Re: Cartoon meme

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Sat 11 Feb 2006 - 12:02:28 GMT

  • Next message: Wade Allsopp: "Re: Cartoon meme"

    Tim Rhodes wrote:
    > The extreme emotional reaction & resulting riots do not follow in a direct
    > line from the initial meme distribution (I.E. the cartoon's publication or
    > airing of the video of Rodney King's beating by police), but rather come as
    > reaction to the perception by the minority group that it is unable to find
    > appropriate justice within the society's laws.
    > I think one may be misguided in hoping to understand the recent furor by
    > simply tracking the expansion of the initial memes (cartoons) themselves
    > without concentrating an equal focus on the memetic variations, mutations,
    > and meta-memes that become associated with it.
    > -Tim

    Your analysis strikes me as having hit the nail on the head. I've had conversations with very moderate, culturally English, not particularly religiously observant Muslims in the UK, who feel very strongly that although they condemn violence and terrorism they can nonetheless understand the feelings behind the violence and terrorism. As you say, there is a perception of being marginalised and not having their needs met within Western society. And another part of the problem is of course the entanglement of any encounter between Islam and the West with the situation in Israel/Palestine. All of this creates a strong feeling of identity with fellow Muslims, whatever their behaviour, and a consequent reluctance to condemn even very extreme behaviour by others within that brotherhood. Heightened in this case by identifying with the feelings of outrage about the prophet being ridiculed and denigrated. Then we as non-Muslims hear even our very moderate friends expressing sympathy with the feelings underlying terrorism - and the alienation is exacerbated.

    But the importance of non-Muslims getting to grips with these underlying issues is matched by the importance of Muslims getting to grips with the consequences of this united front. As I suggested in a previous post, freedom of speech seems to me rather a red herring here. The issue is not whether or not we ought to be allowed to ridicule and challenge other people's beliefs. It is a matter of fact that we *are* allowed to do this in Western society. The issue is how to respond in the face of violence and threats of violence (e.g. when we hang back from challenging and ridiculing Islam in a way that we don't from Christianity and Sikhism, say, because we know the consequences could be dire). In a way this is not even about Islam, because the vast majority of Muslims respond as the vast majority of any other faith would in the circumstances - with sadness, anger, indignation, etc. but not with violence. The issue that these cartoons really raise is how we as a society respond to bullying. And this includes how Muslims respond to the bullying tactics of a minority of their number.


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