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Friday, April 01, 2011

Comments

Maybe a better solution for all concerned would be for international and non governmental organizations, or their workers, to simply refuse to enter or remain in countries where the US, or other imperialist powers, are conducting brutal occupations.

Inevitably, these organizations and their workers are seen as part and parcel of the occupation. In good measure, because they in fact are. They provide the figleaf of morality, of "nation building," of "assistance," that cloaks what are in fact neo colonialist projects of domination and control. They are the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, when it comes to persuading liberal non interventionists back home that these wars, occupations, and counter insurgencies are all about "humanitarianism." They are seen as representing the US because they do represent it.

On the substance of the issue, perhaps the fact that the US is occupying their country, and has been for a decade, and is routinely killing their people "by accident," and now perhaps simply for sport too has something to do with this response. But, maybe you're right, maybe it's all about the Koran and only about that.

Well, even if that is true, it seems to me the best course of action would be to simply avoid such places. I have no regard for cannibalism, but then I pretty much avoid going to places where it is practiced. Rather than rail against the beliefs of people who live on the other side of the world, one might do better to leave them to their own affairs.

Yes, I know, the odd Danish cartoonist or Dutch filmmaker is not immune to this sort of thing either. On the other hand, how many Muslims going about their affairs in their own country (and not, one might add, even looking to stir up trouble against Westeners the way the cartoonist and the filmmaker were looking to stir things up against Muslims) have been killed by the West? One needn't be a religous fanatic to kill people without any good reason.

One needn't be a religous fanatic to kill people without any good reason.

Definitely not, but religious fanaticism is what the posting is about.

No tears for the occupiers. Being occupied by foreigners is bad enough. Being occupied by foreigners who defile sacred texts for the explicit purpose of assaulting your culture and your religious sensibilities is more than anyone would tolerate.

I share your disdain for all religion but I feel this post doesn't put the shameful attack in context.

Would anything like this have happened with out the ongoing and increasing attacks by the West on Muslims?

If there was an occupying force in my home, killing my family and friends, it would definitely be religion that would make me strike back.

Butch: Would anything like this have happened with out the ongoing and increasing attacks by the West on Muslims?

Yes, and that's the reason for the other examples I included (and the many I didn't). I mentioned them specifically because this posting is not just about this attack, but about the mindset that says it's acceptable to kill because someone somewhere has insulted your religious beliefs. Asia Bibi isn't a victim of attacks by the West on Muslim countries.

Ten years of occupation leaves plenty of time to strike back - why rush? But burn a sacred book, draw a cartoon, heck even suggest moderation of a blasphemy law...now that requires swift and grisly punishment (don't want anyone thinking you'll put up with just anything).

Me: Would anything like this have happened with out the ongoing and increasing attacks by the West on Muslims?

John: Yes, and that's the reason for the other examples I included (and the many I didn't).

According to today's NY Times "Mazar-i-Sharif has little or no T'aliban presence," so I'm not so sure you're right.

I am sure religion motivated the mullahs (and Asia Bibi is a victim of purely religious hatred), but it seems to me the volatile ingredient was the occupation and all its horrors. The article also mentions how Karzai has used the Koran burning as political cover, so I don't see how this particular attack can be seen as primarily driven by religion.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/world/asia/03afghanistan.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

I get what you're saying, but this posting is not just about this attack.

I don't find religion a particularly more stupid reason to murder someone.

I am an atheist myself, and there may have been a time when you could reasonably single out religion as particularly evil.

Now it's actually ridiculous to do so. It is becoming fashionable because it usually comes with an added layer of animosity toward Muslims. I'm actually surprised to see you singling out this incident as blogworthy.

While I don't defend the killing, there was more justice in it, for reasons others have stated - mainly, that it was against unwelcome colonialists - than any of the recent murders of innocents by the American military machine and the capitalist class whom it serves.

BTW - yeah, I get that you linked to three other incidents spanning 7 years that weren't aimed at occupiers but these really don't prove frequency. Besides it's not like there's a shortage of commentary on how horrible and vicious and fanatical Muslims are. I mean hell, there are all those still surviving, extremely well-intended, only-accidently-hate-stoking, rosy white northern European filmmakers and cartoonists for starters. Not to mention the New Republic and every other right-wing blogger and pundit.

Besides, we have no real idea what happened during this incident. For all we know there was an anti-Koran defiling protest when a Nepalese mercenary panicked and shot dead one of the protesters and it became about that. Your own link exclaims the protesters did not come armed: "The victims were killed by weapons the demonstrators had wrestled away from the United Nations guards, Mr. Noor said."

While I don't defend the killing, there was more justice in it, for reasons others have stated - mainly, that it was against unwelcome colonialists - than any of the recent murders of innocents by the American military machine and the capitalist class whom it serves.

This isn't a compare-and-contrast posting. Of course we kill people too (among many other crimes), and of course it's wrong; that doesn't mean it's acceptable to kill (or otherwise persecute) people based on the desecration of a religious book.

I'm actually surprised to see you singling out this incident as blogworthy.

I've written nearly 1000 postings on this blog, the overwhelming majority of which highlight and condemn the atrocities (military, economic, environmental, and otherwise) the U.S. inflicts on the world and the mindset that allows those atrocities to go forward. How many more do I have to write before it's acceptable to do a posting about religious violence? The funny thing is that I expected to be criticized along these lines, but nobody questions whether or not the caption on the cover of Mother Jones is blogworthy.

As for this incident, I don't want to get bogged down in a lengthy analysis of it since it was just the starting point for the posting and not the main point, which is why I mentioned other examples (and particularly examples that deal with blasphemy laws, which highlight the fact that this kind of religious violence and persecution is widespread and even institutionalized, not isolated). But as to the motivation, the fact is that no U.N. compound was attacked when nine boys were killed by NATO while they were collecting firewood (and that's just one of an endless litany of Western atrocities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, of course); it wasn't until a koran was burned--somewhere, by someone--that this happened. And there are more protests today, in which a girls' high school was reportedly vandalized. A U.N. girls' school, maybe? A school teaching girls that the Western occupiers are our friends? I don't see "more justice" in that than if fundamentalists anywhere else did the same kind of thing--just as I don't feel a need to measure the balance of victimhood and oppression that plays into Asia Bibi's hanging sentence or the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti.

By the way, I should mention that when I first heard about an attack on a U.N. compound in Afghanistan my response was the same as other people's here. It wasn't until I read in more detail about what had happened, and the motivation (proximal, at the very least) behind it, that I realized it didn't fit into the "occupied rising up against the occupiers" box I'd put it in at first glance.

Let me complete that sentence fragment for you:

"[T]hese people woke up this morning [in an illegally and brutally occupied country beset by imperial death squads, dead children and fourth world conditions] thinking it would be a day like any other and that their heads would remain fully attached to their bodies, just like usual."

You know, the usual Pleasant Valley Sunday here in Finger Collecting Land.

Don't you hate it when you break into a house and kill someone's brother and they get all uppity and kill you? I'd also add that taking the entire context for the event from a NYT article is usually a bad idea. I live in the States and hadn't heard of this latest "Let's Poke the Hornets' Nest" stunt until it was reported as the "cause" of these events, but I've certainly seen the edited and unedited pictures of the Kill Teams. I've also heard plenty of details about the mangled, shredded remains of the Afghan boys killed by "NATO" helicopters ("NATO" usually being a handy euphemism for "US") and I don't recall any beheadings as a result of those.

In other words, when Western types report on these riots and outbreaks they need to quit pretending the Quran assault du jour is the sole reason and admit it was simply the straw that broke the camel's back.

There are precious few ways for the average Afghani to get news. TV ownership is a non-starter, radio exists but I think people need to gather 'round a communal one, literacy is not high. Thus I imagine that it might be new news to people at a rally like this that the occupiers, on top of the occupation, the drone strikes, and the support of a corrupt "government" are now also holding a "trial" for the Quran and burning it.

Even as an atheist, it's conceivable to me how this becomes the last straw. Heck, I went ballistic at a craft store owner recently for cutting holes in rare old books (in one case a book I would gladly have paid $50 for unmolested, and will likely never see a copy of again) and shellac-ing them to make "cute" coffee table boxes.

I should note too that I've had a couple of jobs in the Islamic world, and in fact am even trying to get a small consulting thingy set up for people doing business one place I lived. I get - again, I'm an atheist - a little defensive when we get critical of people over there getting upset over something like Quran burning. Unfortunately part of 'cultural diversity' if we really want to do that, is accepting that other cultures are NOT tolerant of what we are. (This is the underlying messages that should get through to people, as opposed to "you might see men holding hands in public" etc.) It's a sticky wicket. I stuggle with these things. Eventually it boils down to what one is willing to tolerate in terms of the intolerance of others, if that makes any sense.

Wearing my atheist hat I say burn every damn book, wearing my trying-to-be-a-good-global-citizen hat I'm just sorry that some Nepalese grunts and well-meaning Scandinavians got 86ed instead of our domestic book burners.

Oops. Should have read:

"Wearing my atheist hat I say burn every damn HOLY book..."

There goes my chances of being American Library Association president...

Unfortunately part of 'cultural diversity' if we really want to do that, is accepting that other cultures are NOT tolerant of what we are

I believe it was a French person who first said, "multiculturalism is not eating couscous; multiculturalism is stoning women to death for adultery"

Could it be that most of the people in Afghanistan like most humans everywhere are trying to do their best in the imperfect conditions they are in, that they are facing a bad situation with little self-sufficient ways to rectify it, that the only answers for an outlet to the anger over a bad lot in life is given to them by people seeking to manipulate the situation, that maybe the Koran burning is being used as an indoctrination procedure for those looking for some answer? All of the crimes of occupation are being used to indoctrinate and incite others to violence. We're dealing with statistics here. If for every 9 people indoctrinated and incited by violence, 1 is indoctrinated and incited by religion, I would expect that about 10% of the violence in retribution to be directly attributable to religion. With a lot of people being indoctrinated and incited to action, some of them are going to do so with a religious motivation. Some news stories to that effect are bound to surface.

It's a rich man's war and a poor man's fight. It always is in every situation. The conflict the rich have with each other may be interesting in an academic sense but the situation is always grimmer for the poor. All of the soldiers in Afghanistan from wherever they are from are trying to figure out their path in life: a path to less suffering and a path to allow their children to grow up more privileged then them. Rich men often provide war as a way to do this to some of the poor and even then only to some of those they recruit to fight. The more hopeless the situation without war, the more eager the poor are to fight in a war given to them. Does it matter what justification is being given to them? I would say that's rather academic. What matters is that whatever is being used to get someone to fight another's war just because the former doesn't want to be hungry anymore and wants their children to live in peace.

Soldiers are a diverse lot like any other large group of people. Without the soldiering the group would likely match any other cross section of a group in terms of personality but the profession does change people in predictable ways. The person fighting because is home is being occupied is fighting along side the person who is fighting for money who is fighting along side the person who is fighting for religion who is fighting along side the person who is fighting for patriotism. For some mission a commander may chose particular people.

Ultimately it isn't the soldier who should be chastised but rather the commander whether the commander is commanding an occupation or using religion to gain recruits. The grunt, however, is just doing his job and for a lot of people, not having a job means death. Only those who have faced the prospect of unemployment without a safety net can truly know that experience. A week mind will take any convenient excuse to commit atrocities in that situation. So what if that excuse is a book burning? It doesn't justify or equate the occupation or those profiting personally from it.

Incidentally it is religion that is one of those things that can strengthen a mind. It isn't the only thing that does so for people but it is one of several things that helps for me. It is because, in part, of my religion that I would have gone to jail if I had gotten served with a draft notice or why I would refuse to work for a military contractor though I could easily get one of those jobs and I am unemployed but with a safety net though I wasn't sure of that until a few weeks ago. For those of us for which religion is helpful then that's great and for those of us for which it isn't, I have no problem with that. Each of us has to find our own answers in our own ways and, if you will excuse the expression, Godspeed to all of us in figuring out what to do with ourselves to make the best of things in a less then perfect situation.

Mr. Schwab et al. -

I think we make an error here in even trying to distinguish between "religious" and "other" motivation when dealing with cultures (certain Islamic ones or otherwise) in which religion is so deeply ingrained and widely shared that it's not even a point of reference for the individual.

This is what I mean about "cultural diversity" - to be a member of a certain ethnicity in northern Afghanistan and to be a member of a certain tribal group within that and to be Afghani from a political perspective is also to be a certain stripe of devout Muslim. Period. Likely no one any of these people who committed these murders know or are likely to meet in their daily lives - outside of occupiers - have any difference of religious opinion with them... to the point that it's not considered "opinion." It's just what one does/is. It's background... white noise... everywhere and nowhere really. You're soaking in it.

I believe it was a French person who first said, "multiculturalism is not eating couscous; multiculturalism is stoning women to death for adultery"

Perfect.

I'm disappointed that I'm largely failing to persuade people to address the larger point I was making and divorce it from the Afghan war, but c'est la vie. I can't add much to what I've already written about that except to say that there's a reason the posting was titled "Burn them all" and not "Afghans are just as violent and blameworthy as U.S. occupying forces".

Chris, I agree with your point about tolerance to a point, but there's a big difference between how you behave in other societies from a sense of a respect and common courtesy (and I've also spent time in the Middle East) vs. what you're willing to accept, rationalize, or otherwise excuse on an ethical level. I'll never be tolerant of things like this, or the other examples I've mentioned. Killing people (or threatening to kill them, or persecuting them in other ways) over the profaning of religion or religious symbols will never be something I'm willing to tolerate, and I'm surprised to discover just how little traction that view apparently has with people here.

Benjamin, there are many religious people for whom I have great respect--specifically those who live their principles, though my sense in those cases is often that their character precedes (and in some cases transcends) their religion. I'm thinking in particular of Quakers I've known or known of. On a personal level I don't think the religion I eventually rejected had anything to do with the values I hold today, but in general I don't think that religion should be expected or required to improve someone's character anyway. If believing in a god helps someone get through their life or make sense of the world, that's fine; it's when they start killing, stoning, mutilating, or otherwise threatening the life and liberty of people who fail to adhere to their views that I have a problem with it.

Mr. Caruso:

Perhaps it's not religion that is important but rather ones actions, intentions, and aspirations as a whole that matter rather then the reasons behind them. Discovering cause is very difficult because there are always causes beneath causes beneath causes... The true nature of a character is what someone does and the consequences, the affect they are trying to generate with ones actions, and the person one is trying to be. As pointed out trying to ferret out the impact on religion on an individual or on a society is very difficult and I would claim unproductive. Religion in an objective sense only serves as a tool to assist what a person is already trying to do, sometimes in complicated ways.

The point I take from your post is that killing and book burning are not equivalent actions in magnitude and as a support of the freedom of expression even distasteful expression. I agree. I am not convinced that anyone here is making a serious claim that religion is a negative influence on people and the world but I have encountered this belief and it is one I take great offense to. I hope my judgment of the statements of others here is correct and maybe I am addressing others who are not here vicariously but I said what I said perhaps more for myself in having an outlet to defend my own practices to others that I'm comfortable with. I also agree that pointing out that two things are bad is distinctly different from claiming that two things are equally bad.

I don't think anyone here has *major* disagreements over what proper conduct should be.

That's quite another thing from what role religion has in proper conduct. And quite another thing altogether from deciding whether we want to respect or understand another culture (as I typed above, some cultures are so intertwined with a particular religion that there's no sifting it out and citing "religion" as causal to anything in isolation... or it is in totality, however we want to look at it, in the latter case we then need to blame "the culture" as causal.)

I'm of the opinion that religion plays more of a role in convincing people that their bad behavior is acceptable (or even sanctified) than anything else. I think of morality as wholly separate from religion, and religion unnecessary in morality, and vice versa, although nothing stops them from overlapping either. A brief review of what Hitchens, Dawkins, Sagan and Randi have to say about it is my general territory, these people expressing things more fully than I could although I arrived at similar, if simplified, conclusions at about 13. There's also a set of terrible behaviors that humans seem committed to almost exclusively because of religion.

I'm getting a little tired of people deliberately yanking the chains of Muslims (specifcally) and then we're supposed to be shocked and horrified when the death threats come in. Failure to empathize with the Muslim side here is, to me, a statement of a rejection of multiculturalism, or whatever we want to call it. And we can decide to do that, but we can't then also claim to have respect for that other culture... in much the same way that we can't simultaneously want free speech including blasphemy AND claim that we expect certain other cultures to respect that about us while we are equally respectful of them in return. Somewhere along the line one has to chose sides most unfortunately.

When you burn a Quran you're saying "I reject everything about you and all things you think are good, and I'm on Earth to defeat puppies and sunshine" to a billion people. It's pretty much the equal of wearing a Yankees jersey to a Red Sox home game AND telling people that you're going to rape their mothers.

Should you be free to do that? Yes. Is hospitalization the proper moral response? No. Is that what will eventually happen? Yes. Do I feel sorry for you when it happens? Nope.

People who set out with nothing else in mind than blasphemy for its own sake are pretty much waaaaay down the list of people I'm going to wring my hands over in concern over their safety. I believe that part of the whole Thoreau thing was that part of the value in protest was awareness and acceptance of consequences.

I wonder, incidentally, whether or not these murders of people who didn't "try" and then burn the Quran are thought to be "fair game" locally even though these are clearly not the same human beings, just those available. I have limited meaningful exchanges with Afghanis and I wonder if in a culture with such concepts as 'blood money' that substitution of one honkey for another is considered fair play. It certainly isn't here, but our notion of 'fairness' to the individual - or at least, our STATED notion thereof - is culturally different than that of a culture where the letter of the law is the letter of the law and substitutions are regularly made. I don't know the answer to that, I ask it open-endedly.

I'll throw in for what it's worth that as an American who was raised nominally Christian I feel that my social rights/responsibilities to criticize the dominant religious groups within my own culture far surpass those of me poking at someone else's, particularly people we're lobbing missiles at. I know what the ground rules are here, I know where the hypocrisy is and the results affect me directly.

Adding to all of this it turns out that via two marriages I am distantly "related" (I am in-laws of in-laws) of the douchebag who tried to burn the Quran at Ground Zero. I get some inside dish third or fourth hand on his general douchebaggery. Apparently I met him once at a wedding, so my wife tells me, although I have no good recollection of having had meaningful discussion with the guy. It's a touchy subject among the in-laws, and apparently my joking about the hamfistedness of the enterprise has not been well received. Buddy boy is in all honestly first on my list of people who I wouldn't be overly concerned about getting self-petard-hoisted.

Great comments.

Benjamin: I am not convinced that anyone here is making a serious claim that religion is a negative influence on people and the world but I have encountered this belief and it is one I take great offense to.

I assume you're not saying you feel religion isn't a negative influence on anyone at all, since I'm sure we can all point to examples (from many creeds). So is your meaning here that religion isn't a net negative influence? In that case I'd disagree (and hope it doesn't give offense). While it's not possible to prove the point definitively one way or the other, the number of wrongs done in the name of religion--including the case in poing of killing someone over perceived or actual insults to your deity of choice, or the mere symbols of that deity--is too long to list. If that weren't true I wouldn't be doing this posting.

As my earlier comment implied, I'm not a utilitarian when it comes to religion in the sense that I don't think the issue of whether or not religion improves someone's behavior factors into justifying it; as long as it gives them something they need, great. It's when people call on their religion to justify all manner of vileness and/or feel they have the right to impose it on other people (where "impose" encompasses a huge universe of controlling behaviors, at all levels) that I have a problem with it.

By the way, when I said earlier that there are many religious people I respect, I meant to include you. I hope you'll take it the right when when I say it's a pleasure to disagree with you (which is exeedingly rare, and something I truly appreciate).

Chris: Failure to empathize with the Muslim side here is, to me, a statement of a rejection of multiculturalism, or whatever we want to call it.

That's stronger than I'd put it, but I'd essentially agree. I didn't say that Muslims have no reason or right to be offended or angry when someone burns the Koran, though--in fact I was saying just the opposite in the last paragraph of the posting. I can certainly empathize with that (as anyone can who's had their cherished beliefs insulted or belittled). But that empathy has limits, and those limits most definitely encompass the point where a sense of being offended and insulted turns into death threats. When it comes to respect, I agree with Evelyn Beatrice Hall's "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" (and the implied ", asshole" at the end).

I'll be talking about religious offense more directly in another posting (which I started writing two years ago), so I'll leave it there for now.

Whether we consider religion, nationalism, patriotism , or any other set of mental constructs . . . it is all the same in this sense: human reality is consensus based and is an interconnected network consisting of many minds operating along a theme.

I am positive the three angry mullahs acted with a perceived sense of justice.

John, you might just as well have stated, I despise [name any set of thematic beliefs], and things like this are exactly the reason why: [cite an atrocity linked to stated belief system].

Mr. Caruso:

It seams I made an error in communicating what I meant to communicate. I have heard it claimed that religion is far more a negative influence on things then a positive and I've even heard it claimed that religion is solely a negative influence. Religion historically and contemporarily has such a large influence in human life that I feel that it is imposable to make such sweeping claims. The negative effects of religion are unlistable in one lifetime but so are the positive effects and even then, who is to say that something not clearly one or the other is in-fact one or the other. I would claim that, for the people listed in your post who murdered 12 people, religion has been a negative influence in their actions.

I apologize for treating you and the others here unfairly but the tone of this discussion (at-least the tone that I have perceived) has made me uncomfortable because it reminded me of some climes that others not here have made that I take offense to. I have not taken offense to what anyone here has said but I felt this was a safe place to express a frustration of mine to other people and that, personally, is a valuable thing to do. Perhaps I should find a better place then a blog comment section but in this case it is the outlet that I found. I don't mean to abuse this place if that is what I have done. I any case I could have been more aware of why I was speaking what I was speaking and made the evident from the beginning.

I think a few people here are in broad agreement. As the quiz master has said, morality and religion need not have something to do with each other but they can. As you have said people who better themselves without religion are admirable as are those who better themselves with the help of religion and people who commit crimes without the aid of religion are detestable as are those who commit crimes with the aid of religion. We may disagree on very complex questions as what are the root causes for actions, how influential is religion on individual and social behavior, and other questions but I feel that we are in agreement to a large extent on some of the important issues discussed here.

I do notice the respect you have for me and I value it as I hope you see the respect and admiration I have for you. I'm glad we can disagree in a pleasing way; I do try my best. I try to get involved in discussions here when I think I have something of value to add and I can find time to comment on blog posts because of your qualities that is evident in your posts and in your response to my comments. I hope you will also be pleased to know that I've been fallowing this blog for a few years before I started committing on it.

Well, that's the point where we get to the cultural difference... it is perfectly acceptable within the confines of rural Afghani society to kill people for blasphemy. It's right up there with the worst things you can do, maybe the worst. They seem to be rather more forgiving of boy-buggery and the drug trade. Or, y'know, killing people.

The general sense in the West that blasphemy shouldn't carry the death penalty is a relatively recent social construct here.

Of course I agree that blasphemy shouldn't carry physical penalty. At the same time that's a part of my culture and not others', and me criticizing them for that seems a bit pointless. It's a step in mind from criticizng a cat for grooming.

American religious nuts are actually correct to a point that rejection of American exceptionalism and the teaching of multiculturalism leads to being morally adrift. From there we differ - they see just rejecting everyone else's take on things and substituting this for the easy answers of fundy-thought, with a smug sense of superiority, as the Answer. I see things becoming tricky. On the whole the Left (or "liberals") have done a terrible, awful job of reconciling what are some moral puzzlers when trying to do what one thinks is right and be culturally sensitive. It's not an easy thing but I don't know that we even often allow for the fact that this does present challenges.

Likely my favorite example of this was a presentation called "The Sexual Politics of Meat" (paraphrasing) by a vegan professor who has been making this presentation for decades. She has divided the world into "A" (white male cock oppressor western Christian female protein consumer) and "non-A" [why not "B"?!?!?], which she has as First Peoples/Earth mother/nuts and twigs eating Noble Savages.

I asked her once at said presentation how she felt about federal government granting native peoples whaling rights and she nearly had a seizure. Her response was to look at the rest of the audience and say - I am not making this up - "WE DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS OF THE MEAT-EATERS!" This woman has tenure somewhere.

The fact of the matter is that by and large the oppressed brown peoples of the world (which I am not stating ironically) by and large have opinions on American liberal sacred cows that make Pat Robertson look like Harvey Milk.

Apparently some/many/most Americans don't even believe that Muslims have a right to worship where they like, or use a certain holy book, which should call into question how straight we are with our stated cultural more that one has the right to express an opinion that we don't agree with to begin with. Of course that's a side-issue of hypocrisy more than cultural difference.

It's a great message: Stop killing people for no reason! It would be great if you could just say it and everyone would say, "okay" and then it stops but that doesn't seem to be how it works. You need to constantly recycle or repackage the message -- say it again and again and hope that it gets through to someone who was previously unwilling or unable to get it. Good Post!

Thanks, cemmcs; glad you liked it.

Chris, this strain of what you've been saying just gets more disturbing to me the more I think about it, and I feel like I need to address it directly:

It's pretty much the equal of wearing a Yankees jersey to a Red Sox home game AND telling people that you're going to rape their mothers. Should you be free to do that? Yes. Is hospitalization the proper moral response? No. Is that what will eventually happen? Yes. Do I feel sorry for you when it happens? Nope.

If she didn't want to be raped, she shouldn't have worn that skirt. If that boy didn't want to be hung from a tree, he shouldn't have looked at a white woman like that. If she didn't want acid thrown in her face, she shouldn't have gone to school.

(We don't even need a hypothetical, since that example of yours just came to life. But I guess he had it coming.)

I'm sorry if this seems harsh, but it's exactly the logic you're employing. It's not a "moral puzzler" to me whether or not it's acceptable for anyone, anywhere, regardless of what we think represents their "culture", to murder another human being over mere words that they claim insult or offend them--and it never will be. And one of the many things I don't understand about your position is why you'd choose to define the culture based on the man doing the stoning rather than the woman bleeding on the ground. Just as I wonder what makes the Southern culture embodied by the KKK, with values expressed through lynchings like the one I mentioned above, any less real or worthy of special dispensation than the culture you're ascribing to Afghans. How many heretic-killers, racists, or misogynistic religious zealots does it take before we call it a culture and decide we're no longer qualified to judge their actions? (Even when they're directed at people outside their sphere, as in many of the examples I've mentioned.)

I do feel sorry for the woman whose life has been turned into a nightmare because she drew a cartoon, Chris--and all the rest of the victims of religious violence I've mentioned. You're right that somewhere along the line one has to choose sides...and I'm honestly dumbfounded, based on the other things you've written here and the respect I have for you, at the side you're saying you've chosen. I hope you'll reconsider.

I have a great deal of respect for you as well, thanks.

That said, I don't think these are good analogies at all.

That woman didn't "draw a cartoon", she organized a deliberate blasphemy campaign for no other reason(s) than to provoke Muslims and draw attention to herself. I suppose if we want to credit her with some accomplishment we could add some attempt at free speech martyrdom.

Well, CONGRATULATIONS to her on all counts! Time to hang the Mission Accomplished banner, wear the flight suit and jet on down to the aircraft carrier.

Unlike a woman wearing a short skirt, etc., instead of going about her business and being attacked, she went very, very far out of her way to mock the religion of an unpopular religious minority in the US that we're also bombing the crap out of overseas. Color me unimpressed.

What was the intent of this exercise, best case scenario? To mock rural Afghanis from across an ocean, half of a continental land mass and with the US military between you and the mocked... to prove what, that the world's most untouchable people who consume the most energy also have a right to mock the beliefs of others? This is a little too "Eat Pork in a Warsaw Synagogue Day 1938" for my liking.

If she wants to start mocking Warmonger Jesus at the megachurch across the street from the US Air Force Academy, that seems like a good way to get some attention and focus it on the madness and hypocrisy of our own society. I'll contribute to the art supplies fund. Not a particularly good way to win converts to the anti-war cause but at least a better exercise in seeing just what America's commitment to free speech is exactly. Maybe she could try getting a protest sign anywhere near GW Bush. If she wants to travel to Saudi and organize a women's cartooning empowerment thingy, I will contribute. I wonder if Lesson 1 Day 1 to a class of her Saudi sisters, in person, would be drawing Mohammed.

And, again, she has a RIGHT to do this, but not without expecting any form of consequence.

Apparently my in-law-in-law who sort've burned a page of the Quran near Ground Zero has gone bonkers from too much Glenn Beck and thought that by buying a copy of a book at Border's (the price tag is still visible in the video, leading me to a hilarious reply of the PURCHASE AND SELECTION of a particular Quran by this nimwit in my head) and burning it he would become a true American hero. Well, book burners aren't my heroes, and neither are cowards and bullies. Now he's likely to get a big cash settlement from the public sector job that fired him for this stunt, and will likely become a Fox News "martyr."

A better analogy might be Fred Phelps holding up God Hates Fags signs at military funerals, or even a Vegas tiger show trainer getting an inevitable mauling. Just because you technically can do something doesn't mean you should. A right to do it? Sure, but I'm not all jazzed up for it. A repsonsibility to maybe do something different? IMO yes.

I'd add that in order for my analogy to have come to life the Ginats fan would also have had to threatened the mothers of the Dodgers fans, something which I don't think happened. The general idea I'm trying to get across is that when a people in a different culture say "This is one of the thigs that makes us apeshit" you can't have a reasonable expectation in life of doing the thing that makes them apeshit on purpose and expect everyone to turn the other cheek.

That would be best case scenario, starting at zero. Now add "Oh, and we've been causal in warfare in your homeland since 1979" into the mix and the expectation that burning someone's holy book will cause anything other tthan violence to whatever representatives of that society is available - Afghanis not having access to drones - is fairly unrealistic.

I'll add to my contribution list the fund to send these Florida clowns to northern Afghanistan to try and burn a Quran in public. It's basically a ticket to meet Jesus faster. How could they refuse?

Chris, you're granting the attacker the right to determine how much physical violence to inflict based on how affronted or insulted they say they feel by behaviors which have done them no real harm whatsoever, and you're putting the responsibility for that violence on the victim. You're according them the right to judge not only the severity of the offense, but the acceptable level of punishment (so there's really no point in quibbling over the details). You're not only blaming the victim, you're allowing the attacker to claim that he was the true victim--wherever the blood may happen to be pooling. In terms of what I'm trying to highlight, the analogies are exact.

Look, I've said things here that could bring a death sentence down on my head, and I'm very much aware of that risk (how hard do you think it would be for someone to find me based on what I've said on my blog?). I'm sorry to hear that whatever might happen, you'll not only say you have no right to judge it but you won't feel the slightest sympathy for me, since I've given such offense to my victims and therefore have to accept whatever punishment they choose for me with Thoreau-like stoicism.

One last thing: neither you nor I know what that Giants fan may have said to those Dodgers fans. The difference is that I don't need to know what he said to decide whether or not he deserves to be lying in a coma right now.

This is the moral universe you're describing. I know a few comments from me aren't going to change your mind, but as I said, I really do hope you'll at least reconsider it.

Hey John -

"This is the moral universe you're describing." Well... yes. Cultural diversity. This is not a slam-dunk moral question in my mind. CD is an ugly beast sometimes.

This is the moral universe we apparerently live in. I don't grant myself the right to tell Afghanis in Afghanistan that they must abide by something we consider sacred, the First Amendment rights of the country that's occupying them... in violation of the same document no less! Earlier today I watched the Kill Squad videos on Rolling Stone's site & it's safe to say that no American really has any place at this point giving any Afghani moral instruction. It's wonder that every westerner in the country isn't slaughtered where they stand given what we're doing to those people.

Imagine PR China militarily occupying the US (not even a tiny bit likely in my mind but no one else is even as close to up to the task for analogy's sake), cancelling baseball season and pissing on Plymouth Rock, bombing and strafing Austin and Newark and then word gets back that people are burning the Bible in Beijing, just to prove that PR China is such a "free" place that you can burn a Christian Bible there and not get arrested. Apeshit is what I imagine would happen, the killing of Chinese functionaries brought over to manage the empire is what would happen in the streets.

I've taken severe swipes mostly at American Christians on my blog, and heck there's a schedule of where I do quizzes on that one! I also did a somewhat irreverent post on Muslim dress patterns as a guide for the American bigot, seeing as many aren't even getting their slurs correct. This is nothing that I wouldn't have done living in Qatar and I don't go out of my way to mock the occupied in so doing.

Deciding for the Afghanis that they are human rights violators puts us on the road to that Obama speech last week justifying our more recent slaughter in Libya. I know that you know how stupid "liberals" get suckered into supporting interventions for oil and geopolitical chessboard squares by telling them that women's rights are being violated, thus the bombing begins in five minutes. Muslims weren't doing a damn thing to bug the cartoonist or the Florida Christian crusaders, other than existing. They have a right to exist without being insulted on top of being occupied and murdered.


"You're not only blaming the victim, you're allowing the attacker to claim that he was the true victim..."

In this case in general I would say that Afghanis have been the 'true victims' of the international community, sure.

"you're putting the responsibility for that violence on the victim"

I do put a lot of responsibility for the consequences of risky behaviors on the people undertaking them. If you're run over by a drunk driver I feel a lot worse for you than if you are the drunk driver. I feel a lot worse for someone who dies from a rabid raccoon bite than someone who makes a living trying to break the spirits of killer whales (hint: the word "killer" is in the name of the species).

Organizing a blaspheme-Islam-day (note it was only Islam and no one else's sacred cows... oh what a brave lass... no "Jesus has trouble catching marbles?" cartoons..?) within the US is a mildly risky behavior. I think the fact that nothing has actually happened to her underlines the "mild" nature thereof.

She's a real mess. She puts together a little blasphemy package, Facebooks it, gets all sorts of positive attention from other Americans (many of whom are just piling-on the towelheads), it goes viral as hoped, then she claims after the inevitable negative attention from Muslims that she "didn't intend it to go viral."

Oh, then AFTER that she's asked on radio if she'll still head up the "effort" to mock Islam, and she repeats that she will.

The funny thing is that she's not even a cartoonist, she's a professional dogwalker trying to become a professional cartoonist. I guess kicking a religious minority was the easy route to attention.

Interestingly in the same interview when asked she said that she wouldn't draw a Holocaust cartoon, because "that's not funny." Islam's hot buttons apparently are funny. Why do I suspect that she's an Obama loyalist?

And while I wouldn't call cleaning up the waste of richer people's pets an ideal life, I would not say she's in a "living hell." Afghanis are in a living hell.

Gratuitous aside: not a very good cartoonist from an artistic perpective from the looks of it either. No wonder she needs the blasphemy gimmick.

But quizmaster Chris: The most important think you are forgetting is that the people slaughtered by the mob...and it was a mob...have absolutely nothing to do with the nutjob pastor. Nothing. They were not Americans. They were not soldiers. They were not fundamentalist missionaries.

Or are you a believer in collective guilt?

As I believe I covered above, the attitude of our society toward collective guilt (if that's how we want to phrae it) and that of others isn't necessarily the same. This is my point, not that I think this is the right thing to do but why others might think it's the right thing to do, and why I don't much see the point in trying to educate (or "educate") other people in another culture that I have no business poking my nose into why my way of living is better.

Surely we're not arguing over which culture values human life more..? Can Americans make any sort of case given what we do in that country that we calue human life at all?

We're basically just boiling it down to WHY we kill people.

Afghan mob:

- intentional blasphemy by invaders

US troops:

- literally for fun
- 'by accident'... again and again and again
- to prop up a corrupt government
- because someone we tortured 'informed' on you
- when the president's poll numbers are low
- to show off our expensive toys
- to advance one's career
- because we're paid to
- when you try to defend yourself, however pathetically, against the invaders who do all of the above

Need I go on?

If we didn't have people manipulating and invading Afghanistan for 30 years+ I'm not even sure that the Quran burning by itself would have triggered this reaction against this target.

They have a right to exist without being insulted...

No one has a right to exist without being insulted.

Last point: Malalai Joya is coming here to speak now that she's overcome U.S. attempts to deny her a visa. I was lucky enough to hear her talk a few years ago. She didn't come here to ask us to tone down our criticisms and show tolerance for or sensitivity to the "culture" of the vicious fundamentalists who so often make places like Afghanistan a nightmare for women, Christians, and other groups. Just the opposite: she and other people like her--both those who are brave enough to speak up and those who are too frightened to do so--want our support, specifically by continuing to show our intolerance for societies in which they're treated as non-persons (or just second-class persons, if they're lucky).

Those are the people whose culture I acknowledge and respect, not the fundamentalist zealots. As you say, you have to choose sides, and it doesn't take even a moment's thought for me to know that that's the right side for me.

(By the way, when I finally do put up that other posting I mentioned don't take it personally--as I said, I wrote most of it two years ago and just never finished it, so it's not aimed at you specifically, even though it may sound that way after this thread.)

In fairness the full sentence was that (a) people have a right not to be insulted on top of occupied and murdered.

Let's put it this way... if Israelis are burning the Quran and having a Draw Mohammed Day... would that be another victory for democracy and human rights? Would that be more proof of how Israel has an open and democratic society, that has respect for the rights of the individual, and is superior on that count to the Palestinian population, who could learn a lesson from all of this and should act more like the Israelis?

We're not really getting far by labelling certain people in a society "fundamentalist" when virtually everyone in the society has a literal interpretation of the holy texts (and therein lies some cultural diversity). Both the people we label Taliban and the people fighting them are fundamentalist. What we're really talking about is levels of official enforcement of that.

Deliberate blasphemy for its own sake I'm quite sure is rejected by an extraordinarily high % of the Afghani population. Rights of females there'd be a wider divide upon. Americans have a right to blaspheme and I don't see why Afghanis don't have a right to go off the rails about it in Afghanistan. That latter bit is no business of mine. I'm no colonialist.

As for the rights of females, as it's been my experience as someone who has taught classes in a Wahhabist state that the women pushed Islam harder on me than the men did by far. Who am I to tell these people that they're wrong? I have a live and let live attitude toward people in Dom(me)/sub relationships too. If you enjoy wearing a dog collar and taking direction, be my guest. I'm abundantly sure that the nice ladies in my class would not have looked kindly upon Quran burning or Draw Mohammed Day, to put it extremely mildy. As it stood I got a lecture every time a Palestinian died in the news, as if I wrote the check for the ammo myself (which in a sense of course we all did).

It gets weirder for me when we consider that the US is pretty damn far from the top of the heap in women's rights to begin with, ranging from reproductive rights to % of women in government and as business leaders, pay and so forth. Maybe we need to send single moms to Sweden so they can lobby Saab for airstrikes on DC so we can have regime change, and maybe as a Swedish puppet state mom would get a break. I wouldn't be against that entirely.

"specifically by continuing to show our intolerance for societies in which they're treated as non-persons (or just second-class persons, if they're lucky)"

That gets us into the territory of deciding for the Afghans what specific levels of which specific rights we decide to set the bar at before we're willing to accept Afghani culture(s) as an equal. I don't prentend to be up to that task and I don't pretend that I have the right to presume upon them in that way.

I'm with QuizmasterChris and the others on this.

Do we really have enough information to say that blasphemy was the cause of this violence? It seems impossible to untangle the various motivations of the mob (which is described as average villagers and not primarily fundamentalist insurgents), to make such a statement. And the stated cause and effect is so simplistic--and frankly mimics some of the propaganda the U.S. uses to justify its occupation--that it is immediately suspect. The savages are motivated by rank religious superstition, whereas the recent revelations of freaking kill teams killing Afghanis for sport and dismembering their bodies, as well as the murder of 9 children, is not even mentioned!

I do not trust the NY Times or other western sources on this--furthermore, this is one of the situations where the U.S. government is allowed to engage in propaganda under the law. I remember when the kill team story first broke the article talked about how the story was released on a Persian holiday so many Afghanis had not heard about it and would hear about it after they left Friday services and the Western governments were worried about violent reactions. So here we are a week or two after the Afghanis supposedly find out about these kill teams (as well as other incidents) and we do have a violent reaction after prayers--but evidently it's simply because of the silly superstitions held by the savages. I don't buy it.

Plus, as mentioned, their culture is saturated with religion as our culture is saturated with American Exceptionalism and corporatism (and religion as well). It is not unusual for an Afghani or Muslim to justify his actions using a religious rationale--even if those rationales are not the only or main cause.

It's not like they don't have rational grievances and it's a bit insulting to immediately accept the NYTimes and U.S. government line. And maybe the rise of fundamentalism in that culture is a normal human response to 30 years of war (not to mention policy where the invaders supported fundamentalists to do the fighting).

Chris: In fairness the full sentence was that (a) people have a right not to be insulted on top of occupied and murdered.

I omitted the qualifier because what I'm saying explicitly rejects any qualification; that's what "no one" was meant to convey.

...I don't see why Afghanis don't have a right to go off the rails about it in Afghanistan.

You've signed off on the right to kill, maim, harass, and threaten anyone anywhere in the world for blasphemy, Chris, not just in Afghanistan.

You're also endorsing the principle that it's ok to kill person X for something person Y did (collective punishment, as Brian said). Forget the murdered Japanese professor who showed such cultural insensitivity that he decided to translate a book some Muslims found offensive, since he was asking for it; the belief system you're describing even validates the Sivas massacre, in which 37 people were killed by Islamic fundamentalists who burned down their hotel because another Satanic Verses translator was staying there as well.

You're also endorsing a right for Muslims that you don't endorse for us (unless you accept my right to murder anyone anywhere in the world if I claim my beliefs have been profaned by their words); it's a moral/cultural relativism that until now I honestly thought didn't exist outside the fevered imaginations of right-wingers. I believe strongly in the "universal" in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I'd never have guessed that you don't.

Walter: I'll break my unspoken promise and say yet again that Afghanistan was only the starting point for the posting, not the main point. And though you may be agreeing with others about that particular example--which does blur two issues, and therefore wasn't the best starting point for this discussion--I don't think anyone else has endorsed Chris's broader view. If you're doing so that's fine, but in that case I'd be interested to hear your response to the many points I've raised above that Chris hasn't answered.

...it's a bit insulting to immediately accept the NYTimes and U.S. government line.

It's a bit insulting to characterize it that way when 1) every media outlet I saw from around the world was reporting the same theme for both the initial protests and followup protests, and 2) the protesters themselves have said so:

"We did the protest to show to the infidels that we are unhappy about their action in burning our holy Koran in America," said a protestor, Gulab Shah, who described himself as a wood-seller.

If you (or anyone else) want to argue against the available evidence that these particular killings weren't motivated (proximally at the very least) by anger over the Koran burning, that's your prerogative, but it's beside the point of the posting.

"You've signed off on the right to kill, maim, harass, and threaten anyone anywhere in the world for blasphemy, Chris, not just in Afghanistan."

I did not; that's not currently the dominant view of most people in our culture, and not what our laws say here. (Apparently we mainly burn the books of people whose ideas we'd like to stamp out domestically, what with our so-called superiority.)

What I'm endorsing is that it's not my place to set the moral order for (all? are we doing everyone..?) other cultures, particularly ones we're military occupying and in which we hunt people for sport.

Beyond that virtually every country - I am not exaggerating - has and uses a separate set of blaspheny laws that have developed in accordance with various cultures and legal traditions. Even in Europe people are still prosecuted for blasphemy.

Interestingly, blasphemy was a crime in Ireland and parts of the UK up until 2-3 years ago:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law

How dare rural Afghanis not catch up to the Republic of Ireland within 2 two years' time! Funny that this didn't spur Bible-burnings in Florida 3 years ago, nor that aspiring American cartoonists didn't have Catholic Blasphemy Day.

This bit is instructive: "However, blasphemy laws [India] were introduced by the Muslim rulers to safeguard Islamic interests. In 1860, the British repealed blasphemy laws so that Christian missionaries could proselytize."

Never have I seen anyone here rail against people in Christian countries for the fines and prison terms doled out for blasphemy. We seem to reserve that solely for Muslims.

The problem with things like the Universal Declaration is that we get to:

"Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

In a lot of the world, that right to religious observance manifests itself in a government-backed death penalty for blasphemy. These things get contradictory. Are people free to practice traditional religion or aren't they? If they aren't we need to stop pretending they are.

In overarching international law, nations have a right to self-determination. Some of what those nations self-determinate ain't pretty to the American liberal. This is where eating the proverbial couscous stops and some very difficult problems regarding which rights trump which rights begin -- never mind who will enforce this, how, and who determines where the lines are. Obama is claiming right now that he draws the lines and the Libyan government is on the wrong side of it, so bombs and missiles are going to rain hot leaden human rights down on Libya. I don't buy it.


"In a lot of the world, that right to religious observance manifests itself in a government-backed death penalty for blasphemy." - allow me to add, with overwhleming support by a local supermajority.

Things like the UDHR appear to have been written on the assumption that everyone was freely going to decide to covert to Unitarianism or somthing. Article 30 says that none of the parts of Declaration can be used to subvert other parts. Given actual religious and cultural practices of the majority of the world's population that becomes impossible. Given some (largely very good parts) of international law which preclude invalidating the recognition of national units and country borders when followed, this becomes impossible to enforce... unless we want to decide that we are in fact the "world's policeman", a phrase I usually avoid as it's a cover for "empire", but with this application would become accurate.

I did not; that's not currently the dominant view of most people in our culture...

I didn't say "in our culture", Chris, and it was clear from the rest of what I said that that's also not what I meant (in fact I explicitly said you don't grant that right to us). If it makes it clearer: You've signed off on their right to kill, maim, harass, and threaten anyone anywhere in the world for blasphemy, not just in Afghanistan.

I really wish you'd stop this kind of nitpicking, which has been so frequent that it's started to feel like it's not just an honest misunderstanding but a way to dodge my points.

Oops... I misread the entry. Blasphemy is still illegal in Ireland!

2009 is when the law went INTO effect! Thus the Afghanis were actually years ahead of the Irish on this one.

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/24/ireland-outlaws-blasphemy/

I don't think people have a right to commit violence because their religious sensibilities are hurt, no. But there is good evidence Afghanis are opposed to the occupation and when talking about the moral rights or obligations of an Afghani mob I don't see why we should set aside the recent horrific events.

As far as the "rights" of the mob. . . they attacked U.N. personnel, some of whom were armed personnel. The U.N. personnel chose to be part of the occupying forces that have violently attacked Afghanistan.

So attacking the U.N. armed personnel may be morally justified (just as any attacks on military personnel would be) under the theory they are resisting an occupying force and trying to defend their country. The attacks on non-military personnel and the summary executions probably violate the rules of war. But it's no worse than they occupying forces do as far as accuracy of identifying combatants, killing "innocent" bystanders, and summarily executing prisoners or wounded. In fact, if the U.S. decided to attack an opposition outpost (even if it was solely administrative in function, say the offices of a secretary of the Taliban) and it saw two people guarding the offices with guns I would have no doubt the U.S. would destroy all life within the building before it finds out if there are non-combatants there, etc. [I am also reminded of one of the stories from the Kill Team revelations involving a Sergeant that came upon the wounded Afghani that the Kill Team had set up and fragged and shot, and the Sergeant was supposedly suspicious (he was portrayed as the "good guy" on the Kill Team), but he still ordered the wounded Afghani to be finished off. Humanitarian war defined--killing people to save them. Who knows, maybe the Afghani mob was similarly well-intentioned, maybe the U.N. non-military personnel got wounded in the fight between the armed men and the mob applied mercy by finishing them off because they knew medical help was too hard to obtain (or its not their official policy to provide medical care to the other side even if they have it--just like the U.S.).]

And you're right that every news source has portrayed the Koran burning as the cause of the recent violence--but should we trust these sources? Wouldn't you be mad if you heard of Kill Teams roaming your country murdering people and then learn this same country is not only indifferent to your misery but mocks and ridicules everything about your culture and blames you for the violence? How maddening it must be to have such savagery visited upon you only to have the aggressors turn it around and pretend they are the victims and that Afghanistan and Islam are the true savages. I can see how it might turn someone into a savage! Talk about breeding violence.

Looking at the video accompanying the story you link to I don't see any references to the book burning by the crowd (Although I don't know what the green signs say, so maybe those refer to the book burning) and the one sign in English I saw reads: "WE WANT these bloody basterd's American. With thier ALL forces to Leave Afghanistan." In another publication, I can't remember where, I saw signs that said death to American and death to Obama. And like I note, if you look at the original reports of the release of the Kill Team photos you see a lot of western worry about violence associated with that. Now we have zero analysis of the effects of that. How many Afghanis know about this? Does that bother them more than the book burning?

I don't think that Afghanis have the right to enforce any interpretation of Sharia beyond their borders. The same set of reasoning leads me to believe that I don't have a right to demand that they respect my culture's norms within theirs.

Especially as one atheist talking to another here, I'm wondering where you're drawing the authority to tell Afghanis how to run their society. As reviewed it can't be one of the many contradictory international agreements which says, among other things, that eveyone has a right to practice their religion. This is the reality of people practicing their religion.

Again, I don't want people killed for blasphemy. I just don't see any rational support that I can provide to others from my position as an American citizen as to why I get to tell them why this is wrong. That would be true even if we weren't behind 30 years of killing there, but as we are it all becomes, in my mind, that much more absurd. And I'm certainly not going to authorize outside force to be used to stop people from using force within their own culture. Outside of neocolonial invasion I don't see how anyone thinks that the rest of the world will be "brought around" to accept certain human rights we feel like enforcing at the time, even as we violate so many others.

Walter: I don't think people have a right to commit violence because their religious sensibilities are hurt, no.

Thanks; I was starting to wonder if I was the only person here who felt that way, so I'm glad to hear you say that. And as I said (obliquely) above, I'm in agreement with some of the rest of what you've written, but it just doesn't have very much to do with the point I was making here.

Chris: I don't think that Afghanis have the right to enforce any interpretation of Sharia beyond their borders.

That's good to hear, but it contradicts everything you've said up to now in response to my many examples of cartoonists, filmmakers, and others who've been killed, harassed and threatened by Islamic fundamentalists.

In any case, it's clear to me at this point that our positions are irreconcilable and I think I've made all the points I wanted to make, so I'll leave you to it. I still can't understand why you choose to define the "culture" based on the man doing the stoning rather than the woman bleeding on the ground (and I'm sure I wouldn't even if you explained it), but life's like that. Regardless of our differences, I genuinely appreciate you putting so much time and effort into explaining the relativist viewpoint, and if nothing else I hope our discussion has been useful for people reading along.

"... but it contradicts everything you've said up to now in response to my many examples of cartoonists, filmmakers, and others who've been killed, harassed and threatened by Islamic fundamentalists."

I don't see anywhere where I've ever said that Afghanis have a right to enforce anything here. Your OP was about the storming of the UN post there. If a bunch of Afghanis charter a plane to Florida and kill the Quran burners I would not be supportive of that from a political standpoint, although I will admit I couldn't see not getting a good snicker out of it.

I would restate that the cartoonist, for example, is the one harassing Muslims. She acted in order to harass them specifically. She has a right (as I have said repeatedly) to do this, but to do so and expect no blowback from that is a bit much. I would ask again - would a bunch of IDF officers in Tel Aviv burning a Quran and drawing Mohammed as a ham sandwich be an example of how Israel is a free society, with much to teach Hamas about how decent people behave, a paragon of free speech and human rights virtue? To me a comfortable woman in the US with a Facebook account going out of her to mock people we are dominating and murdering is a good analogy to this.

As best as I can tell, although it is wrong to kill people in Europe for offending Islam, it was again some right wing Europeans who are uncomfortable with immigration who have been most eager to poke at Islam in ways intended to be provocational, and then feign surprise and agitation when this is met with inevitable hostility.

It is well within the rights of European societies to reject multiculturalism if they like, it's just cloaking this as a concern for human rights in general which gets my goat.

Denmark still has blasphemy laws on the books. Do we need to reject Danish culture too? Heck, Denmark still has royalty. And they are part of the "coalition of the willing" in Libya at the moment.

So this moral high-horse some Danes are on as regards blasphemy is odd at best, when it's illegal there too.

Of course culture isn't the "one man" doing the stoning, else he'd be up on murder charges as everyone around him would be outraged. Culture is pretty much the rest of his society not needing the stoning explained, and wondering why outsiders are appalled by it.

Similarly in the US we don't try executioners for murder, because we have a separate social construct for murder. In another context murder gets you a chest full of medals.

Do I think the death penalty is wrong? Sure. I think a lot of things are wrong. Afghanis think a lot of things I do are wrong. I was living with my wife before we got married. They have exactly as much right to chastise me for that as I have to tell them to take American blasphemy like a bunch of punks.

I'm just glad that when I had roomfuls of Qatari women to talk with - some veiled some not, but all with an abaya and headscarf - that I did more listening than talking.

Chris, the fact that you're picking out that single ambiguous word "harassed" and using it to equate the situations--as though anger over an insult to religion is in any rational sense comparable to MURDER, ATTEMPTED DECAPITATION, AX ATTACKS, IMMOLATION, ISSUING CREDIBLE DEATH THREATS, AND FORCING PEOPLE TO GIVE UP THEIR ENTIRE LIVES AND IDENTITIES--is one of the reasons I think we've exhausted the useful discussion we can have at this point. Maybe we'll come back to some of this when (and if) I publish the other posting I mentioned.

"FORCING PEOPLE TO GIVE UP THEIR ENTIRE LIVES AND IDENTITIES"

Is that not what we're doing when we ask people in another culture not to be violently upset - even within their own country - about burning their holy book and mocking their prophet? This is on top of all of the killing that we do, sometimes for trivial reasons or carelessness. These people have seen a lot of death and trauma over the past few decades. It seems a funny time to start lecturing them on the sanctity of human life.

What do you think the proper response of the Afghanis who find this to be insulting in the extreme to do to express their frustrations at occupiers? Write a letter to the editor? A lot of people aren't even literate. Maybe a Facebook posting..? Very fortunately I'm not in the conditions these people are in, but I don't presume from my secure home with a full belly in a non-wartorn land with no one mocking my beliefs on top of it all that I'm well-placed to be giving hints on proper behavior to these folks.

Would we expect di Mistura to say anything else by the way? Would we expect him to say that the UN has been part of an occupying force and that this was a 'last straw' event for people?

I'd add that within the US the Quran burners and the cartoonist and such have not gotten anything but positive exposure to their target audiences for their actions. Millions of Muslims in this country and nothing has actually happened to them. Tens of millions of intolerant Americans give them credit for being some sort of 'rebel.' These are apparently the rewards you get in 2011 in the US for purposefully offending an embattled religious minority. (My twice-removed in-law is likely to end up making bank on this.)

Burn Everyone Poops?

You monster.

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