Re: Cartoon meme

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri 10 Feb 2006 - 19:24:45 GMT

  • Next message: Douglas Brooker: "Re: Cartoon meme"

    >From: Wade Allsopp <>
    >Subject: Re: Cartoon meme
    >Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2006 16:22:57 +0000
    > Keith Henson wrote:
    > >
    > > >
    > > >As to *why* they were easy to infect, I make the case that the Islamic
    > > >population is aware of their poor economic prospects. This maps back
    > > >the stone age when such recognition of an overloaded ecosystem
    > > >of that time) lead to high gain of xenophobic memes and wars between
    > > groups
    > > >that reduced the population and the load on the ecosystem.
    > > >
    >I think unlike the case of the French riots, perceived economic equalities
    >have little to do with the cartoon
    >issue. Danish Muslims have not been regarded as especially economically
    >disadvantaged, the reaction in France
    >where Muslims are disadvantaged economically seems to have been quite
    >muted. The main thrust of the
    >debate has been "we want to preserve our culture from Western cultural and
    >economic imperialism" not we want to
    >follow the West down the path of economic materialism and are worried
    >about being able to keep up.
    The situation behind the riots in France may have some of the bleak economic underpinnings Keith discusses, but the privation may be a result of xenophobia of larger French culture than on the part of the youths involved. These kids seem to be primarily of north African extraction, many descendants of people from France's former colonies like Algeria and Tunisia. They are marginalized and live in ghettos, much as has been the case historically for African Americans in the US. Like the case in the US the disenfranchized are victims of xenophobia of the larger cultural system more than having xenophobic ideas themselves. Just as the US is still dealing with the legacy of its past vis a vis forced immigration and slavery, France is dealing wih the legacy of its colonial past in north Africa. Economics are a key concern as these populations are disenfranchized, but we must look at the historic particulars of each situation and see that the situations in France and the US are not all that similar.

    Some of the Muslim population in France are descended from Algerians called harkis who fought for France against Algerian revolutionaries. Others stem from places like Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania. Yes they are pretty much Muslim, but that's secondary to their situation and not apparently a direct causal factor in the civil unrest suffered by France.
    >Scott Chase wrote:
    >Arabs and Muslims have been depicted as terrorists in media before this
    > > event. This represents a problem, but has hardly generated the sort of
    > > backlash seen in Europe now. Movies have had Arab or Muslim characters
    > > depicted as violent extremists and Arabs and Muslims are definitely
    > > sensitive to this sort of thing, but hasn't the reaction been more of
    > > verbal
    > > protest than violence overall? The popular show "24" has had some
    > > characters
    > > that have raised concern from Arab and Muslim Americans, but I cannot
    > > recall
    > > the reaction being more thn saying something like, "Hey this is not a
    > > depiction since it legitimizes stereotypes". Insulting the religion of
    > > Islam
    > > may not be the full reason for recent events, since insults have been
    > > before without as much of a reaction. It's probably not aspersions
    > > the religion itself that's the main factor, wrong as such aspersions may
    > > be
    > > and surely the emotional memory of such long term insult may build to a
    > > flashpoint over time. The main factor seems to be depiction of the
    > > Prophet.
    > > Period. Would depictions of nondescript Arabs and/or Muslims have
    > > generated
    > > this much backlash? Surely such depictions would have infuriated folks,
    > > but
    > > maybe not to the same extent depictions of Muhammed have. These
    > > violate a very deep seated proscription key to Muslims and maybe this
    > > should
    > > be a learning experience that such tenets should be respected if there's
    > > going to be interfaith harmony. Some (most?) Muslims are sensitive to
    > > the Prophet is portrayed. Is there any overlap between this situation
    > > how Salman Rushdie incurred the wrath of some Muslims and had a fatwa
    > > issued
    > > by an Ayatollah?
    >I think there were three aspects to the cartoons that angered Muslims.
    >1. These were depictions of the prophet and you are not supposed to have
    >any such pictures according to current Islamic theory.
    >- My impression is that this was not the "real" issue though Many Muslims
    >may have stated it as an important reason. After all, the prohibition on
    >depictions was designed to stop Muslims deigning to deify Muhammad and
    >prophets. No Muslims seem particularly worried about statues and pictures
    >of Jesus another Muslim prophet, though its probable that if the Taliban
    >ever came to power they would continue where they left off with the
    >destruction of the massive Buddha carvings. Had the pictures been
    >sympathetic "Gentle Jesus" type figures it's difficult to see anyone
    >too emotional at non Muslims printing them.
    >2. The association of Muhammad with terrorism.
    >- I think this is an issue which upset main mainstream Muslims. Since 9/11
    >and the Bali/Madrid and London bombings, mainstream Muslims have felt real
    >and imaginary antipathy and suspicion towards them personally and Muslims
    >general on this ground, so this touched a raw nerve. I don't think the
    >extremists are at all concerned with such an association, which they have
    >fact done their best to promote and advocate. However they knew that this
    >was a way of whipping up the emotions of the mainstream particularly
    >Muslims so feigned outrage for their own purposes.
    >3. The fact that the drawings were "cartoons" is I think significant
    >- Many Muslims, especially Arabs and Persians are well used to slinging
    >often outrageous insults about each other around casually without undue
    >offense. However a cartoon is by its nature "something you laugh at".
    >Which meant for the masses in the Arab street (who have probably never seen
    >the actual cartoons) that Denmark and the West were laughing at them and
    >their religion. From a Western Judea-Christian perspective, this doesn't
    >seem anything to get too worked up about. In the Judea-Christian
    >the dominant emotion is Guilt. Guilt is all about feeling bad about
    >yourself whether or not anybody knows or acknowledges it if you believe you
    >have done something bad or wrong. What other people think is of secondary
    >importance, so long as you believe that you are in the right. That's why
    >it's so much fun (for those of us with a mischievous disposition) having
    >Jehovah's Witnesses come round to our door. You can invite them in and be
    >as rude and as critical to them as you like and they will still smile and
    >polite and reasonable. You are not even hurting their feelings because
    >actually having an atheist make fun of them makes them feel even better
    >about themselves, and just kind of sorry for the poor guy who's going to
    >the door of heaven slammed in his face in the hereafter. From my
    >observation of Muslims and their culture Guilt is not the dominant emotion
    >rather it's Shame. For many Muslim's it's not what they have done that is
    >the real issue, but what others think they have done. You can be as
    >corrupt as you like and if you get away with it, that's fine. It's only if
    >people find out and you bring shame on yourself and family that you feel
    >bad. Even then, it's not too bad as long as the people who do know about
    >it, keep quiet about it. If this is your emotional attitude then it's not
    >too difficult to predict the behavioural response to criticism : Righteous
    >indignation sometimes combined with threats or actual violence. I think for
    >some Muslims, especially the poor from the Middle East with little direct
    >exposure to Western humour, western cartoons of the prophet would be
    >identified with the West laughing at them and their beliefs which would
    >itself be identified with the assumption that the West was looking down
    >contemptuously on them. I think it is these emotions along with the Syrian
    >and Iranian governments fro their own political reasons, that have
    >particularly stirred emotions in the Middle East.
    Not sure if it can easily be parsed to Guilt and Shame, but I wonder if the cartoonish aspect of the depictions may have been a major reason for the outrage coupled with the negatively stereotypical portrayal of the Prophet. If Muhammed had been portaryed in a very positive light in highly stylized artistic renditions, would there have been any backlash? It seems from reading the wiki article posted here that this started with someone looking for an illustrator for a children's book. If someone were to publish a children's book that had images portraying Muhammed in a very positive light, would European Muslims take offense? The negativity of the cartoon depictions could be part of the issue, but how much of it breaks down to a proscription against images of Muhammed regardless of the portrayal?

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