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The West Is Choked by Fear (spiegel.de)
50 points by bluebird on Jan 12, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments



In the UK at least, we deal with difficult subjects through satire. But where do you draw the line? I am one for open - although much material on the web is offensive (as seen from me). I'd have rather the images were reprinted, and have the whole thing forgotten about. But there was some gesture of respect and sensitivity shown by the west deriding the work. The debate has also come up with the turn around of the BBC to allow the BNP on question time. So I think it is important to provide the material and the appropriate fora, and freedoms of speech. The herd and mob mentality is usually a result of ignorance. But it takes a long time for attitudes to change. In Britain in the eighties, people were still afraid to speak their minds or challenge the establishment. My father's attitudes have changed incredibly over the last 10 years. And I guess so have mine.

My personal belief is that people can practice what they like, but with the following caveats: no harm to others, animals or the planet. I don't belong to any faith, but see myself as more 'Christian' then many practising Christians. People get lost in doctrine or the mob, and forget to question for themselves. Natural law is far simpler.

The web provides an outlet for many voices, who's authority do you trust? Moderation requires some form of censorship. I'd rather it all open. I can't stand pruned forums, they feel like rigged referendums. It's just incredibly difficult wading through it all. As usually the average Joe, hasn't really anything much interesting to say.

So is it fear or learned sensitivity?


But where do you draw the line?

In a free society there should be no line. A person should be free to say absolutely anything. There is certainly a possibility of causing harm by way of your speech, but this should be handled post hoc, with a court determining damages.

America partially observes this with a watered-down doctrine of prior restraint, but it's got enough exceptions that it's not worth so much.


I've heard the reasoning in this article before, and it's deeply flawed.

It's true that we in the West have the right to offend, but being a troll doesn't make you a righteous defender of freedom.. Those cartoons weren't some type of brilliant artwork, they were simple trolling.

While I'll stand up for someone's right to be a troll, they certainly shouldn't expect my support and respect. Instead, that is reserved for the millions who fought and died to establish and protect our freedoms in the first place.


If we aren't willing to stand up for unpleasant and offensive things then we aren't willing to stand up for freedom of speech at all.

And frankly, having seen the cartoons, anyone who thinks the cartoonists deserve to either die or face attempts on their lives is a nutcase who we should be willing to stand up to.


Yes, precisely. If you have the freedom to do only things that absolutely no one else could take offense from then you do not have freedom.


They need all of our support against those who are actively threatening violence as an appropriate response. Such people need to hear in no uncertain terms that we in the West will not tolerate violence in response to expression, even if it is a troll.

If they want to condemn and denounce in no uncertain terms those cartoons or any other kind of expression, fine. But we must never tolerate acts of violence as an acceptable response to an act of speech.


"In the name of the great FSM (oh great and merciful one) I hereby declare thumb war upon you and call upon all my followers on hte twitters to hunt you down and dislocate both your opposable appendages for the great blasphemy you have committed in your public and offensive denials that trolls are also sacred to the sacrosanct principle of freedom of speech and thought."

Do you like that now punk?

Thought not.

You see, it stops mattering that they're puerile and reprehensible prats the moment you start to threaten physical violence.

By saying: "I will make you stop saying that even if I have to use force" you have guaranteed two outcomes:

  1) They will _definitely_ not stop saying the thing which is making you so mad.

  2) Any responsible person hearing this would start dialing 911 before you do something you will regret for the rest of your life.
The point of the original article was not to defend the trolls but rather to point out the fact that civil society is becoming increasingly tolerant of violent threats when they are made by members of fundamentalist religious movements.

Given that these threats, in recent years, are all to often starting to turn to action it becomes quite important to ask how much of this behavior we can tolerate before our society too ceases to be civil?


The point of the original article was not to defend the trolls but rather to point out the fact that civil society is becoming increasingly tolerant of violent threats when they are made by members of fundamentalist religious movements.

I don't think we are tolerant of fundamentalist religious movements; we certainly would not excuse Christians for threatening artists [1]. We are tolerant of bad behavior by non-westerners because we feel that criticizing them makes us racist.

[1] For an example of this, witness the reaction when Guiliani suggested defunding a museum over the "Piss Christ" exhibit.


Freedom of speech isn't defended at Michaelangeo's David; It's defended at Larry Flynt's Hustler.


I see where this argument comes from. It's a bit of a chestnut but this probably applies:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Indeed it could be argued that allowing him to be persecuted for his trolling in such an excessive way is doing a dis-service to those who died protecting this freedom.


When applied to any other religion in the world, especially Christianity, it's legitimate criticism. But somehow Islam gets special dispensation (perhaps because Islamic reactionaries have a tendency towards violence, and cowards have a tendency towards caving in to threats of violence).

"Piss Christ" (look it up) has been lauded as a legitimate work of art. And cartoons that are much more intentionally harmful toward Christianity or Judaism are printed on editorial pages every day in the western world.

The Mohammad cartoons were very mild in comparison to the standards of criticism in the western world. If we cannot support criticism of Islam because we lack the balls to set Muslims straight when they throw violent tantrums then we do not have freedom of speech anymore. And it's only a matter of time before Muslims make greater and greater use of this new power they've discovered. And too it's only a matter of time before every group realizes that threats of violence are an effective means of exercising influence over others.


Trolling is a good detector for the maturity of your victims. Sensible people ignore it or are amused. Others respond seriously or go mental.

Trick question: am I a troll or not?


Is a troll another name for devil's advocate? That's the way I see it. You don't know sometimes if the person or the presenting attitude is that of troll or not.

Is to troll to be deliberately malicious? Does this really help the debate? Digg and Youtube have just become a forum for immature witticisms and derogatory put downs - trolls.


HN is not the right place for such a debate.


I think a lot of hackers are interested in free speech issues. Myself included


Hmm. Important stuff. But not really hackers news material. Or do I misunderstand the intention of this post?


It's one of those borderline posts - on the one hand it isn't really hacker news, but on the other hand it's important and about basic freedom. Which is dear to hackers. I think it has merit,so I upvoted it.


[dead]


"Fuck freedom of speech, it's not what this is about."

It's exactly what this is about. As an almost Atheist (lacking the needed faith to really be one) I find the Quram mildly disturbing (as I do with other sacred texts, the Bible included) in that it proposes to be the absolute truth that admits no questioning. I respect, however, your right to your faith. You may believe in whatever you like, and I will defend your right to it against those who may want to take it away from you. But, in return for my respect, I demand from you the same respect. If I believe the cartoons are funny and worthy of publication, I demand you respect my right to draw, discuss or even (if the authors so agree) to reproduce them. By hiding behind the "biggest and dumbest asshole" metaphor, you excuse yourself, and the intolerant people who find it right to kill authors for offending their faith, from the obligation to respect others. Muslims are not the dumbest and obviously can learn to live in societies that don't share religiously intolerant laws.

Some of the cartoons were funny. I had a couple good laughs out of them. Would I be offended if they were about Christ (I was raised a Catholic)? No way. Would I be offended if they had been about scientists (I am an almost-Atheist)? Of course not. They are cartoons, meant to be funny and to, sometimes, question beliefs.

If your faith cannot withstand questioning then, perhaps, you should question yourself how deep and true it really is.


"Would I be offended if they were about Christ"

That is not the point.

Even if you were supremely offended, you still do not have the right to kill the person who offended you. You can draw attention to the offenders insensitivity, decry their judgement, and comprehensively denounce what was said as vile, uncivilized, and hateful. You can even call for people to boycott the publisher or for the dismissal of the person responsible for the offense.

But you still are not justified to respond with violence.


"That is not the point."

The point is that it's childish to be offended by this. And, while we are at it, nobody has the right not to be offended. The risk of being offended is a pre-requisite for the right to offend others (as the Quram does with Christians and Jews alike, by "complementing" their sacred texts and, thus, considering them incomplete religions).


"I find the [it] mildly disturbing [...] in that it proposes to be the absolute truth that admits no questioning."

I have a suggestion for you: Head over to Germany and question the "absolute truth" of holocaust: numbers, methods, facts, etc. Lets see how long your "freedom of speech" is respected. (Will post your arrest and incarceration news here on HN!)


Germany violates the human right to free speech. So do Cuba, Zimbabwe, China and Canada (not an exclusive list). What's your point?


I'm not trying to be nasty here but really equating denial of the holocaust (an event that actually happened and we have extensive proof and documentation of) with religious beliefs (which have no evidence and need to be taken on faith) is somewhat offensive.


My intent was not to offend you or other readers. Further I do not find the notion of mass extermination of humans acceptable. However the comment I replied to posited the (imo false) notion that only religious beliefs are uniquely putting forward "absolute truths" and that the adherents of these beliefs are unique in resisting fact based analysis of their beliefs.

I am not aware of rigorous studies that address the scientific and engineering aspects of the taboo subject of holocaust. Rough back of napkin calculations of the numbers involved suggest a very substantial killing machine; killing factories, in fact. And as with any other matter that is hammered into my head from every corner, I personally like to gain a certain level of comfort regarding its veracity.

Since you seem to be aware of the "extensive proof and documentation" regarding this subject, I would be very grateful to see citations in literature so I can study them.

(This is quite helpful since I can not raise this "scientific" topic in polite society without suffering adverse social and possibly economic consequences)

The subjects that perplex me the most are:

1 - logistics: A handful of sites were used to kill people and dispose of bodies. (4 years of 12 hour days non-stop seems to indicate something around 30 people per hour non-stop.) How long does it take to reduce a human body to ashes? How much fuel does it take to do this? What sort of maintenance do these machines require? (I suppose the local crematorium can provide some factual numbers in this regard.)

2 - methodology: What chemicals were used to kill. How fast acting are these chemicals? How can these chemicals be delivered? How dangerous are they to the operators of the killing factory? What effects do they have on the factory infrastructure (corrosion, discoloration, etc.)?

3 - disposal: Assuming .2 cubic feet of ash per human body (rough guess), there should be somewhere near 1,000,000 cubic feet of human ashes around the slaughterhouses. Have they been found?

From what I understand, every critical scientific effort to date to investigate the above has had serious consequences for their investigators, including incarceration for some. (No doubt I will get my virtual share of the same as well.) In contrast, I am certain that beyond ridicule, the consequences of questioning the existence of Electron, and DNA are fairly minimal.


"How long does it take to reduce a human body to ashes? How much fuel does it take to do this?"

Humans have a lot of fat. I suppose it is possible to sustain combustion using human fat as fuel alone. The time it takes depend on temperature, amount of fuel and availability of oxygen.

"What chemicals were used to kill"

AFAIK, Carbon Monoxide was the preferred means. It poses no great risk to the operators if properly restricted and it quickly dissipates in the environment. It's also easy to generate from internal combustion engines and it was used in mobile gas chambers mounted in trucks where the exhaust was directed to a compartment where the prisoners were killed while being transported.

As for ash disposal, not all victims were cremated. There were many mass graves identified.

"every critical scientific effort to date to investigate the above has had serious consequences for their investigators"

I know of no critical scientific effort to investigate the Holocaust. Can anyone seriously believe the surviving witnesses are victims of a collective hallucination or part of a conspiracy to hide some "truth"? Can anyone discredit the exhaustive records kept about the "productivity" of the extermination fields?

Quite frankly, when I decided to answer your questions I had no idea this trip to one of the darkest moments of history would have the effect it had on me. It saddens me my species is capable of such a cold, directed, rational and efficient genocide. The possibility it may happen again frightens me deeply.

We should never forget the terrible atrocities we are capable of doing. This memory may be the only thing that prevents us from doing it again.


Not CO2: http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=...

2-3 hours to cremate: http://ohiocrematory.com/process.html

"There were many mass graves identified" The issue is the numbers involved. 6,000,000 to be exact. http://www.gmsplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/normandy-...

"Can anyone seriously believe the surviving witnesses are victims of a collective hallucination or part of a conspiracy to hide some "truth"?"

Why even go there? Simply investigate the "scientific" basis for accepting the given narrative.

http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=...

"It saddens me my species is capable of such a cold, directed, rational and efficient genocide. The possibility it may happen again frightens me deeply."

We're in agreement, here. And we frankly don't even need to reach that far back in history for evidence of the vile in our species. One look at what was done to Gaza and Iraq suffices.


The difference is that the Holocaust is something that really happened, with eyewitnesses and documents to prove it. The stuff in the Bible or the Koran is a matter of faith, and can't be proven by the scientific method. Personally, I think that the Bible and the Koran are a bunch of fairy tales written a long time ago to frighten people into doing things that will keep them from going to hell.


In my opinion, people unwilling to live in a society with true freedom of speech are cowards.

Here in the U.S., we allowed Ahmadinejad to come here and spout his Holocaust denial nonsense. Then we mock him mercilessly, and are glad that he shows us so clearly the kind of person we are dealing with.

Don't be afraid of speech. Use better, more persuasive speech to win over those who disagree with you. Anything else is a form of coercion.


I agree with you completely, but Muslims believe that the Koran is literal and that everything in it is 100% true. They believe that the Koran is the result of a scientific method, and that every character in a story is a 100% true eyewitness account, and that the Koran is as 100% accurate as a well researched book on World War II would be today.

I've noticed that people of other faiths (Christians, Hindus, Jews) tend to take their holy books a little bit more allegorically.

Personally, I believe that this unyielding approach to the Koran is a major cause in Islam's adoption into a modern day society.


I really can't see how Muslims can think that the Koran is the result of a scientific method. This is a book whose contents were supposedly dictated to Muhammed by the angel Gabriel. This is a supernatural claim, not the natural. If people want to believe that the word of God was transmitted to human ears by an angel, that's fine, but please don't drag science into it.


> Fuck freedom of speech, it's not what this is about. You don't have, and never had, the right to slander someone in order to pick a fight.

Yes it is. And yes I have. At least I have a right to do so without fearing for my life. What I don't have, is a right to have any friends when I'm done expressing myself.

> If I went to a bar, found the biggest and dumbest asshole in there and called his mother a filthy whore, guess how much sympathy I would get in court.

Not much, but the guy would get a conviction for voilence.

> Yet this is exactly what the newspaper did, in order to demonstrate how "choked by fear" we all should be.

No, it's not. Discussion a religion in the public sphere is no different from discussing a politician in the public sphere. It might, in both cases, be impolite, but no-one should expect physical violence because of it.

> They are also predominantly impoverished, uneducated and downtrodden, not to mention constantly in the crosshairs, perhaps things are connected?

Maybe, but I can tell you that the Muslim community in Denmark isn't exactly doing itself any favours by refusing to condemn the attack.

Absolutely, there is pundit after pundit lined up, trying to paint every Muslim in the world as violent fundamentalists just waiting to strap on a bomb and go blow some children up, and that makes me sick. But the Muslim community needs to stand up for itself and denounce and condemn the people committing these crimes, and stop making veiled defences for attempted murder.


We can hope willingness to blow oneself up to martyrdom could be a genetic trait. If it were, in a couple generations we would get our gene pool completely rid of it.

Unfortunately, I believe such anti-social behavior is more nurture than nature...


[deleted]


> * No, you don't, as slander is illegal*

Slander is only illegal when the statements are said to be true (and can be proven that they are false) ... humor and satire newspapers and magazines can publish whatever they want ... both in the US and the EU.

> The point is, as you conceded, that everyone would agree I was stupid and had it coming.

No, there's no justification for violence. Ever.

If you're a rambling idiot that can't hold it together ... people will punish you anyway by ignoring you. You can lose your friends, your wife, even your job. And this form of social punishment is more just for the kind of situation you're referring to ... especially since it all goes away when you learn to behave well in society.

> Stop making me responsible for the actions and opinions of people I don't know or have anything to do with.

And yet, you're identifying yourself as a Muslim, and defend those that issued death threats, fucking freedom of speech to the detriment of those that fought for it and society as a whole.

Of course you are responsible.


Just to clarify, I deleted the parent before your response as I have already said my piece and it doesn't really add anything.


Danish people tend to be confrontational. At least that's the impression I got when I lived there. Such a cartoon could only come from Denmark. It's offensive and distasteful, and the author should have kept in mind that insulting 1 billion people is a bad idea. His mistake.

However, what I do know is that Westerners in Muslim countries tend to play by the local rules (I am not talking of the U.S. Military in Iraq). By contrast, many Muslims in Western Europe refuse to accept the European culture. Is there racism a part of the problem? Yes, sure it is. But there's more to it: if you reject the local culture, the locals will reject you. Of course, the same goes for Westerners living in Muslim countries. A difference is that Westerners in Muslim countries are not at the bottom of the barrel as often as Muslims in the West are.

In my view it's as simple as this: adapt to our customs, or move back to where you came from. We, Europeans, do not like Muslim foreigners telling us that our women are whores, that we are spiritually dead, that we should not drink, etc. I know a bunch of Muslims living in Europe and, not surprisingly, the ones who are fully integrated in their host society and who have Western friends are the ones who accept the local culture and don't try to preach that their values are any better.


What's wrong with them preaching that their values are better?

As long as they are not trying to coerce you to live the way they do, why do you care? Let them preach all they want, and just ignore them.

I frankly believe here in the U.S. we do a better job of assimilating people because we do not subscribe to "adapt to our customs, or move back to where you came from." We demand the freedom to believe whatever we want, as long as we grant others the same privilege.

Yes, the current Republican party does not subscribe to that ethos. But that is part of the reason why they are losing so many elections recently. The problem is not that they are Christians with strongly held beliefs that they express openly. The problem is that more and more they try to force those beliefs on others, whether their fellow citizens or Muslims around the world. (This is not the only reason they are losing, a million caveats apply, etc. etc.)

Ironically, even with the U.S. wars in Muslim countries still ongoing, I still believe that Muslims are better integrated into U.S. society than they are in Europe. This is because they know that they are free to worship here as they please and freely express what they think, and that trying to control what others can say or think will not be tolerated.

This is all just my opinion, of course, and am open to evidence to the contrary.


I suspect that there are actually a couple of other reasons why muslims are better integrated into the US than Europe:

a) It's more geographically remote from Islamic countries hence you have fewer unskilled immigrants turning up.

b) American has less in the way of welfare so immigrants (and their children) have to get jobs. Working with fellow citizens makes you realise that you have something in common with them and encourages integration.


"What's wrong with them preaching that their values are better?"

Suppose that you invite people to your house. Rules of etiquette say that the guests should not tell you how to live your life. Nobody likes to be told what to do, nor how to live. Except for Muslims in the Balkans, most Muslims in Europe are guests. Guests should keep their mouths shut until asked for their opinion.

The Muslims I know who have adapted really well to Europe are the ones who adopt the attitude: these people do not know what Islam is, they think Islam is suicide bombers... so, as an ambassador of my religion, I will tell them what Islam is, without trying to force my belief system on them, so that they get a clearer picture of the enormous complexity and diversity of the Islamic world. By contrast, the morons who claim that it's OK to kill a cartoonist, and who claim that Muslims are victims, are the ones who give a bad image of Islam.

"I frankly believe here in the U.S. we do a better job of assimilating people because we do not subscribe to "adapt to our customs, or move back to where you came from." We demand the freedom to believe whatever we want, as long as we grant others the same privilege."

I live in the U.S. now and I disagree. The U.S. is a country of immigrants, and one of the unwritten requirements to live in the American society is that you conform to the norm. You don't need to lose your culture, but you need to mellow it down in your public life. Sorry, but the U.S. being as tolerant as you claim is a nice dream, imho.

"Ironically, even with the U.S. wars in Muslim countries still ongoing, I still believe that Muslims are better integrated into U.S. society than they are in Europe."

I agree, but not for the reasons you gave. Europe has millenia of history. In Europe, nationality and ethnicity are too deeply connected. Though I am from Western Europe and lived in Denmark, I don't think I would ever feel Danish even if I lived there for 50 years. Being a U.S. citizen is much more cultural than ethnical. The U.S. is more welcoming to all immigrants because of this, not only to Muslims, but to everyone. And it has more to do with the ethnical aspect than with freedom of worship. Do you really think that Muslims in Europe have no freedom of worship?


"Except for Muslims in the Balkans, most Muslims in Europe are guests"

Huh? The Muslims in European countries are not citizens? At what point do they stop being guests? Are they all just there for a short stay and plan to be leaving soon?


Citizens and guests are not the same thing. You're reading the word "guest" too literally. In Europe, anyone from a different culture is a "guest" until proven otherwise. You may be a citizen, vote, pay your taxes... but until you have been assimilated by the local culture, you are a "guest".

Moreover, not all Muslims in Europe are equally "guest"-like. Turkish, for instance, who are viewed as somewhat secular by hard-core Muslim countries, are much closer to European culture than, say, Pakistani. In fact, the Turkish from Istanbul are actually quite European, geographically and historically. Indonesian Muslims, by contrast, are obviously much farther culturally.

I knew a guy from Iran who moved to Sweden. He refused to drink, which is OK because it's against his religion. But he also refused to go out at night, for some mysterious reason. He assumed that college students who went out on Saturday nights were partaking in drunken orgies, and thought that Swedish women were whores. After a few months of being miserable and lonely, he decided to see things, instead of judging people he did not even know. I think he was slightly disappointed when he realized that, after all, young people did not engage in drunken orgies on Saturday nights :-D


"In Europe, anyone from a different culture is a "guest" until proven otherwise."

This much better explains why the U.S. better assimilates immigrants (Muslim or otherwise) than Europe, than anything I said. We have our immigration issues, but I have never heard anyone refer to a legal U.S. citizen as a "guest." It also helps me understand some of the frustration European Muslim immigrants must feel, being pressured to give up their own heritage, culture, and beliefs or be ostracized.


"It also helps me understand some of the frustration European Muslim immigrants must feel, being pressured to give up their own heritage, culture, and beliefs or be ostracized."

Oh, come on. Do you think that Muslims moving to the U.S. don't have to give up anything? All immigrants have to be give up something, but they don't have to give up all: their own heritage, culture, and beliefs. That sounds melodramatic.

It's as simple as this: when you move to a new country, you must adopt the local culture. That does not mean that you must give up your original culture entirely. No one said that they have to be incompatible. If you fail to adopt the culture of your new country, you are, essentially, insulting your hosts... and you will be ostracized in return, which is the natural human response in this situation.


Or everyone can agree to live and let live.

I really do think there is a qualitative difference between the U.S. and Europe in this regard. Europe seems to be lurching from banning some forms of Muslim identity outright (veils and head scarves) to banning anyone from saying anything bad about Islam. In the U.S., we insist that Muslims abide by the same laws as everyone else, and that's pretty much it. They don't have to dress like us or adopt the same social mores. We are also used to people with strong religious beliefs freely expressing their opinions, because we still have a lot of practicing Christians, unlike Europe. So strongly held religious beliefs don't seem so intimidating to us.

Yes, I know this is all a generalization, but from the anecdotes I read in the press, your comments, and anecdotes from some Europeans living in the U.S. I've talked to, I think there is some truth to it.


I think your observations are correct. There are some differences between the U.S. and Europe that may explain it:

i) the U.S. is protected by two vast oceans, and Canada and Mexico were never a threat. By contrast, Europe has been under siege by Islam various times, starting with the conquest of the Iberian peninsula in the 8th century, to fighting the Otomans in the East for various centuries. Mass immigration feels more like an invasion in this case.

ii) the U.S. is much more multicultural and multi-ethnic than each specific European country. There's enormous variety as a whole in Europe, but each country tends to have its own identity. Sweden, for instance, is one of the least genetically diverse countries in the world.

iii) in Europe, Church and State tend to be more separated. Some years ago, Germany's federal government wanted to ban Christian crosses from Bavarian public schools, as it violated the law, and there was huge outcry. Now they do the same to Islamic veils, and people say it's Islamophobia. The truth is: the law applies to all, and Muslims, if they are citizens, must abide and do not deserve special treatment.

In the end, there's also the arrogance and pride. Europe did rule the world for centuries. Now the U.S. is in charge, but we still feel like we know better. We certainly are not going to adopt the cultures of Muslim immigrants who come to Europe because their countries are failed states. We know better than all, so whoever comes to Europe either plays by our rules or can go somewhere else. It's a bit strict, but it's fair. It applies to all, regardless of religion and ethnicity.


Yeah, I think at this point we have reached a consensus. :)


For the record I totally agree with you. Being a minority with a relatively short history in the West, Muslims should certainly carry themselves with fitting humility. Indeed, there is extensive basis in Islam for this.

Many understand that. Then again, many are malcontents, uneducated, unemployed and so on. This does not excuse wrongdoings, but it goes some way to explain it. And the solution, from society's point of view, and assuming we actually want a solution, is not to tease the wounded animal just to prove a point.


They are also predominantly impoverished, uneducated and downtrodden, not to mention constantly in the crosshairs, perhaps things are connected?

Plenty of other populations are "impoverished, uneducated and downtrodden" but don't bully and blackmail the rest of the world into being sensitive to their superstitions.

This only ever became an issue through the opportunism of theocratic leaders who routinely promote outrage and self-pity in their downtrodden populations as a way of blaming the west for everything that's wrong in their societies.


"Plenty of other populations are "impoverished, uneducated and downtrodden" but don't bully and blackmail the rest of the world into being sensitive to their superstitions."

This is the killer argument for the "critics of Islam" side. After all, lots of Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Native Americans etc are dirt poor, and many of them live under very oppressive regimes. They don't go around blowing up airliners or flying planes into buildings and claiming sanction from their religions. Colonialism isn't enough of an answer either. Many countries have come out of colonialism without a pan-generational rage against the west. Hindu or Buddhist immigrants to the United States don't rage against "immoral" culture and kill innocents to prove their cultural superiority.

So prima facie there does seem to be something screwy about Islam that encourages such behavior (but I won't explore this any further on this post).

This doesn't say anything about individual muslims though. Once can claim communism is a terrible way to structure a society and still believe that individual communists can be decent people. This is the subtlety both sides (Islam "bashers" and apologists) lose sight of. The bashers want all muslims to be demonized and deported and so on, while the pro Islam folks want everyone else to tread softly around Islam, refrain from criticizing its "holy" books and "prophet" and treat it with "respect". Both arguments are obnoxious.


I would like you to consider Fatwa 87671 which says "Swearing is considered a debauchery and an immoral act".

http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/Fatwa/ShowFatwa.php?lang=E&...

Is there an Islamic counter-argument to this position which you can provide to justify your use of language?


> they are also predominantly impoverished, uneducated and downtrodden, not to mention constantly in the crosshairs, perhaps things are connected?

Many Muslims I meet do exhibit these traits; however I think it is the product of their faith (hardline Christians are much the same - but not as bade) rather than societies attitude to them.


> I am a Muslim. I created a new account, as some will hold that against me

I like people that can stand-up for their beliefs.

The others are more or less cowards ... unless they have a good reason for it, like protecting their families. What's your excuse? Losing karma-points?

> You don't have, and never had, the right to slander someone in order to pick a fight

In the US and the EU ... satire and humor are not considered to be slander.

> If I went to a bar, found the biggest and dumbest asshole in there and called his mother a filthy whore

Personally I wouldn't get upset if you called all mothers filthy whores (since sometimes, there's some truth to that) ... at worst I would say that "it's not funny" and move along.

> Treating individuals like this with a bit of sensitivity would be the civilized thing to do

Yes, it would be civilized. But I also think misbehaviors should get some form of social punishment (as so should you, if you're picking fights for no reason at all).

When a woman in some third-world country is beaten to death because she was unfaithful ... I guess, by some people's views, she had it coming also. Should we all be civilized to those that did it, because they are impoverished and uneducated ... and not condemn their actions?

Also satire and humor are healthy ingredients for a healthy society ... if you haven't realized it, those comics may actually help in chilling the usage of those Muslim stereotypes. It's called reverse psychology ;)


Uh, btw. Can I just remind people that the FAQ deliberately talks about avoiding common flame topics (such as religion)

Just to be aware; don't get too "involved" :)


After reading the first line of your post, I was prepared to up-vote you since you were already negative, just on the principle of guaranteeing your free speech.

However, the rest of your post was just poorly thought out, and deserves the downvotes you got, regardless of what side of the issue you're on.

If I went to a bar, found the biggest and dumbest asshole in there and called his mother a filthy whore, guess how much sympathy I would get in court.

You'll get a lot of sympathy. The courts (in America, anyway) do observe a doctrine of "fighting words", which incite irrational emotions in a person such that they lose control. This is analogous to what would happen were the defendent were unable to control himself due to some mental defect.

The question at hand has nothing to do with fighting words. Since the threats are greatly separated in space and time, no excuse about a temporary loss of rationality can be used. The treats against the artist were fully premeditated.

Legalities aside, defending the artist is the morally correct choice. The only way that we can grow as people and as a society -- and this pertains to both technology and to philosophy -- is by questioning our beliefs and our assumptions. Even when we are correct, we need and we deserve to prove it to ourselves. When we are offended, we can examine the injured belief, and the result should be either that we learn that we are wrong, or we verify to ourselves that our belief is true. Either way, we're better off. Do those offended by these cartoons have such weak faith that their faith will be damaged by them?


Your criticism misses the mark, as I don't actually defend the violent reaction to the cartoons and have said as much.

Also, this was never about questioning, as much as about the intention. You may or may not be aware that the newspaper solicited the cartoons, challenging the artists to make them as inflammatory as possible. It was a political and commercial stunt under the guise of a moral battle, making the whole thing even more despicable.


Also, this was never about questioning, as much as about the intention.

You seem to be under the impression that it's possible to discern someone's intent, e.g., "prodding them for a cheap thrill", "it was a political and commercial stunt". Do you really contend that you have the vision into people's hearts, that you can discern their actual motivations?

No, in reality you do not have, and cannot have, any inkling of the real reasons for any of a person's actions.

But in any case, the freedom of expression, to challenge beliefs and assumptions, is in no way predicated on intent. Freedom is not reserved to those who are pure of heart. If it were only granted on the basis of someone approving its motivations, then an oppressor would only need to be dishonest, or mistaken, in judging those motivations.

Freedom of expression is for everyone, and for all purposes.


Stop modding theotherside down. This discussion is important.


Sorry, but no. Freedom of speech is a really important thing and someone who says "Fuck freedom of speech" is not someone I can reasonably agree with.

Also, the fact that he's created a new account just to post this discredits his arguments further. "I disagree with this article but not enough to lose a couple of points of karma".


I actually meant "fuck this being about freedom of speech".

I made a new account because I run a business, and don't want that associated with my own personal beliefs.


Agreed. Comments should be voted according to how much they add to the discussion, not by whether you agree with the author's opinion.


I don't agree ... votes should be given for any reason a reader wants. Sometimes the actual post is so stupid and off-topic that it doesn't deserve a response ... and the rating system is there in the first place to distinguish between the good posts and the bad ones.

Granted ... this particular comment was pretty much on topic, and contains a very popular point-of-view in many circles ... so personally I haven't down-voted "theotherside", preferring to give him a reply instead.


You should never downvote a comment you can demolish with an argument. It's not as educational.




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