Thursday, February 23, 2006

Supreme Court pick Rothstein Roundup

Here is what people are saying about Harper's new Supreme Court pick:

Stephen Taylor:
I really like what Harper is doing with this new transparent process.
Most Canadians likely can name more US Supreme Court justices than
Canadian Supreme Court justices.

Wikipedia is all over this:
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen Rothstein as his nomination to the top court, he will now undergo a public hearing in an 'ad-hoc committee of parlimentarians,' a new step in the judicial appointment process created by Stephen Harper in consultation with constitutional law expert Peter Hogg.
Non sequitur:
I noticed that in the French Canoe.ca coverage of Marshall Rothstein being Harper's nominee to the SCC,
they felt it necessary to point out that he'll be the 3rd Jewish person
on the bench. As far as i can tell, none of the English coverage felt
it necessary to mention that.
The Black Kettle:
THIS IS INEXCUSABLE. WHAT DO THE HARPER DEFENDERS SAY NOW?
Anonalogue:
Marshall Rothstein, I don't think so.




Monday, February 20, 2006

How Google Maps Got Me Out Of A Traffic Ticket:
"So who was the judge to believe? I was desperate for proof so I did the unthinkable: I whipped out my notebook. I was very lucky to find an extremely bad connection via Wi-Fi. I pulled up Firefox and went to maps.google.com."
It's semi-dramatic. Read it. Maps and all.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Where is the Potent Pew?

The Potent Pew is taking a bit of a break. We are getting to reload and re-launch a newly redesigned website. So far, it is looking fantastic.

Stay tuned.

Vatican Brings Down Government

Thanks to several Danish cartoons, appraisals and examinations of freedom of speech have swamped editorials and opinion columns in western media.

But what about freedom of conscience?


Vatican abortion treaty brings down government


Nicholas Watt
Saturday February 11, 2006
The Guardian

The Vatican has inadvertently triggered the collapse of the government in Slovakia, one of the economic stars of the 10 entrants to the EU, in a row over abortion rights.
The parliament in Bratislava voted on Thursday to hold elections early, on June 17, after Christian Democrats quit Mikulas Dzurinda's centre-right minority coalition government.
The party is angry with the prime minister after he refused to endorse a draft treaty with the Vatican that would have allowed healthcare workers in hospitals founded by the Catholic church to refuse to carry out abortions on conscience grounds. http://www.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,,1707579,00.html


“This agreement [“Treaty between the Republic of Slovakia and the Holy See on the Right to Exercise Conscientious Objection”] would protect the right of all to exercise conscientious objection in relation to universal values, the group said. 

Thus a Catholic doctor would have the right to refuse to participate in objectionable practices such as abortions, assisted procreation, experimentation with human embryos, euthanasia and sterilization”
http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=84176

Paul Belien, editor of Brusselsjournal.com shrewdly remarked:

“Two clashes of civilization are currently taking place in Europe. Freedom-loving people having to fight on two fronts. One involves the radical segment of the immigrant Muslim population that opposes basic Western values such as freedom of speech and that is intent on imposing Islamic taboos (such as the mere fact of depicting their prophet Muhammad) on the non-Islamic population. The other involves radical secularists that want to eradicate all remnants of traditional Christian culture from post-Christian Europe by restricting the right to conscientious objection on the part of religious people.”

According to the EU “Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights” doctors should sometimes be forced to perform abortions, even if they have conscientious objections, because the right to abort a child is an “international human right,” while the right to conscientious objection is not “unlimited.”
http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/794

For further reading here is a link to the EU document regarding, “the Right to Conscientious objection and the conclusion by EU member states of concordats with the Holy See”.
http://www.crlp.org/pdf/CFR-CDFopinion4-2005.pdf


As Europe stands together in solidarity proclaiming ‘Freedom of Speech’ through provocative publications and republications must it not also look inwards to the bludgeoning of its own freedoms?

Should the priority be to champion the freedom of provocative actions or passive objections?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Early controversy hasn't hurt Tory support, poll suggests - Yahoo! News

Early controversy hasn't hurt Tory support, poll suggests - Yahoo! News: "
The Decima Research survey of 1,010 adult Canadians, conducted between Feb. 9 and 13, suggests there has been no significant change in national support for the Tories.

Thirty-five per cent of respondents said they would vote Conservative, compared with 36 per cent who cast ballots on election day.

The poll put support for the Liberals at 25 per cent, down five percentage points from Jan. 23.

Twenty-four per cent of respondents backed the NDP, up from 17.5 per cent election day."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Iran demands apology over German cartoon

Wednesday February 15, 2006
The Guardian

A German newspaper yesterday published a cartoon depicting the Iranian football team dressed as suicide bombers, opening up a new front in the row over caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

Iran immediately demanded an apology from Der Tagesspiegel, which showed four Iranian players at this summer's World Cup in Germany with explosives attached to their chests. A caption read: "Why the German army should definitely be used during the football World Cup." The general secretary of Iran's sports press association yesterday described the latest caricature as a "black joke". The Iranian embassy in Berlin called for an apology, saying the cartoon was "an immoral act".



.....Iran's bestselling newspaper, Hamshahri, yesterday defended its competition for cartoons about the Holocaust, saying it was a test of the free speech allegedly espoused by western countries. The contest is a serious exercise in debate, said Mohammadreza Zaeri, publisher of Hamshahri. "We do not want to make fun of anyone with this competition, we just want to raise a question to find an answer which is very important for us."
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoonprotests/story/0,,1710020,00.html)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Does anyone else not see the unequivocal parallels between the two Iranian statements?

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Mohammad Cartoon controversy comes to Canada via the Western Standard

Western Standard's Ezra Levant (EL), publisher, was interviewed by the CBC this morning:

"EL: ...I don't mean to be rude Harry, but why hasn't the CBC shown the cartoons?

HF: You could easily cover that news without showing the cartoons.

EL: Well, I'm not sure 'easily' because you wouldn't know what the cartoons are like.

HF: They've been published elsewhere and are available on the Internet..."

Dumb answer. Why is the CBC even reporting the news at all, then, if that is the reason they aren't publishing the cartoons? Since all the news the CBC reports is already published elsewhere and is available on the Internet, why do they even bother publishing news covered by other news sources? Like I said...dumb response.

COMMENTING on Ezra Levant's decision to publish the cartoons, Mohamed Elmasry, leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress, had this to say: "I think he really goes against the will and the values of Canadians by this provocative action."

Let me just ad hominem Elmasry by mentioning the fact that he once remarked that "Anyone above [the age of] 18 [in Israel] is a combatant", meaning that they are a "legitimate targets." When asked again whether "Anyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?", Elmasry replied: "Yes, I would say,"

Take Elmasry's comments with a grain of salt.

The Stranger posts Mohammed Cartoons

... what’s happening here is that a gang of bullies—led by a country, Saudi Arabia, where Bibles are forbidden, Christians tortured, Jews routinely labeled “apes and pigs” in the state-controlled media, and apostasy from Islam punished by death—is trying to compel a tiny democracy to live by its own theocratic rules. To succumb to pressure from this gang would simply be to invite further pressure, and lead to further concessions—not just by Denmark but by all of democratic Europe. And when they’ve tamed Europe, they’ll come after America.

After all, the list of Western phenomena that offend the sensibilities of many Muslims is a long one—ranging from religious liberty, sexual equality, and the right of gay people not to have a wall dropped on them, to music, alcohol, dogs, and pork. After a few Danish cartoons, what’s next? - The Stranger - News - Feature - All the Rage:

It is important to thoroughly consider who it is that are re-publishing and distributing these cartoons.

Some folks like to point, with a look-at-them-right-wingers-go glee, those folks posting the Mohammed cartoons.

Yet, certainly Seattle's The Stranger is nowhere close to being labeled a right wing paper and they have evidently posted several of the cartoons on their website and perhaps published them too (to be confirmed).

And what about the clerics that distributed the cartoons in the Muslim world? What makes them different from Levant, publisher of the Western Standard? Shouldn't they be scolded just as much as newspaper publishers for distributing the materials in question?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Liberals contemplate quick comeback after disastrous first week for Harper - Yahoo! News

'We're going to oppose those measures that we find are not in the interests of Canada and Canadians and we'll oppose them all the way,' Graham said.

'And if that leads to the government falling, it's going to lead to the government falling. And the way they're making their decisions it's clear that could happen earlier rather than later just given the nature of what they're doing.'

Harper plunged his fledgling regime into turmoil with some unusual choices for his cabinet which cast doubt on his election pledge to run a more accountable, ethical administration. - Liberals contemplate quick comeback after disastrous first week for Harper - Yahoo! News:

Am I missing something? Is the situation really that dire?

Anti-protest protest in Paris

Two guys in Paris are caught on video wearing a Danish flag and a sign reading "free cartoonists" amid what I think may be called an anti-Danish
Mohammed Cartoon" protest.

Check out the video here.

While I wouldn't want to be them, I do wonder if they really are in the wrong for protesting agains the protest.

Do they not have the write to stand up for the other side, even if the other side is wrong?

Andrew Coyne strikes back

Andrew Coyne has a very thoughtful response to most of the arguments that I raise here and here. I encourage everyone who is interested in laws banning MP switching from party-to-party to read his post:
"A clever riposte to those who want to ban MPs from switching parties is to bring up the question of free votes. Isn't an MP who votes against the party line just like one who crosses the floor? Shouldn't that be forbidden, too, in the name of holding MPs accountable to the voters who elected them?"

I will let it simmer and respond to this in good time. I gotta give it to Andrew; he is well thought out, principled, and not afraid of any opposing strong arguments. I like that. More later.

In the meantime, read the questions that I posed earlier that are somewhat 'answered' by Coyne in his post, most notably number 2 and 3:

1) :: Should we hold a by-election every time an MP falls behind, in popular support, to another candidate?
2) :: Should we hold a by-election every time an MP votes against his party?
3) :: Should we hold a by-election every time an MP acts with his own judgment rather than what a survey indicates constituents want?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A man of principle: Garth Turner

Conservative Garth Turner, on leadership, September 21, 2005:

Maybe I’m too simple, but it seems to me that once you pick a leader, you support that leader. It also strikes me the leader is but one aspect of a political party and what we all should be doing within that party. The political process is a deeper and bigger than one man, regardless of what the media tells you.

I agree. But does Garth Turner agree with what he once wrote? There is also this quote a day later:

So when I got home last night here was a note from Laureen Harper, Stephen’s wife, whom I have not met....

It was an honest and moving note, and spoke of the ups and downs of leadership, and the disappointment at seeing the infighting Canadians, and Conservatives, seem to be so good at. She was frank, refreshingly direct, and encouraging.

....We are a society in which success is rewarded with envious venom, and yet Canadians constantly bemoan the lack of strong leadership.

To become a leader in this country is to open up yourself to endless criticism, of the kind Harper is now receiving. It is hurtful and often destructive. Whether it is standing at the front of a public meeting letting your opponents rip away at you, or opening your Globe and Mail and reading about your shortcomings, leadership is hard. But as much as the leader endures, the family feels even more. This I have learned, and will not forget.

What do you think?

Russia's G8 begins

From Correspondent, Michael K, Tomsk Russia:

I do apologise for the clumsy links. My browser is not very responsive at the moment.

“It is this biased, unbalanced, unipolar world in which a handful of Anglo-Saxon nations have an inflated notion of their own importance in which Russia, as President of the G8 has the chance—and the obligation—to make its mark in 2006.”
(http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/88/354/16701_Russia.html)

Yes, that’s right, Russia, the model for justice and democracy is hosting the ‘Group of Eight’ this summer. Currently the finance ministers of the G8 are meeting in Moscow conducting talks in preparation to this summer’s conference held in St. Petersburg.

Since the announcement in 2002 that Russia would host the 2006 G8 summit many questions have been raised regarding the legitimacy of Russia taking an active role within the Group of Eight.

There has been talk of a possible suspension of Russia from the G8 over concerns with “selective prosecution of political opponents”, “suppression of free media” (Reporters Sans Frontiers rates Russia at 140th out of 167 for press freedom--this is a ranking only one notch up from the Democratic Republic of Congo), military abuses in Chechnya, and for selling military equipment and technology to both Syria and Iran.

But as of lately there have been few loud voices of contention. Russia’s dominance as an energy producer at this thirsty epoch has hushed governments’ opinions over the matter. Energy security is the topic of choice and Russia may not be one of the 8 in economic size but it’s resources give reason to boast. Russia controls the largest natural gas reserve, the 2nd largest coal reserve and lays claim to being the second largest exporter of crude.

Russia’s energy policies with Ukraine and Georgia, the former, which affected several EU countries, have spooked the EU with sudden realisations of its own energy dependence on Russia. Gazprom, a state controlled Russian company and the world’s largest gas producer currently supplies a quarter of Europe’s gas. With Europe’s need for reliable energy they are in a position to appease and not oppose Russia’s presidency of the current round of G8 talks.

‘The Foreign Policy Centre’ a centrist British think tank composed a scorecard for the G8 nations.

Scores from 1 to 5 are awarded for: openness and freedom of speech, political governance, rule of law, social capital, economic weight in the world, inflation, economic stability and solvency, unemployment, trade volume, level of protectionism, energy market conditions, and discernible stance on key international issues.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Russia did not score above a 3 -- "sporadic compliance with G8 norms" -- in any category.
In its "key findings" section, based on published sources ranging from the U.S. government-backed Freedom House to the World Bank and Russia's State Statistics Service, the report declared: "The size of Russia's economy does not merit its inclusion in the G8; Russia is neither politically nor economically free; Russia's presidency of the G8 is correspondingly anomalous; the other G8 nations must develop a concentrated policy to force Putin to live up to his international obligations."
(http://www.bhhrg.org/mediaDetails.asp?ArticleID=870)

In defence to any criticism of Russia leading summit talks, Pravda published this:

“The new role performed by the Russian Federation will allow this giant the chance to assume its rightful position as a major player on the world stage as regards both its external and internal policies.

Externally, the Kremlin can stress Russia's role as a defender of a multi-lateral approach to crisis management based upon the rule of law and not lies, deceit and blackmail and using the UN Security Council as the forum for dialogue, discussion and debate, not belligerence and bullying, the Bible and the bullet. While some nations have not thought twice about breaking international law, breaking the UN Charter and breaking the Geneva Conventions while carrying out the most shocking acts of butchery, Moscow, alongside Berlin, Paris, Brasilia, Beijing and others, has pressed for a world order based upon international law and respect for the terms of treaties, charters and conventions signed.

Russia can also take the opportunity to present its important reserves of oil and gas as a strategic asset for the future, upon which larger economies will rely.

Internally, Russia will benefit from the feel-good factor as its citizens see their country's resources controlled by Russians and not foreigners and see their country at the hub of international affairs, enjoying a status which had been missed since the heady days of the Soviet Union.” (http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/88/354/16701_Russia.html)

Granted, Pravda is not the most newsworthy source, but it fairly represents a large portion of Russian opinion.

In the coming months more will follow on Russia, its domestic and foreign policies and the upcoming G8 summit.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Curse of the Moderates: the Mohammad Cartoons

Charles Krauthammer on printing the Mohammad Cartoons: "The issue now is solidarity."

"The mob is trying to dictate to Western newspapers, indeed Western governments, what is a legitimate subject for discussion and caricature....The point is who decides what can be said and what can be drawn within the precincts of what we quaintly think of as the free world.

"The mob has turned this into a test case for freedom of speech in the West. The German, French and Italian newspapers that republished these cartoons did so not to inform but to defy -- to declare that they will not be intimidated by the mob.

"What is at issue is fear....The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear. They know what happened to Theo van Gogh, who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through the chest with an Islamist manifesto attached."

Debating the David Emerson defection and banning MPs who switch parties

An articulate reader makes a very convincing case for Emerson to step down:

"What duty of good faith did David Emerson breach? .....

Clear indicators of the absence of good faith on the part of Emerson are:

(i) the timing (negotiations apparently started a few days after the election!);
(ii) the absence of major disagreements of principle with the party’s policies;
(iii) the absence of any proactive steps taken by Emerson to attempt to influence the policies of the party in order to reconcile his principles with such policy;
(iv) the stark contrast between his statements about the Tory policies while running for office as a Liberal candidate, and his speedy acceptance of the policies when elected;
(v) the agreement to accept a reward in the form of a Cabinet posting;
(vi) the absence of any discussions between Emerson and the Liberal party officials in his riding regarding his decision to switch parties.

David Emerson has no moral authority to represent his riding in Parliament, and should resign and seek re-election as a Tory."

I agree with the reader on one important point. It was likely morally wrong. It was dishonest, in some ways. Perhaps he should resign. The problem with resigning, though, is a matter of self-preservation. If MPs are not allowed the freedom to act in their own interests, they become ineffective as representatives and slaves to Party whips.

Thus, I do not think any law should be made banning party switching. How many people in the world are likely to give up job security for what your neighbours think about you? Not many. In many ways, acting benevolent runs contrary to self-preservation. The MP is thus put in a tricky spot: either he loses his job or sits quietly in a party he no longer wishes to be whipped by.

Like all matters of morality and law, there are laws that enforce morality (ie. murder) and morality that is not enforced (blasphemy). MPs switching sides, in my opinion, is best left to the public to decide in general elections, not a law dictating their freedom.

I favour the freedom of MPs. A law restricting the movement of MPs does not really "solve" anything but restrict the liberty of MPs to act as machines rather than personality.

  1. For example, some would ban MPs switching sides. This is because the people voted for an MP of a particular party. It would be dishonest if the MP changed his party affiliation.

    But if the MP's only freedom would be to sit as an independent, I don't see how that changes the above principle. People did not vote for an independent, but an MP with a party affiliation. Sitting as an independent, thus, is just as dishonest as if the MP were to switch parties.
  2. For an MP, then, with crossing the floor or sitting as an independent being dishonest with voters are left with two choices: resigning or sitting with the party that the MP was originally affiliated with. I will take up the latter option: staying in a party. This option must be rejected as a matter of principle.

    If MPs are forced to sit with a party, the leader of that party will exercise considerable control over MPs. MPs will become the voting machines for the party whips and leaders. In essence, a travesty of democracy - when the elite few decide for the rest of the party how to vote, only the interests of the few are truly important. I don't think it is neccessary to elaborate more on why this situation is undesirable and elitist.
  3. The final option is resigning. If MPs can't cross the floor, sit as independents, and can't stomach sitting with the party they were originally affiliated with, there seems to be only one option left: resign and run again.

    This is the most honourable and principled thing to do. But consider the factors into play here: if the MP can't cross the floor or sit as an independent, do you really think he wants to give up his job based on principle? Few do. Canadian history has shown the few politicians in recent memory are real principled through and through. My guess is that MPs would rather stick to the party they dispise rather than face the electors. How man MPs would risk their job for virtue? Not many.

    And the result of a disgruntled MP forced to vote with the party line out of fear of losing his/her job is bad for democracy and ultimately bad for constitutents. He cannot represent them if he lacks the freedom to represent them.
Thus, I am against laws restricting the liberty of MPs, no matter how immoral crossing the floor or sitting as an independent may be.

Garth Turner p.2

I am not the only one who thinks Turner has been digging himself into a grave, rather than Andrew Coyne's assessment that Turner has been sentenced for "for the crime of calling the Conservative party back to its senses."

Sage editor Ezra Levant has these wise words:

Back to reality, please. This is a showboat MP acting out -- someone who resents not being in cabinet, who expected that he would be. He knows that he can get as much airtime as a cabinet minister if he dishes his own party, all in the name of democracy.

I repeat, for the benefit of critics of the cabinet appointments, that there are legitimate criticisms to be made. But what Turner is doing -- at this early stage, in this showy manner -- is not genuine, constructive criticism. It is undermining; it is fomenting; it is splitting. There might be a time or an issue for such desperate measures. This is not it.

.....

Is a showy, public venting of a disagreement more important the the resultant weakening of the party's ability to govern? Or is this just Turner scratching his own political itch for fawning press?


Well said.

CTV.ca | NDP requests investigation into Emerson crossing



Oh brother:
"The NDP is asking the federal ethics commissioner to investigate MP David Emerson's decision to quit the Liberals in exchange for a Conservative cabinet post.

What next? Banning phone calls between MPs? Here is the relevant ethics code that MP Peter Julian quotes:
"When performing parliamentary duties and functions, a Member shall not act in any way to further his or her private interests or those of a member of the Member's family, or to improperly further another person's private interests."

I think it is pretty clear that any plain reading of this section of the Conflict of Interest Code refers to actions as an MP that would, say, increase the value of shares in a certain company by acting arbitrarily to do so.

I mean, a broad and general reading of the code, otherwise, might even ensnare someone like MP Garth Turner, who is acting in his best interests by speaking against the Tory leadership so that he doesn't get an office in the haunted basement in Parliament. I mean, why else air dirty laundry but to gather support for his causes?

Of course, this interpretation is clearly stupid. I suppose that is my point of the NDP request too; it is a stupid accusation based on an overly general reading of the text.

That said, it wouldn't surprise me if the Ethics Commissioner sided with Julian, given how aloof he acted in the Grewal-Dosanjh affair.

Garth Turner MP speaks out on Emerson

Conservative MP Garth Turner isn't happy about Emerson's move to the Tories. Some people are applauding Garth Turner's outspokenness. I am not. Stunts like Turner's, in the corporate world, will get you fired, or 'dooced.' And rightfully so. It is not the airing of a public greivance that I take issue with. It is Turner's lack of tact that is objectionable.

It is one thing to say "I dissent." It is quite another to tar a brush on the leader of your party by painting a martyr of yourself. Look at me, fighting for the people, and Harper's leadership will now sentence me to the Parliamentary underworld for life. Turner needs to get over himself. His cause is admirable on principle; his delivery is not.

Now, Turner is the news. "I think it is now safe to say my career options within the Conservative caucus are seriously limited." Well if it already wasn't limited before meeting with Harper, it is seriously in jeopardy now.

First rule of tact: keep your cards close to your chest. Turner, who may have held the moral high ground for merely acting principled, has clearly given it up by making himself a martyr, for no cause other than himself. Read the relevant post for yourself. Is using the media to talk about your boss and solve your own problems even remotely intelligent? You decide:
"Speaking of offices, after today I’m expecting the Whip will be assigning me a renovated washroom somewhere in a forgotten corner of a vermin-infested dank basement in Ottawa. That should go well with my seat in the House of Commons that will be visible only during lunar eclipses.

Uh-huh. That kind of a day. This one MP came face-to-face with the party machine in a series of unhappy meetings including one tonight with the prime minister. I think it is now safe to say my career options within the Conservative caucus are seriously limited. If you would like a course on how not to be popular in Ottawa, then take a seat."

globeandmail.com : Controversy dogs Emerson move

globeandmail.com : Controversy dogs Emerson move:
"Former Liberal David Emerson's defection to the Conservatives two weeks after last month's election continued to generate controversy Thursday, with at least one new caucus colleague saying he still thinks voters should have a say when a politician crosses the floor.

'I said during the campaign that I think anyone who crosses the floor ultimately should go back to the people for ratification and I stick by it,' Ontario Conservative Garth Turner told reporters in Ottawa."

What's done is done. I can't believe this is still making news headlines. Tories just need to go into hibernation mode while they still can. And of course this fellow Turner is killing his chances in the Party. You don't go around openly exploiting an open wound to the media. They thrive on it. The Liberals thrive on it.

If this Emerson controversy has done anything, it has pitted Tories against themselves - a bad thing. It was obviously a bad political move on Harper's part, no matter how good of a minister he is.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Dallas Morning News Blog

DallasMorning Views Blog: "A telling moment"

This really happened.

It's a day or two after the 9/11 attacks, and I find myself sitting in a room in Brooklyn talking with about eight young Arab adults. All are Arab Christians, and all are worried that they will be mistaken for Muslims by outraged Americans, and suffer physical assault in the anti-Muslim backlash everybody was sure was coming (but which, in the end, didn't, thank God). All these Arabs in front of me are telling me that they live in a predominantly Muslim part of Brooklyn, and their Muslim neighbors are great guys, just the best.


I ask them if these Muslim neighbors support terrorism. Well, yes, they say, and give examples of things they'd heard the Muslim neighbors say. But really, they insist, you have to realize that these are good people.

Later, I wrap up the interview, and tell them I will be sure to quote their defense of their Muslim neighbors, despite the fact that these neighbors have in the past voiced support for terrorism. Suddenly, the Arab Christians' eyes get wide, and they all insist that I can't quote them. Please, they say, don't do it. Why not? I ask.

Because they'll hurt us, they say. All agree that to publicly criticize anything about their Islamic neighbors would open them up to physical assault. The only one who agreed to be quoted was a Maronite who had fought in a sectarian militia prior to emigrating to the US -- and even he was nervous.


"That's really interesting," I say. "You've all been telling me that we have nothing to worry about from your Muslim neighbors, but you won't allow yourself to be quoted saying that in the same article in which you say you've heard them make remarks supporting terrorism -- because you are afraid you will be physically injured. What does that tell us?"

Silence.

Mohammad Cartoons published 5 months ago in Egypt to a whimper



Those Danish Cartoons depicting Mohammad were re-printed 5 months ago in an Egyptian newspaper. Also see here.

You heard correctly, 5 months ago in an Arab country. No violence. No Danish or Norwegian flag burnings. No "Death to Europe" chants on the streets. No priest killed in Turkey.

....Which goes to show that these riots are a farce. A show. And the West has sopped it up and done nothing but appease the people putting on the show.

Postscript. The Egyptian blogger who posted the Egyptian newspaper scans comments:
If Denmark resigned to the war launched by Muslim Arabs to receive apology from the government of Denmark, I am sorry to say that Denmark will simply be saying we do not believe in what we stand for. Denmark will be sending the message that we apply freedom of expression but we do not really believe in it.

Denmark will be sending the message around the world that Arab citizens who are ruled by the one party, president for life regimes and state-owned press and writers are imposing their lack of freedom on the free world, hence the prevailance of the culture of oppression, tyranny and ideologies of hatred.

Censorship and judgement: on those Mohammad Cartoons

Eric Mink, commentary editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, explains in a column today:
"If a government controls what can and cannot be distributed, it’s called censorship. If a media outlet decides for itself what to include and exclude from its products — whether for journalistic or economic reasons, out of respect for possible sensitivities of some readers or concern about possible impact on its community — it’s called editorial judgment."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

TheStar.com - Toronto lawyer wants to be Liberal leader

TheStar.com - Toronto lawyer wants to be Liberal leader:
A relatively obscure Toronto lawyer has become the first declared candidate for the Liberal leadership.

Martha Hall Findlay threw her hat in the ring Wednesday, undaunted by the fact that much higher profile contenders have been dropping from the race like flies.

And which riding will she be running in? Last time she ran she was beat out by Belinda Stronach in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora. Perhaps her offer to be the Liberal leader is to challenge Ms Stronach to run for Liberal leadership.

The Conservatives weigh in on the cartoon affair

It has been a disappointing few days for Conservatives. First, the appointment of Harper's friend into the Senate. Now, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay strikes out with this press release:
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay today issued the following statement:

“The publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed has caused offence to Muslims and non-Muslims around the world and in Canada.

“Freedom of expression is a legally enshrined principle in Canada, but it must be exercised responsibly. We commend those Canadians who have acted appropriately.

“However, we condemn the violent protests that have occurred in some parts of the world, and find the attacks on foreign diplomatic missions particularly deplorable.

“This sensitive issue highlights the need for a better understanding of Islam and of Muslim communities. Respect for cultural diversity and freedom of religion is a fundamental principle in Canada. The Government of Canada will continue to promote a better understanding of Islam internationally, in partnership with Muslim communities.”

First of all, if Conservatives really want to know the pulse of their base, they should try tapping into the Canadian blogosphere. Coyne and Kinsella have been particularily harsh. Although I think it is particularily amusing to hear Warren Kinsella say that "There are some who I like, but who put partisanship ahead of common sense this week." Never thought, back in 2000, that I'd see the day. Small Dead Animals also has harsh words to say about those who rip Denmark and the free press. Don't forget Ezra Levant of the Western Standard either.

NOW, THE PRESS RELEASE:
  1. "We commend those Canadians who have acted appropriately." And to those that have excercised their free speech? Reprimand? At least in Muslim countries, the cartoons are being shown by Muslims everywhere - unlike Canada. Otherwise, they are rioting over cartoons they have never seen.
  2. The Government of Canada will be promoting Islam? Imagine if McKay said the government would be promoting Christianity internationally? Clamour!
  3. "Respect for cultural diversity and freedom of religion is a fundamental principle in Canada" - Respect for cultural diversity is not a fundamental principle in Canada. Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are actually in the Charter. Nope, I can't find "cultural diversity."
Whoever Peter McKay has hired to be his Foreign Affairs advisors needs to be fired immediately. A little "advisor diversity" may have stopped this disaster of a press release before it was submitted to the public and the blogosphere for scorn.

The double standards of the press continue

Via Powerline:

Michelle Malkin notes that CNN has decided not to show the Mohammed cartoons that have been printed in several European and American newspapers "because the network believes its role is to cover the events surrounding the publication of the cartoons while not unnecessarily adding fuel to the controversy itself." Well, sure. That would explain why CNN didn't show the Abu Ghraib photos.


Actually, it did. And so did most other newspapers.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Muhammad Cartoon update

It takes guts to quit your job over principles.

A gut check is exactly what the New York Press Editorial staff has done today:

The editorial staff of the alternative weekly New York Press walked out today, en masse, after the paper's publishers backed down from printing the Danish cartoons that have become the center of a global free-speech fight.

Editor-in-Chief Harry Siegel emails, on behalf of the editorial staff:

New York Press, like so many other publications, has suborned its own professed principles. For all the talk of freedom of speech, only the New York Sun locally and two other papers nationally have mustered the minimal courage needed to print simple and not especially offensive editorial cartoons that have been used as a pretext for great and greatly menacing violence directed against journalists, cartoonists, humanitarian aid workers, diplomats and others who represent the basic values and obligations of Western civilization. Having been ordered at the 11th hour to pull the now-infamous Danish cartoons from an issue dedicated to them, the editorial group -- consisting of myself, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editor Jonathan Leaf and one-man city hall bureau Azi Paybarah, chose instead to resign our positions.

We have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we'd criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding.

Mohammed cartoon row a case against religion?

Getting upset over....

Does the violent reaction to anti-muslim cartoons make Christopher Hitchens right?

For most of human history, religion and bigotry have been two sides of the same coin, and it still shows. - Hitchens, The case for mocking religion

Of course I find it rather ironic that for all his accusing religion Hitchens forgets that people putting together anti-muslim illustrations are not expressly religious which would suggest that bigotry, religion, and secularism are all going to be somewhere together on that coin of his.

Still, religious things do give a group of people something in their relation to another group of people to be upset about. Cartoonist Doug Marlette recounts his experience with religious groups:
I have outraged Christians by skewering Jerry Falwell, Catholics by needling the pope, and Jews by criticizing Israel. Those who rise up against the expression of ideas are strikingly similar. No one is less tolerant than those demanding tolerance. Despite differences of culture and creed, they all seem to share the notion that there is only one way of looking at things, their way. What I have learned from years of this is one of the great lessons of all the world's religions: we are all one in our humanness. - Marlette, I Was a Tool of Satan

That's a victory for secular humanism against religion.

But then we come back to Denmark, a country that the Spiegel's Jürgen Gottschlich says has Europe's most xenophobic government. There Danish voters, perceiving Muslim immigrants as social welfare freeloaders, elected a government to impose stricter immigration controls. This isn't religious bigotry, this is secular bigotry.

Jurgen goes on to consider the bankruptcy of secular values,
Instead of participating in a disingenuous battle for free speech, it is high time for some in Europe to return to the virtues of Enlightenment to help them find reason. The situation is difficult enough already and there are idiots on all sides. Indeed, neither is free of guilt.

The Telegraph's John Casey hasn't forgot history nor the culpability of the Enlightenment's nation states in today's violence.
Have we in the West become so historically ignorant that we forget how closely, within living memory, Christian attitudes to the sacred resembled those of Muslims? ... There is little doubt that only a generation ago the blasphemy laws would have been used against Jerry Springer, the Opera. They would certainly have been used against Gibbon had he not concealed his assault on Christianity in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire under layers of irony.
The current political violence by Muslims can be traced to two quite clear events. The first was the fatal decision of President Sadat of Egypt to bring the Islamists into politics as a weapon against the Left. The second was the creation by the Americans of the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. This Frankenstein's monster has stalked the world ever since. - Casey, This is folly, not a clash of civilisations

Give Islam some time to evolve, says John Casey, accusing the badly drawn cartoons as inhibitors of progress.

But where are we going, Casey? That's the question progress poses. And that may only be a question that religion can answer, unless we start to claim that secularism actually has an eschatology other than that day when religions will exist no more. Because that would just be intolerant and bigotted.

Casey mentions Gibbon. To what end did he work? I know a little about Gibbon and his "irony". Joseph Levine in his Autonomy of History draws a number of similarities in his comparisons of Gibbon's historical method with that of Erasmus in his work The Autonomy of History. Erasmus came to similar conclusions as Gibbon (centuries before Gibbon) and was called blasphemous for chopping off the Johannine Comma and among others little work entitled The Praise of Folly.

And we know what end Erasmus worked for.

David Emerson fallout

Quick questions regarding the Emerson affair:

1) :: Should we hold a by-election every time an MP falls behind, in popular support, to another candidate?

2) :: Should we hold a by-election every time an MP votes against his party?

3) :: Should we hold a by-election every time an MP acts with his own judgment rather than what a survey indicates constituents want?

As much as I think the Emerson affair is a bad moral (it was dishonest) and political move (the public is spazzing), I am beginning to think that the whole affair is not as "undemocratic" as some people think.

Democracy requires the greatest flexibility for those in government. Otherwise, MP's are at the behest of party whips. People will have their democratic say during the next election, which will be soon, just as they did with Belinda Stronach. We don't live in a direct democracy people.

Spreading Ignorance



Matthew Good notes on his blog that the Jyllands-Posten refused to publish Jesus cartoons. Oh no, further proof that the Jyllands-Posten is anti-Muslim! Well, er, not so much.

Had he read the whole article in the Guardian, it would have been obvious that Juan Cole (the blogger where he got the story from) was only telling part of the story:

“But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, said that the case was “ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons.

“In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That’s the difference,” he said.

“The illustrator thought his cartoons were funny. I did not think so. It would offend some readers, not much but some.”


Forgive me for appearing merciless at this slip up. I just think it goes to show that us humans look for evidence, if even partial, that confirms our beliefs. As one university professor once asked me, "did you come to university to challenge or confirm what you already believed?" I took it quite seriously then, and I take it quite seriously now. Even what I have posted on this blog, no doubt, often serves what I believe. But if I post the selective truth, I still like to be called on it. ie. Good one, you got me there.

To be fair, I think Mr. Good's previous comment on the situation, that, "at its core, this entire business revolves around the corruption of faith – faith in higher powers, in sublime ideas, and in our neighbours" is bang on.

The issue is a "corruption of faith" in many respects. I would go further and say it is even broader than an issue of faith deviation. It is an issue of ideas. I think the world over has boughten into the idea of adhering to our own ideas about things and coercing others to adhere to our ideas. That was Charlemagne's Christianity; it is, perhaps, still Mohammad's Islam in many countries; and it even exists in atheist states like China or Cuba, where adherence to the state's ideas about things are supreme.

It all reminds me of Jesus and the old Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky's Grand Insquisitor. Culture craves “something that all would believe in and worship." The Inquisitor says, “they (man) have set up gods and challenged one another, ‘Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods."'

But Jesus remained a prisoner in the story. When he was let out, he kissed the G.I. Dostoyevsky writes, "The kiss glows in his heart, but the old man adheres to his idea.”

Can the answer to this clash of civilizations merely be to opt out? To kiss the enemy? What would that mean? How could you go about achieving such an end?

UPDATE: To his credit, Good has fixed his post to accurately reflect the views of the Danish newspaper.

Muslim cartoon fallout:




Here is a roundup of what is currently happening around the world:


SPIEGEL Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali: 'Everyone Is Afraid to Criticize Islam':
"Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch politician forced to go into hiding after the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, responds to the Danish cartoon scandal, arguing that if Europe doesn't stand up to extremists, a culture of self-censorship of criticism of Islam that pervades in Holland will spread in Europe."

Suspicious package found at the Danish embassy in Auckland, New Zealand:
A Defence Force bomb squad has been called to a downtown Auckland building, after Danish trade officials reported today that they had received a suspicious package.

Iranian paper runs Holocaust cartoon contest. Boy, they will be sadly disappointed if they think the West will throw a temper tantrum. The contest is shocking. But the response? Yawn.

Iran’s biggest-selling newspaper has chosen to tackle the West’s ideals of “freedom of expression” by launching a competition to find the 12 “best” cartoons about the Holocaust, the Associated French Press reported on Monday.

Farid Mortazavi, graphics editor for Tehran’s Hamshahri newspaper, said that the deliberately inflammatory contest would test out how committed Europeans were to the concept freedom of expression.

“The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let’s see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons,” he said.


While the Media wrestles with publishing the cartoons.....the National Post says this:

"On the question of can we run it, yes we can," Douglas Kelly, editor in chief of the National Post, wrote in an editorial last week. "The question is, should we run it? The depiction of this image in a newspaper is offensive to some readers and that is of concern."

How about some Western solidarity with those kicking around the Danes?

Meanwhile, Iran has cancelled trade with the Danes. But will the Danes cancel trade with Iran?

The BBC asks and answers
their own questions regarding the cartoons:

What are the issues raised by the cartoons?

In many European countries there is a strong sense of secular values being under fire from conservative Islamic traditions among immigrant communities. Many commentators see the cartoons as a response to this.

There are also issues of integration - how much should the host society compromise to accommodate immigrant populations, and how much should immigrants integrate into the society they are making home.

Some commentators have defended the cartoons, saying they address fault lines in changing European societies that need to be discussed more openly.


The BBC also interviews a fellow, literally, a visiting fellow at Oxford, is right and wrong:
Tariq Ramadan, visiting fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford, argued that Muslims had overreacted: "The idea that this is a clash of civilisations is to be driven by extremist views and emotional statements. The Muslim reaction is far too excessive and not the way forward."

I agree, Muslims are being "far too excessive" in their violence. I disagree with his assessment that this is not a clash of civilizations. I mean, what more clash do you want? A war between East and West? It is not an extremist view. Sure, we may briefly riot if they cancel Guns-'n'-Roses on us....but at the end of the day, Western culture does not throw violent hissy fits all over the world over an insult or offense. By the virtue of opposite reactions to similar problems do I conclude that there is indeed differences between Western values that amount to a clash from time to time. Is it so hard to believe?

Monday, February 06, 2006

See what havoc those Muslim cartoons are creating



Judging from the traffic we and other websites are getting, people really want to see those Muslim cartoons. You know, the ones Western newspapers aren't printing because they are afraid of provoking violence. The same ones who believe in freedom of expression.

The traffic suggests it also might be a good way to sell papers.

TheStar.com - Harper debuts his team

TheStar.com - Harper debuts his team:
Key members of the new cabinet
# Jim Flaherty, Finance
# Peter MacKay, Foreign Affairs
# David Emerson, Int'l Trade
# Tony Clement, Health
# Gordon O'Connor, Defence
# Vic Toews, Justice
# Rona Ambrose, Environment
# Stockwell Day, Public Safety
# Monte Solberg, Citizenship
# Maxime Bernier, Industry
# John Baird, Treasury Board
# Rob Nicholson, Democratic Reform"

Yup, that's right. David Emerson is staying on. He crossed the floor.

Telegraph | News | Cleric calls on Mohammed cartoonist to be executed

Telegraph : Cleric calls on Mohammed cartoonist to be executed:
"'We are not saying ourselves to go there and start to look to him and kill him, we are not talking about that. We are talking about Islamic rules. If anybody insults the prophet, he will have to take a punishment.'

He said if countries refused to put people on trial for insulting Mohammed they must 'face the consequences'."
And while Omar Bakri Mohammed is termed by the article as a radical Muslim cleric, the question that still persists in my mind is, wouldn't administering "a punishment" (nothing short of an execution (!!!)> to the cartoonist be the ultimate demonstration of Western tolerance?

Who would have thought?

Give David Suzuki some credit. He gets postmodernism, perhaps.

Now, I never minded being called an "environmentalist." In fact, I wore it as a badge of honour because it represented some of my core values. But the older I get, the more I realize that most people don't like being labeled. They don't like being typecast or pigeonholed. Labels are exclusionary by their very nature and they push people to their ideological corners, like boxers ready to come out for a fight.

The fact is, for every declared "environmentalist" there are 1,000 people who care profoundly about the environment. And there are another 10,000 who recognize almost intuitively that human health and well being is intimately connected to the world in which we live. As a leader and as a father, Stephen Harper, I am sure, recognizes this connection too. Polls show that the vast majority of Canadians certainly do.

The greatest environmental victories of the future will not be made by environmentalists, but by millions of concerned people taking small steps towards a common goal and ensuring that governments help us take those steps. These people have no labels. They may be Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, Bloc Québécois, Greens - it doesn't matter. They simply see that taking care of our environment means taking care of us. It makes sense for our health. It makes sense for our economy and it makes sense for our well being.

A panel discusses the Muslim cartoon situation. Watch the video here.

What is striking about this is what offends these Muslims who are protesting and these imams. Does the slaughter of innocent people in many parts of the world in the name of Allah offend them? Is that a sacrilege worthy of protest? No, not in the least. No, cartoons published five months ago in a -what- for people who live in Gaza and Damascus is an unknown and unheard-of newspaper--that's what's offending them.

Good points.
IraqPundit:

You know, in 2002, 15 Saudi schoolgirls burned to death when Saudi religious police wouldn't let them escape their building because they were not in hijab.

Waiting for my fellow Muslims to react to that kind of criminality with the same impassioned outrage they save for offensive newspaper cartoons has been rather like waiting for a desert-blown Godot. Our community leaders, as always, fail us.

New Zealand goes Freedom of Expression in the Muslim cartoons controversy

The Age: Ignorance is bliss:
"NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday described the cartoons’ publication as “gratuitous”.

“New Zealand press is free and politicians don’t say what the press can print and what it can’t. It is a question of judgement and I don’t think myself either the publication, nor the reaction to it, do anything to bring communities and faiths together here or around the world.”"


Yes, not talking will bring people together.


Oh no, cartoons!

TheStar.com - Why has a cartoon turned into a crisis?

TheStar.com - Why has a cartoon turned into a crisis?:
"This context shows there is a great deal of mutual ignorance. However, it does not prove any inherent incompatibility between Muslims and non-Muslims, as extremists on both sides would have us believe."


Oh no? There may not be any inherent incompatibility with Muslims and non-Muslims. But why such a one sided demand for respect from the West? I mean, wild anti-semetic cartoons are common in Arabia. Compatibility between people essentially boils down to mutual tolerance - something that isn't happening at the moment.

Whenever "mutual respect" is uttered in this context, it typically means respect from the West.

The violence just goes to show how unready some of these people are to be assimilated into the West. I mean, were the French riots this past year only the beginning?
Read the whole thing, :
The issue, though, is much larger than the question of how to balance press freedom with religious sensibilities; it goes to the heart of the conflict with radical Islam. The Islamists demand no less than absolute supremacy for their religion--and not only in the Muslim world but wherever Muslims may happen to reside. That's why they see no hypocrisy in their demand for "respect" for Islam while the simple display of a cross or a Star of David in Saudi Arabia is illegal. Infidels simply don't have the same rights.

.....


"The support shown in the past few days by newspapers around Europe reprinting the cartoons is very welcome. But the vast majority of Europe's media didn't join the battle. And so in the end, it was too little, too late, coming just after the Danes were forced to 'confess.'

'Those who have won are dictatorships in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia, where they cut criminals' hands and give women no rights,' Jyllands-Posten's editor in chief, Carsten Juste, told the AP.

But what really sealed the Danes' fate--and possibly Europe's--was the lack of solidarity from other governments. The European Union likes to call 'emergency meetings' for the most trivial topics, from farm subsidies to VAT rates. But when one of their smallest members came under attack for nothing else than being a European country, for defending the values and norms the EU is based on, there was nothing but silence from Europe's capitals. That silence has been heard and understood in the Muslim world."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Christopher Hitchens: There can be no negotiation under duress or under the threat of blackmail and assassination. And civil society means that free expression trumps the emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be inconvenient.

Responding to Warren Kinsella's take on the Danish cartoons


(watch the violence here, as Muslims loudly cheer)

Warren Kinsella has spoken on the cartoon controversy now enraging the Muslim world. He is against publishing the cartoons that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published depicting ohammed.

Naturally, one wonders, why? After all, he was the one trodding out a dinosaur on television mocking Stockwell Day's religious beliefs. Anticipating this argument, Kinsella responds that he was only warning that Day's "religious beliefs had, and would, inform his political beliefs." That may have been Kinsella's intent.

But his actions clearly went beyond this connection. For there was no implied or explicitly stated connection between Day's belief in the earth's age and the way it would inform his policy as Prime Minister. What would Day do -- make it Canada's official position on evolution? The non-existent connection Kinsella makes (or fails to make) is probably why I find Kinsella's position on the cartoons so odd.

Muslims deserve "a modicum of respect for the things they hold closest to their hearts." But somehow Christians who believe in a young earth do not. As long as you are making a political point of national importance ("Canadian voters were therefore entitled...to fully consider the ramifications of faith-based politics"), via Kinsella's logic, it is permissable to insult them. And many were.

Yet, the political cartoons were published to make a point of national importance. Indeed, it may even fulfill the Kinsella criteria of making a political point. The point of the paper publishing the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten? Muslims need to learn what it means to live in a society which values freedom of expression:

[Muslims]
demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him. [...]

I agree with Warren Kinsella on a lot of points he makes. Indeed, "You might not find such things hateful or even hurtful, but many others do." Certainly I can understand why some Muslims may find these cartoons hurtful or even insulting. But that is not the issue for most Muslims. The furor is not over the hate involved in them. For if you actually look at them, they aren't mocking Mohammad as much as the fanatics who use Mohammad to justify violence. Muslims are instead upset because these cartoons are idolatry. For it is forbidden to make images of Mohammad. It is idolatry.

For Muslims. Not Christians. Not Atheists. For Muslims. And in a free society like Canada, we tolerate free expression peacefully. When we do disagree on whether something is truly insulting, we go to Court to let the law be the final arbiter. It is like hate emails people get. You don't threaten to kill people or burn embassies just because someone does something that offends your belief system. The only reason people have even considered the idea of censoring these cartoons is because of fear. Fear of violence.

The whole thing is just absurd. What, is Canada going to stop selling wine and beer if Muslims start burning down Canadian embassies because we are selling forbidden food? Of course not. Just as we can eat heathen food without impunity, so should we be able to display things that goes contrary to the belief system of others. It almost begs the point. Would newspaper editors be dragging their heels on publishing these cartoons if there were riots over the fact that Western newspapers began to show women scantily clad without burkhas? The possibilities for offense are endless. In a free society, free expression without fear of violence is the bedrock over our democracy.

At what point do we stop selling our own Western values of freedom for the Muslim worlds' values?

It may surprise some to think that at one point in human history, it was insulting and offensive to the Church to suggest that that the Emperor was ultimately superior over the Pope (Dante). Dante's de Monarchia was banned by the Pope. Ideas suggesting that Divine Kingship came from God rather than the Pope were also censored.

The Boston Globe has opined that they have decided not to publish the cartoons based on "the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance."

I argue by reaching the opposite conclusion based on the same Enlightment grounds: freedom from the religious tyranny of ideas. Listen to Baruch Spinoza very carefully, as deals in his Theologico-Political Treatise with the very same issue of censorship and offense:

For when people try to take it away, and bring to trial, not only the acts which alone are capable of offending, but also the opinions of mankind, they only succeed in surrounding their victims with an appearance of martyrdom, and raise feelings of pity and revenge rather than of terror. (78)

Uprightness and good faith are thus corrupted, flatterers and traitors are encouraged, and sectarians triumph, inasmuch as concessions have been made to their animosity, and they have gained the state sanction for the doctrines of which they are the interpreters. (79)

Hence they arrogate to themselves the state authority and rights, and do not scruple to assert that they have been directly chosen by God, and that their laws are Divine, whereas the laws of the state are human, and should therefore yield obedience to the laws of God - in other words, to their own laws. (80)

Everyone must see that this is not a state of affairs conducive to public welfare. (81)

Wherefore, as we have shown in Chapter XVIII., the safest way for a state is to lay down the rule that religion is comprised solely in the exercise of charity and justice, and that the rights of rulers in sacred, no less than in secular matters, should merely have to do with actions, but that every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.

Further Reading:
Jyllands-Posten's justification for printing the cartoons
Where did those Danish flags come from? Staged outrage?

The Muslim Cartoons Depicting Mohammad that were printed by a newspaper in Denmark

If you are wondering what all these riots and violent threats are about, wonder no longer. Look at the cartoons depicting Mohammad here and decide for yourself or look at all 12 here.

A letter I wrote to the Vancouver Sun



The Vancouver Sun editorial ("Cartoon Furore") misses the point by suggesting we need to strike a balance between freedoms and responsibility by being "mindful of potential consequences when publishing" controversial cartoons.

But this is simply giving in to fear of violence. Apparently, the Vancouver Sun can be bullied. Canada is a free secular society not ruled by any particular religious dogma. Shouldn't we be free to express ourselves, insulting to others or not, without fear of violence? If we can't be, we aren't as "free" as we think.

As a June 2002 Vancouver Sun editorial headlined, "A free speech umbrella shelters even ugly ideas." It wisely wrote that "[T]he first victims of censorship are rarely the seedy exploiters but the creators of serious art, provocative literature, political dissent and challenging religious thought."

I suggest that they go read their own editorial again.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A religion of peace

Best line of the Islamic cartoon affair, by Wellington Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst:

"'If we allow Christianity and more particularly the Catholic Church and the Pope to be satirised, and we do, should Islam be treated differently?

'In its pure form Islam is a religion based on peace and tolerance. This is a test of that tolerance.'"

Ethnic Affairs minister Chides NZ Press

newswire.co.nz - news of consequence:
"Two New Zealand newspapers who published controversial cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed have been criticised by the Ethnic Affairs Minister, who says they should have been more responsible.

The Dominion Post and the Christchurch Press re-published the caricatures, originally printed by a Danish newspaper, one of which pictures Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

The minister, Chris Carter, says he is disappointed with the decision as it undermines New Zealand's reputation as a tolerant country.

He has warned that it could affect trade, New Zealand's troops in Afganistan and even the situation of the Auckland student currently held hostage in Iraq. "

Liar Liar Pants on Fire?

matthewgood.org :: mblog: July 2005:

"I am, for the record, not against dissenting opinions whatsoever. In fact, the more diverse a discussion the better."

After spending the last day or so commenting on Matthew Good blog, I am out. Out because I am most definately not wanted there. Apparently civil dissent is now given the more pejorative terms "hate filled rhetoric" and "Christian fluff." I would have been glad to post our conversation here. But alas, it has been censored and deleted. Oh well.

Thus, a word of warning: you may be run out of town too if you aren't one of his cheerleaders. Mr. Good is a real intelligent fellow. He has good diction. And is very perceptive. So even if you don't comment, he is a good dose to read now and then.

Here at the Pew, we believe in dissent. We believe in evidence. We believe in civil discourse. Yes we will delete comments that are illegal (ie. libel, threats) and we will delete comments that are unthoughtful and uncivil (ie. Bush is a stupidhead!). But we will not delete them if you simply disagree with us and tell us why that is the case. Just be civil about it. Attack the argument, not the person. And the rest is history. Take it away Spinoza:

"Men, as generally constituted, are most prone to resent the branding as criminal of opinions which they believe to be true, and the proscription as wicked of that which inspires them with piety towards God and man; .... Such being the constitution of human nature, we see that laws directed against opinions affect the generous minded rather than the wicked, and are adapted less for coercing criminals than for irritating the upright; so that they cannot be maintained without great peril to the state"

Freedom of opinion

Read this brilliant editorial on the cartoons by the New Zealand Dominion.

Mufti Abdul Barkatullah, a member of the British Muslim Council, calls it a no-go area at any cost, adding "the Prophet is held above everything in the universe, over one's own person, family, parents, the whole world. It is less offensive to condemn and vilify God".

That is certainly true – for Muslims.

However Denmark, and the other countries where the cartoons have been reproduced, including in Britain by the BBC and in newspapers in France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Germany, are not Muslim countries.

They are democratic, secular countries which are not ruled by religious dogma, whether it be Muslim or Christian.

They have the same values as New Zealand, which includes the right to free speech in its Bill of Rights. There is an acceptance that people can write and say what they wish – except in tightly defined circumstances – even if others are offended by it, and that being shocked can be part of the price for being informed.


Read the whole thing.

The Muslim Cartoons that are shocking the Arab world



I think it is healthy to remember what context the cartoons that were published in Denmark originally was. This is a must read:

The drawings were commissioned by the Jyllands-Posten (Jutland's Post) to accompany an article on self-censorship and freedom of speech after Danish writer Kare Bluitgen was unable failed to find artists willing to illustrate his children's book about Mohammed for fear of violent attacks by extremist Muslims.

Islamic teachings forbid pictorial depictions of Mohammed.

The cartoons were published on September 30 with an explanatory article by the newspaper's culture editor, Flemming Rose.

The following is a translated summary of the article and explanation of the cartoons published in the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia.

"The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings.

"It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule.

"It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no one can tell how the self-censorship will end.

"That is why the Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Mohammed as they see him."

I think it is good to recognize the pitfalls of Godwin's law for a moment:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

May we all learn to avoid outrageous hyperboles and ad hominems when debating. Certainly I am not scot-free on this. I really do dislike it when conversations I am in turn into all-consuming fires that descend into non-evidential debates. It takes both hands to wash each other. Cheers to a new day.

Radio Blogger

Mark Steyn on the offensive Muslim cartoons (listen here):

"Hugh Hewitt: I'm joined now by Mark Steyn, columnist to the world. You can read all of his work at Steynonline.com. Mark, I thought we'd start with the State of the Union, but overnight, the Muslim Mohammed cartoon fiasco scandal is exploding with seven European newspapers reprinting the cartoons judged offensive by many Muslims. And today, the editor, the publisher of one of those newspapers firing the editor of one of these newspapers. What is going on here?

Mark Steyn: Well you know, this is a point I made in that very, very big piece that the Wall Street Journal website put up a couple of weeks ago, that there aren't a lot of good options when you have a very significant militant minority in your country that is determined, effectively, to demand that its own values be imposed on society at large. You only have to look at, for example, the difference...when a Broadway playwright writes a play about Jesus being gay, and having sex with Judas Iscariot, there are a couple of protests outside the theater, and people write letters. When you attempt to show a representation of Mohammed, you get people threatening to kill you, you get national boycotts, you get people burning down buildings. And at some point, Muslims living in Western Europe have to decide whether or not they're prepared to be offended, because that's what it involves in a free society. Every day of the week."

HH: Yes, yes.

MS: And that's what Muslims have to learn to do in the Western world, if they're going to be citizens of the Western world.

rights, reactions, and the closing of the Red Sea

The cartoons of Muslims, particularly depicting Muhammed, published by Denmark's Jyllands-Posten is still getting quite a lot of attention today. I sincerely hope that this awful tragedy in the Red Sea will turn attention agitated in the West and East to something that can be agreed upon - that death is an inhuman thief that can come in the night.

Yet from the comments I've received I'm coming to suspect that there are several deeply significant issues taking place here:

  • There's the matter of european solidarity (via Michael). Non-muslim europeans have probably been looking for something worthwhile to unite them on and I think the loss of Spirit non-muslim europeans have in contrast to their muslim counter parts could be an effective motivator. This interpretation quite strongly suggests that jealousy is the motivator. Are europeans jealous of the muslim spirit?

  • There's the matter of christians comparing their reactions to insulting depictions of their God in a freedom of speech society to the reaction of some in the muslim world (via DP). Christians can look at a people who are burning Danish flags and boycotting Danish goods and too easily say that they're not capable of the same thing. Christians believe strongly in consciencious freedoms. But I think this is the part of the truth that will be emphasised to the point of becoming a myth. Christians may not burn flags, but they sure do enjoy reacting. Christians love to react to images insulting their values. It thrills them to be insulted. Can't have evolution taught in school, insulted. Homosexual cowboys in the movies, insulted. Sharon pulls out of Gaza, insulted. Jesus Christ Superstar, insulted. Britney Spears mocking Christ, insulted. Of course there are many Christians who are on the opposite coin of all these offensive ideas and images, but I don't know if it is a complete picture to focus on just those that don't get insulted.

  • The west's religious history of iconoclasm has reduced the value of images for them and therefore makes them insensitive to peoples who do not share that same history (via Anastasia). "I seriously think that Christians in the West having been the predominant religion for centuries have completely forgotten what it’s like to be persecuted for your beliefs the way that Muslims have been lately," says Anastasia.

  • Many in the west are confusing this matter with the war on terrorism (via Anastasia). I agree, but I think it will be too easily done. Apart from telling people that these are two different matters, I do not know how to substantiate it.

  • Should good manners trump rights. Michael procured two interesting quotes: "Kofi Annan said freedom of the press should not be an excuse for insulting religions. The French interior minister, Nicholas Sarkozy, said he preferred “an excess of caricature to an excess of censure”."