Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Islam and Intellectual Freedom

Does the violence criticism of Islam notoriously inspires pose a threat to intellectual freedom? That's the question.

Thanks to a reader comment yesterday, I discovered the threat to Opus' intellectual freedom. Here's a story you probably won't see the ALA refer to: Washington Post, Other Newspapers Won't Run 'Opus' Cartoon Mocking Radical Islam. It seems the editors at the Washington Post are sensitive to the feelings of religious folks, so when they got a new Opus cartoon mocking radical islamists, they checked with some of their Muslim staffers, who didn't like it. So they didn't print it. Sure, they sacrificed their intellectual freedom for religious sensitivity, but I just think that's sweet of them.

Oh wait, no they didn't. Since the week before they ran an Opus strip making fun of Jerry Falwell, I guess their religious sensitivity is only for groups like radical islamists who have a habit of killing people who disagree with them. So they sacrificed their intellectual freedom not for religious sensitivity but just for cowardice. Or perhaps just hypocrisy, since everyone knows that Christians are all evil while radical islamists are all good. The Post editors probably couldn't vet the Falwell cartoon with any of their Christian staffers, because they probably don't have any. Once again, the journalistic hypocritical double standard reigns, fueled by cowardice. (Printing Piss Christ is essential to our journalistic integrity and necessary to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable! Printing the Danish cartoons would be insensitive to a group of people we'd never want to live under, and besides they might kill us!)

I posted about this time last year on the cowardice and hypocrisy of the ALA for not speaking out against one of the most most powerful opponents of intellectual freedom. I'm sure nothing's changed. The ALA is too busy gearing up for their farcical "banned books" week and making sure we all know how to play videogames to speak up for intellectual freedom. The intellectual freedom folks at ALA like to pretend we live in a repressive society and that they're defending us somehow. They don't seem to notice that the major threat to intellectual freedom and liberal democracy doesn't come from some mother in Bumflap, GA who tries to remove Harry Potter from her child's school library, but from the self-censorship practiced when speaking about Islam. They like to make fun of book "challengers," because they know the Georgia mom isn't going to run into the ALA offices and blow herself up.

Do we stand for intellectual freedom and liberal democracy? I know my regressive librarian opponents don't. They despise liberal democracy because it isn't socialism, and they believe intellectual freedom is the freedom to think like them. But I would hope for better from the ALA. At least their rhetoric supports intellectual freedom.

I doubt the ALA will ever have the courage to take a stand about the deleterious effects radical and even fundamentalist Islam has on intellectual freedom and liberal democracy, not to mention women's rights, gay rights, and a whole host of other freedoms we fight for in America. No, that would just be judgmental, wouldn't it. We wouldn't want that, at least not against a group that might kill us. So let's just give up our freedoms so that we don't offend people who don't like freedom and might want to kill us. Hey, maybe we could all put ourselves under Sharia law, oppress women, and stone homosexuals as well. That way we can be sensitive. Personally, I'd rather be free.

30 comments:

AL said...

Note: as you all know, the comments section tends to become a free-for-all, and I rarely delete any. However, on this topic I will delete any comment that I think is off topic in an annoying way. The topic is whether fear of retribution by radical Muslims causes self-censorship or poses a threat to intellectual freedom. Unfortunately, this seems to be a topic that brings out irrational outbursts in normally intelligent people. The anti-Christs always try to tell us how bad Christianity is. Irrelevant. We're talking about Islam. People like to introduce red herrings into this debate because they don't want to address the true issue, probably because they don't want to seem "insensitive." Sometimes they go on about motives. "But why would those mean Danish journalists post those cartoons?" It doesn't matter why. It's a question of intellectual freedom and the freedom of speech. Either you support it, or you don't. Don't try to confuse the issue by pretending you support free speech or intellectual freedom as long as it doesn't offend somebody. If you don't support free speech and intellectual freedom, saying so is fine. If you want to leave a totally irrelevant comment, fine. But please don't introduce any red herrings, because I'll just delete them.

Anonymous said...

I actually read the cartoon and I thought is was pretty tame. See for yourself: http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2007/08/26/opus/

What I consider most ridiculous is the fact that we taxpayers are pouring billions of dollars into a society that doesn't appreciate freedom. Freedom entails being free from harm as retribution for expressing ones views, living ones lifestyle, and politely living ones life in such a way that does not bring harm to others. Fear is, of course, an enemy of freedom. It doesn't matter if you are fearful of of a religious fundamentalist blowing himself to smithereens on a bus, or the state arresting you and throwing you in prison. The nation as a whole needs to confront this problem. If an American speaks their mind about the repression of religious fundamentalism it is not the
American's fault they retaliate. The blame lies entirely in the hands of the fundamentalist. This is exactly the type of hot button issue ALA can take a stand on and make a difference, but that is perhaps too much to expect.

Anonymous said...

"They despise liberal democracy because it isn't socialism, and they believe intellectual freedom is the freedom to think like them."

My take is a variant, they actually think liberal democracy *is* socialism, since "pure" democracy is "the will of the people." Unfortunately, "groupthink" precludes an understanding that the Bumflap Moms Against Satanism are actually a large slice of "the people." It is intolerable to them to consider that their world view is not universal.

--Taupey

undead_librarian said...

this is indeed cowardice, not sensitivity. the muslim staffers didn't like it? cry me a river. why does anyone owe them anything? intellectual freedom is a two-way street; it requires that we tolerate the things that bother us most if we want unfettered access to everything else. i consider myself a raving liberal - i would vote for kermit the frog if he ran as a democrat - but even i can't abide this kind of political correctness that runs contrary to all common sense.

Anonymous said...

You may also be interested to learn about the controversy concerning the Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World book, where Cambridge University Press agreed to pulp any unsold books. A libel suit is being brought against CUP by a Saudi banker mentioned in the book. http://blogs.ala.org/oif.php?title=can_they_do_that&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

And yes, that is from an ALA blog. Maybe you already know about this, but it fits in well with this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Throughout recorded history, power and wealth (in all their myriad forms) have have been the major motives for acts of violence by human beings against other human beings. Is it any wonder that there is so much violence and fear of violence running rampant among the "haves" and "have-nots" of this world?

Bunny Watson said...

Anon @ 12:23:

I had heard about the Alms for Jihad book, and I'm glad to see that the ALA blog is recommending U.S. libraries keep their copies. Both the copies in our library system are checked out right now.

Regarding the cartoon, I tried to bring this up on another board and all I got were ad hominem attacks and the typical "don't they have a right to self-censorship" arguments. Well, sure they do, but I think it's pretty pathetic that such a relatively innocuous cartoon (one that pokes just as much fun at American popular culture as it does radical Islam) would leave the Post quaking in its boots. There aren't many things to be proud of Philadelphia for, but I will say this: the Inquirer published the cartoon.

Privateer6 said...

Of course it's fear. After all how many self proclaimed Christians, Jews, Hindus, Zorastrians, etc have you read about in the news that have blown themselves and others up or hijacked planes to run into buildings? How many times do you hear about Christians, Jews, etc killing people because a Christian religious leaders quoted a Medieval Byzantine Emperor on Islam? How many of the above groups have you heard about going on the rampage because a newspaper published cartoons about their religious founder? I could go on and on ad nauseum.

AL said...

I was aware of the Alms for Jihad book and that the ALA recommended keeping it in libraries. Good for them, I suppose, though I can't imagine many American libraries would remove the book once they got it. But then again, that's about a lawsuit, not about the danger of someone blowing you up for saying you don't like their religion. With the attitude toward the Danish cartoons and similar subjects, I think it's pretty clear that for the Office of Intellectual Freedom, intellectual freedom means the freedom to think like them.

Alex Grigg said...

I don't think fear of being blown up is the real issue, but it would be amusing if that were true. Most of the violence in response to the Danish cartoons was of the mob variety and there aren't all that many areas of the US that have enough active Muslims to get a good mob going. Just in general, I can't think of any terrorist attacks on freedom of speech . . . although it's possible I missed them among the many other violent activities.

So it's really the political correctness issue that is the problem. Christian wackos are automatically acceptable punching bags because there are so many of them that you can't get accused of attacking a minority. Muslim wackos, on the other hand, have a semi-legitimate argument that they're being picked on and discriminated against.

I say mock all the wackos . . . and let God sort it out?

Anonymous said...

AL is generally quite good at not conflating separate arguments into a mushy bundle, but not this time. The question is NOT "Does the violence criticism of Islam notoriously inspires pose a threat to intellectual freedom?" C'mon. The obvious answer to that is yes, and there is no serious argument against it. The real questions you explore in your essay, AL, are three: 1. Is the mainstream media showing bias, cowardice, or both in refusing to run the Opus strip mocking radical Islam? Answer: Yup. And probably for damn good reason. 2. Does ALA's speaking out against the "...mother in Bumflap, GA who tries to remove Harry Potter from her child's school library" somehow preclude any criticism of the excesses of Islamic or any other kind of fundamentalism? Nope. Both are bad, and both should be challenged. It's not an either-or situation. Obviously, it's a lot safer to take on Mom in Bumflap, who is less likely to threaten bodily harm. So that's perfectly natural, isn't it? AL is usually quite pragmatic and accepts human nature for what it is. Don't let your ire towards the kookier elements of ALA make you irrational, too. 3. Is Islamic fundamentalism (or any other kind) to be viewed as representative of its parent system of faith? Does criticism of extreme elements imply criticism of the religion as a whole? No, but people (understandably) get confused by this part. After all, a religion is just a cult with a lot of members. I personally don't get as incensed as you about the cowardice shown by mass media outlets. It's just bidness. Same for ALA. They will stick to the safe censorship and free speech issues and skitter away from confronting the crazies in the interest of self-preservation. When you get right down to it, isn't that what we all do?

AL said...

I'm not sure I agree with you, but that's definitely more my kind of criticism. Good questions.

Anonymous said...

If the ALA can pass a resolution against the use of torture, then it certainly is capable of passing a resolution against self censorship in the publishing world, that is if the ALA want to remain relevant at all.
Freedom
to Read Statement


Note: The resolution on torture is a potential red herring. Whether torture should or should not be used is not the issue. The issue, as I see it, is that the ALA will become irrelevant if it continues to pass resolutions for everything under the sun that has little to do with libraries or freedom of information, but refuses to take a stance on censorship, including self censorship. This is not a small band of "crazies" that can be ignored. It is a serious, growing threat to our society. ALA is asleep at the wheel.

Anonymous said...

Alex,
Don't you remember the priest who was killed over the Danish cartoons or the nuns killed because Benedict quoted a Byzantine emperor? What about all the rioting over a supposed Koran being flushed? If that isn't free speech issues, I don't know what is.

Also it only takes one Muslim extremist to make an attack in the US. Please remember what happened in Seattle with the Muslim attacking the Jewish community center and killing several people, all women, with one being pregnant. Or closer to my home, the UNC grad, Tereheriazar (sp), who rented an SUV and attempted to kill people by running them over in UNC's quad.

Anon,
While you consider all religions cults, it's important to luck at the basics of the religion to understand the practitioners. While Islam's Koran does preach that Jews and Christians are "Children of the Book" and we need to get along, these passages are from the Medina Period of Mohammad, before he became a warlord and had the capability to conquer Mecca. Once Mecca is captured and he is in power, the Koran's verses go to " Kill the unbeliever" and "do not relent until he (unbeliever) feels himself subdued. Sorry can't quote the sura, but if you read the Koran you will find the passages. Also don't read it in the order the Koran is presented, go online and look up from a Muslim source in which order to read the Koran, as ti was compiled not as it was written, but from largest sura to shortest sura.
Privateer 6

Anonymous said...

Oops, I linked, incorrectedly, to the Freedom to View Statement. Here is the Freedom to View Statement.
#6
It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people's freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public information.

It is inevitable in the give and take of the democratic process that the political, the moral, or the aesthetic concepts of an individual or group will occasionally collide with those of another individual or group. In a free society individuals are free to determine for themselves what they wish to read, and each group is free to determine what it will recommend to its freely associated members. But no group has the right to take the law into its own hands, and to impose its own concept of politics or morality upon other members of a democratic society. Freedom is no freedom if it is accorded only to the accepted and the inoffensive. Further, democratic societies are more safe, free, and creative when the free flow of public information is not restricted by governmental prerogative or self-censorship.

Anonymous said...

Freedom to READ statement, I mean....

Brent said...

We live in a world of double standards, AL. I can deal with it; you can deal with it. I've made my peace with it.

Anonymous said...

C'est la vie. Freedom, schmeedom.

Anonymous said...

"How many times do you hear about Christians, Jews, etc killing people ...."

Umm apparently David Koresh and and the CRUSADES don't count or ring a bell...there are wack jobs in every religion! Let's not get on this Muslims are the only ones who have ever killed in the name of religion. Or you insane? Open a history book. Every religion has had its share of nutsos.

DearReader said...

I'm not sure how the statement I quote below is consistent with your protests about the SRRT making political statements instead of sticking to library business:

I doubt the ALA will ever have the courage to take a stand about the deleterious effects radical and even fundamentalist Islam has on intellectual freedom and liberal democracy, not to mention women's rights, gay rights, and a whole host of other freedoms we fight for in America.

AL said...

I'm not sure either. Strike the last phrase, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:05
Ok Koresh is an example of a "Christian", but remember he thought HE was Jesus reincarnate, and not a mainstream Christian, i.e. Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, etc.

As for the Crusades, sorry you are wrong there. If you look at the history of the crusades, it begins about 200 years before with the Islamic invasion of the area. The Byzantine Empire was too caught up fighting with the Persians and with internal political infighting to mount a successful counterattack against the Muslim invaders. It was only after Byzantine power was consolidated AND the Byzantines asked for European help did the Crusades occur. Thus the crusades were a belated attempt to reclaim lost territory to Muslim invaders. Therefore your argument about the crusades is void.
Privateer 6

aidsadmin said...

The crusades don't count? I think the idea is not when or why the crusades started, but the mere fact that during them, non-Muslims killed people.

AL said...

Enough with the crusades already. It's getting off topic in an annoying way. Agree with me, disagree with me, criticize my logic, but the crusades are beside the point. The crusades are not a current threat to intellectual freedom. Radical Islam may or may not be.

Anonymous said...

RED HERRING ALERT: It seems the topic has now gone off to evaluating which religions are instigating the most violence.

The POINT is, in light of the recent cases of self-censorship being reported, should ALA take a stand against these cases of self-censorship? It is written in the Freedom to Read Statement:

It is the responsibility of ... and librarians to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large

Jenny

Anonymous said...

Sorry to digress. I just hate it when people don't have their facts straight. back to the issue at hand.

Self censorship is the problem and yes ALA should say some thing about it as it is legitimate library issue. I actually applaud ALA's stance as to keeping the book.

We looked at why people are self censoring, i.e. the fear of violent retribution, but I think we must also look at what can be done to prevent the fear from occuring.
Privateer 6

Anonymous said...

"more my kind of criticism"


Well that's just great! So I guess readers of this blog can only criticize your thoughts in a "certain" way! Complete rubbish! Here's a tip. Don't write a blog and expect people to all agree with you and criticize in a certain manner. Such a champion for free speech ,let me tell ya...I think the person who brought up the crusades did so because someone stupidly mentioned that muslims are the only ones who kill in the name of religion. It wasn't really in relation to your post but to the comments. My two cents.

Anonymous said...

Hear here!

Lucille said...

David Koresh is your grand example of modern-day Christian violence? How many people did David Koresh kill?

SexiLibrarian said...

I agree with you on this one AL. But I think you've missed a very simplistic point that has nothing at all to do with religion or intellectual freedom. The ALA is a mighty liberal machine and it's very hip liberally to bash Christians and extol Muslims.

Where's my Easy Button?