Monday, February 06, 2006

Ave, Bluto!

Bluto, a co-blogger over at the right-leaning My Pet Jawa, notes that Islamists are now responding in kind to the recent inflammatory cartoons (i.e., the ones depicting Muhammad and Islam in a bad light-- see a writeup of the history of the toons over at Gypsy Scholar) by publishing their own Holocaust-bashing art.

Soon to be lost in the Islamist shuffle will be the fact that thousands of maddened Jews and Danes will not be taking to the streets and shouting, "Death to Islam! Death to Arabs!", etc., and running straight to the nearest Syrian or Jordanian or French* embassies to burn them down and threaten their staffers. Maybe a few white skinhead types will start sharpening their knives and yammering about "ragheads," but we Westerners label such people, who are by no means common, as ill. I'm trying to wrap my mind around a culture that considers it normal-- or at least justified-- to storm embassies, fire ill-gotten weapons into the air, shout death slogans, etc.

The biggest canard is the still-rampant Edward Said meme: that all this unfocused rage is some sort of "natural" or "inevitable" response to poverty and oppression, a reaction to the horrifying rape of the powerless Orient by the maleficent West. I suppose the "victim" rationale explains why China (known for its oppression) and India (known for its large swaths of poverty) are engulfed in flames as I write this. While poverty and oppression and a history of certain Western injustices doubtless play some role in Muslim grievances, the evidence of other countries, religions, and cultures suggests that there is nothing-- NOTHING-- inevitable about current Muslim reaction to a few cartoons.

I refuse to call these extremists animals. I won't dehumanize them and thereby give them an excuse for their behavior. They're grown adults with, in many cases, plenty of access to information about the outside world. They know how others respond to poverty and oppression. If they react with violence, it's because they've made a choice** to do so. These aren't victims-- not even the poorest of them. They're children of a religion that, from my superficial study of it, does inculcate definite notions of right and wrong. I can't hold these people accountable if I write them off as crazy or inhuman. They are neither. What they are is wrong.

*Sorry... just being an asshole. Heh.

**In a private email, I called these Muslims' behavior "simply sick." This doesn't contradict the idea of choice at all: raging lung cancer is the end result of a long series of choices every time a smoker is faced with a cigarette. My own blubberosity doesn't grant me victim status: it's the result of bad choices I've made, and which I can unmake. The process takes effort, of course; to continue down the path is to succumb to laziness, and laziness takes many forms, including the spiritual.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the late 90s I went to language school in Korea with a Pakistani, who was and is a good friend, and thankfully apolitical. After 9/11 I was in Korea for the summer and met with my friend and half a dozen other Pakistanis from his dorm. Not having discussed political matters with my friend, I did with the others, including the role of Muslims in the 9/11 attacks. They all agreed that UBL had done some bad things and needed to cool the rhetorical, but they also all said that it was the Jews who orchestrated 9/11. Somehow, I was told, the Jews corrupted some Arabs and got them to do this terrible things. These were moderate-liberal Muslims saying this. With that sort of logic and the conspiracy theories that flourish in the Muslim world, it’s probably not hard to push a moderate-conservative Muslim over the edge into being a foaming-at-the-mouth embassy torchers.