The Usual

Here it is again.

A virulently anti-Semitic film about the Iraq war has provoked a storm of protest in Germany after it sold out to cheering audiences from the country’s 2.5 million-strong Turkish community.

The Turkish community – as if they all live together in a rather large and crowded village somewhere. How much does this insistence on ‘the ___ community’ foster audiences that cheer anti-Semitic movies, one wonders. Talk of ‘the community’ and celebration of Hate Week are cheek by jowl.

At a packed cinema in a largely Turkish immigrant district of Berlin last week, Valley of the Wolves was being watched almost exclusively by young Turkish men.

So – yet again, as with the riots in the banlieues, as with 7/7, as with so many things, we’re not actually talking about ‘the community’ at all, we’re talking about a very specific fraction of it, which cannot be taken to represent the rest of it – which is more likely to bully and oppress at least half of the rest of it than it is to represent it. Young men represent young men, especially when they have grown up in religions that teach and mandate the inferiority and subordination of women. So blithering about ‘the community’ is doubly inaccurate, and also damaging. (If the audiences consisted almost exclusively of Turkish women, would they be referred to as ‘from the country’s 2.5 million-strong Turkish community’? I can’t be sure, but I have a feeling they wouldn’t – I have a feeling they’d be seen as a special case. But if they are, men are. It is not true that men can speak for everyone while women can speak only for women – but too many people still seem to think it is true.)

Kenan Kolat, the head of Germany’s Turkish community, insisted that a ban on the film would make matters worse.

The head of Germany’s Turkish community? It has a head? Is he elected? What is his title? Is everyone able to vote for him? Or is he ‘the head’ in the same way that Iqbal Sacranie is ‘the head’ of the UK’s ‘Muslim community’ – to wit, no way at all except anointment by mass media.

And of course there’s the obligatory confusion to sum up.

Alin Sahin, the film’s distributor in Germany, argued: “When a cartoonist insults two billion Muslims it is considered freedom of opinion, but when an action film takes on the Americans it is considered demagoguery. Something is wrong.”

Yes, something is wrong; the comparison of unlike things is wrong. Mocking a belief is not the same thing as insulting the people (two billion now?) who hold the belief. Demanding that everyone accept that it is will be the death of thought – and in no long time, too.

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