Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Disappointed Again

Yet another alarmingly slack post from Andrew Sullivan this morning.

As the master would say, money quote:
I have yet to find an opponent of Jyllands-Posten's decision to publish the cartoons who is prepared to defend the mob violence and intimidation that has ensued. What I find instead is a mealy-mouthed equation between "extremists on both sides." I find the equivalence troubling. There is simply no equivalence between people who merely want to publish and people who use the veiled threat of violence to intimidate them.
Sullivan begins by setting up a bizarre straw-man argument in which one must, if they disagree with the decision to publish the cartoons, therefore defend the mob violence that ensued. How does that make any sense at all? Is it not possible that one could be against the publishing of these cartoons because doing so merely plays into the hands of the vile and violent nuts and emboldens them? Such a lapse in logic is unforgivable, especially from an Oxford man.

One does not need to equate the publishing of the cartoons with the violence to disapprove of both. Violence against consular property and death threats against journalists are so beyond the pale that they hardly merit discussion. They should be condemned categorically. But to condemn one does not require approval of the other side. The cartoon controversy does not exist in a vacuum and there is no question that racists and xenophobes in Europe are loving this. I challenge the notion that all the Europeans so eager to publish these cartoons are "people who merely want to publish." Some of them are, and some are undoubtedly much more sinister. Some want to print the cartoons as an expression of free speech (which is their inalienable right), and some want to print them because they believe the message they send and they want to fan the fires to prove that Muslims really are nothing more than a bunch of bloodthirsty savages. How anybody could support that is beyond me. Sullivan's inability to recognize any nuance in these issues is deeply disappointing.

Later in the post, Sullivan takes on a more condescending tone: "All I can say is that a self-confident faith is not this defensive and touchy." And who says Islam is a "self-confident" religion, or that it ought to be? Muslims tend to live in autocratic regimes that either suppress religion or foist theocratic monsters on their citizens; or they live in Europe where they're reviled and discriminated against by the very culture that they are expected to emulate. There is a widespread feeling, and one that is not altogether wrong, that there is a war on Islam and that their beliefs are under siege—from within and without. How does that make for a "self-confident" faith?

Is this a problem? Yes, it's a huge one. The solution in certainly not to alienate mainstream Muslims with unqualified support for cartoons that are anything but "banal" (you should know better, Andrew). If the goal is to defeat radical jihadism, the tactic should not be to play right into the jihadists' hands.
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