September 26, 2006

A decision disliked by everyone. Almost everyone.

Posted in Germany, Islam at 11:52 pm by billdawson

I have just been reading the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s account of the Deutsche Oper’s decision not to perform a particular version of Mozart’s Idomeneo because it was judged to be potentially too dangerous.  Why too dangerous?

Why else?  Because Muslim ragists might take offense to  the fact that, in this production, their prophet (pbuh) suffers a fate similar to that suffered by victims of some of the more energetic of today’s adherents to the Religion of Peace ™: beheading.

Although Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon — yes, Poseidon — suffer the same fate in this production of the opera, one apparently cannot count on this equal opportunity beheading to placate the ragists.  And we know what tends to happen when ragists act out.  Kirsten Harms, the head of the Deutsche Oper, didn’t want that responsibility.

If the FAZ account is correct, it’s a bizarre story. It seems as though Harms, et al, actually kinda hoped nobody would notice that the opera disappeared from the season’s program:

Erst auf den Tip eines Informanten hin begann sich Ende letzter Woche Markus Geiler vom Evangelischen Pressedienst (epd) für die Sache zu interessieren. Tatsächlich fand sich im Spielplan der Deutschen Oper kein „Idomeneo“ mehr, ja nicht einmal ein Hinweis auf dessen Nicht-Wiederaufnahme. Nachfragen Geilers beim Landeskriminalamt und dem Opernhaus brachten schließlich das Gegenteil ans Licht. Getrieben von der öffentlichen Nachfrage und nachdem bereits die Meldung des epd die Redaktionen erreichte, gab das Opernhaus am Montag eine Pressemeldung heraus: „Idomeneo im November entfällt“.

(After getting an informant’s tip, Markus Geiler of the evangelical press service (epd) began to become interested in the story at the end of last week.  True enough, “Idomeneo” was no longer on the Deutsche Oper’s program, and without any explanation.  Geiler’s inquiries at the state criminal police [Landeskriminalamt] and the Opera House finally brought the issue to light.  Pressured by enquiries and after the epd report reached editorial offices, the Opera finally gave out a press release on Monday: “Idomeneo in November cancelled.”)

In case you were worried, you will be pleased to know that this is not any kind of self-censorship or curtailing of artistic freedom (I’m being sarcastic).  Referring to Harms’s strange press conference:

Es gehe nicht um eine grundsätzliche Einschränkung der Freiheit der Kunst. „Es geht um Einschränkung der Kunstfreiheit an dieser Stelle.“

(It is not a question of a fundamental curtailment of artistic freedom.  “It is a question of a curtailment of artistic freedom on this point.”)  [I translated “an dieser Stelle” as “on this point”.  It could, I suppose, also mean “location”.]

And later, after meeting with Harms, the communist (oh, excuse me, “PDS”) Berlin Culture Senator issued a statement in which he said that he and Harms agreed

„daß hier kein Präzedenzfall vorliegt und auch keine Selbstzensur.“

(that this neither sets a precedent nor is it self-censorship.)

As FAZ immediately asks, “What is it then?” (Was sonst?)

Meanwhile, people are coming out of the woodwork to condemn the decision.  Everybody hates it: representatives of the right, the left, the center, of religious communities…Oh, wait, except for this guy:

Der Vorsitzenden des Islamrats, Ali Kizilkaya, begrüßte hingegen die Absetzung. „Eine Oper oder eine Karikatur – das macht keinen großen Unterschied.“ Es gehe nicht um die Freiheit der Kunst, so Kizilkaya, sondern um „Respekt vor dem Anderen“.

The chairman of the Islamic Council, Ali Kizilkaya, welcomed the cancellation.  “An opera or a cartoon — there is no big difference.”  It’s not about artistic freedom, according to Kizilkaya, but rather about “respect for others.”

And we can learn a lot about respect for others from Islam.  Am I right?

(NOTE: Here is a link to a Deutsche Welle story (in English) about the decision.)

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September 17, 2006

Benedict XVI spoke deliberately

Posted in Benedict XVI, Islam, Religion at 12:32 am by billdawson

A few minutes ago I examined Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg speech of 12 September 2006 by quickly reading through the English text found at Catholic World News. First I must say that it’s really not a document to be “quickly read-through”, as I’ve said I did, if you really want to take it in and understand it. But I was not particularly interested in coming away with a clear understanding of his arguments concerning faith and reason or the “reasonableness” of “rais[ing] the question of God through the use of reason.” I was only interested in seeing how the much maligned statement about Mohammed fit in to the context of the entire speech; I specifically wanted to see what I could gleen of the Pope’s intentions in employing the anecdote about the Byzantine emperor and the learned Persian.

My opinion is that it does not take a close reading and understanding of the main points of the speech to recognize that the anecdote is peripheral and could easily have been left out. For that reason, I can only conclude that the Pope very deliberately included it in order to criticize today’s Islam. In fact, everything following the paragraph just after the long quotation of the Emperor reads like a different speech. His arguments concerning reason and faith throughout the remainder of the speech depend in no way upon the anecdote.

Allow me to put it another way: though one may perhaps argue that the anecdote can be seen to pertain to questions of faith and reason, certainly the Pope could have found other anecdotes that are much more obviously connected to that topic. The rest of the speech is decidely not about violent conversions, holy war or even violence in general. Instead, the rest of the speech is really a very highly philosophical look at reason and faith, a topic which is obviously very dear to this philosophical, academic pontiff.

So what were his intentions? I believe that this Pope understands the seriousness of Islam’s modern crisis and wants to continue to comment on it but feels that he needs to cloak his criticisms somewhat due to the ridiculous islamic rage that we have all come to loathe and expect anytime anybody of any significance offends the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers. (Said followers responded right on queue to the speech.) In Regensburg, the criticism was cloaked by relating it — however peripherally and perhaps clumsily — to a much larger philosophical topic.

It is a shame to have to say this, but such cloaking really is necessary for a man such as the Catholic Pope. How many more Holy Land christian churches would be destroyed if the Pope decided to base an entire speech on criticisms of Islam?

As it is, I find Benedict XVI to be rather courageous on this topic. You can see from the Vatican’s “clarification” of the speech that although he is willing to put on a friendly face and offer dialogue, he does not really intend to let angry Mohammedans silence him completely on the topic.

Pope Benedict XVI “sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful,” the Vatican Secretary of State announced in a clarifying statement released on Saturday, September 16.

That is no where near an apology, so I hope no newspapers are headlining it as such. I recognize there are certain dangers in relying on the English version of the Vatican’s clarification, since the Pope certainly did not give his instructions concerning it in English. But if the English is faithful, a word such as “sensitivities” is a clever choice. My first thought was, “indeed, the over-sensitive Muslims.” I am rather pleased with this “clarification”, for I do not want the Pope to apologize.

If there is any world religion today that requires criticism, debate and self-examination, it is indeed Islam. Sadly, Islam is the world religion least likely to accept criticism and most likely to respond with violence. I can defer to TigerHawk for a description of my own reaction to the muslim seething of the last few days (nay, years). He expresses my feelings perfectly:

For my part, I am sick of “Muslim rage.” Whether inspired by the pope or Danish cartoonists or the clumsy use of the word “crusade” by a Western politician, there is simply no defense for the behavior of these imams and their followers. It is barbaric, and everybody who is not barbaric or an unreconstructed apologist for barbarians knows it. The Muslims who commit arson and mayhem in response to some Westerner speaking his opinion — and the pope, as leader of the Roman church, is exactly that — have chosen to act as enemies of reason, peace, and everything that is good in the world.
[…]

Whether Islam or pre-Islamic cultural institutions are the source of the problem, there is no escaping the fact that a huge proportion of the Muslim world is economically, scientifically, culturally and politically incompetent by the standards of the world. It has chosen to invent nothing since the Middle Ages, preferring to stew in the juices of decline than solve its own problems. It is so insecure in its faith that the slightest criticism from a non-believer propels thousands of clerics and millions of followers into paroxysms of rage. Yet Islam needs jihad, which I understand means “struggle.” It needs a jihad against illiteracy. It needs a jihad against ignorance. It needs a jihad against sloth. It needs a jihad against corruption. It needs a jihad in support of women, without whom it cannot succeed in the modern world. It needs a jihad against the clerics who have — allegedly, according to “moderates” — perverted the truth of its religion. It needs a jihad against its governments — secular and Islamic — who have destroyed the future for more than a billion people. It needs a jihad against despair.

Until I see the arsonists and rioters among Muslims embracing these jihads, I will hold them responsible for the bad choices that they make, including the choice to reject secular education, the choice to destroy rather than construct, the choice to dwell in the past instead of dream about the future, the choice to obsess about Jews rather than wonder how they might emulate the Jews, and the choice to have so little confidence in the power of their own religion that they oppress and condemn and kill those who choose otherwise.

If Pope Benedict apologizes, I will resent him for the rest of his reign.

Read also the rest of the TigerHawk entry, because as its title — Infantilizing Muslim “Rage” — suggests, it concerns the pathetic (and, though they may not recognize it, condescending) treatment of these ragists by the Western elite.

[Updated 17.09.2006 19:45: Though the Pope has now issued something more akin to a classic apology, I would still say he is choosing his words rather cleverly.  To say that you are sorry about someone’s reaction is not the quite the same thing as saying you are sorry for what you yourself said or did.  Am I, myself, being too clever here? Perhaps, but it sure seems to me that those are some carefully chosen words in the so-called apology.  He doesn’t retract a word of what he said, and he makes it clear that he things that others are mistaken in interpreting what he said.

And, like in the original “regret”, which contained the word “sensitivities”, this new “apology” contains “sensibilities”, which I rather like.  I think John Hinderaker at Power Line is not giving the Pope enough credit for cleverness.]

July 12, 2005

Britain’s proposed anti-religious-hatred law

Posted in Islam, Law, UK at 9:16 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]

You can review the text of this unfortunate proposed law here.  Note that the text is presented as a series of amendments to existing text in the Public Order Act of 1986.

This is really awful legislation.  And one of the reasons it is awful is because of Muslims themselves: recent history such as the “Satanic Verses” hoopla, and extremely recent history such as the Koran “desecration” nonsense (and the reactions it caused), show us that Muslims are particularly sensitive to any kind of criticism of their religion.  I have no doubt that if this law passes, there will be many British Muslims who make it their sport to constantly point out alleged violations.

Of course the legislation suffers from the same kind of ambiguity that all speech laws suffer from.  The key test seems to be whether you write, record or perform something and you “intend thereby to stir up racial or relgious hatred or having regard to the circumstances the words, behaviour or material are (or is) likely to be heard or seen by any person in whom they are (or it is) likely to stir up racial or religious hatred.”   Got that?

Since many public policy officials are severely constrained by the rule of political correctness, they are stubbornly unwilling to recognize the obvious, including the following: of all the adherents of major religions in the world today, those who are most likely to be “stirred up” into religious hatred are Muslims.  The problem is so severe that Muslims are regularly killing other Muslims for being alleged apostates.  Yet this proposed law has come about specifically to protect Muslims, apparently because Muslims have complained that the existing laws protect only race (which would include Jews and Sikhs).  So the religion whose followers are most likely to be offended as a matter of principle, is the religion that is to be protected from offense.  I hope prosecutors are ready to handle the volume of complaints that I would expect to see from offended Muslims.

The Barnabus Fund is an organization that “exists to assist persecuted Christian minorities by prayer and practical support.”  They have campaigned against this proposed law.  You can review some of their reasons here.  I found this set (availabe in the “Summary of Concerns”) particularly compelling:

Perceived as a Blasphemy Law

  • Any “insult”, “outrageous comments” or “defamation in the character of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)” would be “a direct insult and abuse on the Muslim community” and illegal – Iqbal Sacranie, Muslim Council of Britain
  • “Every Muslim leader I have spoken to wants to use the law to ban ‘The Satanic Verses.'” – Kenan Malik, Writer and Broadcaster
  • During Report Stage debate in Commons Khalid Mahmood MP gave the impression that he does not rule out the application of the law in the case of ‘The Satanic Verses.’ When pressed on this point Home Office minister Hazel Blears avoided giving a direct confirmation that Salman Rushdie could not be prosecuted under the law.

I’d like to point out another thing that I think is also obvious, but that public officials will not acknowledge: if any religion today is deserving of scrutiny and criticism, it is Islam.  And if any religion today could benefit from criticism, it is Islam.  Yet this law, if passed, will most certainly put a chill on criticism of Islam in Britain.

Let’s play with more hypotheticals.  Let’s assume that the law passes, that another terrorist mass murder occurs in London three weeks after the law comes into effect and that an Islamic group claims responsibility.  Now imagine if a British columnist publishes the following in a major British newspaper:

It looks as though some Muslims have done it again.  As has been their wont far too often lately, they have again caused carnage in our streets, heightening our awareness that Islam is in a state of grave crisis and that this crisis is as dangerous to non-Muslims as it is to Muslims themselves. (…)

What do you think?  Would any British muslims complain?

Britain’s proposed anti-religious-hatred law

Posted in Islam, Law, UK at 9:16 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]

You can review the text of this unfortunate proposed law here. Note that the text is presented as a series of amendments to existing text in the Public Order Act of 1986.

This is really awful legislation. And one of the reasons it is awful is because of Muslims themselves: recent history such as the “Satanic Verses” hoopla, and extremely recent history such as the Koran “desecration” nonsense (and the reactions it caused), show us that Muslims are particularly sensitive to any kind of criticism of their religion. I have no doubt that if this law passes, there will be many British Muslims who make it their sport to constantly point out alleged violations.

Of course the legislation suffers from the same kind of ambiguity that all speech laws suffer from. The key test seems to be whether you write, record or perform something and you “intend thereby to stir up racial or relgious hatred or having regard to the circumstances the words, behaviour or material are (or is) likely to be heard or seen by any person in whom they are (or it is) likely to stir up racial or religious hatred.” Got that?

Since many public policy officials are severely constrained by the rule of political correctness, they are stubbornly unwilling to recognize the obvious, including the following: of all the adherents of major religions in the world today, those who are most likely to be “stirred up” into religious hatred are Muslims. The problem is so severe that Muslims are regularly killing other Muslims for being alleged apostates. Yet this proposed law has come about specifically to protect Muslims, apparently because Muslims have complained that the existing laws protect only race (which would include Jews and Sikhs). So the religion whose followers are most likely to be offended as a matter of principle, is the religion that is to be protected from offense. I hope prosecutors are ready to handle the volume of complaints that I would expect to see from offended Muslims.

The Barnabus Fund is an organization that “exists to assist persecuted Christian minorities by prayer and practical support.” They have campaigned against this proposed law. You can review some of their reasons here. I found this set (availabe in the “Summary of Concerns”) particularly compelling:

Perceived as a Blasphemy Law

  • Any “insult”, “outrageous comments” or “defamation in the character of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)” would be “a direct insult and abuse on the Muslim community” and illegal – Iqbal Sacranie, Muslim Council of Britain
  • “Every Muslim leader I have spoken to wants to use the law to ban ‘The Satanic Verses.'” – Kenan Malik, Writer and Broadcaster
  • During Report Stage debate in Commons Khalid Mahmood MP gave the impression that he does not rule out the application of the law in the case of ‘The Satanic Verses.’ When pressed on this point Home Office minister Hazel Blears avoided giving a direct confirmation that Salman Rushdie could not be prosecuted under the law.

I’d like to point out another thing that I think is also obvious, but that public officials will not acknowledge: if any religion today is deserving of scrutiny and criticism, it is Islam. And if any religion today could benefit from criticism, it is Islam. Yet this law, if passed, will most certainly put a chill on criticism of Islam in Britain.

Let’s play with more hypotheticals. Let’s assume that the law passes, that another terrorist mass murder occurs in London three weeks after the law comes into effect and that an Islamic group claims responsibility. Now imagine if a British columnist publishes the following in a major British newspaper:

It looks as though some Muslims have done it again. As has been their wont far too often lately, they have again caused carnage in our streets, heightening our awareness that Islam is in a state of grave crisis and that this crisis is as dangerous to non-Muslims as it is to Muslims themselves. (…)

What do you think? Would any British muslims complain?