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Abusive press release promoted by MAB

The Muslim Association of Britain, which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (so it’s even more reactionary and theocratic than the Muslim Council of Britain, which is saying something) issued a press release on Jesus and Mo a couple of days ago. It’s as mindless and bullying and illiberal as you’d expect.

Even the title is like that.

Abusive website promoted by prospective Liberal Democrat candidate

Jesus and Mo is not abusive. It’s a satirical comic strip; it satirizes religion. That’s not abusive.

That’s blindingly obvious but we have to keep saying it, 400 times a day if that’s what it takes. We have to, because the more the theocrats say things like that the more they drag the whole conversation in that direction. Overton window. Splitting the difference. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Ok, the LibDems say, a satirical comic strip about religion may not be literally abusive, but it’s not “respectful” and so blah blah blah blah blah – and the conversation is dragged a few inches in that direction.

No. Fuck that noise. We are allowed to have satirical comic strips about religion. Period. No blather about respect or hurt feelings; no qualifications; no nervous shuffling. We are allowed to.

Back to the MAB’s sack of shit.

The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) strongly condemns the cartoon pictures of the Prophets Jesus and Muhammad (may peace be upon them) published on the website called ‘Jesus and Mo.’

Despite the attempts of the website to publish comments from various public figures in praise of the ‘religious satire’ posted on the site, the published material is -in the main- extremely offensive to believers of Islam and Christianity.

The attempts? The comments are there, and have been for years. The publication of them has been successful. No doubt the MAB meant something like “despite the attempts of the website to deflect criticism by publishing comments from various public figures…” so let’s look at that idea. Endorsement by a few names doesn’t mean the material isn’t offensive; that’s probably the claim. Of course it doesn’t; next question?

The depiction of the holy Prophets Muhammad and Jesus (the peace be upon them) is, we believe, as insulting as those published in Denmark and this organization urges all those responsible to recognize the offensive and potentially inflammatory nature of these cartoons and remove them from the Internet with immediate effect.

So not insulting at all then. Notice the not very veiled threat of “and potentially inflammatory nature” – as in, watch out or we’ll burst into flames, and then won’t you be sorry. And then the bullying demand at the end. No. Fuck off.

Whilst the Muslim Association of Britain recognizes the rights to free speech and artistic expression

No, it doesn’t. That’s a brazen lie. It just ordered Author to remove his cartoon from the Internet. It doesn’t recognize the rights to free speech and artistic expression at all.

Whilst the Muslim Association of Britain recognizes the rights to free speech and artistic expression, we strongly question the wisdom of any individual or organization that places at risk the dignity and values of anyone else, even if they might not hold those values. Not only is this against the ethics of the Muslim Association of Britain, we believe that it is also against the values of British society.

The cartoon doesn’t place at risk the dignity and values of anyone else. You know what does? You know what places the dignity of British Muslims at risk? Bullshit like this press release, which feeds right into the horrible stereotype that all Muslims are petulant touchy prickly indignant babies; that they don’t have the faintest glimmer of understanding of secular values and why they matter; that they want to make everyone on earth grovel to Islam.

In addition, we note with sincere regret that the chairman and co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation has given his support to the website and given their tacit approval to the material published. It is clear that he, who is the Liberal Democrat MP candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, in no way represents or reflects the views and opinions of the vast majority of the
Muslim community in Britain. We, therefore question why such an individual would be put forward to represent a constituency of people of different cultural backgrounds.

If the MAB is right about that, it’s a tragedy. We’re always being told that “the vast majority of the Muslim community in Britain” is not unreasonable and illiberal in the manner of the MAB or the MCB, but groups like the MAB and the MCB do their damndest to demonstrate the very opposite. I hope the MAB is wrong about the majority, but I’m not confident.

We are astonished that the Liberal Democrat Party would wish to be represented by someone who is insensitive and quite clearly not concerned about causing offence to religious communities. We therefore call on the Liberal Democrat leadership to reverse its decision to appoint this Muslim candidate who is clearly out of touch with the views and opinions of both Christian and Muslim groups.

Again – we are allowed to be unconcerned about “causing offence to religious communities.” We are allowed to. It’s not the 10th century; it’s not even the 19th century; we are allowed to satirize, mock, criticize, laugh at religions. Get used to it.

 

Comments

  1. K.P.Sandors says

    It is highly offensive that the MAB keep referring to The Lord Jesus, son of God as just a ‘prophet’

  2. Katherine Woo says

    It’s not the 10th century; it’s not even the 19th century; we are allowed to satirize, mock, criticize, laugh at religions.

    Well Britain has a blasphemy law in effect until 2008. Someone was successfully prosecuted in the 1970′s and an attempt was made in the 2000′s.

    Labour tried to criminalize “insulting” religion in 2006.

    We need to be honest just how illiberal Britain is at its core when it comes to free expression and always has been.

    In fact a 19th century view of free speech, that is the views of Thomas Paine or John Stuart Mill & Harriet Taylor, would be a vast improvement over the actual law.

    Europe has betrayed free expression to a toxic mix of religious entitlement and leftwing paternalism. Pretending these Muslim groups are unrepresentative does not serve the ultimate cause of free expression. They are really just spouting conventional wisdom.

  3. exi5tentialist says

    Well, the Muslim Association of Britain are co-sponsors of the Stop the War Coalition,which organised the largest anti-war demonstration in history (the one against the Iraq invasion) in 2003. So that probably makes them a bit less reactionary than the Labour Party, don’t you think?

    On the subject of nasty stereotypes, reading Jesus and Mo I don’t think it’s unreasonable for anyone to read the cartoon Jesus as being a representation of a Christian, and the cartoon Mo as being a representation of a muslim. Yeah, argue with that view but I don’t think it is unreasonable. And given that not unreasonable reading, I can fully understand the inflamed emotions of muslims and christians at some of the cartoons. It’s not rocket science. Just a bit of emotional awareness.

    There’s more. I agree on the surface these cartoons purport to merely satirize religion in general (or rather two religions in particular). But I do wonder whether there isn’t a rather obvious islamophobic undercurrent to them. For example, in discussions concerning a recent LSE t-shirt incident, where students at a Fresher’s Fair were asked to leave for featuring the Jesus and Mo cartoons, there has been very little room for the observation that the speech bubble, “If this doesn’t work, I say we start burning stuff” was attributed the cartoon Muslim and not to the cartoon Christian. Isn’t that another stereotype – the muslim terrorist? At a Fresher’s Fair which, presumably, is attended by new muslim students? Welcoming, not?

    Or are we just meant not to notice?

    And does that even mean the MAB said the cartoons shouldn’t be “allowed”? I don’t think the MAB said anywhere in their press release that they shouldn’t be allowed. Perhaps a bit of inflamatory hyperbole of your own there, Ophelia. And as for when the MAB “ordered” people to take down the cartoons – er, where? Can’t see it. Run that past me again please?

    As far as I can see, the MAB are expressing their disapproval of a prospective parliamentary candidate, and urging the LibDems to do the same. That is, they’re exercising their democratic right to freedom of expression. And I support them in doing so. They’re “allowed” to.

    “Allowed” is a strong word. I argue the kind of stuff I’m arguing here all over the atheist internet. But in my experience it’s anti-islamophobic arguments that get banned, not the likes of Ophelia’s islamophobic efforts. What does that say about what is “allowed” in the atheist community?

    I agree with free speech. I agree that you are allowed to get all sexual and scatological with the muslims and say Fuck. That. Shit.

    In response Ophelia, I’ll exercise my freedom and say Check.Your.Islamophobia.

    Let’s see what’s allowed and not allowed now.

  4. says

    @3 – I know all that. I did a great many posts on the religious hate crime law at the time. I didn’t just pop into existence yesterday, Katherine, I’ve been paying pretty close attention to this subject for several years. (I co-wrote a book that touches on it at many points, for one thing.)

    I’m not “pretending” anything. (You sound a bit like the comments I’ve just been reading at British Muslims for Secular Democracy, from anti-secularists who call everyone “munafiq” in a very ugly way.) I’m pointing out the tension between postcolonialist types who like to claim that “the vast majority” of Muslims are as “moderate” as anyone else, and the MAB types who like to claim that “the vast majority” of Muslims are every bit as authoritarian as the MAB. They can’t both be right.

  5. Adam S says

    Seems some of the “postcolonial” ideas appear to be being used by the MAB types.

    Looking at the comments at Maajid Nawaz’s latest facebook note (expressing regret at the offense he caused), it is alarming how any commenter who identifies themselves as Muslim and defends secular/liberal values is immediately labelled a “sell-out”, “traitor” and accused of “crawling up the white man’s arse for points.”

    This has the flavour of accusing liberal/moderate Muslims as being “colonial collaborators’

  6. exi5tentialist says

    I recall in the 1970s a cartoon in the fortnightly satirical magazine Private Eye. The cartoon was called “The Gays”. I can say categorically as a gay teenager at the time that Private Eye’s depiction of gay and bisexual men was abusive, ignorant and stereotyping in a pretty nasty way.

    Somebody is going to have to work hard to convince this atheist that history isn’t repeating itself against a different minority and that in forty years time those of us who are still alive will look back on this Jesus and Mo stuff with similar horror, or just conveniently forget it.

  7. AsqJames says

    exi5tentialist @7,

    I don’t accept that Author is using Jesus & Mo to characterise all of either christians or muslims, but just for arguments sake, let’s take that hypothesis out for a ride.

    If the argument is that Jesus & Mo is “abusive, ignorant and stereotyping” of muslims (or christians) and that this promotes islamophobia (or christophobia) wouldn’t those allegedly campaigning against islamophobia be better served pointing to Maajid Nawaz’s tweet as positive evidence that muslims are not a monolithic bloc? Shouldn’t anti-islamophobics be saying “See? Maajid is a muslim, and he doesn’t get all ragey just because someone labels some pixels on the internet ‘Mo’. Therefore Author’s characterisation of muslims as shouty, ragey, burny, reactionaries is incorrect. We’re as diverse a group as any other section of society, yet we are all judged by the actions of a very small minority.”

    Except groups like MAB and MCB cannot make such a statement. Their whole thing is claiming to represent, or speak in the interests of, most (if not all) muslims in Britain. In doing so they are claiming that most (if not all) muslims in Britain think as they do. Thus they are as guilty of stereotyping their fellow muslims as any islamophobe.

  8. exi5tentialist says

    @AsqJames (9) – well hang on, why are you changing my meaning? I said I didn’t think it was unreasonable for anyone to “read a cartoon as representing” a christian and a muslim. I wasn’t making any comment on the intentions of any Author. The author of Jesus and Mo can go on drawing and publishing their cartoons as much as they want as far as I’m concerned; the intentions of one individual are just not worth arguing about. It’s the way any cultural reference is picked up, interpreted, republished and used that I’m describing, and I just don’t see how it would be unreasonable for any christian or muslim to read the cartoons as being some kind of representation of them. That’s why I think some muslims are expressing anger.

    Secondly you’re right, muslims aren’t a monolithc block. So what? We all know that. Ophelia attacked the MAB, not all muslims. It was Ophelia Benson’s attack I was addressing, not islamophobia in general.

    And what’s with everybody suddenly lumping the MCB in with the MAB in the same breath? Talk about monolithising.

    A lot of organisations purport to represent a bigger proportion of people than they do. Look at the LibDems. The Tories. I mean, come on. Singling out muslim organisations as being guilty of this popular transgression is islamophobic in its own right.

  9. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for anyone to read the cartoon Jesus as being a representation of a Christian, and the cartoon Mo as being a representation of a muslim.

    It’s completely unreasonable for anyone to read the cartoon Jesus as being a representation of a Christian, and the cartoon Mo as being a representation of a muslim. They are representations of the original Jesus and the body-double of the original Mo- people who thought they had messages from god and were entitled to make other people do what god wanted. Considering the things they said and mandated it is not “Christophobia” or “Islamophobia” to deride and criticise them. It is a perfectly sensible response to absurd and wicked doctrines.
    Those Christians and muslims who believe it are entitled to say people who don’t follow their absurd rules are wicked sinners who will deservedly go to hell and be tortured for ever. Their opponents are entitled to say they’re talking ridiculous and repellent nonsense.

  10. exi5tentialist says

    Yeah but the christophobia is really a cover for the islamophobia, isn’t it? This little outraged-of-Tunbridge-Wells piece by Ophelia Benson didn’t really have any christians in its sights, did it?

  11. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Have any christians yet responded to Jesus and Mo with threats and abuse?

  12. exi5tentialist says

    No. The MAB didn’t either. The MAB’s press release ↑ is what Ophelia’s article is about.

  13. Decker says

    I recall in the 1970s a cartoon in the fortnightly satirical magazine Private Eye. The cartoon was called “The Gays”. I can say categorically as a gay teenager at the time that Private Eye’s depiction of gay and bisexual men was abusive, ignorant and stereotyping in a pretty nasty way.

    And do you recall gays and lesbians at the time calling of the deaths of gays, lesbians and Jews?

    Or politicians?

    I remember thec 70s as a time when homophobic Christians ( like Anita Byrant) were regularly ridiculed and lampooned.

    ‘Prophet’ has hemmeroids!

  14. Stacy says

    And does that even mean the MAB said the cartoons shouldn’t be “allowed”? I don’t think the MAB said anywhere in their press release that they shouldn’t be allowed. Perhaps a bit of inflamatory hyperbole of your own there, Ophelia. And as for when the MAB “ordered” people to take down the cartoons – er, where? Can’t see it. Run that past me again please?

    The depiction of the holy Prophets Muhammad and Jesus (the peace be upon them) is, we believe, as insulting as those published in Denmark and this organization urges all those responsible to recognize the offensive and potentially inflammatory nature of these cartoons and remove them from the Internet with immediate effect.

    OK, sure, “urges” not “orders.” Whilst in the very same sentence reminding the reader of the Jyllands-Posten affair.

  15. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    The MAB’s press release

    says we strongly question the wisdom of any individual or organization that places at risk the dignity and values of anyone else, even if they might not hold those values.

    In other words: “Don’t do anything foolish”…
    It’s also hypocritical of the MAB. After all, muslims place at risk the dignity and values of people who don’t agree with muslims. They say people who don’t accept their beliefs when offered them or commit assorted “sins”- such as taking part in homosexual activity- will go to hell and be horribly tortured for ever and quite right too- surely a pretty low estimate of other peoples’ dignity and values.

  16. exi5tentialist says

    @Decker (15) Is your logic is that because some muslims have made death threats, all muslims must be silent when they feel under attack from anti-muslim propaganda?

    @Stacy (16) Is you logic because some muslims reacted violently to the Danish cartoons, all muslims must never refer to them again? I’m glad you agree Ophelia was wrong to say that the MAB “ordered” anyone to take the cartoons down.

    Finally just a reminder that the MAB has not made any threats of violence. It has specifically opposed them:-

    The Muslim Association of Britain and many others in the UK, completely and utterly
    condemn the use of violence in any protest against those who (are) publically hostile to our faith

    .
    Also I honestly don’t see how you can take a quote from the MAB that says one thing, then twist it round to say “in other words” claiming it says the exact opposite. Rational this is not.

  17. Katherine Woo says

    Why are people bothering arguing with exi5tentialist? The ‘depth’ of their analysis was laid out in this quote:

    Well, the Muslim Association of Britain are co-sponsors of the Stop the War Coalition,which organised the largest anti-war demonstration in history (the one against the Iraq invasion) in 2003. So that probably makes them a bit less reactionary than the Labour Party, don’t you think?

    They were against one war (in a Muslim nation) so they are given the benefit of the doubt on secularism, gender equality, LGBT tolerance, free speech, etc. It would be a joke, if you were not so serious about it all.

  18. Katherine Woo says

    @Opehlia

    I did not intend my original comment as a response to you. It was a more general commentary, play off of comments like No. 2 and several others through out this affair.

  19. exi5tentialist says

    @Katherine Woo – I’m glad you mentioned the war. It would be the elephant in the room otherwise.

  20. Stacy says

    Yeah but the christophobia is really a cover for the islamophobia, isn’t it?

    You don’t know whose blog you’re commenting on, do you?

    (Next you’ll be telling us that Ophelia never criticizes Christians. :D)

  21. exi5tentialist says

    I’m not very familiar with Ophelia Benson’s blog, no, that’s right. But when I said the christophobia is really a cover for the islamophobia I was really referring to Ophelia’s reaction to the Jesus and Mo cartoons, which I’ve already said seem to have an islamophobic bias. That bias doesn’t mean that islamophobic offenders never criticize christianity. Maybe there is a motivation to target all religions equally in Ophelia’s blog. I don’t know. I’m talking about what Ophelia and others have mentioned on this subject, and what they haven’t mentioned on this subject. Overall, it adds up to an islamophobic bias, which can’t just be put right by having a pop at some christians just to “balance it out”.

  22. Adam S says

    Some of the comments I’ve read, particular by and in reply to exi5tentialist, wander close to where my thoughts on the issues have been for the last couple of days. In particular I’ve been wondering:

    “If we could somehow disregard the veiled and not-so-veiled death threats Maajid has received (purely hypothetically – I don’t think these things should be taken lightly), and only consider the other responses i.e. complaints to Maajid directly, requests for retractions, petitions to his party/employer to drop him .etc. Would we consider this to be an appropriate level of response from an offended group in a civil, democratic society.”

    Or in other words, if we were talking about a group whose extreme elements did not jump to death threats, what sort of response would we like to see for such a perceived offence?

    I’d be interested in reading anyone else thoughts, unless people would feel this hypothetical off topic, or dislike hypotheticals when dealing with issues such as this.

  23. says

    Adam S, no, definitely not. People have a legal right to yap about how outraged they feel, of course, but I would still think and say that their outrage was ridiculous and illiberal.

    This isn’t a matter of, for instance, racist cartoons, designed to whip up hatred of people. I wouldn’t dream of defending anything like that (nor of course would my friend Author dream of doing cartoons like that). It’s not a matter of sexist or homophobic cartoons. It’s nothing to do with attacking or degrading people. It’s satirical commentary on theism. I think people getting outraged about that in 2014 are being absurd and worse than absurd.

  24. deepak shetty says

    @exi5tentialist
    I don’t think the MAB said anywhere in their press release that they shouldn’t be allowed.
    and
    and this organization urges all those
    responsible to recognize the offensive and potentially inflammatory nature of these cartoons
    and remove them from the Internet with immediate effect

    English is not my first language , but it’s hard to see how to interpret the latter statement other than they think it shouldn’t be allowed. They don’t just urge the author to voluntarily withdraw the cartoons – they urge *all* responsible (possibly the ISP and host) and they intentionally throw in Danish cartoons and inflammatory (i.e. last time around there were violent riots do you want that again?).
    It’s also amusing to see the author of Jesus and Mo to be accused of Islamophobia. Got any more examples to make your case?

  25. Katherine Woo says

    @exi5tentialist

    Maybe there is a motivation to target all religions equally in Ophelia’s blog.

    There is no rational basis for targeting “all religions equally.” Religions are not equal in terms of the number of followers, their specific teachings, the degree to which those teachings impact non-belivers, the degree to which secularism is an accepted value, their political influence, etc. They are equal only in being false.

    By your ridiculous standard, Rastafarians should be criticized as often as evangelical Christians. I highly doubt you actually believe that but it is a nice bit of sophistry to tisk tisk everyone for “islamophobic bias” without you having to actually take a real stand on this incident. It is cowardly.

  26. Adam S says

    Ophelia @26

    I agree completely, but it’s easy to agree to be against “things that are designed to whip up hatred”. However, for some, the line between satirical and offensive is subjective. One person’s meat is another’s poison as they say.

    So what if someone, made a cartoon satirising homosexuality. For many it is satire, but for a significant percentage of the gay population it is very offensive. Would we blame those who are offended for complaining, demanding a retraction of the cartoon or asking the newspaper, TV station, website .etc to drop the cartoonist?

    I guess I’m trying to determine if my feelings that the response to this issue was ridiculous stems from the reaction itself, or my sentiments on how daft I think their religion is, or from my own blind privilege.

  27. Al Dente says

    Adam S @29

    The difference between satire aimed at theists and satire aimed at homosexuals is that the first is punching up and the second is punching down.

    Theists expect to be respected because that’s how it’s always been. They’re in the majority, they “have god on their side” and until fairly recently disrespect towards religion was literally a capital offense (it still is in places like Saudi Arabia). Satire of theists and theism is disrespectful towards those who feel respect for their beliefs is a justified right.

    Homosexuals are a despised, discriminated against minority. Satire towards them is bullying. The same is true about any minority.

  28. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    I’m glad you mentioned the war. It would be the elephant in the room otherwise.

    What does the invasion of Iraq have to do with the right to deride ideologies, including religions, and the question of whether those ideologies are entitled to request, urge or demand, with or without extreme prejudice, self-suppression or suppression of that derision, Exi5tentialist?

    Apart from al Dente’s very good points just above, religion and homosexuality are not just different things, they are different kinds of thing and so is satire of them. If there were an ideology of homosexualism- an organised belief that homosexuality and homosexual behaviour were somehow better than and superior to other sexual tastes and a set of activities and doctrines resulting from that belief and that homosexualists were entitled to say they were superior and decide what is and is not tolerable and to demand respect for their opinion- they would be comparable, but there isn’t and they’re not.

  29. Katherine Woo says

    I’d be interested in reading anyone else thoughts, unless people would feel this hypothetical off topic, or dislike hypotheticals when dealing with issues such as this.

    It is interesting you mention “blind privilege” in a follow-up post. In effect that is what many Muslims are demonstrating. Islam is so used to total protection from criticism, let alone ridicule, in its ‘native’ environments that I think people lack the socialized maturity to handle something as innocuous as as a guy named “Mo” saying ‘hi.’

    Add in a Britain that criminalizes a variety of speech based on very subjective criteria and you have a confirmation of that privilege. A man was just arrested for example for tearing up a Quran at a soccer game, not for littering or a general disorder charge, but for “racial hatred.”

    Further aniconism is a very specific Islamic doctrine that is fundamentally out-of-sync with all major non-islamic societies. People draw what they like, including any living thing or person. Non-Muslims have absolutely no obligation of any sort to ever endorse or accommodate Islamic norms. People may do so out of social courtesy, but it cannot be an expectation. But the conduct of Muslims, as a whole, reveals exactly that expectation, that sense of entitlement. In that context some deliberate confrontation is in order to drive home the realities of a secular society. That is the very point Nawaz was trying to make.

    By the way I would aggressively defend racist, homophobic, anti-Amrican, etc. expression on First Amendment grounds, unless it triggered the few exceptions SCOTUS has aid out..

  30. Iain Walker says

    exi5tentialist (#4):

    the Muslim Association of Britain are co-sponsors of the Stop the War Coalition,which organised the largest anti-war demonstration in history (the one against the Iraq invasion) in 2003. So that probably makes them a bit less reactionary than the Labour Party, don’t you think?

    Yes, because “reactionary” and “non-reactionary” are categories decided by this one issue and this one issue alone.

    But in my experience it’s anti-islamophobic arguments that get banned, not the likes of Ophelia’s islamophobic efforts.

    And yet here you and your comments are – not banned.

    Meanwhile, in my experience, “Islamophobia” has become the latest epithet used by certain quarters of the postmodernist “left” to shut down debate about religion, and people are becoming increasingly aware of how content-free the term is becoming and how dishonest its usage often is. There are real problems of racism and discrimination faced by Muslims in the UK, and there are racists and anti-Muslim bigots out there to whom a term like “Islamophobe” can be meaningfully applied. Conflating these problems with the criticism and satirising of religious beliefs and practices is not calm and rational analysis but politically motivated well-poisoning. And judging by your own usage of the term, “christophobia” seems to have acquired a similar function.

    (#10):

    Singling out muslim organisations as being guilty of this popular transgression is islamophobic in its own right.

    Nice use of whataboutism and the tu quoque fallacy. The organisation in the context of this discussion is a Muslim one. If we were talking about how a particular political party claimed to speak for a dubiously large number of people would we be guilty of “libdemophobia” or “ukipophobia”? By your criteria we apparently would be, but the accusation would be just as empty.

    (#23):

    I’m not very familiar with Ophelia Benson’s blog, no, that’s right.

    Good to see you know whereof you speak, then.

    I’m talking about what Ophelia and others have mentioned on this subject, and what they haven’t mentioned on this subject. Overall, it adds up to an islamophobic bias, which can’t just be put right by having a pop at some christians just to “balance it out”.

    Butterflies and Wheels, like most blogs, tends towards the topical. Ophelia has also demonstrated a strong interest in how religion affects issues like women’s rights and free speech. So when a case of Muslims attacking free speech (including that of other Muslims) comes up, it is unsurprising that it should be covered in detail – because that’s what’s currently going on in the world that is relevant to the focus of the blog. If you find the current emphasis on matters relating to Islam “islamophobic”, then you are guilty of sampling bias and also a failure to grasp the direction of cause and effect – has it ever occurred to you that if groups and individuals within Islam didn’t attack free speech, there might be fewer posts here about, well, groups and individuals within Islam attacking free speech?

    And the casual dismissiveness of the “having a pop at” comment is revealing in and of itself. So apparently blogging a story about (e.g.) the bullying of non-Christian children in US schools is just something idle and gratuitous, a mere fig leaf for an anti-Muslim fixation. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be a thing that decent human beings should be concerned about, could it?

  31. Adam S says

    Al Dente @ 30

    In Britain, Muslims are a minority who have been victim of some quite vile racism from the far-right, and atheists are a majority (with over 50% of Britons identifying as “nones”). Can satirising them really be punching up?

    For me, the amusement and effect of the Jesus and Mo cartoons is not in poking fun at the powerful, but in mocking the absurdity of the ideas and the hypocrisy of the followers. I think we can say that anyone, regardless of relative status can be absurd or hypocritical. How offensive we find such satire would probably depend on status, however.

    This puts me in line with Katherine @ 31, I think. I agree there is a difference in mocking a set of beliefs and ideals and mocking a group of people directly. However, many Muslims appear to disagree. It appears, to me, to be presumptuous to tell people what they should/should not be offended by. This is what I was referring to when I mentioned privilege in my previous post. A group of people (many white) telling another group that they shouldn’t be offended by something seems too much like a man telling women they shouldn’t be offended by cat calls on the street in London when other women are being stoned to death in Afghanistan.

    This all seems beside the main question, however. I agree that the response to Maajid’s tweet seems ridiculous and overblown, especially in regard to such a harmless cartoon. I think many of these Islamic groups, by forcing society to hold any depiction of Mohammed as taboo, are in effect compelling us to follow their religion.

    However, do I think this response is ridiculous simply because I find their religion and their ideas concerning “idolatry” ridiculous, or is it the response itself.

    My question concerns our expectations of what is a reasonable recourse for offended groups in a civil, liberal society. We often hear that “No one has the right to not be offended.” Therefore, it follows that everyone has the right to be offended. If this is true, then our judgement regarding the scale of their response should be independent of whether or not we agree with why they are offended.

    If we take any group who is offended by something in a particular medium, lets say a talk radio commenter, what should they do about it. Contact the commenter to ask for an apology and retraction? Contact the radio station to ask them to pressure the commenter into apologising, or dismissing him/her? Get the message of your offence out there to rally support or organise a boycott? Hold a protest?

    To me these all seem like reasonable even necessary steps to register your offence and try to push society towards a place where such comments are not made. In the end, this are the sorts of things that we as citizens need to do to try to change society for the better and for more justice. They are the only way to hold people in the media responsible for their content without constantly demanding governments to step in and make clumsy laws banning various forms of speech against this group or that group (e.g. the racial hatred arrest Katherine mentioned).

    Those who disagree that the original comment was offensive can also arrange their own petitions and protests in support of the commenter etc. The radio station has complete freedom on what side they fall and will have to face the consequences of that decision.

    If we discount the vile death threats Maajid has received, what is described above seems to be what has happened. Yet, I still find myself looking at the situation and seeing a complete over-reaction. Is this a fair judgement is what I’m wondering.

    Is anyone else having any similar thoughts?

  32. Shatterface says

    But in my experience it’s anti-islamophobic arguments that get banned, not the likes of Ophelia’s islamophobic efforts.

    Citation needed.

  33. Iain Walker says

    Adam S (#34):

    atheists are a majority (with over 50% of Britons identifying as “nones”).

    “Nones” =/= “atheists”. If you’re talking about the figures from the 2008 European Social Survey (UK), then the question was “Do you consider yourself as belonging to any particular religion or denomination?”, to which c53% of respondents replied “No”. That’s not the same as 53% not believing in any gods.

  34. says

    Katherine @ 32

    By the way I would aggressively defend racist, homophobic, anti-Amrican, etc. expression on First Amendment grounds, unless it triggered the few exceptions SCOTUS has laid out.

    Defend it from what? Police action, or criticism?

    I would never defend racist or homophobic or sexist expression, because I think it’s a bad kind of expression. The First Amendment is beside the point. The First Amendment has force quite independent of my opinions of what is bad expression. The First Amendment doesn’t require us to make aggressive defenses of expression we consider bad.

  35. Shatterface says

    “Nones” =/= “atheists”. If you’re talking about the figures from the 2008 European Social Survey (UK), then the question was “Do you consider yourself as belonging to any particular religion or denomination?”, to which c53% of respondents replied “No”. That’s not the same as 53% not believing in any gods.

    Alas

  36. Al Dente says

    Adam S @34

    In Britain, Muslims are a minority who have been victim of some quite vile racism from the far-right, and atheists are a majority (with over 50% of Britons identifying as “nones”). Can satirising them really be punching up?

    This is true. Now if you reread my post @30 you will find that I didn’t mention Muslims once. I did mention Saudi Arabia where Muslims are the majority and Salafism is the state religion (Salafism is a particularly fundamentalist, puritanical sect of Islam). @30 I discussed satire directed at theism. Considering England has a state religion (while other parts of the UK don’t officially have state religions, various religions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have cultural power) then satire at theism in Britain is punching up.

    As Iain Walker points out @36, nones are not the same as atheists.

  37. Katherine Woo says

    @Ophelia

    Defend it from what? Police action, or criticism?

    The actions of the state, of course. I’m not sure what I said that would leave any confusion on that matter. No one has a right to be free from criticism. That is an obvious tenet of traditional liberalism.

    I also think major corporate entities that control the medium of expression need to be held to a close standard as well, but that is a more complex issue.

    @Adam S.

    In Britain, Muslims are a minority who have been victim of some quite vile racism from the far-right,

    A few question to ask yourself:

    Why do you use “far right” as a Muslim-exclusive label? How can you get more far-right that some of the sharia advocates in Britain?

    You vaguely refer to “vile racism” but what about bigotry Muslims project towards non-Muslims? Muslims are 5% of the British populace I recently read, but have killed 50-100 non-Muslims in the past decade with several thwarted major attacks added in. Have non-Muslims killed or attempted to kill that many Muslims in absolute numbers, let alone factoring per capita? Add in pimping of non-Muslim girls, homophobic attacks, antisemitic attacks, etc. and may you have even more disproportionate abuse.

    There is no doubt genuine instances of Islamophobia occur and must be condemned without qualification if they involve any form of violence. A person still needs to be honest about which side in a conflict is disproportionately responsible for the violence. Being to quick to see a minority as a victim can be lazy paternalism. I also focus on personal violence first and foremost, because however upsetting, vandalism, bigoted language, etc. is not in the same league. I don’t have nightmares about the LA Riots twenty years on because someone gave me a dirty look on the bus.

  38. Adam S says

    Iain and Al Dente

    You are right. Equating atheists to none was lazy and unclear. Irreligious would have been a better term.

    @39

    You are right you referred to theists, not Muslims. However, given the specific of the incident/cartoons we’re talking about theists seems to be a vague term.

    I was trying to suggest that if we describe the different between offensive and acceptable satire as “punching up rather than down,” then terms like theism are too broad to be of any use. Not all religions have the same status in society, as you pointed out Britain has a state religion but it is not Islam. It is hard to imagine a satire of Islam as punching up in the USA, whilst satirising Christianity definitely would.

    As I tried to say before, though I probably mangled it, satire (and least in the Jesus and Mo) seems more to do with absurdity than power.

    @Katherine

    I did not mean to use far-right as Muslim-exclusive. Those who are often termed “Islamists” are most definitely of the extreme right and as bad if not worse than the EDL and the like. Nor I did I mean to indicate minorities are victims. “Victimhood” (for want of a better phrase), is highly contextual and can really only be talked about on a case by case basis. Again, I was simply trying to indicate that the position of Muslims in British society is not so secure as it can always be described as “punching up” like could probably be said about Christianity. So I’m not sure if blanket terms like theism apply.

    However, as I believe everyone has a right to be offended, and to seek (if not always get) some sort of action toward those responsible, then what sort of actions we deem appropriate in a civil society should be decoupled from whether or not we think the party is right to be offended or if where they are in the relative hierarchy of social status. Therefore, in this discussion I am trying to be less concerned with whether I think those who were offended by the pictures were right, but more with the subsequent actions they took regarding their offence.

    However, as I also agree with you, Ophelia and others that their offence seems ridiculous, I am struggling with it.

  39. exi5tentialist says

    @Al Dente (30) (39)

    Considering England has a state religion (while other parts of the UK don’t officially have state religions, various religions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have cultural power) then satire at theism in Britain is punching up.

    I agree with Adam S. Satirizing Christianity (by which I do not mean dehumanizing Christians) in Britain is punching up. Satirizing muslims is most definitely punching down. “Satirizing theism” fails to recognize this difference.

    Couple of observations about Jesus and Mo. It’s Jesus and Mo, not Jeeze and Mo, or Jesus and Mohammed. Why’s Jesus getting the respect and Mohammed is being diminished? Artistic style? Ah right.

    The other point I’ve mentioned before. The LSE Fresher’s Fair atheist t-shirts showed the muslim threatening violence, not the Christian. Given Adam S’s observation that satirizing muslims is punching down while satirizing christians is punching up, even if the Jesus and “Mo” cartoons had been presented as satirizing both religions equally, there would be a strong case for saying it the cartoons are islamophobic purely because of the different status of christianity and islam.

    So I can see three reasons for saying Jesus and Mo cartoons are actually islamophobic, and I’m beginning to think, if I was a muslim, I’d be feeling angry.

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