Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Legislating Hurt Feelings 

There are some intelligent editorial remarks concerning the cartoon intifada over at OpinionJournal:
The Western philosophical tradition is founded on
the belief that the execution of Socrates for blaspheming
the gods of Athens was an injustice. When British
Muslims carry placards reading "Butcher those who
mock Islam," they are making their differences with
that tradition depressingly plain.
The article discusses the extent to which this fracas is an expression of popular belief in the Muslim lands as opposed to strategic planning among the leaders. It's certainly not unheard of here in the West for cynical leaders to exploit and commandeer popular sentiment to gain advantage. What makes this difficult to gauge is the uniformly authoritarian or totalitarian nature of the Muslim states. How to assess 'popular belief' under a regime without meaningful freedom of speech or religion or press? If there is a significant sector in those lands who do not believe that this matter must be resolved with Danish heads on pikes their voices will not be heard.

As it stands, the outrage over this insignificant matter is voiced by regimes deflecting attention from their incompetent self-dealing, their manufacture of atomic weaponry, their inability to construct a modern economy as well as blood-soaked clerics throwing red meat to their ignorant and frustrated followers.
There's a lesson in this for those who would have
us believe that what this cartoon conflagration
represents is a conflict of civilizations. There
is a conflict all right, not between civilizations, but
within one, and it pits those who would make Islam
barbaric and those who would keep it civilized. In
that struggle, the heirs of Socrates and the heirs of
al-Farabi must make common cause.
The demands of those representing themselves as the voice of Islam constitute a clear and simple command that the West submit to fundamentalist norms in any matter that remotely touches Muslim life. For the West to submit to any such demand amounts to passing another cup of hemlock to Socrates. A simple "no" would be appropriate.
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