easterners generally? This is not a credible line of argument.

    You also suggest that it is prejudiced against the Islamic religion to think or express the idea that it “is violent, or prone to violent extremism.” First of all, I am not sure that Westergaard is making claims about all of Islam. However, it is demonstrably true that Islam contains major elements in its core doctrine that promote violence and violent extremism, and that Muhammad promoted violence and violent extremism. It is beyond dispute that violent jihadists appeal to these elements of Islam in their interpretations and in their pursuit of their religious, political, legal, and militaristic objectives. It would be prejudiced against Islam to claim that these violent elements existed if they did not exist; but this is not the case. One might also suggest that Westergaard was prejudiced against Islam if he did not criticize other religions and ideologies; but actually Westergaard does criticize other religions and ideologies.

    You wrote:

    “It didn’t show Central Asians, or South Asians, or any other race other than Middle Easterners.”

    I’m not sure it showed a “race.” The cartoon in question was an image of Muhammad. Does this mean it was depicting all Middle Easterners? Again, I find your reasoning here doesn’t support the allegations you’re making.

    You wrote

    “In addition, Westergaard has made statements expressing his desire to see less immigration, and particularly saying that he thinks Muslims are incapable of integration.”

    I’ve read interviews of Westergaard, and I find it difficult to believe that he said that. Can you quote him saying that?

    You wrote:

    “He [Westergaard] said “As I see it, many of the immigrants who came to Denmark, they had nothing. We gave them everything – money, apartments, their own schools, free university, health care. In return, we asked one thing – respect for democratic values, including free speech. Do they agree? This is my simple test.”

    This quote does not support your claim. Who doesn’t want immigrants or anyone else to “respect democratic values, including free speech,” and how would it be prejudiced to say this? I think Westergaard is simply making the point that countries such as Denmark make huge investments of time and money with immigration, and they hope that people who come to Denmark respect the democratic values of the country, which include the notion and practice of free speech. Some of the people coming into Denmark clearly don’t respect democratic values and free speech, and this is becoming a problem. I don’t see how Westergaard’s pointing out of any of this supports your claim that Westergaard, or his cartoon, are “prejudiced against Middle Eastern Muslims.”

    You wrote:

    “I have yet to see someone who was anti-immigration who also didn’t have more than the amount of prejudice against the “other” than everyone else has. That statement could have been lifted straight out of anti-Irish immigration in the United States, or anti-Mexican immigration now.”

    Again, your arguments and examples don’t support your accusations. So Westergaard saying that he wants immigrants to respect democratic values and free speech somehow equates to anti-Irish immigrant and anti-Mexican immigrant prejudice (or whatever you want to call it)? I’m afraid this simply does not follow.

    You wrote:

    “And, I don’t know how you get from my statement “the cartoon is prejudiced” that Islam should have any particular protection against criticism or lampooning.”

    I didn’t conclude that, but your statements provoked my curiosity to ask what you would allow. Some people do want these cartoonists locked up in jail, banned, censored, etc. Most newspapers throughout the world, even in supposed bastions of free expression such as the U.S. and France, refused to publish the cartoons with their stories about the cartoon “crisis.”

    You wrote:

    “I said it was prejudiced, not bigoted or racist.”

    You said it was prejudiced against “Middle Eastern Muslims.” My suggesting “bigoted” and “racist” as synonyms to your intended usage of “prejudice” is hardly a stretch in this context, but if you insist on limiting this to the literal word prejudice, I’ll go along with it for argument’s sake.

    You wrote:

    “Aside from the fact that it would make me a hypocrite of epic proportions considering how much critisim I level against religions of all stripes, to say that sort of cartoon should be illegal or not be published would be contrary to values I hold about free speech. You don’t face criminal prosecution for being a bigot (unless it drifts into incitement).”

    Yet this is precisely what many people who want the cartoons banned and the cartoonists and publisher criminally prosecuted and punished are claiming. That is, they are claiming that the cartoons in question incite violence. In any case, I am relieved that you don’t seem to want them banned or the cartoonists punished.

    You wrote:

    “There’s nothing that I think they deserve to have done to the cartoonist or the publisher other than to say that the cartoons are prejudiced against Muslims. That’s it. That’s how an open society WORKS- X says something, Y says something back, X responds, we go in the grand tradition of public debate.”

    Calling someone or something “prejudiced” and not backing it up with evidence and sound argument is not in the grand tradition of public debate, unless you consider name-calling and unsubstantiated allegations to be part of that. Westergaard is trying to do something in the interests of defending free speech. Given that he has put his life on the line to do that is something that I respect a great deal.

  • http://www.punkassblog.com Antigone

    Archimedez-

    You’re right, I did say “cartoons”. My apologies- I should have said “cartoon” as that was the only one I was familiar with.

    You are ignoring the problems with your interpretation, not the least of which, as I said in the previous post, is that the artist himself was not intending to refer to all Muslims, much less all Middle Eastern Muslims, but rather in his cartoon was referring to violent extremist terroristic jihadists who use Muhammad for their ends.

    You’re interpretation is that the cartoon only referred to violent extremists of the religion, and not the religion itself. I don’t see how you can come to that conclusion, considering the cartoon was labelled Muhammad, that it was supposed to refer to particular people, instead of the religion in general. Muhammad is shown with lots of dark shading under his eyes (a pretty clear short-hand for evil in most western art). What exactly in this piece are you ascribing to violent Muslims, as opposed to Muslims in general?

    And it’s not that Westergaard wants democratic values, it’s his statement that he felt “they” don’t respect democratic values, or that they won’t. He’s saying a whole group of diverse people, Muslims, don’t believe in free speech. Now, there’s plenty of them who don’t (obviously) but not, by a long shot, all of them.

    And, I don’t think that calling something “prejudiced” is name-calling. Now, if you think my argument for it is weak, so be it, but it’s not like I’m insulting them. One of thing that drives me crazy is that people seem to think a word like “prejudiced” or “racist” is a slur on par with “asshole” instead of a criticism.

    Alex-

    Don’t want you to think that I’m not responding to you, but I’m afraid that this will draw the thread off topic if I respond. You may feel welcome to post over at my blog, if you’d like to keep going.

  • http://www.undergroundgames.dk Slater

    It’s almost funny that one of the things that pissed these people off the most, was when someone in one of the offended muslim countries (don’t remember which) tried to get back at us Danes by drawing a cartoon of our queen as a pig and our PM as queer, and… we laughed.

    This should have made it clear that we just don’t see anything as holy or sacred, not just their prophet, but instead it just riled them up even more.

  • Paul

    You’re interpretation is that the cartoon only referred to violent extremists of the religion, and not the religion itself. I don’t see how you can come to that conclusion, considering the cartoon was labelled Muhammad, that it was supposed to refer to particular people, instead of the religion in general. Muhammad is shown with lots of dark shading under his eyes (a pretty clear short-hand for evil in most western art). What exactly in this piece are you ascribing to violent Muslims, as opposed to Muslims in general?

    Uh, the part with the bomb? It’s generally only the violent Muslims that have anything to do with bombs. I can’t believe I even have to point this out. It’s ridiculous the way people go out of their way to be offended.

  • Archimedez

    Antigone,

    You ask: “What exactly in this piece are you ascribing to violent Muslims, as opposed to Muslims in general?”

    I base my opinion partly on what the artist has said about his intentions in making this cartoon.

    In one example, Westergaard said:

    “I attempted to show that terrorists get their spiritual ammunition from parts of Islam and with this spiritual ammunition, and with dynamite and other explosives, they kill people. I showed this in a cartoon and what happened? They want to kill me, so I think I was right.”

    http://www.nationalpost.com/m/story.html?id=2061497

    “Terrorists.” “Parts of Islam” (not all of Islam).

  • Jormungund

    It’s almost funny that one of the things that pissed these people off the most, was when someone in one of the offended muslim countries (don’t remember which) tried to get back at us Danes by drawing a cartoon of our queen as a pig and our PM as queer, and… we laughed.

    One of the funniest Daily Show moments (an American humor/news show), was when its anchor was talking about this whole cartoon controversy. He (as a good spirited joke) drew his own cartoon on the matter. It was a stick figure drawing of the Danish Queen having sex with a Norse warrior. But the thing is, it was a Norwegian viking who was waving the flag of Norway as he mounted the Danish Queen. The joke being about how the Danes wouldn’t be firebombing the studio or issuing death warrants against him. You know; because people like us don’t go on killing sprees when someone mocks us.

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/U612575 Timothy (TRiG)
  • Kennypo65

    I say keep on criticizing. Keep on lampooning. Don’t let these fanatics scare you. Terrorism only operates through fear. Show no fear. Tell them,”Kiss my ass!” Seriously, fuck ‘em, and fuck their pedophile prophet. If they don’t like it, then maybe they should stay in their sandbox where they can beat their women and wallow in ignorance.


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