I recently received a tip about a very detailed and incisive analysis of the new CNN Religion blog, at Bloggasm.
I expected it to be normal CNN fare, in other words, bland, tasteless pulp that panders to the lowest common denominator. In many respects, CNN did not disappoint me in this regard.
You just know an article is going to be good when the headline is Does Draw Mohammed Day = Holocaust Denial?
It talks about a certain Pakistani rocker, Salman Ahmad. In the first paragraph, we are already treated to the amusing idea that Salman Ahmad is progressive because he opposes Pakistani censorship of the internet and the media. Which, to be fair, is a principled position in any case. The punchline is the next paragraph, where we are told that this rocker nevertheless understood Islamabad’s impulse to do whatever was necessary to stop Pakistanis from seeing depictions of the prophet Muhammad. The Orwellian undertones of this sentence are quite distressingly clear. The immediate assumption is that all Pakistanis are both Muslim and likely to have their sensitivities offended by a picture of a man. How kind of the State, then, to care so much for the civilian population. It doesn’t want anyone thinking for themselves or, god forbid, seeing a picture of a man. I apologise for the redundancy of the phrase but it bears mentioning because on cold and rational inspection, it’s quite darkly comical. I long for there to be some (there must be some!) enterprising Muslims spreading their own versions of Radio Yerevan jokes that flourished under the joke of the arbitrary totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and I would greatly enjoy to hear them.
Anyway, the redefinition of free speech in the space of a sentence is egregious and unfortunately representative enough of the distance and respect with which ludicrous ideas are treated deferentially by virtue of them being religious in nature.
The truly shocking quote comes just words later, in the form:
It’s as intolerable to Muslims to have images of the prophet, he said, as it is for Jews to accept Holocaust denial or for African-Americans to hear “the n-word.”
The author of this post, Richard Allen Green, dons a second pair of latex gloves on top of the ones he’s wearing already to deal with such an intolerable mammal.
But to be absolutely clear, when I was talking to Ahmad, he said “the n-word,” not the word itself.
If you’re American – white or black – imagine how shocked you would have been if he’d actually said the word.
Now imagine how shocked you’d be if there were Facebook groups urging people to use that word, or to deny the Holocaust.
I would be, and am, shocked if I saw or heard someone denying the Holocaust. Besides the fact that it’s a plain and rather pedestrian denial of historical fact, it underlies a very mean streak, at once a desire to efface the memory of the lost and to gleefully invite history to repeat itself. Holocaust denial is the culmination of a provincial and religiously inspired xenophobia, the refusal to acknowledge the suffering of a people long persecuted by the Catholic Church in Europe. There is a case to be made of the Catholic Church not having its hands clean of the Holocaust too, and it is especially guilty in aiding and abetting the escape of Nazi officials to South America after the war had ended.
Racism is malicious in a similar vein. It’s dehumanising and nowadays is the vestigial remain of a once powerful State machinery, not just limited to the United States, which systematically abducted and tortured generations of Africans. The effects of this are still felt in the US today. Indeed, it took a Civil Rights Movement to complete the Emancipation.
And yet we are asked to contemplate how a Muslim would feel if someone portrayed the prophet Muhammad in pictorial form. The comparison of racism and the Holocaust to drawing a picture of an 8th Century tradesman should shock any thinking person.
We are asked to empathise with the suffering a Muslim might undergo as a result of seeing a picture. Of a man.
It doesn’t have to be a pornographic picture, it doesn’t have to be a picture depicting a senseless act of cruelty. It doesn’t have to be child porn (although if it were a picture of Muhammad and his wife, it may well be), it doesn’t have to be critical.
All that a person has to do to offend the sensitivity of a Muslim to the same extent that any sane person is offended by racism and Holocaust denial, is draw a picture of an Arab tradesman.
The suggestion that we must empathise with this is particular to Islam. A violent Abrahamic religion, which applies conquest by the sword to elements of Messianism, it’s strict and full of discipline and doctrine, but, most perniciously, it does not seem to stop at its own followers. Everyone is assumed to have to live by the rules of Islam. Never mind if you’re a Christian or a Jew. For all the token words Islam might make about respecting the other two Abrahamic faiths, the truth is that they have to live as second-class citizens, paying a tax on the contents of their minds in servitude.
I am willing to bet good money that a vast majority of the rioters over the Muhammad cartoons published in Jylands-Posten in Denmark would not be able to place Denmark on a map, let alone read a newspaper from a rural part of the peaceful Scandinavian nation.
But the idea that someone somewhere is doing something ‘naughty’ is enough to inflame the attitude of even the most ‘progressive’ Muslim, such as the rocker Salman Ahmad. I really do hope that CNN botched the interview and somehow misquoted him completely but I fear the possibility is somewhat suspect.
The truth is that Islam displays all of the characteristics of an absolute totalitarian dictatorship. Acts that are completely arbitrary such as depicting Muhammad are inflamed to the point where they’re considered on par with the Holocaust or with racial discrimination.
But the fact is that the Holocaust claimed victims. Six million Jews lost their lives and countless millions of other unseemly races such as Slavs or Gypsies were summarily executed by an industrialised war machine of unspeakable brutality.
The fact is that slavery devastated the lives of millions of Africans by virtue of the colour of their skin. Millions of lives were deemed to be second-class to Whites and were treated that way.
The fact is that drawing a picture hurts nobody. No one is physically injured. A picture of Muhammad is not a statement of racism nor is it a statement of Holocaust denial. A picture of Muhammad inflames the fragile consciences of totalitarian barbarians who believe they have the unique jurisdiction to tell people what to see and what not to see.
Ink on paper draws no blood.
Blasphemy is a victimless crime. And let’s not forget that.