Saturday, February 04, 2006
(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
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
"'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.'"
"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. "
"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"
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.
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."
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.
"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.
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”."
Thursday, February 02, 2006
"Randall Morck, visiting professor of Canadian studies at Harvard, said Ignatieff will be “a breath of fresh air” to the Liberal Party, which has a solid shot of obtaining a majority in the next election. "
A majority? Fat chance. Where are the 52 Liberal seats going to come from? The West? Quebec? The only remaining place that they can realistically pick up seats is Ontario, where even if they were to win every seat from the Tories, they would still fall a dozen short of a majority.
Which answers the question of why Manley, Tobin, and McKenna likely do not want to be the Liberal leader at this time. No prospects but opposition.
Here is a cartoon that has not caused a stink in the West.
Here is Britney Spears trying to create a stink. Perhaps religious fanatics in the West will be led by this to burn her records.
Is there a difference and what is the difference between Judaism, Christianity and Islam that sparks a varied reaction to acts of defacement committed in the name of free speech?
"'My understanding is that the invitation wouldn't be extended to Stephen Harper,' he said.
'I think it's fair to say the Conservative party as a whole now operates from a centre-right position. This is a movement designed to bring the centre and left together.'" - From the National Post
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
This is short and anecdotal.
There are many street kiosks in Tomsk selling everything from bliniis (crepes) to Shashlik (shishkebabs) and Ice cream (they are even open in the -40s). Many places have standing fridges with a glass front where the drinks are kept.
Please take into account that this has been one of the coldest winters in the past century.
What happens when you put a can of coke or fanta in the freezer?
Well, these fridges became freezers in the bitter cold. It has now become a common sight to no longer be able to see through the glass fronts to the kiosk fridges--they have become blackened, oranged and even purpled. The soft drinks explode and freeze on the glass.
I find this humorous. I hope you did as well.
Dryden is the sort of guy who will get the benefit of the doubt from Canadians.
Yet, how many people know that Ken Dryden was taking law school exams while winning the Stanley Cup? How many people outside of politics know that he negotiated child care agreements with all the provinces (possibly the most tangible accomplishment of the Paul Martin government)? How many people have heard Ken Dryden give a passionate speech to a small group without cameras? Dryden is the sort of person whose record will actually be news to people.
"Iran's president lashed out Wednesday at the United States and vowed to resist the pressure of 'bully countries' as European nations circulated a draft resolution urging that Tehran be brought before the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear activities.
In a speech to thousands of supporters hours after President Bush's State of the Union address, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided the United States as a 'hollow superpower' that is 'tainted with the blood of nations' and said Tehran would continue its nuclear program.
'Nuclear energy is our right, and we will resist until this right is fully realized,' Ahmadinejad told the crowd in the southern Iran city of Bushehr, the site of Iran's only nuclear power plant."
— More money and responsibility for parliamentary committees to act as a balance to government power, particularly the public accounts committee that oversees government spending.
— Establish a code of conduct for government political staff, including a provision that bars them from telling bureaucrats what to do.
— End political involvement in the selection of CEOs and directors of Crown corporations.
— Change the role and title of the clerk of the privy council to depoliticize the position and separate it from the Prime Minister's Office. The new main role should be to represent the public service to cabinet. The secretary of the Treasury Board should assume the title of head of the public service.
Read the actual report here. Read the recommendations here.
Read the news covering it here and here.
One odd recommendation (8):
The Public Accounts Committee should
ensure that Deputy Ministers, other heads of
agencies and senior officials are the witnesses
called to testify before it. As a general
principle, Ministers should not be witnesses
before the Committee.
Aren't minister's responsible ultimately? Hence the term 'parliamentary responsibility.' I can understand that one does not want to make a show of ministers as witnesses. But when push comes to shove, this sort of ministerial protection that Gomery offers here does not seem consistent with 'parliamentary responsibility.'
The Government of Canada should adopt an
open and competitive process for the
selection of Deputy Ministers, similar to the
model used in Alberta.
Oh no! This is the end. Heaven forbid any part of the federal government emulate Alberta in any way.
Of course, Canadians don't collectively desire any particular outcome by virtue of their votes. They don't collectively say...let's vote the Tories in...but only so much. In reality, no one knows who their neighbour votes for. And the outcome is pretty much like rolling dice. Who knows what will happen?
It is no vast media conspiracy, this idea of a preferred Canadian minority. It is probably a coping mechanism. All those who didn't vote for a Conservative need some solace, some comfort that their fellow Canadians surely wouldn't put someone as right-wing radical as Scary Stephen. For those that can't cope, there is a measure of shock. In Quebec, the Conservative win has shocked even fellow Quebecers, who thought change was not possible.
But change is possible. Change occured. And before people forget about it. This election, according to Ekos, Canadians wanted a Conservative Majority government more than any other option. Next election, beware. The "scary Conservative majority" has lost the scare appeal it once had.
For once, the Liberals might actually have to think of new refreshing ideas to entice voters.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
"I did my own similar scientific study in the late 80's. A good friend of mine in Manhattan was trying to get into a PHD program in clinical psychology. These programs are extremely competitive and hard to get into--sometimes with over 600 applicants and 10 openings. Needless to say, my friend was devastated when she was turned down by every program. She came to me in tears before sending out her next set of applications and asked me what to do to get in.
I took a look at her 3.7 grade average from NYU and impeccable credentials and told her to leave everything the same and change her name from her English sounding one to her married name of Gonzalez and mail out the applications. She did and next thing you know, she was swamped with interviews. The only problem? Once they saw her white face, they quickly lost interest. The moral of my little unscientific study? We can all come up with results that match our world views if we try hard enough."
Who will become B.C.'s champions under Stephen Harper?
Twenty-nine-year-old James Moore is a rising star. Chuck Strahl can be a great advocate. But Stockwell Day? Give us a break. He still believes that dinosaurs co-existed with humans.
The power shift is inevitably going eastward to Alberta.
Forgive me a second for gagging all over the keyboard. This kind of talk hardly belongs in prime space in a respectable newspaper "ideas" section. Why? Because it is a vile prejudice that has nothing to do with his argument. It is an ad hominem of the most elementary degree. Instead of attacking Stockwell Day's credentials, he attacks a belief irrelevant to his qualifications.
It is almost as dismissive as saying that William Mackenzie King could never have led Canada through decades of rule because he communicated to his dead dog. Ooops. It happened. Despite their archiac beliefs. I am sure most of Canada's first Prime Ministers would have been in agreement with Day on that particular issue. None of which was adversely affected by such a belief.
All this to say....why is it simply okay to go out of one's way to mock their Christian beliefs? Would anyone newspaper in Canada mock a Muslim for his/her beliefs on Mohammad? I think not.
Monday, January 30, 2006
"DENMARK faced the full fury of the Muslim world yesterday as a long-simmering row over newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad finally erupted.
There were street demonstrations and flag-burnings in the Middle East. Libya joined Saudi Arabia in withdrawing its ambassador from Copenhagen. Islamic governments and organisations, including the Muslim Council of Britain, issued denunciations and a boycott of Danish goods took hold across the Muslim world.
The Danish Government warned its citizens about travelling to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and withdrew aid workers from the Gaza Strip.
Last night EU foreign ministers issued a statement in support of Denmark, and the European Commission threatened to report any government backing the boycott to the World Trade Organisation.
The fury echoed the outcry that followed the publication in 1988 of the Salman Rushdie novel The Satanic Verses. The trigger for the latest clash of cultures was the publication by the Danish newspaper Jyllends-Posten on September 30 of 12 cartoons of Muhammad. A biographer of the prophet had complained that no one would dare to illustrate his book, and the newspaper challenged cartoonists to draw pictures of the prophet in a self-declared battle for freedom of speech.
One submission showed Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban; in another he tells dead suicide bombers that he has run out of virgins with which to reward them. Any portrayal of Muhammad is blasphemous in Islam, lest it encourages idolatry.
Supermarkets in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen all removed Danish produce from their shelves. Arla Foods, a Danish company with annual sales of about $430 million in the Middle East, said that the boycott was almost total and suspended production in Saudi Arabia."
"Canada's outgoing ambassador to the United States Frank McKenna announced on Monday that he will not be running for the leadership of the Liberal Party.
'Contrary to the belief of some, being prime minister of Canada has not been a burning ambition for me,' McKenna told reporters at a news conference in Washington.
'I didn't accept the position as ambassador to Washington to create a platform with such a motive, it was simply an opportunity to provide four more years of service in the interest of my country.'"
Sunday, January 29, 2006
"And yet and yet . . . in throwing the bums out, Canadian voters declined to subject them to full-scale humiliation. Even with viable alternatives for all tastes--conservative, socialist and Quebec separatist--it seems one can never underestimate the appeal of a party of floundering discredited kleptocrat incompetents led by a vindictive empty suit who fought one of the most inept campaigns in modern political history. They clung on to over 100 seats and the votes of Canada's three biggest cities. Truly, the Liberals are one of the most amazingly resilient parties this side of Kim Jong-Il's."