Tuesday, May 11, 2010

sojo: students drawing mohammed

Interestingly, Sojo has something relevant to the last post about Marcuse, I think.

Free Speech vs. Fundamentalist Islam?

This seems to me largely a trick of language. When something gets called a “Sacred Cow”, it must be attacked. When the mantle of free speech is raised, it must be defended. And when Muslims are in the picture, all 1.5 billion of us somehow get linked to the Dragon Threatening Civilization rather than being viewed as your neighbors just trying to go about our business.

Since the article is a long one, I won't post everything in it, but the link is above. The students drew stick figures in chalke and labelled them "Mohammed", in response to Comedy Central receiving threats concerning Mohammed being depicted in a South Park episode.

Frankly, not being a fan of CC or South Park, I have a hard time mustering much sympathy for either. Yet simply because some speech is offensive doesn't mean it must be met with threats (unless your Marcuse).

Yet the Sojo writer, addressing more I think the students than the cable channel, uses some interesting tactics. First, he puts words in their mouths.

It is true that fringe Muslim groups are quick and public with their ugly threats. Mainstream Muslims spend an awful lot of time saying we have nothing to do with those groups. Part of what’s disturbing about the Draw Muhammad campaign is its implicit attempt to draw a direct line between mainstream Muslims and violent fringe groups. It’s the “We have to stand up against you people” message.

You people? That line ought to make us a little uncomfortable.

But he only uses one quote from a group involved, at the first of the article.

One of the members of the Atheists, Agnostics and Freethinkers (AAF) group leading the event at the University of Illinois wrote a letter explaining his actions: “No one’s sacred cow unwrites basic human rights. You can cater to the whims of fundamentalists, or you can cater to fundamental rights, but you can’t do both.”

Now, reading that, I see a distinct lack of the phrase "you people" in it. Granting, I hardly expect athiests, agnostics, and freethinkers to hold the highest of opinions of religious people of any ilk, but one should be wary of creating hatred out of whole cloth, without at least some support. And this writer doesn't do that. He assumes as "you people" attitude, which at least explicitly isn't there.

Come on folks, this isn’t about Free Speech vs. Fundamentalist Islam.

This is about Actions that Build an Inclusive Society vs. Actions that Marginalize a Minority Community.

Not about free speech? Perhaps he should tell Comedy Central that? Or maybe Theo von Gogh, who was referenced by those making the threats? He really was killed for daring to speak out against Islam. His freedom of speech was pretty well curtailed, and it made the threat to Comedy Central and South Park a bit more than just over-the-top rhetoric.

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