Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Followup on the Danish Cartoons

I've written before about the Danish cartoons that the Muslims were up in arms about a couple of years ago. At the time I was thinking that the Muslim reaction represented a clear effort to suppress criticism, or any heterodox view, relating their religion, and nothing has happened to suggest that all of us who were opposing the fundamentalists were wrong about that.

So here's the latest:
Murder plot against Danish cartoonist

Published 12.02.08 08:21 - updated 17:31

Early Tuesday morning, Danish police arrested three men with a Muslim background suspected of conspiring to kill Kurt Westergaard, a Danish cartoonist with Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.

Two of those arrested are Tunisian citizens, one a Danish citizen, according to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, which has kept the group under surveillance for months.

So what do you know? These people aren't just people who got offended and are expressing their hurt feelings in their unique, culturally diverse way. No! When they say they're going to kill people who don't talk about Allah the way they want, they mean it, and they're actually going to try to kill them.

Say what you will about Christianity, and I'm no fan of it, but at least, it's pretty rare to hear about Christians plotting to kill people because they don't like the way they talk about Jeebus, do you?

Maybe what's called for here is a little less tolerance of violent groups.


Blogger Stevem said...

I think your reference to "Muslims" and "the Muslim response" is misleading. It suggests a degree of concensus that probably does not exist.

I don't recall if the response to these cartoons was the official reaction of a nation or nations, or of a credible religious group rather than a radical sect. But even if it was the government of Iran that responded thus, that represents a very small segment of Muslims. It might be akin to characterizing Bush's reaction to an attack in Iraq as "the Christian response."

I think the problem here is not one of religion, but of extremism. Most Muslims will not try to blow up innocents, most Christians will not try to attack mosques, most (fill in the blank) will not try to (fill in the blank). But a vocal, well-supported minority of extremists of any religious group - Christians, Muslims, even Jews - can do horrible things in the name of faith.

Women and men of faith have done and will continue to do good things for the right reasons. Acknowledging that may help us to focus our righteous intolerance on the correct target, rather than discrediting the good and honorable people along with the wicked and misguided.

February 14, 2008 11:48 AM  
Blogger Jack McCullough said...

I'd like to think that, too. Maybe it is a minority who decides to stone adulterers and apostates, execute rape victims, and keep women locked up at home with their menfolk. Unfortunately, it's a minority that has a lot of power.
PZMyers had a post today about the Saudis sentencing a woman to death for witchcraft. You put enough of these together and it starts to look less like an aberration.
The problem is not just with the fundamentalists, it's also with the moderates, who might not even agree with the fundamentalists, but who frequently share the same pernicious views about male supremacy, etc., and just balk at the methods.
And wherever we go we hear that we are somehow bound to respect people's religious beliefs, no matter how abhorrent they are. And I just don't see it. If you say we shouldn't criticize people for their race, or their sexual orientation, or for their disability, I'm with you all the way, but religion is different. Religion is a choice, so as far as I can see it is as valid a basis for criticism as one person's support for David Duke, or another person's bizarre idea that what you're going to hear when you play an ABBA record should actually be considered music.

February 14, 2008 11:31 PM  
Blogger Stevem said...

I think this good column from the Winston-Salem Journal addresses apertinent issue:

A fundamental doctrine of women
Those who reject traditional Muslim views should give equal notice to Christian views
By Anthony Layng
Saturday, March 8, 2008

The widely publicized 2007 case of the Saudi 19-year-old who, after being gang-raped by seven men, was initially sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes shocked American sensitivities. Concern for the rights of women has evolved from focusing on an American problem in the 1970s to condemning traditional Muslim culture in the 21st century.

According to the Quran, women are socially inferior to men and are appropriately beaten if they misbehave. Additionally, women are easily divorced from their husbands and children, and can inherit only half as much as their brothers. And men are instructed to separate themselves from menstruating women. Many educated Americans are shocked that entire societies today take seriously such archaic writings.

When the Bible was being written, a young woman’s virginity was highly valued. As we read in Deuteronomy: “A man who is responsible for deflowering another man’s daughter must compensate the father for that loss.” Notice that the compensation is paid not to the devalued daughter but to her father. In biblical times, every woman was considered to be the property of her father or husband.

According to Genesis, women were created as something of an afterthought, once it became evident that Adam could use a helper. And after Eve demonstrated that women were disobedient and a bad influence, God said to her, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing.” Of course, God was also perturbed by Adam for following the advice of a woman, so he kicked both of them out of the Garden of Eden and made them wear clothing. As further punishment, Adam was forced to invent agriculture.

Archaeologically we know that for most of human history, people subsisted by hunting and gathering, not farming, and those who lived in warm climates were content to be entirely naked. This is in sharp contrast to what Genesis would have us believe.

As both the Bible and the Quran would have it, women are inferior to men, less righteous than men, dangerous to men, possessions of men, and appropriately subordinate to men. Not surprisingly, fundamentalist Christian organizations have a history of opposing women’s suffrage, painkillers during childbirth and sexual equality in a marital relationship.

In numerous tribes in South America, Africa and Australia, recounted myths tell of a chaotic ancient time when women were in charge of society and men were forced to take control to introduce order and stability. These tribal tales, so similar to the Adam and Eve story, are told to children to make it clear that the subordination of women is necessary for the common good of the community.

Whether a society uses menstrual taboos, veils or the double standard regarding virginity, the message is the same: Women’s sexual nature must be controlled because everyone will suffer if women are too independent. In tribal societies, religious myths illustrate what happens when severe restrictions are absent, and sacred rituals dramatically reinforce the belief that it is men who must rein in the women.

The Bible tells us that wives must be led by their husbands in all matters and that menstruating women are unclean and magically dangerous to others. In tribal societies, menstrual taboos and others that specifically restrict the sexual behavior of women both reflect and reinforce the belief that the measure of a woman’s worth is her sexuality and reproductive capacity. In other words, whatever additional roles a woman may play in the community, political or economic, for example, her value will be judged primarily on her performance as wife and mother.

The Bible is no less sexist than the Quran. Fortunately, we do not yet have an example of a contemporary country basing its laws on fundamentalist Christian doctrine. However, several countries have adopted sharia law in which madrassahs (Quranic schools) indoctrinate children to 5th century norms. Numerous and popular Bible-based schools in America have this same capacity.

Our nation has a tradition that discourages publicly disputing religious views that differ from our own. Although I have long supported this politically correct prohibition, now that legislation and education are being so zealously influenced by religious fundamentalism, I feel the time has come to challenge biblical literalism in defense of reason and social liberalism. Most of us readily condemn the treatment of women in fundamentalist Muslim countries, but fail to recognize that further erosion of women’s rights could happen here also if the growing influence of religious fundamentalism remains largely unchallenged.

■ Anthony Layng, a cultural anthropologist who taught as an adjunct professor at Wake Forest after retiring from Elmira College in New York, has written numerous articles on religion and women.

March 08, 2008 3:45 PM  

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