Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ethnocentricism in the Real World

Since many of us are here to discuss religion, there's a current ongoing controversy to chew on. The Muslim outcry against a few cartoons depicting Mohammed in a less than favorable light (although, I seem to recall from World Cultures class that an image of Mohammed in any light was forbidden to their religion)

On the one hand, there is clear overreaction and a definite lack of reason here. But I find myself empathizing a bit with the offended, if only at their taking offense and not their method of demonstrating that offense.

But other people have laid out far more clear and rational opinions. Peter David points out the obvious insanity of the reaction, and Tegan delves into a more cutting aspect, the manipulative nature of the media (and her followup). On the other end of the opinion spectrum, the writer at Definition centers on the news coverage also.

There's probably more, but I'm not following this particular topic too closely. Religious freedom is a big issue for me, but much as I'd like to empathize more with the offended religion, I can't. I mean, I know of cartoons wherein they have actually killed off someone's patron diety and others where they've demonized them beyond belief. I've seen people express deep offense, but never causing harm. It weakens the sympathetic stance a bit.

And to make it seem wrose, I've seen people take it with a good sense of humor. But, as this is my own particular subculture, it's probably wrong to judge through that standard.

Depressing, all the same.

(Update: There is still this piece of news)


  1. I thought this was going to be about the MTV program, The Real World, which had its casting special (a precursor to the new season) on last night.

    Cause I woulda had something to say about that noise.


  2. This week's issue of The New Yorker has an amazingly concise and lucid summary of the events surrounding the "cartoon riots" here.

    Also, in the Washington Post, an editor from the Danish newspaper which started this explains why he published those cartoons.

    My feeling is, these riots aren't really about the cartoons. As Jane Kramer points out in the New Yorker, when the cartoons were originally published in October, there were only peaceful protests and that could have been the end of it. But two months later, "a radical imam from one of Copenhagen’s outlying mosques put together a forty-three-page scrapbook of caricatures involving the Prophet...including the twelve cartoons and a couple of images that were, by anyone’s standards, vicious" -- in other words, as was also reported elsewhere, a radical seeking to agitate people added images that were even more inflammatory and offensive, and tossed those in to stir up a new wave of outrage.

    Radical fundamentalists of any stripe always have a vested interest in causing trouble, fostering anger and resentment among the masses...and sometimes governments get mileage out of focusing public anger on a scapegoat to distract the population from their own failings. This whole thing feels like it's been stage-managed by both sides for their respective goals. That doesn't excuse the actual rioters for their stupidity and lethal violence! But presenting this violence as solely the result of some cartoons serves both sides. For the radical imams, it encourages the perception among their followers that they're acting out of pure religious piety, without any thought of personal or political gain...and for the anti-Muslim factions, it allows them to dismiss Muslims as so reckless and bestial that even something as harmless as a newspaper cartoon will turn them into a murderous horde.

    P.S.: I'm kvelling to be linked from your blog!