I’m not sure where I stand with writing more posts on religion since I decided to stop writing about politics. The problem being that religion and politics are so often mixed, it’s very difficult to separate the two. However, we haven’t seen riots of this scale in the Muslim world since the 2006 Danish cartoon riots and I wanted to write about it.
In situations like these there are inevitably individuals who will attempt to downplay the role of religion in the conflict. Instead they would rather focus on the political aspect of the riots. While there is no doubt that politics was a major factor in fueling the outrage, to try and dismiss the religious aspects is both disingenuous and deceptive. I believe the urge to downplay religion arises from fear and a general unease with discussing religion. In the realm of politics one can at least point to events and statistics, whereas in religion there are no physical facts to take comfort in. It’s much more open, much more susceptible to “well that’s just what I believe.” Ultimately facts are irrelevant in either realm, but at least in politics people go through the motions of acting as if real world facts mattered. In religion it’s “no citations needed.”
So in case you haven’t seen it, the video catalyst for these riots is a really shitty 14 minute film called “The innocence of Muslims.” The production quality is horrible and the acting is even worse. Think 80’s porno acting and you’ll get an idea of the depth of personality portrayed by the characters. According to CBS, as of September 21, 49 people, including a US ambassador have died as a results of the unrest set into motion by the film.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects for me whenever an incident like this occurs are the people who attempt to take a middle ground stance; as if that inherently makes them somehow above the conflict like a wise and rational arbitrator. These people are full of shit and need to get off their high horses. I wish there were a singular word to describe them, but I can’t think of any. Self-righteous for sure, but to me that connotates someone with more fury and passion for their “non-position” position than what I’m trying to convey. The type of individual I have in mind is usually more reserved, attempting to project a calm, stately attitude, but none the less is a complete idiot on the subject at hand.
The type of people I’m envisioning are the ones who say things like “I fully support free speech but… “
This week’s unfortunate example is U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who stated to the UN “Voices of moderation and calm need to make themselves heard at this time. We all need to speak up in favor of mutual respect and understanding of the values and beliefs of others.” Free speech, like other human rights, is not something that should be had “in moderation.”
If you say something offensive, even with the intent of offending, and then someone who takes offense and then goes out to murders people, you are not at fault; the person murdering people is. To say otherwise is in the same twisted realm of reasoning that would argue that rape victims are complicit in their rapes by dressing provocatively or walking down a dark street at night. No, if you’re not adult enough to control yourself and your reaction to stimuli then you are at fault.
I’m not sure if you watch Game of Thrones (you really should), but there is a quote by George R.R. Martin as spoken through Tyrion Lannister that I feel is relevant to this whole censorship debate:
When people advocate limiting free speech to protect the fragile egos of insecure people who can’t handle criticism it’s censorship, plain and simple. It might be dressed up and repackaged in the guise of “respect” and a general “let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya” feeling, but at it’s core it remains draconian censorship.
The riots and killings resulting from this obscure piece of shit movie just go to highlight the disconnect between how some in the Muslim world (and the Western one) understand free speech, and how it is understood in the West. People insult science and reason every day in America (politicians are particularly bad offenders), yet I don’t go out and kill people for it. People insult Christianity every day in the West, but Christians here don’t go out and burn things. (Though depending on where you live, you can get death threats and have shit messed up, but those tend to be more isolated incidents as opposed to the thousands of rioters marching on Western embassies around the globe.) The point is, people in the West have learned to just deal with it and ignore it. Someone says something you find offensive? Fuck em, just ignore it and move on with your life. They’re not worth getting worked up over.
What we have happening here is a society (that is unaccustomed to human rights as we conceptualize it) suddenly having to interact with another society’s concept of human rights in a way two societies have never interacted before. Something like this would have been much harder to pull off in a pre-internet world.