Offend One, Offend All

The Guardian talks some creeping sneaking nonsense.

It is now exactly a year since a Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which Muslims found so insulting that 140 people died in the ensuing violence.

No. That’s wrong, and it’s a misleading way of putting it. Some Muslims found the cartoons ‘so insulting’, and a much much smaller number found them ‘so insulting that 140 people died in the ensuing violence’ – that is, to interpret that foolishly meaningless phrase, either found them so insulting that they caused lethal violence or found them so insulting that they thought the deaths of 140 people made an appropriate response. Not all Muslims found the cartoons insulting at all; not all Muslims who did find them insulting found them also worthy of protest or criticism of the act of publication; not all Muslims who found them worthy of protest also found them deserving of outright censorship or government action; and so on. Why do so many people – especially, of all things, well-meaning liberal people who (clearly) see themselves as being kind to and trying to help ‘Muslims’ – equate some Muslims with all Muslims that way? Why do they chronically and repeatedly assume that if some Muslims feel insulted or offended then all do? Why do they not pause to remember that as a matter of fact there are some Muslims who are insulted or offended not by cartoons or papal speeches or operas but by their insultable co-religionists and by liberal columnists who assume that all Muslims are offended by what some Muslims are offended by? Why do they not also pause to remember that there is, in fact, something quite searchingly insulting about assuming that all people in a particular group think exactly the same thing, particularly on a controversial and contested issue? Why are they so fokking patronizing? And why are they so fokking patronizing while thinking they are being kind and empathetic and helpful? Why don’t they think a little harder and look a little farther?

These incidents all hurt Muslim sensibilities – and generated agonised debate about freedom of expression and its limits.

Same again. No they didn’t – not all ‘Muslim sensibilities’. Some Muslims are actually grown-up enough and rational enough not to let their sensibilities be hurt by every pimple on the media horizon merely because some people stage shouting fests about them. I’m guessing that quite a few Muslims are that grown-up and rational, actually.

Salman Rushdie won sympathy on the basis of that classic Enlightenment stance in 1989 when his Satanic Verses generated an Iranian “fatwa” – the first incident of its kind in our globalised world.

Note the shift of agency. It was Rushdie’s novel that generated the fatwa, not the ayatollah. Thus, if anyone writes or draws or sings or stages anything that someone elects to find insulting or offensive or blasphemous or just not quite the thing, if you know what I mean, and sets about getting the writer or drawer killed, it is the fault of the writer or drawer for perpetrating this Object of Insultingness. So therefore – all things are to be considered presumptively guilty, because if anyone decides to find one guilty, then it becomes guilty. So this post right here is guilty, all the books in this room are guilty, all the paintings in all the museums are guilty, all plays, all songs, all everything – they’re all, all guilty, because they can’t know in advance that there is no possibility that no one on the planet will be insulted by them. That’s an interesting way of thinking about the subject. If the Guardian buys that it really ought to shut down right now, for safety reasons.

Behzti, a controversial play set in a temple, was axed after it offended Sikhs.

There we have both stupidities in one short sentence. ‘Behzti’ didn’t offend ‘Sikhs’, just as Brick Lane didn’t offend ‘the Brick Lane community’ – both offended a few men in each group, and in any case saying ‘”Behzti” offended Sikhs’ again makes it sound as if ‘Behzti’ is guilty as charged and to blame for its own axing.

…where the west needs to recognise its responsibilities, stop employing double standards, refrain from equating Islam and terrorism, and thus help isolate the fanatics who give ordinary Muslims a bad name.

You’ve just done a pretty good job of giving ‘ordinary’ Muslims a bad name yourself, Graun – not to mention giving your newspaper a bad name.

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