Making nice is not statesmanship

I’d been out of internet contact for 10 days or so and hadn’t seen the cartoons that supposedly gave rise to all the delayed Muslim outrage. When I did I was startled by how mild they were. A few of them seemed likely to offend: one that made the Islamic crescent look like horns on Mohammed’s head, and a couple that depicted the prophet as violent and oppressive. One of the latter showed the kalima, the “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet,” as a sort of stencil on a bomb.

No doubt upsetting to a believer, at least if it’s his local paper, but certainly not the sort of thing that for any normal human being would justify riot, arson and murder hundreds of miles away. Apparently Muslims quite generally agree: when an Egyptian paper republished the cartoons in October, shortly after they first appeared, they passed without noticeable response, and the story didn’t take off until some imams resident in Denmark went on a road trip in the Arab world showing people irrelevant but far more offensive images (reproduced here, here, and here).

Under the circumstances it is impossible to understand why Muslim states are demanding (and getting) Western apologies rather than the reverse. Slander, arson and murder are worse than mild caricatures that in fact don’t much bother Muslim third parties. While you should apologize where apology is due, it’s hard to see why it’s due here, except conceivably by the paper itself to local readers whom it offended. Even that is doubtful: Islam is a world force that’s quite often violent and oppressive, and it has to be legitimate to comment on the matter. Above all, you don’t apologize to an abusive bully in the hopes he’ll stop being abusive if you go along with the hatreds and fantasies he uses to justify his outrageous conduct.

9 thoughts on “Making nice is not statesmanship”

  1. Where Apology is Due

    It only just occurred to me, that if the imams did indeed originate and misrepresent the three very crude cartoons, that they have, by just about any legal standard, libeled the newspaper, the Danes, and the West.


  2. Should tradcons express no sympathy at all for offended Moslems?
    I agree with the entry completely. But, all of that said (all of what’s in the entry), won’t many trads still wish to acknowledge or express something additional, something along the lines of strong disapproval of gratuitous public display of disrespect for another’s religion?

    The way I would put it is, I sympathize with those whose religion was treated with gratuitous lack of respect and I have a low opinion of the one who did it (though I absolutely support his right to do it, of course, I condemn violent reactions, I totally oppose any apology by the Danish government, and so on).

    I suppose it’s a detail—but for trads a not unimportant one, perhaps.

    For what it’s worth, my feelings about this sort of thing are expressed in these two comments I posted at (the first one not about these cartoons but about a Sikh playwright whose play’s opening in London set off riots by Sikhs because she chose to set a rape scene inside a Sikh temple):

    As for playwright Gurpreet Bhatti, yes her play’s production needs to be protected from rioters but—and I’m sorry—I have this sneaking suspicion she likely could have gotten her dramaturgical point across equally well if she’d set the rape scene elsewhere than in a Sikh temple. (Just use your imagination, Gurpreet—it’s not that hard: you’ll think of a way to set it elsewhere than in the exact place Howard Stern would recommend setting it.) Because the riots seem to have hinged on that one detail, and because it’s hard to believe that one detail couldn’t have been changed without artistic detriment to the play, one wonders whether the playwright might not secretly welcome all this free publicity of exactly the type that made Salman Rushdie financially quite well-off and critically so acclaimed for what I suspect is a piece of trash pretending to be a piece of literature.”

    I must say, if I were an editor I’d never publish such cartoons. Although I fully agree with everyone who’s posted here expressing uncompromising opposition to Moslem calls for punishment of or censorship of those who publish such things, I don’t blaspheme and I dislike blasphemers in general. I dislike Salman Rushdie’s blasphemies (though of course I absolutely condemn putting a fatwa on him for them), I dislike Christopher Hitchens’ many blasphemies, Theo van Gogh’s, Hirsi Ali’s, Andres Serrano’s (‘Piss Christ,’ a ‘work of art’ consisting of a crucifix in a jar of urine), Chris Ofili’s (elephant dung smeared all over the Virgin Mary in a painting) and those of all the other blasphemers who could’ve made their point in some other way but chose blasphemy nevertheless. I deeply respect all legitimate religions and would never gratuitously blaspheme.”

    Long live free Flanders!

    • Convictions and respect
      As the entry indicated, I’m of two minds on this point. Religion isn’t a strictly personal matter. Islam is a world force and wants to be more of a world force. If you don’t like its goals or methods, shouldn’t you be able to comment on it?

      Maybe the answer is that unless you want a war to the finish, which seems something to avoid, it’s best to criticize or complain about a religion without directly attacking its sacred symbols. So the bomb-turban Mohammed with the kalima on the bomb was probably a bad idea even if the image makes some sense. But still, the way the matter came up had nothing to do with attacking Muslim notions of what’s sacred and everything to do with a desire to open up comment on a major world problem—Muslim hatred, intolerance and violence—in the face of an all-too-justified fear of Muslim hate crimes. The cartoonists are the ones who should get the tolerance and understanding, to the extent there’s anything wrong with what some of them did, and the Muslim imams, protesters, rioters, arsonists and murderers are the ones who should be condemned.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.

      • tolerance
        You wrote:

        “But still, the way the matter came up had nothing to do with attacking Muslim notions of what’s sacred and everything to do with a desire to open up comment on a major world problem—Muslim hatred, intolerance and violence—in the face of an all-too-justified fear of Muslim hate crimes.”

        My understanding is that the cartoonists and the newspaper originally published the cartoons to comment upon, and break, the self-censorship in the European press regarding Islam, and its unproclaimed submission to the principles of Sharia. In other words, their intent was not to open a conversation about Islam, with Islam or anyone else, but to open a conversation, within the West, regarding the Western press’ submission to the demands and intimidation from Islam.

        I see two issues here: Islam’s claim of supremacy and the West’s submission to that claim.

        Islam’s claim to supremacy is “legitimate” within Islam. One should keep in mind that Islam claims supremacy over the whole Earth, and expects submission before that supremacy.

        Our issue is not “tolerance, respect, dialogue, sensitivity,” etc. These are irrelevant to Islam. The sole issue is whether one submits or does not submit. Now, one can frame one’s submission in all sorts of attractive packages, like respect, sensitivity, etc. Islam doesn’t care if we are “nice” people who respect the beliefs of others; their sole interest is whether we submit to Islamic supremacy.

        Either we do or we don’t. Whether we submit out of respect, sensitivity, fear, cravenness, or sincerity, is not an issue for our putative masters.

        • Hamas
          Powerline has a good post quoting some parts of the Hamas Covenant, which reflects the psychology of Islamic supremacy, and how that psychology merges the religious, the political, and the geographic.


          Here’s part of that covenant, Article VI:

          “The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian movement that is loyal to Allah, adopts Islam as a way of life and works to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. Under the wing of Islam, followers of other religions can all live safe and secure in their life, property and rights; whereas in the absence of Islam, discord arises, injustice spreads, corruption burgeons, and there are conflicts and wars.”

          You have been assured. Under Islamic supremacy, you will live “safe” and “secure.”

        • The identity of indiscernibles
          It seems to me it’s all the same thing. The problem is that Muslims as Muslims want to be on top and if they feel secure doing so tend to get very nasty when others don’t go along. It should be possible to speak about the problem whether it’s described from a European standpoint as Muslim hatred, violence and intolerance or from a standpoint that takes the internal logic of Islam more seriously. I agree though that any realistic discussion would have to face the latter point squarely because otherwise someone might think that psychotherapy or some such will do the trick. The distinction though between opening up a conversation about the problem of Islam and a conversation about the problem of the refusal of the Europeans to discuss the problem of Islam is a rather fine point that probably doesn’t have much practical effect.

          Rem tene, verba sequentur.

          • Internal logic
            I don’t think we can clarify our position, or any problem we might have, without apprehending clearly the “internal logic of Islam.”

            Islam assumes it is authoritative over the West NOW, not in some distant future parallel universe.

            I don’t think the Islamic position is one of “hatred, violence, or intolerance.” Given the internal logic of Islam, our refusal to submit to Islam’s authority is a position of “hatred, violence, and intolerance.” After all, Islam is peace and justice for all; therefore, rejection of Islam is ipso facto rejection of peace and justice for all. In rejecting peace and justice for all, the West is obviously hateful, unjust, and intolerant. The West, in rebellion against peace and justice for all, merits discipline and subjection.

            Westerners typically think that issues with Islam are subject to dialogue, respect, sensitivity, mutuality, support, compromise, and agreement, and that such procedures and postures are the best route to peace and justice for all, and that Islam will be grateful for and shall prosper as a result of our paternalistic overtures and noises about “tolerance.” This is nonsense, and lies at the core of the liberal fantasy. If one has absolute authority over another (as Islam has over the West) notions of mutuality and compromise are not relevant.

  3. New article from Denmark on how the Imams stirred things up
    “the story didn’t take off until some imams resident in Denmark went on a road trip in the Arab world showing people irrelevant but far more offensive images” (—from the log entry)

    Here‘s an entry just posted by John Ray which links to further details of what happened, including how the Imams fanned flames of resentment that otherwise might have died down or never been ignited in the first place:

    “I have just put up here an English translation of the latest article—‘Rejsende i islam’—from Denmark on the cartoons issue. The article is from the now ‘infamous’ Jyllands Posten itself. It gives a fairly detailed account of how the uproar was provoked by Denmark’s Imams—with enthusiastic help from peak Muslim bodies in Arab countries.”

    Long live free Flanders!

  4. Dear Mr. Kalb,You could not
    Dear Mr. Kalb,

    You could not be more accurate in proposing one not apologize to Islam. Although one can say there is ignorance about why Muslim states are getting Western apologies, one can conclude the reason is cowardice. Islamic countries apologize to the West for nothing. Moreover, Islam continually issues threats, express or implied, against Western countries—Indonesian silence, Iran’s megalomaniac, and Al-Jazzira, for example. Islam continually neglects its borders as long as it threatens Western powers—Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran, to the best of my meager knowledge.

    Life is hard. As human beings, liberals know this, but they have idealized equality for inscrutable reasons. Equality to the nth degree is their goal. Islam’s faults are unrecognizable to liberals because Islam is equal to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, etc.

    All the Best,



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