With the widespread unpleasant response to Geert Wilders’ film on Islam, “Fitna,” I’m finding myself thinking about the “big picture” thing again. And, as usual, I’m making myself angry.
Muslims around the world are calling on all governments to get behind censoring the film. And make no mistake — it’s censorship, plain and simple. Whether it’s being done as an “appeal to understanding” or naked threats of violence, the end result is the same — they are getting their way and suppressing a film that says things they don’t like.
Their biggest target is the Dutch government. After all, Wilders is a Dutch legislator, so his government should be held accountable for his actions.
I find it remarkably similar to the hysteria a couple of years ago when a Danish newspaper published those cartoons of Mohammed. In both cases, whole nations and governments and societies were held accountable for the actions of a few of its members. There were attacks on Danish embassies, threats of boycotts of Danish products, and demands that the Danish government apologize and suppress the offending newspaper.
This, of course, was in addition to the demands for the heads of the cartoonists, publishers, and everyone else involved in the mess.
So, we see that the idea of a whole being responsible for the actions of a few is a very strong element of Islamist thinking. (If that isn’t too much of an oxymoron.)
But on the other hand, what is the response when a few Muslims commit atrocities? “Why, you cannot blame all Muslims for their actions!”
Why not, I ask? Are they not saying that they are acting in the finest Islamic traditions, fulfilling their Muslim duties, citing Koran passages and hadiths and fatwas and Shariah law, while they are doing it? Are they not claiming to act on behalf of all Islam?
Yes, but that doesn’t count.
On the other hand, where does Geert Wilders say that he is acting on behalf of the Dutch government and Dutch people? When did he say that his actions are representative of anyone but himself?
Or when did the Danish newspaper say that it was the official publication of the Danish government? That it was acting not on its own, but with the full backing of the Danish people?
The difference, it seems to me, is the defense offered. To the West, it’s a simple matter of saying “they are individuals, and individuals have the right to freely express themselves in our traditions and under our laws. The government does not have the authority to repress them.”
That simply doesn’t wash with the Islamists. They cannot grasp the fundamental nature of Western governments — that all governmental power derives from the consent of the governed. That the governments have certain restraints laid upon them, and the people have certain rights that are guaranteed.
More fundamentally, those rights are not guaranteed by the government, but merely recognized. They didn’t come from any earthly government, so no earthly government can take them away.
Conversely, the Islamic defense for not tainting all Muslims with the actions of a few is… um…
I might need some help here.
As far as I can tell, it boils down to “you can’t blame all of us because we don’t want you to.” They don’t make any efforts to purge the radicals from their midst, they don’t cooperate in isolating and defeating them, and they show a remarkable concern for their welfare and well-being. They need to be treated with respect when captured, they get terribly bent out of shape if their bodies are not given a full Muslim funeral service, and so on.
To the average Muslim, all Westerners are interchangeable. George W. Bush is the same as Howard Dean as Cynthia McKinney as Ron Paul to Kos to Charles Johnson to Keith Olbermann to Roger Clemens. Any misdeed by any American is grounds for retaliating against any other (or all other) Americans.
I think Glenn Greenwald might be able to explain that one for us. Or, if he’s too busy, perhaps he can have Rick Ellensberg or Thomas Ellers or Ellison or any of those other people who write in his voice and post from his IP fill us in.
Or, perhaps, it is because of our freedom. We take such pride in declaring and asserting our freedom. Maybe it is that that so aggrieves them — “if you’re going to keep insisting that those people are free to do that, then you’re going to be responsible for how they use that freedom you give them.” They don’t recognize that we don’t GIVE ourselves that freedom, we RECOGNIZE it in our selves and in others.
They, on the other hand, are under no such delusions. They are slaves to the will of Allah (“Islam,” it must be remembered at all times, does NOT mean “peace,” it means “submission”) and therefore they are exempt from being judged for their actions — they don’t choose to do such things, it’s all “in’shallah,” or “Allah’s will.”
Or, as a born-again agnostic, I could be completely off base with that one. I find all religions have, at their core, something nutty. Most of them I view as mostly harmless; only a few (Islam, Scientology, the Westboro Baptists, Heaven’s Gate, Aum Shinrikyo, Branch Davidians, Jonestown) strike me as actually malignant.
Like most double standards, it’s delightfully self-serving. It fulfills the need of the Muslim community to distance itself from its more radical elements when convenient, yet allows itself to assert its monolithic nature when that better serves its purpose.
Conversely, the West must be portrayed as monolithic and unified whenever possible, to not only tar the vast majority with the deeds of the few, but to heighten the “oppressed minority” argument they have learned to trot out at every opportunity. The disparate elements of the West are only brought up when a portion of them need to be singled out for praise — the “good dhimmis” and the like.
And like most double standards, once it’s recognized for what it is it utterly guts the arguer of any moral credibility or reputation for honesty.
At least, it ought to. Unfortunately, we have too many “good little dhimmis” who are more than eager to keep up the pretense on the Muslims’ behalf.