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Respect our values or Leave

mainerjohnthomas

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The First Amendment in the United States is the return of a very old and very healthy custom.  Amongst the ancient Celts and Norse, the Bards or Skalds had immunity, so that they would be free to speak the truth.  If a King or Chieftains actions were foolish, he feared the Bard or Skalds mockery would speed word of his foolishness across the land, and if truly memorable, across the ages.  Likewise all sought to be praised by Bard and Skald for generosity, courage, wisdom, as that fame too spread quickly.  This was a safety net for the society, for the Bards or Skalds could hold up the most powerful priest, the most willful King, or touchy champion to ridicule if his actions had become foolish or shameful, without presenting a challenge to their position.  Were a figure so mocked to react violently or angrily to the implied criticism, they would forfeit all respect in the eyes of the community.  If you can't take a joke, get out of politics, even back then.
      In the same way our political cartoonists lampoon the powerful, the morally self-righteous when their actions stand at odds with their stated beliefs.  In the case of Islam, the belief system is as morally sound as Christianity or Judaism (I'm a heathen myself so have no particular issue with Islam), but some of its clerics have turned the centers of learning and wisdom, into palaces of hatred where young men and women are turned into little better than disposable weapons.
      For a time when Christianity was burning books and free thinkers, Islam kept alive the memory of the pagan past, the learning of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Persians.  For a time Islam was the light of reason and learning in an age when our own ancestors were murdering each other over the scraps of fallen Rome.  Now it is the lands of Islam that have fallen to bands of thugs, and madmen masquerading as priests.  Perhaps it is our job to remind them from time to time, that enlightenment, not martyrdom was the goal that they once strived for.  If there are priests of any faith (my own most definitely included) who are so blindly intolerant that they demand death as the answer to anyone daring to criticize or mock them for conduct that is so contrary to faith they espouse, then they truly are deserving of our mockery.
 

a_majoor

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This essay by Theodore Dalrymple touches on the point I raised (what are our values anyway?) and the way the Islamic radicals are able to exploit this.

Is “Old Europe” Doomed?

By Theodore Dalrymple
February 6th, 2006
Lead Essay

The late Professor Joad, a popularizer of philosophy rather than a philosopher in the true sense, used to preface his answer to any question by saying, "It depends on what you mean by…"—in this case, "doomed."

The word "doomed" implies an ineluctable destiny, against which, presumably, it is vain for men to struggle. And this in turn implies a whole, contestable philosophy of history.

Historical determinism has two sources: first the apparent ability of historians, who of course have the benefit of hindsight, to explain any and all historical events with a fair degree of plausibility, even if their explanations of the same events differ widely, thus giving rise to the impression that if the past was determined, the future must be determined also; and second the tendency of people to assume that current statistical or social trends will continue, or in other words that projections are the same as predictions. One has only to consider the exponential growth of a bacterium on a Petri dish, which if continued would mean that the entire biosphere would soon consist solely of that organism, to realize that projections do not necessarily give rise to accurate predictions.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that a pall of doom does currently overhang Europe. In retrospect, the Twentieth Century may be considered Europe’s melancholy, long withdrawing roar (to adapt Matthew Arnold’s description of the decline of religion). And just as, according to Disraeli, the Continent of Europe would not long suffer Great Britain to be the workshop of the world, so the world would not, and did not, long suffer the Continent of Europe to dominate it, economically, culturally and intellectually. Europe’s loss of power, influence and importance continues to this day; and however much one’s material circumstances may have improved (just take a look at photographs of daily life in France or Britain in the 1950s and compare them to daily life there today), it is always unpleasant, and creates a sense of deep existential unease, to live in a country perpetually in decline, even if that decline is merely relative.

Combined with this is the fact that most European populations experience a profound feeling of impotence in the face of their own immovable political elites. (My wife, who was born in Paris 56 years ago, cannot remember any period of her life from adolescence onward when M. Chirac was not a prominent figure in French public life, and had he not died after a mere fifty years at or near the top of the greasy pole, the same might have been said of M. Mitterand.) This feeling of impotence is not because of any lack of intelligence or astuteness on the part of the populations in question: if you wanted to know why there was so much youth unemployment in France, you would not ask the Prime Minister, M. Dominque de Villepin, but the vastly more honest and clear-headed village plumber or carpenter, who would give you many precise and convincing reasons why no employer in his right mind would readily take on a new and previously untried young employee. Indeed, it would take a certain kind of intelligence, available only to those who have undergone a lot of formal education, not to be able to work it out.

The principal motor of Europe’s current decline is, in my view, its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are extremely resistant to change. And this obsession with social security is in turn connected with a fear of the future: for the future has now brought Europe catastrophe and relative decline for more than a century. (interpolation; I think this is also the case for a great many Canadians; which also explains the longevity of the Liberal Hegemony)

What exactly is it that Europeans fear, given that their decline has been accompanied by an unprecedented increase in absolute material well-being? An open economy holds out more threat to them than promise: they believe that the outside world will bring them not trade and wealth, but unemployment and a loss of comfort. They therefore are inclined to retire into their shell and succumb to protectionist temptation, both internally with regard to the job market, and externally with regard to other nations. And the more those other nations advance relative to themselves, the more necessary does protection seem to them. A vicious circle is thus set up. (interpolation: In this case it means the United States vis a vi Canada)

In the process of course, the state is either granted or arrogates to itself (or, of course, both) ever-greater powers. A bureaucratic monster is created that takes on a life of its own, that is not only uneconomic but anti-economic, and that can be reformed only at the cost of social unrest that politicians naturally wish to avoid. Inertia intermittently punctuated by explosion is therefore the most likely outcome.

Hundreds of thousands of young Frenchmen, despairing of finding a job at home where about a quarter of people in their twenties are unemployed, have crossed the Channel to take advantage of Britain’s relatively flexible labor market: which, however, the British government is in the process of destroying by means of ever-closer regulation in the French centralist style.

Since coming to power, the current British government has increased public expenditure enormously, such that the British tax burden now exceeds that of Germany, which itself is a very heavily taxed economy. The ostensible purpose of this expenditure has been to improve public services while serving the cause of social justice, a rhetoric that the public has hitherto believed; the hidden purpose, or at least effect, has been to create administrative jobs on an unprecedented scale, whose principle function consists of obstruction of other people as they try to create wealth, and to bring into being a political clientele dependent upon government ‘largesse’ (half the British population is now in receipt of government subventions as part or the whole of their incomes). Not only will this lead to economic disaster, but it naturally results in the psychology succinctly described by Hilaire Belloc in the moral of his cautionary tale about Albert who was eaten by a lion at the zoo when he strayed from the nurse who took him there:

    And always keep a-hold of nurse
    For fear of finding something worse.

The dependent population does not like the state and its agents, indeed they hate them, but they soon come to fear the elimination of their good offices even more. They are like drug addicts who know that the drug that they take is not good for them, and hate the drug dealer from whom they obtain their drug, but cannot face the supposed pains of withdrawal. And what is true of Britain is true, with a few exceptions, everywhere else in Europe. (interpolation: sounds a lot like the major metropolitan areas of Canada)

In the name of social justice, personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful, paralyzing all attempts to maximize collective endeavor. Nowhere is this clearer than in France, where a survey published in the left-wing newspaper, Liberation, showed that three times as many people had warm feeling towards socialism as towards capitalism. (The ambition of three quarters of French youth is to be employed by the state). Yet French defense of personal and sectional interest is so ferocious that it renders reform almost impossible, at least without violence on the streets. Workers in the French public transport system, who enjoy privileges that would have made Louis XIV gasp, strike the moment that any reduction in them is even mooted, all in the name of preserving social justice as represented by those privileges, despite the fact that striking brings misery and impoverishment to millions of their fellow-citizens, and their privileges are bankrupting the state. The goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else, or to struggle for as large a slice of the economic cake as possible. No one worries about the size of the cake itself. Apres moi, le deluge has become the watchword not of the king alone, but of the entire population.

France is perhaps worse in this respect than most other European countries, but it is not in an entirely different class or category from them. It hardly needs pointing out that the rest of an increasingly competitive and globalized world is not going to be sensitive to the same concerns as European governments; and while it is possible that European countries will nevertheless survive or pay their way economically by finding niche markets, this would represent a marginalization of a continent accustomed to thinking of itself as the centre of the world. Of course, marginalization is not the same as doom, unless you believe that being important in the world is itself all-important.

But there are other threats to Europe. The miserabilist view of the European past, in which achievement on a truly stupendous scale is disregarded in favor of massacre, oppression and injustice, deprives the population of any sense of pride or tradition to which it might contribute or which might be worth preserving. This loss of cultural confidence is particularly important at a time of mass immigration from very alien cultures, an immigration that can be successfully negotiated (as it has been in the past, or in the United States up to the era of multiculturalism) only if the host nations believe themselves to be the bearers of cultures into which immigrants wish, or ought to wish, to integrate, assimilate, and make their own.

In the absence of any such belief, there is a risk that the only way in which people inhabiting a country will have anything in common is geographical; and civil conflict is the method in which they will resolve their very different and entrenched conceptions about the way life should be lived. This is particularly true when immigrants are in possession, as they believe, of a unique and universal truth, such as Islam in its various forms often claims to be. If the host nation is so lacking in cultural confidence that it does not even make familiarity with the national language a condition of citizenship (as has been until recently the case in Great Britain), it is hardly surprising that integration does not proceed very far.

The problem is multiplied when a rigid labor market is capable of creating large castes of people who are unemployed and might well remain so for the whole of their adult lives. To the bitterness caused by economic uselessness will then be added, or rather be multiplied by, the bitterness of cultural separation. In the case of Islam this is particularly dangerous, because the mixture of an awareness of inferiority on the one hand, and superiority on the other, is historically a very combustible one. Latin Americans have felt it towards the United States, Russians towards Western Europe, Chinese and Japanese towards Europe and America, no doubt among many other examples.

Doom or further decline is not inevitable, however, though avoidance of it requires active effort. The auguries are not good, not only because of the political immobilism that elaborate systems of social security have caused in most European countries, but because of the European multinational entity that is being created against the wishes of the peoples of Europe (insofar as they can be gauged).

The European Union serves several purposes, none of which have much to do with the real challenges facing the continent. The Union helps Germans to forget that they are Germans, and gives them another identity rather more pleasing in their own estimation; it allows the French to forget that they are now a medium sized nation, one among many, and gives them the illusion of power and importance; it acts as a giant pension fund for politicians who are no longer willing or able successfully to compete in the rough and tumble of electoral politics, and enables them to hang on to influence and power long after they have been rejected at the polls; and it acts as a potential fortress against the winds of competition that are now blowing from all over the world, and that are deeply unsettling to people who desire security above all else.

Apocalyptic thought is curiously pleasurable. Doom is too strong a word, in my view; I think it would be more accurate to say that Europe is sleepwalking to further relative decline. But we should also modestly remember that the future is, ultimately, unknowable.

Article printed from Cato Unbound: http://www.cato-unbound.org

URL to article: http://www.cato-unbound.org/2006/02/06/theodore-dalrymple/is-old-europe-doomed/

 

Kirkhill

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mainer:

Try this one one for size - the Bards and Skalds supplied trusted commentary on the power structure, the King.  Their views could make or break a King.

Their role, I think I could argue, was taken up by priests in other societies.  Using a combination of the bully pulpit and a direct line to god to enhance authority they supplied the moral underpinning for the power structure.  This kept European monarchs in power for the best part of a millenium - until the masses learned to read themselves and draw their own conclusions.  As others have pointed out Islam has not yet come to similar conclusions.  Their priests still make and break kings.

In modern society the Bard/Priests role has been taken over by the media.  They make or break kings.  Unfortunately in our society we employ more scolds than bards and in the absence of kings they choose to scold all power.  The only societies with bards are those that are run by "kings" and the bards are on the pay-roll.

Net effect on modern western society is to distrust all power,  leaving the "kings' with the only cohesive supporting population.

A possible solution is perhaps to be found with the internet in that it may have the same impact on the media that Gutenberg and Caxton had on the priests with their printing presses.

But democracy pulled the props out from under the priests that buttressed power.  We are, perhaps, suffering from a surfeit of democracy when we find ourselves confronting centralized power.

Can the internet be used to pull the props out from the scolding press so as to support a more democratically acceptable central authority?  In other words allow people to believe that all politicians are not all crooks all the time?

Do we want that? Is it even possible for democracy to build a cohesive structure? 

Or is the best we can hope for is that the internet bypasses the Kings' paid bards in centralized states so that we all suffer the same disadvantages that are inherent in democracies?

By the way, if anyone comes up with the definitive answer let me know because I need help with life, the universe and everything.  42 isn't cutting it.  ;D



 

mainerjohnthomas

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Kirkhill said:
mainer:

Try this one one for size - the Bards and Skalds supplied trusted commentary on the power structure, the King.  Their views could make or break a King.

Their role, I think I could argue, was taken up by priests in other societies.  Using a combination of the bully pulpit and a direct line to god to enhance authority they supplied the moral underpinning for the power structure.  This kept European monarchs in power for the best part of a millenium - until the masses learned to read themselves and draw their own conclusions.  As others have pointed out Islam has not yet come to similar conclusions.  Their priests still make and break kings.
    You are quite right, the Bards and Skalds could make or break a King, as your reputation was important in securing the loyalty of your fighting men, and the pre-Christian European kings were not absolute, removable by the the people that they served, via the Althing or Celtic equivalent.  It took the Christian priesthood joining its power to the monarchy to give the divine right of kings, establishing a divine sanction for absolute power and instantly equate resistance with blasphemy.  While Bards and Skalds were not part of the ruling structure of their society, the priests of any faith often are. 
      The Reformation weakened the Church in Europe, and the separation of Cannon (Church law) from secular civil law allowed the progression of European culture, and the eventual separation of Church and State that we take for granted in North America.  In many Islamic countries, Cannon law is the civil law.  When the priests speak, the people take the word of the priest to be the will of God and thus the law.  If your law is religious, you will expect it to be the only true law, and punish others for not honouring it.
      Our society functions under civil law, we allow our citizens to follow their own faiths and cultures as long astheir faiths and cultures permit us to continue to live and worship as we choose under the laws of the nation in which we live..  Immigrants whose religious or cultural beliefs demand that we give up our own may either change their beliefs, or return to a country where these intolerance's are acceptable.
    I am a heathen ex-soldier, one of my neighbors is a Baptist youth pastor, another a Buddist pacifist; we get along because each of our creeds accepts the others right to chose for themselves, practice as they will, so long as we all accept the laws of the land that we share.  If radical Islam denies the rest of us the right to practice and speak as we wish, then it is not welcome in my land.  It should also be remembered that many of our own Islamic Canadians came here fleeing religious and secular tyranny, and are in no way accepting the hate filled messages we see in the papers.  The majority of Islamics in Canada make excellent Canadians. Those of any faith or political persuasion who feel that their beliefs give them the right to punish those who disagree with them are not welcome.

 

Kirkhill

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I am a heathen ex-soldier, one of my neighbors is a Baptist youth pastor, another a Buddist pacifist; we get along because each of our creeds accepts the others right to chose for themselves, practice as they will, so long as we all accept the laws of the land that we share.  If radical Islam denies the rest of us the right to practice and speak as we wish, then it is not welcome in my land.

There's that tolerance thing again.  Hear, Hear.  :)
 

Edward Campbell

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Mr. Costello, in Australia, took something of a love it or leave it approach.  Britain’s Daily Telegraph looks at it differently – maybe, its editorial page suggests, we are the problem.  Here it is, with my emphasis added, reproduced under the fair dealing provisions of our Copyright Act:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/02/06/dl0601.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2006/02/06/ixoplead.html
Why extremists treat us with contempt

British subjects march through the streets of the capital calling for their fellow citizens to be "beheaded", "massacred" and "annihilated".

A two-year-old girl born in this country is dressed up in an "I Heart Al-Qaida " cap. Demonstrators call for "a real holocaust", with the horrible insinuation of holocaust-deniers everywhere: that the genocide never took place, but that it should have done.

There was a time when all this might have been dismissed as empty rhetoric. But the past five years have swept away any such innocence. British boys have left Tipton and Wanstead and Beeston to fight and kill their fellow citizens - whether in Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan or London.

When these Islamist protesters dress up as suicide bombers and revel in the "magnificent" attacks of 9/11, they are not engaging in a harmless daydream: they are encouraging murder. And, to be fair, the police did eventually arrest two people for breaching the peace - not Islamist protesters, you understand, but two counter-demonstrators who were apparently provoking trouble by carrying images of Mohammed.

Now you might argue that the Met was right to lay off: that we live in a free country, however loudly the demonstrators decry that freedom, and that we should tolerate even the most noxious and deluded of opinions. The trouble is that we don't.

We live in a country where you can be arrested for reciting the names of dead soldiers at the Cenotaph, heckling at a Labour Party conference or making slighting remarks about Osama bin Laden. We live in a country where a pensioner can be charged with "racially aggravated criminal damage" for scrawling "free speech for England" on a condemned wall.

Asked why it had not arrested any of the demonstrators, the Met refused to answer - or, to be precise, it said "the decision to arrest at a public order event must be viewed in the context of the overall policing plan and the environment the officers are operating in". Might there be a connection between this cowardice and the contempt some Muslims feel for us? Is it not at least possible that the self-loathing they encounter, from the moment they go to school, turns some boys from Tipton and Wanstead and Beeston against their country?

After all, the question of whether it is possible to be a good British Muslim is not a new one. Hundreds of millions of Muslims lived peacefully under the British Crown, in India, Sudan, Malaya and elsewhere. They saw no conflict between their faith and their civic loyalty, fighting for Britain even when we went to war against the Ottoman Caliph. The difference is that, in those days, we had confidence in ourselves, and conveyed this confidence to others.

Compare that attitude with the apologies we heard yesterday from the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, the former Met chief Lord Stevens and others, all of whom seemed to be more upset about the depiction of the Prophet in Jyllands-Posten than about the fact that a tiny minority in this country seems bent on the murder of the rest of us.

This newspaper has a deep regard for Islam, that purest and most abstract of the monotheistic faiths, to whose tenets we recently dedicated a series of colour supplements. We share the admiration of Rousseau, Carlyle and Gibbon for the Prophet, which is why, on grounds of courtesy, we have chosen not to cause gratuitous offence to his followers by reproducing the cartoons at the centre of this row.

But that is a different thing from saying that such images ought not to be published. All respectable Muslims should be horrified at the antics of the ignorant loudmouths who paraded through Knightsbridge at the weekend. At best, they have disgraced their religion. At worst, they have incited terrorism and, in so doing, condemned themselves to an infinitely worse fate than they need fear from our courts. "The actions of each man are bound about his neck," says the Koran (17:13). "On the Day of Resurrection, he shall be confronted with a scroll spread wide open."
 

Glorified Ape

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Regarding the issue of respecting the values of your adopted country, I read an excellent letter in the Toronto Star in which the topic is discussed in relation to the whole hooplah about the cartoons and resultant boycott of Danish products. I emphasized the particularly relevant portion but it's a great statement overall.

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1139267413917&call_pageid=968332189003&col=968350116895

What point to ban?
Feb. 7, 2006. 01:00 AM

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Muslim stores join ban


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Feb. 4.

The boycott of Danish cheese by some Muslim owned stores is just another example of how easy it is to provoke our community into validating the stereotypes that exist about us.

Muslim Canadians must express their outrage not only at the cartoonist, but also the extremists in the Middle East who say, "The solution is the slaughter of those who harmed Islam and the Prophet."

The Muslim Canadian Congress strongly believes that as reprehensible as the cartoons were, the issuing of death threats and asking for the killing of journalists and cartoonists, must be condemned with vigour, as it is contrary, not only to the letter and spirit of Islam, but also offensive to the civil society we have chosen as our home.


What is the responsibility of a Danish cheese manufacturer over the publication of extremely hostile cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper?

Are we not the same people who said, don't blame all Muslims for the actions of one Muslim — Osama bin Laden? Have we forgotten the argument we used to defend ourselves from collective punishment?

If my Muslim community wishes to boycott Danish products as an act of protest, why stop at Denmark. Why not start with American products? After all, it is the United States that occupies two Muslim countries, not Denmark. Where will this stop? Will we stop buying French, German, Italian, Spanish and Norwegian products as well? After all, newspapers in these countries, too, have printed the cartoons.

This selective sense of outrage against Danish food products reeks of hypocrisy and false bravado.

After all, it is easy to give up on Danish cheese, but who will hand over his Microsoft, Mac or Mercedes product? Not Hosni Mubarek and definitely not King Abdullah of Jordan or President Bashar Assad of Syria.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
El-Farouk Khaki, Secretary General,

Muslim Canadian Congress, Toronto

Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved.
 

GO!!!

Fallen Comrade
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GA - excellent points.

I too will share the righteous indignation of the slighted muslim - the minute they begin smashing their iPods and torching their Mercedes Cars in public.

 

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Not to bring a tangent to the thread, however the following Stratfor article suggests there are
strong gulfs between various perspectives and adgendas.  As like in Australia, the clash of ideas are quite
formidable. 


www.stratfor.com
Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence Report
7 Feb. 2006

The Cartoon Backlash: Redefining Alignments
By George Friedman

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark. We just couldn't help but open with that -- with apologies to Shakespeare. Nonetheless, there is something exceedingly odd in the notion that Denmark -- which has made a national religion of not being offensive to anyone -- could become the focal point of Muslim rage. The sight of the Danish and Norwegian embassies being burned in Damascus -- and Scandinavians in general being warned to leave Islamic countries -- has an aura of the surreal: Nobody gets mad at Denmark or Norway. Yet, death threats are now being hurled against the Danes and Norwegians as though they were mad-dog friends of Dick Cheney. History has its interesting moments.

At the same time, the matter is not to be dismissed lightly. The explosion in the Muslim world over the publication of 12 cartoons by a minor Danish newspaper -- cartoons that first appeared back in September -- has, remarkably, redefined the geopolitical matrix of the U.S.-jihadist war. Or, to be more precise, it has set in motion something that appears to be redefining that matrix. We do not mean here simply a clash of civilizations, although that is undoubtedly part of it. Rather, we mean that alignments within the Islamic world and within the West appear to be in flux in some very important ways.

Let's begin with the obvious: the debate over the cartoons. There is a prohibition in Islam against making images of the Prophet Mohammed. There also is a prohibition against ridiculing the Prophet. Thus, a cartoon that ridicules the Prophet violates two fundamental rules simultaneously. Muslims around the world were deeply offended by these cartoons.

It must be emphatically pointed out that the Muslim rejection of the cartoons does not derive from a universalistic view that one should respect religions. The criticism does not derive from a secularist view that holds all religions in equal indifference and requires "sensitivity" not on account of theologies, but in order to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. The Muslim view is theological: The Prophet Mohammed is not to be ridiculed or portrayed. But violating the sensibilities of other religions is not taboo. Therefore, Muslims frequently, in action, print and speech, do and say things about other religions -- Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism -- that followers of these religions would find defamatory. The Taliban, for example, were not concerned about the views among other religions when they destroyed the famous Buddhas in Bamiyan. The Muslim demand is honest and authentic: It is for respect for Islam, not a general secular respect for all beliefs as if they were all equal.

The response from the West, and from Europe in particular, has been to frame the question as a matter of free speech. European newspapers, wishing to show solidarity with the Danes, have reprinted the cartoons, further infuriating the Muslims. European liberalism has a more complex profile than Islamic rage over insults. In many countries, it is illegal to incite racial hatred. It is difficult to imagine that the defenders of these cartoons would sit by quietly if a racially defamatory cartoon were published. Or, imagine the reception among liberal Europeans -- or on any American campus -- if a professor published a book purporting to prove that women were intellectually inferior to men. (The mere suggestion of such a thing, by the president of Harvard in a recent speech, led to calls for his resignation.)

In terms of the dialogue over the cartoons, there is enough to amuse even the most jaded observers. The sight of Muslims arguing the need for greater sensitivity among others, and of advocates of laws against racial hatred demanding absolute free speech, is truly marvelous to behold. There is, of course, one minor difference between the two sides: The Muslims are threatening to kill people who offend them and are burning embassies -- in essence, holding entire nations responsible for the actions of a few of their citizens. The European liberals are merely making speeches. They are not threatening to kill critics of the modern secular state. That also distinguishes the Muslims from, say, Christians in the United States who have been affronted by National Endowment for the Arts grants.

These are not trivial distinctions. But what is important is this: The controversy over the cartoons involves issues so fundamental to the two sides that neither can give in. The Muslims cannot accept visual satire involving the Prophet. Nor can the Europeans accept that Muslims can, using the threat of force, dictate what can be published. Core values are at stake, and that translates into geopolitics.

In one sense, there is nothing new or interesting in intellectual inconsistency or dishonesty. Nor is there very much new about Muslims -- or at least radical ones -- threatening to kill people who offend them. What is new is the breadth of the Muslim response and the fact that it is directed obsessively not against the United States, but against European states.

One of the primary features of the U.S.-jihadist war has been that each side has tried to divide the other along a pre-existing fault line. For the United States, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the manipulation of Sunni-Shiite tensions has been evident. For the jihadists, and even more for non-jihadist Muslims caught up in the war, the tension between the United States and Europe has been a critical fault line to manipulate. It is significant, then, that the cartoon affair threatens to overwhelm both the Euro-American split and the Sunni-Shiite split. It is, paradoxically, an affair that unifies as well as divides.

The Fissures in the West

It is dangerous and difficult to speak of the "European position" -- there really isn't one. But there is a Franco-German position that generally has been taken to be the European position. More precisely, there is the elite Franco-German position that The New York Times refers to whenever it mentions "Europe." That is the Europe that we mean now.

In the European view, then, the United States massively overreacted to 9/11. Apart from the criticism of Iraq, the Europeans believe that the United States failed to appreciate al Qaeda's relative isolation within the Islamic world and, by reshaping its relations with the Islamic world over 9/11, caused more damage. Indeed, this view goes, the United States increased the power of al Qaeda and added unnecessarily to the threat it presents. Implicit in the European criticisms -- particularly from the French -- was the view that American cowboy insensitivity to the Muslim world not only increased the danger after 9/11, but effectively precipitated 9/11. From excessive support for Israel to support for Egypt and Jordan, the United States alienated the Muslims. In other words, 9/11 was the result of a lack of sophistication and poor policy decisions by the United States -- and the response to the 9/11 attacks was simply over the top.

Now an affair has blown up that not only did not involve the United States, but also did not involve a state decision. The decision to publish the offending cartoons was that of a Danish private citizen. The Islamic response has been to hold the entire state responsible. As the cartoons were republished, it was not the publications printing them that were viewed as responsible, but the states in which they were published. There were attacks on embassies, gunmen in EU offices at Gaza, threats of another 9/11 in Europe.

From a psychological standpoint, this drives home to the Europeans an argument that the Bush administration has been making from the beginning -- that the threat from Muslim extremists is not really a response to anything, but a constantly present danger that can be triggered by anything or nothing. European states cannot control what private publications publish. That means that, like it or not, they are hostage to Islamic perceptions. The threat, therefore, is not under their control. And thus, even if the actions or policies of the United States did precipitate 9/11, the Europeans are no more immune to the threat than the Americans are.

This combines with the Paris riots last November and the generally deteriorating relationships between Muslims in Europe and the dominant populations. The pictures of demonstrators in London, threatening the city with another 9/11, touch extremely sensitive nerves. It becomes increasingly difficult for Europeans to distinguish between their own relationship with the Islamic world and the American relationship with the Islamic world. A sense of shared fate emerges, driving the Americans and Europeans closer together. At a time when pressing issues like Iranian nuclear weapons are on the table, this increases Washington's freedom of action. Put another way, the Muslim strategy of splitting the United States and Europe -- and using Europe to constrain the United States -- was heavily damaged by the Muslim response to the cartoons.

The Intra-Ummah Divide

But so too was the split between Sunni and Shia. Tensions between these two communities have always been substantial. Theological differences aside, both international friction and internal friction have been severe. The Iran-Iraq war, current near-civil war in Iraq, tensions between Sunnis and Shia in the Gulf states, all point to the obvious: These two communities are, while both Muslim, mistrustful of one another. Shiite Iran has long viewed Sunni Saudi Arabia as the corrupt tool of the United States, while radical Sunnis saw Iran as collaborating with the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cartoons are the one thing that both communities -- not only in the Middle East but also in the wider Muslim world -- must agree about. Neither side can afford to allow any give in this affair and still hope to maintain any credibility in the Islamic world. Each community -- and each state that is dominated by one community or another -- must work to establish (or maintain) its Islamic credentials. A case in point is the violence against Danish and Norwegian diplomatic offices in Syria (and later, in Lebanon and Iran) -- which undoubtedly occurred with Syrian government involvement. Syria is ruled by Alawites, a Shiite sect. Syria -- aligned with Iran -- is home to a major Sunni community; there is another in Lebanon. The cartoons provided what was essentially a secular regime the opportunity to take the lead in a religious matter, by permitting the attacks on the embassies. This helped consolidate the regime's position, however temporarily.

Indeed, the Sunni and Shiite communities appear to be competing with each other as to which is more offended. The Shiite Iranian-Syrian bloc has taken the lead in violence, but the Sunni community has been quite vigorous as well. The cartoons are being turned into a test of authenticity for Muslims. To the degree that Muslims are prepared to tolerate or even move past this issue, they are being attacked as being willing to tolerate the Prophet's defamation. The cartoons are forcing a radicalization of parts of the Muslim community that are uneasy with the passions of the moment.

Beneficiaries on Both Sides

The processes under way in the West and within the Islamic world are naturally interacting. The attacks on embassies, and threats against lives, that are based on nationality alone are radicalizing the Western perspective of Islam. The unwillingness of Western governments to punish or curtail the distribution of the cartoons is taken as a sign of the real feelings of the West. The situation is constantly compressing each community, even as they are divided.

One might say that all this is inevitable. After all, what other response would there be, on either side? But this is where the odd part begins: The cartoons actually were published in September, and -- though they drew some complaints, even at the diplomatic level -- didn't come close to sparking riots. Events unfolded slowly: The objections of a Muslim cleric in Denmark upon the initial publication by Jyllands-Posten eventually prompted leaders of the Islamic Faith Community to travel to Egypt, Syria and Lebanon in December, purposely "to stir up attitudes against Denmark and the Danes" in response to the cartoons. As is now obvious, attitudes have certainly been stirred.

There are beneficiaries. It is important to note here that the fact that someone benefits from something does not mean that he was responsible for it. (We say this because in the past, when we have noted the beneficiaries of an event or situation, the not-so-bright bulbs in some quarters took to assuming that we meant the beneficiaries deliberately engineered the event.)

Still, there are two clear beneficiaries. One is the United States: The cartoon affair is serving to further narrow the rift between the Bush administration's view of the Islamic world and that of many Europeans. Between the Paris riots last year, the religiously motivated murder of a Dutch filmmaker and the "blame Denmark" campaign, European patience is wearing thin. The other beneficiary is Iran. As Iran moves toward a confrontation with the United States over nuclear weapons, this helps to rally the Muslim world to its side: Iran wants to be viewed as the defender of Islam, and Sunnis who have raised questions about its flirtations with the United States in Iraq are now seeing Iran as the leader in outrage against Europe.

The cartoons have changed the dynamics both within Europe and the Islamic world, and between them. That is not to say the furor will not die down in due course, but it will take a long time for the bad feelings to dissipate. This has created a serious barrier between moderate Muslims and Europeans who were opposed to the United States. They were the ones most likely to be willing to collaborate, and the current uproar makes that collaboration much more difficult.

It's hard to believe that a few cartoons could be that significant, but these are.
Send questions or comments on this article to analysis@stratfor.com.

 

Kirkhill

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As the author states, nobody doesn't like Denmark.  It and Norway have been poster children for what Canada thinks it is.  They have been putting their money and their blood into the field at a higher level than we have.  They seem to have been largely successful as honest brokers.  If so then that is their threat. 

Iran, and others, need a polarized world. They can't get their people to go to war against "nice guys", however that is defined.  The Danes, Norwegians (and Canada for that matter) when succesful, work against that polarization.  That makes them targets. 
 

Jungle

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GO!!! said:
GA - excellent points.

I too will share the righteous indignation of the slighted muslim - the minute they begin smashing their iPods and torching their Mercedes Cars in public.
Yeah, and they ditch the booze and the bacon they enjoy so much... (I'm not making this up  ;) )
When I don't play by my own rules, I don't expect others to respect them...
 

a_majoor

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When I talk about "our values"; this is what I mean: (via Instapundit 07 Feb 2006)

And reader Michael McDowell isn't having any of it:

    Zerbisias condemns those Westerners who "claim to be morally superior." Well that is absolute horseshit. I am tired of being told not to judge other cultures through my "American lens" because I don’t understand their circumstances. I believe in equal rights without regard to race, religion, color, gender or country or origin. I believe in the freedom of homosexuals to marry and live freely in society. I believe in freedom of expression, and speech, and the free exchange of ideas. I believe in kindness, compassion, consideration, and that dogs make life better. I don’t "claim to be morally superior" to those ass-hat murderers; I am morally superior.

Indeed. You'd expect lefties like Zerbisias to side with people like McDowell, and Zeyad, over a bunch of sexist, homophobic theocrats -- but that would require that they side with America, too. Which is right out.

So here is where we must make our stand: Equal rights without regard to race, religion, color, gender or country or origin. Freedom of expression, and speech, and the free exchange of ideas.

As soldiers and service members, we will, of course, place our lives on the line to defend these ideals. For the rest of you, stand up for these rights at home, at work, in the schools, and in any and every other forum you can possibly make your voices heard. Huntington was right, WW IV really is the "Clash of Civilizations", and for all our sakes, we need to do all we can to win.
 

mainerjohnthomas

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I dug up an old news story that cuts to the heart of the matter.

http://edition.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/central/03/12/afghan.buddha.02/

    When the radical Islamic Taliban ran Afghanistan, they used their power to root out and destroy the sacred images of the Buddhists that had been the legacy of the Afghan people for centuries.  They showed no respect, and indeed deepest contempt for the faith of others, or for those of their own people who still cleave to Buddism.  Moderate Islamics from around the world joined Western and UN leaders in pleading with the Taliban to stop, pointing out that this could only blacken the reputation of Islam.  The radical Taliban continued to persecute any faith not its own until our own and allied troops removed them from power after their involvement with 9/11.
      Radical Islamics have showed us the reverence with which they treat the images of other faiths, and in their arrogant hypocrisy continue to demand that we obey their taboos about their images.  Is it any wonder that cartoonists saw the need to caricature them?  The radical fringe of Islam has succeeded in blackening the image of the entire faith, and it is up the the moderates to restore it.



 

a_majoor

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A link to some interesting symposium comments on this issue. Note the common core values of Islam drive and amplify this behaviour, and also note some of the time lines; these cartoons were published in Sept 2005, so why is this an issue now and not then?

http://www.nationalreview.com/symposium/symposium200602081005.asp
 

zipperhead_cop

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Okay, these are right from the source, actual passages from the Koran:

The Immunity
[9.1] (This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Apostle towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement.

[9.30] And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!

[9.63] Do they not know that whoever acts in opposition to Allah and His Apostle, he shall surely have the fire of hell to abide in it? That is the grievous abasement.
[9.64] The hypocrites fear lest a chapter should be sent down to them telling them plainly of what is in their hearts. Say: Go on mocking, surely Allah will bring forth what you fear.
[9.65] And if you should question them, they would certainly say: We were only idly discoursing and sporting. Say: Was it at Allah and His communications and His Apostle that you mocked?
[9.66] Do not make excuses; you have denied indeed after you had believed; if We pardon a party of you, We will chastise (another) party because they are guilty.

[9.73] Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate


Note that the name of the chapter is "The Immunity".  Basically, if you are Muslim, if you choose to go and do anything in the name of Allah, you are justified and righteous. 

Not saying that Christianity doesn't have it's own harsh passages:

Gen 4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

Exd 4:22-24 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel [is] my son, [even] my firstborn:  And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, [even] thy firstborn. And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. 


One does not need to be an accomplished scholar to go through a religious text to find scriptures that can justify violence.  If someone put their mind to it, you might find something in Buddhism to justify killing for it. 

I may be getting out of my lanes, but I read an article (of course can't find it now) but it spoke of religious maturity and how these things go in cycles.  The way the Islamic extremists are conducting themselves isn't so different than the zealotry of the Crusades, and the Inquisition.  Those took place about a 1000 years ago or so.  So how old is Islam?  The Prophet Muhammad died in 632, and the religion didn't get big enough to get noticed by the Christian church until 1096 when the first crusade was launched to take back the Holy land from the Turks (although arguably just an excuse for a Catholic land grab).  So is it possible that this extremism is a natural progression of a large organized religion, compounded by the fact that by it's very design Islam is a very intolerant and harsh religion?  I'm not suggesting that we ignore them and let them bomb and murder at will.  But maybe they will realize, within their own ranks, that they have gotten a bit off course and bring things back to something a little more reasonable. 

And as an aside (since we can't seem to shake the cartoon debate) how can anyone get upset about making a cartoon with Muhammed in it?  If it is Koranic law to not make any depictions of him, how does anyone know what he looks like?  If you don't know what he looks like, how can you get pee'd off when someone draws him?  Must be a dumb Christian thing ???
 

Kirkhill

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Those took place about a 1000 years ago or so.

Try Drumcree, Northern Ireland,  2 years ago.  In Christian society you can find examples of religious intolerance down to the present day.  In the Anglosphere we passed the hump about 200 years ago but there continued to be pockets after that - the KKK in the US comes to mind as well.  There were elements of intolerance associated with Europe in the 1930s and 40s, and even in Canada in 1919? with the Sikhs being rejected at Vancouver, with Jews being being denied entry in the 40's, .... it is possible to go on.

This is not to excuse anything that anyone has done.  I have no problem in dealing with problems by applying "lethal force".  I just want to be sure that the target is clearly defined and collateral damage is minimized - not even from a moral position, but just because it is inefficient. It wastes resources and it creates a broader problem.

There is a problem, but it comes from Ahmadinejad and his Ayatollahs, from Basher Assad, from Bin Laden-Zawahir-Zarqawi, possibly Kim Jong Il and likely many others.  But these are individuals, not races at large.

Would you propose levelling Shankill or Ardoyne Road in Northern Ireland to solve their problems? Or Jane and Finch to solve Toronto's gang problems?

Religion and the Koran are the tools used to gather support.  They are not the problem themselves.  Lack of religion doesn't solve the problem either.  If it did then the French with their religion of atheism (Laicete/Secularism), which is intolerant of any other belief, wouldn't be having the problems they are.

Again, this is not a clash of civilizations.  It is a power struggle amongst individuals.  Belief is what it has always been - a method of mobilizing support.

We need to fight back, but it does no good to broadly flail around an end up punching spectator's noses, even by accident.  All you are likely to accomplish is to convert the spectator into your opponent.

The "Great Man" theory of history has gone out of fashion and conspiracy theories are derided but when you look back at history all conflicts revolve around central characters, people, individuals.  More often than not the lead players are not the grass roots, far removed from the throne with no sense of ever being able to inhabit it, but instead the person next to the throne who feels they are being denied their due by the person currently occupying it.  Those are the individuals that agitate and seek broad support amongst the grass-roots and create revolutions.




 

zipperhead_cop

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Kirkhill said:
Would you propose levelling Shankill or Ardoyne Road in Northern Ireland to solve their problems? Or Jane and Finch to solve Toronto's gang problems?

Actually, I would leave the community of the greater Jane/Finch area to solve it's own problems, since they created them themselves. 

My point to quote scripture was not to decry the books themselves, but to illustrate that "holy" word can be manipulated to justify anyone's means if they put their mind to it.  My other point was that if there are people willing to commit murder for the sake of a cartoon today, maybe down the road (ten, fifty, two hundred years) it won't seem like such a big deal. 
So far as Ireland goes, nobody really believes that has anything to do with religion still, do they?
 

Kirkhill

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zipperhead_cop:

I understood where you were coming from and agreed with your position.  I just took exception to your suggestion that there was a millenium of difference in social evolution between Islam and Christianity.  My point was that there isn't that much difference in attitudes.  Within my 50 years I have know Christians with similar attitudes.

As to your point about nobody still believing that is about religion I think that goes to my point. It isn't about religion.  It is about power.  Religion just happens to be a convenient banner around which to get people to rally.  It can just easily be about bread and circuses, let them eat cake or nationalising the railroads.  It makes no odds.  Those that seek power look for an issue to cut a large chunk of support away from the other guy's base.

Cheers.
 

Glorified Ape

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zipperhead_cop said:
Okay, these are right from the source, actual passages from the Koran:

The Immunity
[9.1] (This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Apostle towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement.

[9.30] And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!

[9.63] Do they not know that whoever acts in opposition to Allah and His Apostle, he shall surely have the fire of hell to abide in it? That is the grievous abasement.
[9.64] The hypocrites fear lest a chapter should be sent down to them telling them plainly of what is in their hearts. Say: Go on mocking, surely Allah will bring forth what you fear.
[9.65] And if you should question them, they would certainly say: We were only idly discoursing and sporting. Say: Was it at Allah and His communications and His Apostle that you mocked?
[9.66] Do not make excuses; you have denied indeed after you had believed; if We pardon a party of you, We will chastise (another) party because they are guilty.

[9.73] Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate


Note that the name of the chapter is "The Immunity".  Basically, if you are Muslim, if you choose to go and do anything in the name of Allah, you are justified and righteous. 

Actually, Islam holds that Christians and Jews are both "believers" as they recognize the one and only god (allah, which means "god", it's not a name like "Jesus"). Islam, through its pillars, views Christians and Jews as "protected peoples" since they fulfill the most important criteria of all - the recognition and worship of the one and only god. Their non-recognition of the prophet Muhammad (secondary in importance) and their non-adherence to the same practices as Islam are what prevent them from equal status. Islam reveres the Torah/Old Testament, as well as Jesus' revisions to it. They revere Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc. as prophets. Nothing in those passages states that Muslims should kill non-Muslims, it just says they'll burn in hell/be punished by Allah. Even when the prophet's told to do something, that doesn't extend to everyone any more than the entirety of Islam should prophesize because Muhammad did it. There's no shortage of that kind of tripe in the New Testament or Torah either. As God/Allah/Jehova-Elohim/Whateverfantasybeing says: "Vengeance is mine", not any indignant, deity-worshipping twit with the means and inclination.

As far as tolerance and civility go, Islam's got a much better track record than Christianity, even towards Christians - the Pact of Umar was far more than Christians were offering around the same time. It just so happens that the more intolerant, radical parts of Islam are empowered and active right now. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and all that.

Not saying that Christianity doesn't have it's own harsh passages:

Gen 4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

Exd 4:22-24 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel [is] my son, [even] my firstborn:  And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, [even] thy firstborn. And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. 


One does not need to be an accomplished scholar to go through a religious text to find scriptures that can justify violence.  If someone put their mind to it, you might find something in Buddhism to justify killing for it. 

I agree, though I think you might be hard pressed on the Buddhist thing.

I may be getting out of my lanes, but I read an article (of course can't find it now) but it spoke of religious maturity and how these things go in cycles.  The way the Islamic extremists are conducting themselves isn't so different than the zealotry of the Crusades, and the Inquisition.  Those took place about a 1000 years ago or so.  So how old is Islam?  The Prophet Muhammad died in 632, and the religion didn't get big enough to get noticed by the Christian church until 1096 when the first crusade was launched to take back the Holy land from the Turks (although arguably just an excuse for a Catholic land grab).  So is it possible that this extremism is a natural progression of a large organized religion, compounded by the fact that by it's very design Islam is a very intolerant and harsh religion?  I'm not suggesting that we ignore them and let them bomb and murder at will.  But maybe they will realize, within their own ranks, that they have gotten a bit off course and bring things back to something a little more reasonable. 

I've wondered the same about the development of religions. I'm not sure they're really all that different from civilizations/societies - they go into and out of bad spots, often depending on the economic, political, environmental, and other changes/effects. That's not to say they're separate from civilizations/societies or that there isn't some reciprocal effect there. I don't think violence, ignorance, etc. is intrinsic to Islam any more than it is to Christianity or Judaism. Each have their militants, it's just a matter of how much power they hold and how much publicity they get. I think Kirkhill explained it best.

And as an aside (since we can't seem to shake the cartoon debate) how can anyone get upset about making a cartoon with Muhammed in it?  If it is Koranic law to not make any depictions of him, how does anyone know what he looks like?  If you don't know what he looks like, how can you get pee'd off when someone draws him?  Must be a dumb Christian thing ???

Islam isn't the only religion which is touchy about visual representations - if you read the Torah, you'll find plenty of condemnations of idolatry and I don't think you'll find many Jews drawing or using images of Abraham, Moses, Noah, etc. in their religious practices or even at all, for that matter. I could be wrong, though. I don't think this cartoon crap would be nearly as much of an issue if the climate of relations between the Islamic world (especially the Middle East) and the historically Christian world (IE the West) weren't as messed up as they currently are.

There are all sorts of idiots right now of every denomination, ideology, etc. that scream for the death of someone for little reason other than they're angry. Just look at Ann Coulter and the other right-wing morons espousing crap like forced religious conversion for Muslims, making the Middle East a "parking lot", calling Muslims (or anyone with slightly darker-than-Nordic skin) "towel heads" "sand-n******", making stupid, ignorant, misinformed statements about the nature of Islam (and by extension, Muslims), and my personal pet peeve - referring to Muslims as "hadjis", which isn't necessarily insulting (though it often seems intended to be), it's just stupid.
 

zipperhead_cop

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Kirkhill said:
zipperhead_cop:

I understood where you were coming from and agreed with your position.  I just took exception to your suggestion that there was a millenium of difference in social evolution between Islam and Christianity.  My point was that there isn't that much difference in attitudes.  Within my 50 years I have know Christians with similar attitudes.

As to your point about nobody still believing that is about religion I think that goes to my point. It isn't about religion.  It is about power.  Religion just happens to be a convenient banner around which to get people to rally.  It can just easily be about bread and circuses, let them eat cake or nationalising the railroads.  It makes no odds.  Those that seek power look for an issue to cut a large chunk of support away from the other guy's base.

Cheers.

+1
I agree, it is a power play wrapped up in a religious package.  I figured I would come across poorly treading into the religious ring, and quietly hoped someone would get what I was trying to put across.  Thanks for the assist, gents :salute:
 
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