Globalized, fluid, culturally impure

Katha Pollitt read Johann Hari’s article.

[I]t would be nice to say that the world has learned what happens when freedom of speech and thought is subordinated to religious authority. In fact, the lesson seems to be the opposite: careful, you might hurt the feelings of the faithful. Oh, and they might kill you.

And, as Katha doesn’t go on to say but could have, since you hurt their feelings, it would be your fault if they did kill you.

Here on the American left we tend to see these incidents as gratuitous provocations by insensitive Westerners, and there’s something to that…The problem with that argument is that the same spirit of religious dogmatism backed by violence that shaped the protests against perceived Western insults operates, far more powerfully, in Islamic states–against their own citizens. In Iran and Pakistan, women have been imprisoned for protesting Sharia law. In 2008 Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a student in Afghanistan, our client state, was sentenced to death for the crime of downloading a report about women’s rights. Even in relatively secular Egypt, blogger Reda Abdel-Rahman was jailed and tortured for calling for an Islam that does not include Sharia.

Well…yes, but…well it’s still worse when those bastard Western secularists do it than it is when the authentic homegrown unWestern authoritarian bullies do it.

Appeals to the hurt feelings of religious people are just a dodge to protect the antidemocratic and retrograde policies of religious states and organizations. We’re all adults; we have to live with unwelcome expression every day. What’s so special about religion that it should be uniquely cocooned? After all, nobody at the UN is suggesting that atheists should be protected from offense–let alone women, gays, leftists or other targets popular with the faithful. What about our feelings? How can it be logical to say that women can’t point out sexism in the Bible or the Koran but clerics can use those texts to declare women inferior, unclean and in need of male control?

It can’t, but that’s okay, because revelation don’t need no stinkin logic.

The clerics fight so hard to control speech because they know they are losing minds and hearts. Twenty years after the Satanic Verses fatwa, it’s more than ever Rushdie’s world – globalized, fluid, culturally impure. The fanatics just live there.

And blow bits of it up at regular intervals. Let’s hope we can hang on to the bulk of the real estate. Long live the culturally impure!

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