04 February 2006

Mad Muslims

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

That was the quote that first put Anne Coulter on the map, and while I'm not one of her fans, or even all that knowledgeable about her, I've maintained for years that she was being satirical when she wrote that. If only Americans knew more about history, they would realise she was making a pointed reference to the means by which Islam spread so rapidly in its early centuries.

Well, I've just taken another look at the original context in which Ms Coulter made that remark, and I must reluctantly conclude that it may well have been an irony-free zone. But unintentional irony has its value, too, and right about now, I'm so fed up with the infantile jibber-jabber of self-appointed Islamic "thinkers" and leaders that I'm almost - not quite, but almost - ready to join up with Coulter's crusade.

And I use the word "crusade" with full awareness that it will offend any number of right-thinking progressives as well as the usual Muslim kneejerkers, because that's another subject which gets me mighty sore: the way that Muslims have managed to portray the Crusades as the starting point for the Islam v. Christianity conflict, completely ignoring the fact that the Crusades were a fully predictable and understandable response to the Islamic invasion of the Middle East and Europe three centuries earlier.

Is there any culture that has so fully mastered the art of victimology as modern Islam? I suppose I should insert the usual caveats about there being many fine and honourable Muslims, that Islam does not equal terrorism, etc., etc., but that should be self-evident to any reasonably intelligent person. But just when I myself was coming around to the "it's only a fanatical minority" view of Islamic extremism, we see international Islam practically coming unglued with fury and rage over a few obnoxious cartoons, and I'm torn between despair and wanting to tell every last screaming, hysterical Muslim, "Please: grow the fuck up."

I'm sorry - no, I'm not, actually - I'm completely out of patience with this dour, humourless lot who seem convinced that they are entitled to impose their particular brand of belief and/or superstition on the other five/sixths of the human race that doesn't share its preoccupations. I say this as someone who considers himself at least a nominal Christian, and who has seen Christianity mercilessly ridiculed (and even done some of the ridiculing myself) at every level of the media for decades now. Some of it's in poor taste, some of it (I think particularly of the adolescent sputterings of Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman) is just pathetic, and some of it is hilariously funny.

"The Life Of Brian," for example? Only a very sourpussed Christian could fail to see the humour in that, and yet imagine someone having the temerity to make a similarly irreverent "Life of Mohammed." Yes, nutters like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell occasionally inveigh against the blasphemers and pornographers in the mass media, but how many fatwas have they issued, and more importantly, who outside the more benighted regions of the Bible Belt takes them at all seriously?

Contrast that with a typical representation from the Religion Of Peace: "We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible," as one Palestinian preacher succinctly put it. Mobs of armed men threaten to drive representatives of the European Union out of Palestine, perhaps overlooking the fact that the whole Palestinian project is only made possible by massive welfare handouts from Europe and the US.

But what gripes me even more is the protests across Europe itself. Okay, Europe's not a perfect place, and the lot of Muslim immigrants there is not always ideal. But it's a damn sight better than that of Muslims in most if not all of the Islamic-governed world (one can only assume this is why so many millions of Muslims have tried so desperately to emigrate to Europe). Yet we see the spectacle of the new immigrants telling the Europeans, "Okay, now that we are here, you'd better change your system to accommodate us. Forget about that free speech stuff; what's important is that we shouldn't have to be offended."

Well, I'll hardly be the first to break the news, Mr and Ms Muslim, but the whole point of free speech is that it offends people. Nobody would have to fight revolutions or create constitutions to defend speech that didn't offend anyone. If you want to live in the West and enjoy the economic, cultural and religious freedoms that the West offers, then get used to being offended from time to time. If you want to live in a hermetically sealed intellectual vacuum where it will always be the 14th century, then there are plenty of totalitarian desert theocracies to go back to.

That may sound a little too much like "Love it or leave it," but in this case, I think it fits. French interior minister Sarkozy (and is it just my imagination, but have the French been sounding considerably more sensible lately, possibly as a result of the riots involving their own feral Muslim population?) put it succinctly: "The right to criticise is a non-negotiable part of democracy." The demands by Muslims that Europeans re-impose censorship to protect their delicate sensibilities is not just anti-democratic; it puts me uncomfortably in mind of the rise of fascism and Nazism. Those guys seriously lacked a sense of humour, too.

I suppose what winds me up almost as much, though, is the Western spokesmen trying so hard to be "understanding" and sympathetic, as if the Muslims were a special case (more like the kids who ride the special bus, from the way they're acting). Tony Blair's thrice-disgraced crony Peter Mandelson (an Australian radio announcer referred to him as "Pete" Mandelson, hilarious because the buttoned-up, almost prissy EU Commissioner is about the most un-Pete-like Peter you'll ever find) cautioned against "throwing petrol on the flames." Even the normally bellicose Bush administration offered some weasel words: "We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive."

Strange, then, that the poor widdle Muslims, those oh-so-sensitive dears, don't seem to be nearly as offended at their religion being used to justify suicide bombings, internationally televised beheadings, the stoning to death of alleged adulterers or the brutal clitoridectomies forced on millions of young children. Obviously not all Muslims approve of these various barbarisms, but neither have I seen them out protesting en masse (or at all) against them. Yet a few dorky cartoons and they're out into the streets frothing at the mouth and threatening to blow up anything in sight.

I'm completely in favour of religious tolerance and cultural diversity. The problem is that in the world-view espoused by a large number, perhaps even a majority of Muslims, that's just not possible. It's their way or the highway, and at the risk of incurring my own personal fatwa, I have to say again: Please. Grow up.

5 comments:

Wesley said...

Amen.

Still, the timing is a bit suspicious vis-a-vis the Iran thing. Just the kind of international event that the U.S. needs to bolster support for taking down those irrational, irascible, oil-rich Islamic republics.

Well, the train has left the station. I guess we'll see where it goes from here.

Larry Livermore said...

I don't think "the Iran thing" is some sort of put-up job. And it's not just the US, but the Europeans (led by the cheese-eating surrender monkeys, of all people), and even the Russians and Chinese, who are more or less unified in the belief that a theocratic lunatic who wants to see Israel "wiped off the map" is perhaps not a good candidate for having his own nuclear arsenal.

Wesley said...

I don't think it's a good idea either. But then, I don't think anyone should have a nuclear arsenal, except possibly the U.N., which makes me the only conspiracy theorist to ever think the U.N. should have more power. ("This is something no one knows... kicked out of the John Birch Society...")

My point is that inciting actions that make the bad guys look even badder than they really are -- or, drawing out the worst extremists -- is an Anglo-American psy-ops specialty. And it comes at a crucial point in the world's negotiation with Iran, a negotiation which hinges upon Iran's ability (or inability) to demonstrate its rationality and peaceful intent.

david said...

Thank you for putting the malcontents into perspective. I visited Australia (from here in the US) at the height of the Satanic Verses controversy in 1988 or 89. A Sydney bookstore had a sign on the counter asking customers not to request the book; management had withdrawn it from sale due to the Ayatollah Khomeni's fatwa and threats. I resisted temptation to urge their reconsideration, and thought to myself maybe there was something unfamiliar about Australian culture that could explain such all-to-readiness to accede to clerical extortion. Your perspective from Sydney now is counterpoint to the bookstore policy. Admirably, as sensible as it is cogent.

Anonymous said...

I've tried very hard to read some of Ms. Coulter's books. I've come to the conclusion that she must either believe the things she says on some level, or she has absolutely no self respect. I haven't narrowed it down any further than that.

As far as a "love it or leave it" attitude, I think it's more of a "deal with it or leave it" attitude, and that's quite fair.