Engineered Anger and Outrage?

News from the BBC today on another case of “Muslim outrage” drew a bit of a knee-jerk from me (“Muslims offended over a triviality. Gee, that’s a first”), but when I stopped and thought about it, I began to wonder if I was being fair. So, being a curious kind of guy, I thought I’d examine the issue a bit.

Today’s story is fairly typical of the genre: Person does something largely harmless / a little bit humorous but somehow connected to Islam, Muslim Outrage™ ensues.

In this case, Naguib Sawiris (a very rich Christian from Egypt) Tweeted some cartoons of Micky and Minnie Mouse in conservative Muslim garb (Micky robed and bearded, Minnie in a Niqab with just her eyes showing). Cue howls of anger from high profile Muslims, formation of facebook groups calling for a boycott of his company, grovelling apology, etc. etc. I should say at this point that I searched at length for these cartoons so that I could repost them here, but I’ve so far been unable to find them anywhere.

Reading around various media reports on this story, it’s easy to get the impression that the response to this “incident” (for want of a better word) is a general Muslim one, but if you dig a little deeper it seems like the screaming and shouting in Egypt is being orchestrated by the Salafi minority. Salafi are an ultra-orthodox group who reject all religious debate, claiming that religious matters are beyond debate or apologetics because the Q’ran says so. If it’s in the Q’ran, it’s literally true, and that’s the bottom line, ‘cos Stone Cold Mo said so; they reject any form of politics but Islamic theocracy, and any form of law but Sharia.

But are they a true reflection of Islam in Egypt? This is where things get a little tricky. An Embassy report from 2009 which was released during the Wikileaks deluge says that this ultra-conservatism is on the rise, and it’s true that (not surprisingly in a majority Muslim country) there are serious social inequalities, but it should also be noted that of senior management level employees in Egypt, 25% are women (or were prior to the Arab Spring; it gets hard to find stats after that). That doesn’t speak of a nation in thrall to extremists – in fact, it’s significantly higher than the USA could boast as of 2009, that figure being a pretty paltry 14.7%.

So, to wrench this ramble back on course, are media reports portraying general Muslim outrage over yet another triviality a fair and accurate reflection? In truth, I don’t really know – But the balance of evidence suggests that it’s probably not.

Over to you, UFers. What do you think of Islamic reaction to things like this, and how it’s portrayed. Better yet, are you in Egypt? Is it the powder-keg we’re lead to believe? I’d love to hear from you.

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  • Len

    Just out of interest (although not enough interest to actually go dig it up on the intertubes), are the Salafi in favour of covering up women – you know, like it doesn’t say in the Q’ran?

    • Custador

      I know that Salafi men consider the Jellabiya to be compulsory, but from reading various forums it seems that the Hijab is considered compulsory for women, the Niqab a sort of pious optional extra.

  • FO

    Turns out, “Muslim countries” are far more modern than most english-speakers would acknowledge.
    A lot of people wearing jeans and not so many with traditional garments.
    They have big problems, indeed, and the sexual divide is still huge, but the fewer crazies always make the most noise.

    If we saw more day-to-day life in the countries we bomb, we’ll be less prone to go to war.

    • Hamish Milne

      Thing about Islam, though, is that it hasn’t been through a reformation like Christianity has. Ultimately, it was this reformation that allowed secularism and democracy to be instigated. Take a look here:

      Notice the large concentration of orange coloured countries: those with an official state religion. A surprising correlation to those with an Islamic majority. Now look here:

      Notice the concentration of pink, purple and brown coloured countries around Arabia: those with monarchs that excise power, absolute monarchies and dictatorships. Again, a correlation to those with an Islamic majority. And this is quite a lenient analysis. Look here:

      The bottom map shows governments in the ’90s. Most of the world lives in a full democracy, but look at Arabia: again, a ‘traditional monarchy’. Moving outward, we see autocracies, one-party states and eventually democracies.

      Now I’m not saying for one moment that all Muslims inherently believe in autocracy. The events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have proved they don’t, but governments like this cannot survive without some support from the people. Remember: ‘Islam’ directly translates to ‘submission’.

      Oh, and about wars:
      We attacked Iraq because, right or wrong, there was strong evidence that they were developing illegal weaponry, and they were being very coy about the whole affair, refusing to allow UN inspectors to investigate. At least now they are in some kind of democracy as opposed to a dictatorship. I agree that it wasn’t the most well thought out decision, and civilian casualties were a lot higher than they should have been, however.

      As for Afghanistan, at the time it was controlled by a group that was blatantly harbouring international terrorist organisations with the utmost contempt. They were also incredibly theocratic and autocratic and brutal. Again, Afghanistan is now in some kind of democracy. As before, civilian casualties should have been a lot lower.

      Sorry if that’s off topic.

      • A Fox

        Are you sure this is really the result of “Islam” or more the result of Western imperialism? I’m not so sure it’s Islam’s fault. More likely the fault of the Americans, British, and French. After all, who supported overthrew the democratic governments in Iraq and Iran?

        • Hamish Milne

          I agree that there may be other factors at work here, but I doubt that even the combined efforts of all the western powers could have the effect that the more islamic a country is, the less democratic. I’m talking about a correlation, not isolated incidents.

          Consider this: during the middle ages and beyond, Arabic society was the most technologically advanced in the world. They had hospitals, libraries, observatories, a postal system, grand empires, they even invented the electrolyte battery. Then, in around the 16th century, their religious leaders decided this was all ‘ungodly’ and they literally burned it all down, destroyed their culture in a mad fury of religious fervor. And now we have people strapping their daughters with explosives to kill their own kind.

          Unfortunately I don’t subscribe to the doctrine of “Western imperialism is the root of all evil”. According to the series of maps in my third link, neither Iraq nor Iran was ever a full democracy, at least in the 20th century. Iraq was a monarchy, then an autocracy, whereas Iran progressed from a monarchy to a one party state, then a limited democracy. I can’t see any sudden shift from democracy->autocracy, unless this all happened before the 20th century, when almost no countries were democratic. And the guy who made the maps isn’t exactly sympathetic to ‘imperialism’.

          • A Fox

            Wasn’t the Republic of Iraq before the Baathist coup an actual Republic? Or am I misinformed?

            • A Fox

              Nevermind, looks like it wasn’t. That’s what I get for dredging up half-remembered info

            • Hamish Milne

              No probs mate :)

  • Mark the Pilgrim

    A lot of the time when the media reports on Muslim anger over a trivial subject it is quite exagerrated. Yes, conservatism is rising in the Muslim world, but it isn’t something that causes riots or fatwahs everyday amongst the average Muslim. What happens is that the loudest Muslims often steal the limelight from ordinary Muslims who might not care/agree about the perceived injustice or even if they do frown upon it, it isn’t a passionate objection towards the offence.
    I live near a neighbourhood with a large Muslim population and I naturally have a lot of Muslim friends – I even date a Muslim. They seldom seem offended by some of these topical ‘offenses’. They might frown upon it, but they aren’t going to bomb an embassy any time soon or burn an effigy. Most of them dismiss it. But the ones who get on the front page of the BBC website are the Quran thumpers who want you to notice them.

    On another note, I’ve noticed that the media always exaggerates/manipulates claims of minorities being offended at something. If you look back to the 1980s-90s in Britain, there was always a story about the Black British community crying racism over something as trivial as “Baa Baa Black Sheep” or ‘eating Black jelly babies’. The Baa Baa Black sheep story turned out to be an urban legend that is still believed by many today and the only one crying racism over the black jelly babies story was one man who was a notorious instigator. But the media didn’t bother to make a distinction between one man and the entire community. They have also ran stories alleging gay offence at something trivial. All it leads to is feeling of resentment by the conservative majority as they feel that somehow the minorities are taking over the country.

  • Russ Painter
    • trj

      *Burns Russian embassy*

  • trj

    Intolerant fundies will complain over everything and everybody. Next week these people will find something else to condemn. It’s just that this time it happened to get some media attention, probably because their anger is particularly ridiculous or concerns something easily recognisable to Western news readers.

    • Custador

      Hence my implication in the OP that this is turning into a news media genre all of its own. It’s just lazy and inflammatory journalism.

      • UrsaMinor

        Um- is there any other kind of journalism these days?

        • Custador

          The Today Program on Radio 4 is pretty good… Other than that? Probably not.

  • LRA

    Muslim Outrage (TM): Islamic males:: Truck nuts: Texan males

    Just sayin’.

  • Bill

    The problem here is in many ways the same as we see with conservative evangelical Christians in the U.S.

    The voices screaming about this harnless joke are undoubtedly fundamentalist crazies and not representative of Muslims at large. The wide acceptance of magical thinking by moderates of all religions provides fundamentalists more credibility and a louder voice than is warranted though.

  • Kip

    As with all that react to the slightest criticism islam is a prime example of a religion that is neither strong or secure enough in itself to withstand these jibes. I will give this to chirsters that for all the fun and reticule that is poked at them there hero there is relatively little reaction and certainly none to the extent that come from islam.

    • Custador

      Did… Did you read the article at all before you wrote that? I’m guessing no.