ed_rex: (dhalgren)

First (and second) thoughts on the election of Trudeau II

Image: Detail from screenshot of Prime Minister elect Justin Trudeau speaking on October 20 2015. Video by Canadian Press via National Post.

October 21, 2015, OTTAWA — The election of 2015 (or #Elexn42 as it was known on Twitter) has come and gone.

Personally, the results were an emotional roller-coaster. I was working when the results — a clean sweep for the Liberals, 32 out of 32 seats — came in from Atlantic Canada, so I was intellectually prepared for what was to come.

But emotionally? Not so much.

By the time the night was done, and the extent of the Liberal victory and the NDP's crushing defeat was laid bare on my father's ancient television screen, I was torn between rage and despair.

I couldn't even take any pleasure in knowing that Steven Harper's hate-filled and hate-fuelled regime had gone down to defeat. "Ding-dong! the witch is dead!" one of my fellow election watchers crowed, but I felt no joy, only a dread that Canadians had traded a nakedly brutal thug in thrall to the One Percent to a soft-spoken and smiling lisper who would make us enjoy the ongoing dismantling of liberty and democracy.

24 hours later? My sober first thoughts live behind the link: My schadenfreude, where it at?

ed_rex: (The Droz Report)

First of all, in case you've been distracted and so gotten sucked in by all of those articles wondering why "those" muslims are so irrational and upset about a lousy video, please read this analysis by Ray McGovern for a much-needed reality-check via Alternet.org.

And if you just need some prejudice reinforcement, cracked.com to the rescue!

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Lessons from Egypt

Barack Obama is the probably the best possible President the United States could have, but all of his genuinely good qualities don't make a damned bit of difference in terms of U.S. foreign policy. There is a very simple reason for this: He's not the boss. The real boss, of course, is all of that fucking money, all of the profits to be made, and which have to be made because that is the criteria according to which corporations — and hence the U.S. economy itself — lives or dies. Profit must be made, and it is not made exclusively, or even primarily within the U.S. but outside of it, all over the world. That is the necessity that governs U.S. foreign policy. Not morality, not justice, and not Obama. In that sphere he, like any other President, more closely resembles Stepin Fetchit. Thomas Dow, via email.

It's been getting harder and harder for anyone in the Western world to pretend we live in a genuinely democratic society. Ironically — but also tellingly — our rulers have felt in ever-less necessary to hide the fact that they hold "the people" in contempt, just as they hold in contempt the idea of democracy itself.

As a Canadian, last summer's government-sponsored riots in Toronto (see "Dominion of Fear" from last July) tore a lot of the proverbial wool from my eyes, but not all of it. I think it Tony Blair's calmy racist para-logical contortions in support of anything but democracy for the Egyptian people to bring home to me the fact our own democracy is little (if anything) more than a potempkin voting booth.

Which prompted the following, an editorial first published in this past Friday's True North Perspective. Long story short, there are two lessions for those of us in the West to learn from the courageous men and women facing down the thugs in the streets of Egypt.

First, it's not our place to manage Egyptian affairs. Even if we accept the myth of Good Intentions, the result is almost always a torturer like Mubarak.

And second, we need to take back our own democracy; the men in black body armor are at the ready any time we step out of line.

Click here for the rest (behind the fake cut).

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Pinched from http://www.humanevents.com/images/islm_cartoon_7.jpg

I'd really rather not promote the moral idiot Christopher Hitchen, an "intellectual" who shamefully broke with his own alleged principles when George W. Bush decided it would be fun and profitable to invade Iraq, but when he's right, he's right.

See, Yale University Press is publishing a book called Cartoons That Shook the World, which "tells the story of the lurid and preplanned campaign of 'protest' and boycott that was orchestrated in late 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed." As you may recall, lives were lost during the subsequent riots and, while the subject was covered extensively in the Western press, the vast majority of our newspapers and magazines refused to permit their readers to actuall see what the fuss was about (if anyone's interested, my own reaction shortly thereafter is online here).

Nearly four years later, that short-sighted moral and intellectual pusillanimity is still going strong. Hitchens writes,

So here's another depressing thing: Neither the "experts in the intelligence, national security, law enforcement, and diplomatic fields, as well as leading scholars in Islamic studies and Middle East studies" who were allegedly consulted, nor the spokespeople for the press of one of our leading universities, understand the meaning of the plain and common and useful word instigate. If you instigate something, it means that you wish and intend it to happen. If it's a riot, then by instigating it, you have yourself fomented it. If it's a murder, then by instigating it, you have yourself colluded in it. There is no other usage given for the word in any dictionary, with the possible exception of the word provoke, which does have a passive connotation. After all, there are people who argue that women who won't wear the veil have "provoked" those who rape or disfigure them … and now Yale has adopted that "logic" as its own.

The full article is online at Slate.com (though it's interesting to note that, while Hitchens proivides a link to the cartoons, none of them appear alongside the article itself.

A problem with permissions, or is Slate refusing to practice what Hitchens is preaching?

(Cross-posted from Edifice Rex Online.)

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Pinched from http://www.humanevents.com/images/islm_cartoon_7.jpg

I'd really rather not promote the moral idiot Christopher Hitchen, an "intellectual" who shamefully broke with his own alleged principles when George W. Bush decided it would be fun and profitable to invade Iraq, but when he's right, he's right.

See, Yale University Press is publishing a book called Cartoons That Shook the World, which "tells the story of the lurid and preplanned campaign of 'protest' and boycott that was orchestrated in late 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed." As you may recall, lives were lost during the subsequent riots and, while the subject was covered extensively in the Western press, the vast majority of our newspapers and magazines refused to permit their readers to actuall see what the fuss was about (if anyone's interested, my own reaction shortly thereafter is online here).

Nearly four years later, that short-sighted moral and intellectual pusillanimity is still going strong. Hitchens writes,

So here's another depressing thing: Neither the "experts in the intelligence, national security, law enforcement, and diplomatic fields, as well as leading scholars in Islamic studies and Middle East studies" who were allegedly consulted, nor the spokespeople for the press of one of our leading universities, understand the meaning of the plain and common and useful word instigate. If you instigate something, it means that you wish and intend it to happen. If it's a riot, then by instigating it, you have yourself fomented it. If it's a murder, then by instigating it, you have yourself colluded in it. There is no other usage given for the word in any dictionary, with the possible exception of the word provoke, which does have a passive connotation. After all, there are people who argue that women who won't wear the veil have "provoked" those who rape or disfigure them … and now Yale has adopted that "logic" as its own.

The full article is online at Slate.com (though it's interesting to note that, while Hitchens proivides a link to the cartoons, none of them appear alongside the article itself.

A problem with permissions, or is Slate refusing to practice what Hitchens is preaching?

(Cross-posted from Edifice Rex Online.)

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One Professor, No Book
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. — Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Though I suspect the belief is rare among you, Gentle Readers, the idea that large corporations are, in practice if not in theory, entities or "corporate citizens" which will automatically support such "western" goods as freedom of speech or any other form of individual liberty is actually a fairly well-entrenched idea among many of us in the "West".

The truth is, corporations — particularly large ones, run by managers and not by actual entrepreneurs — are not citizens of any country, nor do they have any systemic ethic beyond that of the bottom line.

Earlier this evening, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] _ocelott_, in a post in the genrereviews community, "that Random House recently announced they have cancelled — or "suspended" — publication of Sherry Jones's historical novel, The Jewel of Medina, a book based on the life of one of the wives of the prophet Muhammed. "The book was a go right up until May, with a $100K advance and a two-book deal. So what went wrong? Well, apparently you can't write fiction about Muslims."

Burn It All 02 by Gilbert Shelton
The original information comes courtesy of an item by one Asra Q. Nomani, writing in today's Wall Street Journal.

[livejournal.com profile] _ocelott_ expressed "horror and disbelief," but I'm afraid I shake my head only in (unsurprised) horror. It takes a lot more than craven corporate cowardice to shock me — rather, it is corporate courage that surprises me.

The original information comes courtesy of an item by the writer Asra Q. Nomani, writing in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.

Ms Nomani quotes Random House Publishing Group deputy publisher Thomas Perry as saying, "it disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now," and that the company received advice, "from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment." He added that publication would be postponed, "for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel."

The author herself says she "can't talk about the publisher's decision not to publish — not until Random House/Ballantine says so, for reasons I can't disclose ;-(," but does confirm she is aware of only one advance reviewer who thought the book incendiary, Denise Spellberg, PhD, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas.

According the Journal, Professor Spellberg not only told Random House Ms Jones' novel was beyond the pale, but that,
In an interview, Ms. Spellberg told me the novel is a "very ugly, stupid piece of work." The novel, for example, includes a scene on the night when Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha: "the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion's sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was the bliss I had longed for all my life." Says Ms. Spellberg: "I walked through a metal detector to see 'Last Temptation of Christ,'" the controversial 1980s film adaptation of a novel that depicted a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. "I don't have a problem with historical fiction. I do have a problem with the deliberate misinterpretation of history. You can't play with a sacred history and turn it into soft core pornography."
Well of course, as her own example — The Last Temptation of Christ — goes to show, the film was released nearly 20 years ago and her nation has not fallen. Although I'm still unclear as to whether she believes Scorsese's film too should have been banned (or at least, not financed). She may be saying she'd prefer to keep dictatorial lunatics happy if it means she won't need to walk through metal detectors any more.

I should probably note that the above lines quoted from the book are all I have read ot it. I'm tempted to suggest it might be a candidate for a Bad Sex Award, but that would be pretty churlish based on only four sentences. Further, I'm not a Muslim and have no idea whether that scene, or the entire novel, would in fact offend one, 37, 561 or 12 million Muslims. But as we shall see, that's not the point. Though there are those who would insist otherwise in most of the West there is no inherent right to be protection from being offended. If offence is to be the criteria for censorship, I'd have quite a list for the Index Librorum Prohibitorummyself.

But at this point, the quality — or "offensiveness" — of the novel is not — or shouldn't be — the point.

I haven't been able to track down any Muslim groups threatening fatwas on Ms Jones or her book, but if I had, that would not not be the point, either (though it might complicate it a little, certainly for the author).

The point is: in what kind of a society do we wish to live? One in which we proclaim a right to free speech but knuckle under to the first academic who tells us that a novel is, "a declaration of war...explosive stuff...a national security issue," if the book sees publication, or one in which we proclaim a right to free speech and live as if that right actually matters?

Presuming, just for the sake of argument, Sherry Jones' novel really is every bit as dangerous as Professor Spellberg claims it, so what? Liberty, exercised only when it's safe is no liberty at all, but merely the safety of slavish and fear. I'll be safe so long as I don't look them in the eye or — heaven forfend! — intefere!

I would like to think the corporate courtiers responsible for this capitulation to a theoretical threat would be at least secretly ashamed of themselves, but Random House is not a publisher in the sense it was when founded by Bennet Cerf. No, it is but one of many income-earning branches of a multinational corporate conglemerate for which books and literature are no more and no less important than this month's fashion style of tube socks.
Burn It All 01 by Gilbert Shelton
(I note with some — cynical — amusement that during the Second World War, Bertelsmann was the single largest producer of Nazi propaganda, a fact which — though at some risk of calling Godwin's Law down upon myself — serves to illustrate my point. We not only ought not look to Capital to defend our human rights and interests, we dare not.

There is one further point to be made about Random House's cowardice and cupidity. The Journal notes that the book was not cancelled ("suspended") until it was informed by email that Professor Spellberg not only didn't approve of Jewel of Medina, but that she would sue Random House were she to be in any way "associated" with the novel.
...back in New York City, Jane Garrett, an editor at Random House's Knopf imprint, dispatched an email on May 1 to Knopf executives, telling them she got a phone call the evening before from Ms. Spellberg (who happens to be under contract with Knopf to write "Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an.")

"She thinks there is a very real possibility of major danger for the building and staff and widespread violence," Ms. Garrett wrote. "Denise...[t]hinks it will be far more controversial than the satanic verses and the Danish cartoons. Does not know if the author and Ballantine folks are clueless or calculating, but thinks the book should be withdrawn ASAP."...That day, the email spread like wildfire through Random House, which also received a letter from Ms. Spellberg and her attorney, saying she would sue the publisher if her name was associated with the novel. On May 2, a Ballantine editor told Ms. Jones's agent the company decided to possibly postpone publication of the book.

On a May 21 conference call, Random House executive Elizabeth McGuire told the author and her agent that the publishing house had decided to indefinitely postpone publication of the novel for "fear of a possible terrorist threat from extremist Muslims" and concern for "the safety and security of the Random House building and employees."
Meanwhile, extremist Muslims have apparently taken this issue between their rotten teeth, having learned that pre-emptive threats sometimes reap remarkable proganda returns. More from the Journal.
After he got the call from Ms. Spellberg, Mr. Amanullah dashed off an email to a listserv of Middle East and Islamic studies graduate students, acknowledging he didn't "know anything about it [the book]," but telling them, "Just got a frantic call from a professor who got an advance copy of the forthcoming novel, 'Jewel of Medina' — she said she found it incredibly offensive." He added a write-up about the book from the Publishers Marketplace, an industry publication.

The next day, a blogger known as Shahid Pradhan posted Mr. Amanullah's email on a Web site for Shiite Muslims — "Hussaini Youth" — under a headline, "upcoming book, 'Jewel of Medina': A new attempt to slander the Prophet of Islam." Two hours and 28 minutes after that, another person by the name of Ali Hemani proposed a seven-point strategy to ensure "the writer withdraws this book from the stores and apologise all the muslims across the world."
I haven't been able to confirm any of the above — my research turned up altmuslim.com, of which Mr. Amanullah is listed as an editor, but on which I could find nothing about Jones' novel.

I have been able to confirm that that the story has brought the wing-nuts and racists on "our" side out of their dank holes. One quote from a knuckle-dragger at stoptheaclu.com (there are extremists everywhere, folks!) ought to be enough . It was number two when I googled Professor Spellberg; you'll have no trouble finding more if (for some reason) you want 'em.
So what isn’t offensive to the Muslim community? Oh, that’s right….sex with nine year old girls, beheading people, subjugating those who aren’t Muslim, oppressing women, need I go on?"
No doubt the screaming will go on for days or weeks and the myths about what actually happened will evolve like virulent cancers for months or years while the rest of try not to get caught in the twin cross-fire of governmental terror on the one hand and free-lance terror on the other.

Burn It All 03 by Gilbert Shelton
So thank you, Professor Spellberg and, especially, thank you "citizen" Random House/Bertelsmann.

Between you, you've managed to inflame white racists and Muslim fundamentalists alike, without even publishing a book! One more nail in the coffin being made ready for the "home of the free and the land of the brave."

What can I say but, "Bravo!" if in fact you wish to live in a world where it takes only fear to ensure that nothing is said but what is safe?

* * *

Somehow it seems at least tangentially relevant that August 6th was the 63rd anniversary of the atom-bombing of Hiroshima. Lest we forget indeed.

* * *

Note: Thanks to a reply from Sherry Jones, I have edited this to correct an error in the initial version of this essay. It was not, as I originally wrote, Ms Jones who threatened to bring on the lawyers, but Professor Spellberg. My thanks to Ms Jones and my apologies for the error.

All images copyright © 1973 by Gilbert Shelton.
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I don't normally read the Globe and Mail's editorials for any reason but to keep an eye on what the enemy is thinking. Granted, I sometimes do agree with them, but until yesterday I don't think one of those editorials has ever changed my thinking about a major political issue.

Yesterday saw the unthinkable happen: the Globe convinced me I was %100 wrong about something!

As many of you are aware (and about which a number of you have posted comments), Elections Canada recently ruled that Muslim women who wear face-covering burkas or hijabs need not lift their veils when identifying themselves at the polling booth, provided they have two pieces of government-issued ID or are accompanied by a citizen who can swear to their identity.

All four of our major political parties have objected to this ruling, as have at least two major Muslim organizations. And - like some of you - I had thought of perhaps showing up at the polls during the next election wearing some kind of face-covering to protest what I took to be some kind of "political correctness" run amok.

But the Globe got it right and I (and probably you) got it wrong (italics in the excerpts below are mine).

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other federal leaders are pandering to Quebecers' fears about Islam...they have declared that veiled Muslim women should not be able to vote without showing their face. The leaders have seized on a potent symbol of a religious minority trying to impose its way on the country. But the symbol is a false one, and the leaders know it. Not saying so is cowardly and irresponsible...

Protecting the integrity of the voting system is essential, but the rules designed by Parliament for that purpose do not require photo identification. A voter who shows her face without also showing a photo identification card has verified nothing. Voters don't have to show a photo identification card for the simple reason that many - those without drivers' licenses, for instance - do not have such a card. That is why the Elections Act offers alternatives. Those without government-issued photo ID may show two pieces of identification approved by the Chief Electoral Officer, as long as one shows their address. Or they may have another voter vouch for them (no more than one person per "voucher"), if each swears an oath.

If the system for verifying a voter's identity with written identification or sworn statements is considered good enough for other Canadians, it should be good enough for those who cover their faces for religious reasons. That is why Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand says he will permit veiled women to vote as long as their identity can be confirmed. He was not making a special accommodation. He was applying the law as it stands.

So, mea culpa for my knee-jerk reaction to the original story and kudos to The Globe for cutting through divisive and pandering to the bigots among us and the bigotry within us.
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This story both delighted and irritated me.

In a nutshell, a Muslim girl was thrown out of a soccer tournament for wearing a hijab - apparently the headscarf is banned by the Quebec Soccer Association on grounds of safety, "...to protect children from being accidentally strangled."

I'll leave the question of the risk of being strangled by a hijab during a soccer game to the experts. But I want to talk about is the story itself - or rather, about how it was written.

Most of it was told as a human-interest piece - how the girl felt, how the coach felt, how the girl's team-mates felt. The girl's team withdrew from the tournament in protest, apparently with the full backing of the team itself.

To me, the real story here was alluded to in the second paragraph and then never mentioned again.

Calling the rule banning the headscarf worn by Muslim women racist, four other teams followed Asmahan Mansour's team, the Nepean Selects from Ottawa, after she was thrown out for running afoul of a Quebec Soccer Association rule.


That sports leagues have rules about proper attire is not news. That a team withdraws from a tournament because one of its players was ejected is minor news. That four other teams in the tournament also withdrew to support another team's player is interesting news.

Why no interviews with players from other teams?

The CBC's headline was, "Muslim girl ejected from tournament for wearing hijab". Shouldn't it have been, "Four other teams support Muslim girl's right to wear hijab"?

That's the story! Jesus, somebody get re-write on the phone ...
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Don't worry, folks, I'm not about to test your patience with another 3,000 worder.

As a mildly ironic counterpoint to the unexpected phone-call from Laura on Wednesday, I had a date scheduled for Thursday. A lunch date, but still ...

One of the more striking smokers in the building at which I work, is a petite and very pretty Muslim woman, who usually spends her smoke-breaks on her cell, obviously talking business while gesturing animatedly with her free hand. I knew - or rather, I presumed with a high degree of confidence - she is a Muslim because she wears a hijab, though otherwise usually dresses in a casual Western style, including, sometimes, blue-jeans.

A couple of weeks back, during the depths of that viscious cold-snap, we got to talking (starting with the weather and how stupid we were proving ourselves to be by being out in it, sucking poison into our lungs - but I digress) and, very quickly, found ourselves sharing quickl and easy laughter.

She is Canadian-born, daughter of immigrants from India. She speaks the way she moves, confidently and with purpose, and I found myself quickly becoming taken by her wit and incisive intelligence. (Though not particularly witty in itself, her description of being witness to Janet Jackson's presumably inadvertent nipple exposure at the Superbowl a few years back was priceless.)

We ran into each other again, and yet again. The third time, on our way back to our mutual offices, I stopped and said, "I never do this, but, er, would you like to have lunch together one of these days?"

And so it was that she dropped by my office on Thursday at around 1:30, from whence we departed for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant just up Spadina (but the name of which escapes me - Sidra? Maybe you know it? It's on the east side, between Queen and Richmond?).

I don't know many people for whom religious faith is of much - if any - importance, let alone Muslims, so the opportunity for some cross-cultural study was almost as exciting as the fact that I had mustered the courage to ask her out in the first place. Too, it was strange for me to socialize without benefit of alcohol as a lubricant.

As it turned out, Saara seemed to find the fact of my atheism - and especially that both sides of my family were the same, going back at least 2 and 3 generations - just as curious as I found her decision to wear a hijab despite not apparently fulfilling any other Muslim stereotypes.

Long story short, it was a very good meeting, one that well over our allotted our.

We exchanged the usual family and personal histories, but politics and religion - sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted - were the dominant themes.

Saara told me she started wearing the hijab as a direct result of 9/11. She saw - and sees - making herself visibly Muslim as a political act, as a principled refusal to give in to fear of Islam that crime brought to the forefront of our society. In other words, she is a Muslim and she is not kind to pretend to be something else, simply to make non-Muslims around her more comfortable.

(Including, she noted, a lot of feminists. She said she has "often" been lectured by (invariably white) feminists about how the hijab "proves" she is oppressed and clearly not a feminist. And indeed, she said she considers feminism a strictly white, bourgeois phenomenom which does not speak to ethnic women at all. I disagree, but certainly find her position interesting - and depressing.)

And that decision certainly hasn't made her life any easier, particularly when crossing into the United States. Once, when she was refused admission (she made the mistake of telling the truth: she was going to New York to take a course in "activism"), she said the customs officers were litterally screaming at her, "Are you a terrorist? Are you a terrorist?"

"No, I work with troubled youth," apparently was not a good enough answer.

Saara has an admirable sense of humour about her trials and tribulations. She told me of when trip, with two of her sisters (who don't wear a hijab), on a trip to her brother's for a baby-shower.

At the border their car was - as it always is, she said - was selected for a "random" search.

"'Random'?" she asked the guard, while outlining her head-scarf with a dramatic swirl of her hand. "'Random', eh?"

At the interview, when ask, "If you're going to a baby-shower, where are the presents?"

"We sent them ahead," she said simply. "I knew we'd be stopped at the border. I knew we might not be allowed through at all."

Surprisingly, that time, she was.

* * *


Anyway, it was a more than enjoyable lunch and I hope we both make the effort to see each other again (although, it turns out she has a partner - story of my life, lately).

Nevertheless, between reading Dawkins' book and meeting a very attractive Muslim woman, I have been pondering religion quite a bit lately.

One thing I have come to realize is that I don't think I could get seriously involved with a woman of faith - any faith (and yes, I know how much that drains my pool of potential partners. Thank god (as it were) I live in Canada and not the States; and a pity I don't live in Europe).

A decade or so ago, I was involved with a woman - Harriet - who was a Christian, United Church style. On Christmas Eve I attented midnight mass with her, an event of great and medieval-feeling pomp and circumstance; censers on chains spewed perfumed smoke into the air, the priests decked out in their white robes. For me it was at once fascinating and tedious, and I was glad indeed when it was finally over and Harriet and I could return to her apartment to crack open a beer and then tumble into bed for some fantastic sex.

"Well," she said after we'd settled down around her kitchen table, "What did you think?"

I was silent for a moment or two, then finally replied, "Harriet, you don't really want me to answer that."

For the truth was, I thought the whole ceremony profoundly silly. Leaving aside the value of community celebrations; leaving aside the unquestionable virtue of cultural historical continuity, I could not escape the fact I held the basic concept behind that ceremony in intellectual contempt. To me, the idea of worshipping a non-existent god is simply, well, silly. It truly baffles me that intelligent people can take it seriously.

What I've realized, is that my contempt for religious beliefs would be a pretty serious handicap to having a serious romantic relationship with a woman of faith. I suppose I could just "agree to disagree" with a partner, but what if children enter the picture? What if she wants to indoctrinate them into her faith?

Major conflict, people!

"I love you and I accept that you don't believe, but I want our children baptised, and raised Catholic."

"And I love you and accept that you do believe, but there's no fucking way my kids are going to be taught to believe a fantasy!"

Shit. Is even 10 percent of the population of this country atheist? Welcome to the wading pool, Young Geoffrey.
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Over the past couple of weeks, the sight of thousands of (mostly bearded, mostly male) Muslims brandishing signs saying, "To hell with your democracy!" and "Death to those who insult Islam!" has been doing its job - not only to goad Muslims into a war fever, but to goad us, liberal-minded, cosmopolitan Westerners, into it as well.

While the Pentagon's war-drums throb in the background, propagandists like Ann Coulter are seizing the opportunity with both hands. Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush must be shaking their heads at their luck - Muslim fundamentalists leading their followers into the streets are just the ticket to get wavering Americans (and other Westerners) back on side.

Don't get me wrong. I too felt the visceral terror at the sight of those thousands of people, marching, throwing stones and fire-bombs, all because of the publication of a mere dozen cartoons in one magazine in one small, European country.

What's wrong with these people? I wondered, This is nuts!

  


Dark-skinned, hirsute, wearing strange clothes, and in deadly earnest, these demonstrators are scary because, to most of us in the West, they seem so silly. To those of us born to privilege, cartoons are only cartoons - "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me!" seems reasonable to those who have everything; for those who have nothing at all except pride, words (or, in this case, pictures) are powerful indeed.

Clearly, the demonstrators don't think the cartoons are "just" cartoons. They are symbols - of Western imperialism and contempt, of a cultural divide, of a growing Muslim feeling that, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more!"

While Islamo-fascist clerics are using these inane (or so I presume; I have not been able to find any of them) images to rally their troops, so are the war-mongers in the West. Where the clerics found in a dozen cartoons a symbol of all that is rotten in Western societies, so too have our fundamentalists found in the demonstrations a means to demonize more than 1 billion people.

The riots - the deaths, the arson, the fanaticism in the eyes of the demonstrators themselves - have all served to sorely test the liberal-minded among us, leaving many of us stripped intellectually naked, our values of tolerance melting away like hoar-frost on a sunny morning.


  


Leading the charge on "our" side, is the prominent "philosopher" of the American right, Anne Coulter, perhaps for the first time finding an attentive audience among those who are not fellow-travellers of The Project for a New American Century. Frightened and disgusted by the ludicrous inanity of the scruffy, violent, dark-skinned protesters, Coulter revels in naked, raving bigotry, to the applause of many who would never in their wildest, most perverse fantasies have voted for George W. Bush.

Let us review - let us analyze - Coulter's words.

  • "... Muslims' predilection for violence..." [that exact phrase is repeated three times in one paragraph];

  • "...thousands of Muslims around the world engaged in rioting, arson, mob savagery, flag-burning, murder and mayhem, among other peaceful acts of nonviolence...";

  • "Muslims are the only people who make feminists seem laid-back";

  • "... back when Muslims created things, rather than blowing them up...";

  • "Muslims ought to start claiming the Quran also prohibits indoor plumbing, to explain their lack of it...";

  • But Muslims think they can issue decrees about what images can appear in newspaper cartoons.


People I respect have emailed this garbage to me, pointed it out in discussion forums (often with the apology, "I know it's Anne Coulter, but, well, this time she has a point,") and brought it up in conversation.

But Coulter doesn't have a point. What she has is an excuse to lump together a group of co-religionists and call them names.

Throughout her article, "Muslims" - all one billion of them - are slandered as a unitary, almost sub-human group, in a classic example of the demonization, of the de-humanization, of the "enemy".

  


That she doesn't have a point, and that so many otherwise sensible people are nevertheless reading her words as if she does is proof that many of us are reacting, not thinking, in response to images that are - yes - both ugly and frightening. The irony is, in permitting our feeling to overrule our thinking, we are, ourselves, behaving in precisely the same tribal manner as "those Muslims".




If we are not careful, not only will those of us who failed to stop the last war fail to stop the next one, we will find ourselves leading the vanguard supporting it, linking like mideval Crusaders behind George W. Bush's feudal knights.

Having examined Coulter, let us examine her masters, as well as her victims.

As inanely ugly as the Islamist protesters are, how much more ugly is the invasion and occupation of a country that has never threatened in any way its invader? The protests against the cartoons have resulted in the deaths of no more than a couple of dozen people; the invasion of Iraq, of possibly well-over 100,000 men, women and children.

As of 2004, 100,000 people killed, on the basis of nothing but lies.

Even the "progressives" among us too easily make the mistake of believing the propaganda of our "leaders", even when we, consciously, believe we do not support those leaders.

We - the tolerant, cosmopolitan citizens of the world - are no more represented by the Pentagon's lap-dogs like Ann Coulter than are the Muslim citizens of the world represented either by fundamentalist mullahs in the streets or by such "enlightened", Western-supported Arab governments like those of Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

On the one hand, clad in the disengenuous mantle of "democracy", "freedom" and "self-defence", Western nations have in the past five years invaded (if not entirely conquered) two Muslim nations and are making loud noises about doing the same to a third.

On the other hand, you have a large population of Muslims, mostly ill-educated and living under dictatorships propped-up by governments that - as often as not - were installed by Western powers.



Who is really a threat to our Western values? Rag-tag mobs of ignorant fundamentalists, or our so-called leaders, men who lie - over and over and over again - to their own people; whose troops are stationed in 170 countries around the globe; and who show no sign of having the slightest concern for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children?

Who threatens our Western values? Mobs armed with bricks and a few hundred suicide bombers, or governments aremed with 20,000 nuclear warheads, who have learned to love torture, who spy on their own citizens and who have decided the Geneva Convention no longer matters?

It is not only our moral duty, it is also our pragmatic duty, to ourselves, to make sure we are not hypnotized by our so-called leaders. We in the West are not in serious danger from the Islamic lunatics who are only strengthened by our actions; we are in serious danger because we believe and act on the lies of our own leaders.

April 2017

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