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November 30, 2007

Another Mohammed-related no-no

First you couldn't draw a cartoon of him. Now you can't name a teddy bear after him.

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Hmmm - we wouldn't even have the name "teddy bear" if one of our own leaders hadn't been tolerant. (Note that there's even a cartoon; all supporters of Mr. Roosevelt should have rioted.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_bear

Same planet, different worlds.

Michael Snow

Regarding the cartoons: First, supporting them displays a)a lack of knowledge regarding Islam and

b) a failure to obey God's instruction manual: Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12)


Michael Snow wrote: "Regarding the cartoons: First, supporting them displays a)a lack of knowledge regarding Islam"

I beg to differ; although not as well-versed as I'd like to be, I'm relatively non-ignorant of Islam. I've studied it on-and-off for about 10 years now.

And I didn't (and I believe Gina didn't) express "support" for the content of the Danish cartoons. Instead, we were recognizing the reality that it's not possible to create an image of Mohammed, even in a positive way, without causing riots. This is in stark contrast to the Western world, where outright ridicule of world leaders is an accepted part of discourse. ("Teddy's bear" was a case in point.)

When I saw the Sistine Chapel, no one was throwing anything at the image of God in the famous scene where God and Adam are about to touch their fingers together. Michael, please tell me why, in the middle of one of the most Christian cities in the world, is such a clear violation of one of the Ten Commandments permitted by Christians?

Michael also wrote: "b) a failure to obey God's instruction manual: Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12)"

If only such instructions were followed by Islamic fundamentalists (rather than only by us Christian "fundamentalists"), the world would now be a much more peaceable kingdom.

I understand that many in Sudan are now calling for the teacher's death, and she is being transported in secrecy for her own safety. Furthermore, the demonstrations calling for her death were explicitly permitted by the Sudanese government. Please enlighten me, Michael, on how this is consistent with Islam.

And please don't blow this off. I'm faced with the possibility of travel to Muslim countries (e.g., France), and I'd like to understand this seemingly self-contradictory religion - for my own safety, if nothing else.


"...the possibility of travel to Muslim countries (e.g., France)..."


Traveling to Calormen by way of Archenland, are you?

Jason Taylor

One thing to understand is that much of what passes for religion is tribal prestiege. Among Leventines(Eastern Meditteraneans)religion is often a function of culture. Moreover Moslems think the Earth is their Promised Land, they are Joshua, non-monotheists are Canaanites, and People of the Book are hewers of wood and drawers of water. That is an oversimplification, but it will do. When they complain of offense they are not doing so as a Westerner would-complaining that they are denied fair treatment as humans. They believe they have been denied their superior treatment. As Westerners have in fact been more successful in the past five-hundred years, that makes them think they are usurped Lords. And European Moslems from all I have heard are worse about that then those from the old country.
Now that frankly makes them sound like remarkably obnoxious people. Actually they are in some ways what white southerners in 1850 would be like if they suddenly found themselves owned by blacks. Many of them are rather obnoxious. To be fair to them they once had a highly developed culture with great scholars and enterpriseing traders by land and sea. They are simply at a downturn. In any case I suspect those type of people are taking offense just to take offense. To be fair though we were mildly annoyed at St. Paul action figures.
Among Leventines-not just Arabs-individual and collective honor is a big thing. The primary loyalty is to the family and clan and fierce jealousy of it's perogatives is sometimes felt to be a defensive mechanism. Effectively they don't trust the State, and so are used to behaving at a family level the way only sovereign states have to behave among Westerners. If this sounds like "Godfather" thats because it is. Among Leventines, even the respectable members of society have some of the same worldview-"that Sicilian thing that has gone on for two thousand years". Many Europeans are like that as well, including Balkan peoples. And among Moslems religious insult is as much a tribal insult as a religious one. Also both Balkans and Arabs have a curious propensity toward generational grudges. Which is why they will complain of thousand year old offenses. That is really incomprehensible to many Americans, but that is only because we have been spectacularly successful. The conqueror always has a thick skin.
I have obviously treated the Moslems rather negatively and my own prejudice does show through. There is obviously more about them then what I have given.
For better information then I have given there are sources available. A good "quickie" source is simply to look up the CIA website, in which there is much information available.


Allen wrote: "Traveling to Calormen by way of Archenland, are you?"

Allen, check out what our own State Department has to say: "France is home to both the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe." (10% of the population is Muslim - http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3842.htm ) I gather that the vast majority of Catholics in France are only nominally so, and are actually as secular as other Europeans, making it likely that most of the truly religious people are in fact Muslim.

And when they riot in the streets for days (as they did in 2005), I'd say they're starting to take over, and worth considering before making a trip.

Finally, my friend, you might want to double-check the signature on your paycheck, :-) since Breakpoint's "Big Guy" agrees with me: http://breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=7041

Jason Taylor

One way to understand Moslems again, Lee is to think what they mean by honor-which is as I said almost Godfather-like. In the West honor is more like sport. Or to put it better, it is "pursuit of excellence". It is sort of a combination of normal bourgeois mores mixed with a romanticism of the old aristocratic code. Westerners think of honor as teaching schoolboys,"Don't tattle, stick up for your brother when a bully comes, and don't whine when you lose a baseball game." and teaching rural boys,"don't point a gun unless you mean to shoot and don't kill an animal you're not going to eat." And so on. It is sort of a sublimated peer-pressure which, while not always positive, has more positive effects then negative. This concept has died down somewhat in the West, but still exists.
Among Arabs "honor" is sometimes more like money. It is a tribe's credit rating. Power and sometimes survival depend on it and Arabs can't take pleasure in it, in quite the way Westerners can. Thus the Arab concept comes odd. For instance I have several times been annoyed at Arabs for "blustering before battle, but whining in defeat". That of course is judging them by Western standards, which I naturally think superior(at least in this aspect)but which is a little harsh to place on non-westerners in quite the same manner. The fact is that bluster is a positive advantage in Arab politics and increases their honor in a way it certainly would not in the West. On the other hand, it is common for Western politicians to say things of each other that would merit a duel not so long ago, so we can't preen ourselves. On the other,other hand Arabs do that too-but that's neither here, nor there. Judging a culture by it's politicians is folly.
Another example is the notorious "honor-killings". They are the height of injustice of course(though, by the way, they were known among Europeans just a few centuries ago). They are also not part of Islam as at least one Imam(Moslem rabbi)testified. But more important to our purpose they are alien to our way of thinking. Most of us would understand it if when a girl of their tribe was molested, they assasinated the perpetrator. Not Christlike, of course, nor even civilized as it doesn't give the law time to work. But it is reasonably just according to the principles of frontier justice and something we could imagine ourselves tempted to do. It is comprehensible. However killing the victim seems to us not simply unjust but incomprehensible. However it is not justice they are thinking of but the tribe's "credit rating". Having a girl raped is like having a car accident-your insurance premiums go up whether or not it is your fault. And assasinating the victim is not punishment. In their eyes it is more like that old Naval Academy chestnut that we've all seen in war movies,"if there is a compartment leaking do you seal the compartments and trap the men inside, or do you risk the ship to save the men." It is a hard thing to understand(by which I don't mean "condone"-it obviously shouldn't be condoned-but understand).
Another thing that is hard to understand, is that when honor is strong and is not modified or tamed by morality, it can have other results that seem actually dishonorable to a Westerner. For instance in some parts of the world one's badness or goodness hinges more on whether one is seen being bad or good, then on whether someone is. This can be exagerrated to much, because it sounds like it is saying that all Arabs are little worms which I don't intend to do. The point is that what others see counts proportionately more.
Other oddities can occur. I read in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Ruth Benedict that in immediately post-war Japan(where face counts even more but takes a different shape then among Arabs)it was actually sometimes considered rude to do a good deed for a stranger lest one burden him with an unexpected debt of honor. I have not heard of that among Arabs but it is interesting.
Another curious manifestation is that I have read that one flaw of Arab armies is that Arab technocrats are sometimes as avaricious with their skill as they would be with money because skill is a ticket to status. This cripples the system. Presumably it is also true in civilian life. That is different from the West where skill is something to be displayed(not in a way that would look like blustering of course; we would never be obviously prideful-that would be wrong), and teaching others is a way of showing ones skill. In Arab countries teaching others is a way of creating competitors.
I suppose a good bit of advice(though I am bad at social situations and "advice is a dangerous gift")is to remember that humility conquers pride. By this I am not talking in an otherworldly, spiritual sense, but in an Earthly one. Avoid making comparisons that might be taken as claims of superiority. Don't denigrate things about them more then you need. At the same time don't show exaggerated humility. It's not just that they will find that distasteful. It's that they might actually think you seriously mean what you say when you lower yourself, and grade you as if it was true. In other words don't say "Islam is heresy" which is true but not to the point, if you can help it. And don't say "Islam is a religion of peace", which is untrue but more important, might just make them think they are getting their due homage from the "infidel", not that the infidel is speaking obvious "diplospeak". Some of these things are of course fairly straightforward warnings but they are more to be taken seriously among Arabs. As being shamed is one of the worst things that can be done to them-don't shame them. And while Westerners don't like to be shamed either and sometimes are shamed by the same things. They take it far more seriously.
So seriously in fact that it used to be an axiom that explorers who wished to visit Moslem countries should disguise themselves as Moslems lest locals kill them for treading on a taboo in a manner which would be forgiven to a Moslem but not to a foreigner.

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