From: Wade Allsopp (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat 11 Feb 2006 - 14:05:01 GMT
On 2/11/06, Kate Distin wrote
> 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.
I agree, this is the point I was trying to make when I said that the main
losers of all this
have been the moderate Muslims living in the west whose main goals are not
but simply to get on well with their lives and live peacefully with their
My sense is that many moderate British Muslims and those such as Jack Straw
strive to represent their views, were wrong footed by the cartoons. The
initial reaction was:
"this is outrageous, people are linking Islam with terrorism, this is yet another example of the
prejudices we face, these publications should not be allowed."
We then saw maybe 50-100 radical Islamists (representing about 0.007% of the
British Muslim population) outside parliament screaming "behead the
cartoonists, let's have another 7/7, go go Bin Laden etc etc"
In an important sense it was these people who the REAL cartoons. Remember
the idea behind a cartoon
is to exaggerate real features of the subject to comic effect.
Whereas the original cartoons were pretty weak images published in a Danish
newspaper months previously and would have had approximately zero impact on
British people's perception of Muslims, these real live cartoons got
headline coverage on every TV news channel and just about every serious
newspaper in the UK for 2 or 3 days. They will have had a material effect
on reinforcing the prejudice against Muslims in the UK. It was only a day
or two later that moderate Muslim opinion seemed to wake up to this and
begin a largely ineffectual counter offensive.
What I think moderate Muslims have not woken up to is that successful
cartoon images "work" because they magnify aspects of the subject that are
really there. Think of the domineering, handbag bashing Spitting Image
puppet of Margaret Thatcher or the grey, mousy puppet of John Major.
I think the comedy side of this whole story has not received much attention
to date. The Muslim reaction to the cartoons
has generally been that because they are cartoons they are there to
"ridicule" and perhaps humiliate Muslims. In fact I would say that this is to mistake the nature of comedy and cartoons, at least in British society. Comedy is there to bring us down to earth in a non violent, non threatening way, to prevent us from taking ourselves too seriously. When successful it is perhaps the most effective form of criticism, which is presumably why in just about all of the major world dictatorships, from Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein to the current Islamic theocracies, making fun of the leader and regime in public was something that could rapidly lead to prison or in many cases death.
Most discussion of the cartoons has centred on the one with Muhammad with a
bomb in his turban, which is really just making the point of the link
between Islam and terrorism. I think most people have said that the only
one of the cartoons which is actually funny is the one with Muhammad sitting
on a cloud being approached by a line of suicide bombers saying "sorry we've
run out of virgins". This is the one (or something like it) which should
be on posters all over Gaza, Baghdad, Kabul and Bradford, because there is a
very dangerous meme out there which needs to be doused and the traditional
forms of argument simply don't work against it.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat 11 Feb 2006 - 14:25:52 GMT