The Guardian on double-standards

It’s a bit late at night but I’d like to tear this article to pieces.

Salman Rushdie won sympathy on the basis of that classic Enlightenment stance in 1989 when his Satanic Verses generated an Iranian “fatwa” – the first incident of its kind in our globalised world.

Mr Rushdie’s book generated an ‘Iranian “fatwa”‘ in the same way that a woman in a short dress generates a sexual assault when she is attacked on her way home from a club. Mr Rushdie was simply writing a book, and this woman was wearing a dress. They were both attacked by lunatics who themselves should be held responsible.

Liberal principles matter, though common sense requires judgment as to whether an action is likely to cause damage. Free expression cannot mean carte blanche for purveyors of hatred – of which Muslims are not just victims, or indeed the only victims. Jews have protested against anti-semitic images (including in Muslim states where other freedoms are limited). Behzti, a controversial play set in a temple, was axed after it offended Sikhs. But too much caution can erode those principles.

Notice one thing about this paragraph? All the examples of people offended seem to be religious groups. Is it the case that it’s mainly religious types who take offence or is the writer simply more sensitive to them? Yes, freedom of expression must have limits but how do you determine this damage?

I consider the idea of Jesus being the son of God to be a fairy tale. This is offensive to Christians so should I not say this because I have to worry about the ‘damage’ it causes? Has free speech become so devalued that it can be surrendered in order to avoid offending superstition?

If I claim that the tooth fairy exists yet you deny this, does it make it easier to understand or excuse when I kill you?

This paragraph suggests that we should not be too eager to surrender freedom. It is a small gesture towards balance and perhaps far too small a gesture. I’m reminded of people who would say terrible things about blacks yet finish the tirade with a positive reference to Frank Bruno, a famous British boxer who happens to be black.

Concepts such as jihad are certainly open to caricature and misunderstanding by non-Muslims. But they have been used in support of violence in Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere – where the west needs to recognise its responsibilities, stop employing double standards, refrain from equating Islam and terrorism, and thus help isolate the fanatics who give ordinary Muslims a bad name. Tolerance must be a two-way street. Freedom of expression is vital. It is not part of a global “crusade” against Islam.

The concept of jihad seems to be open to misunderstanding by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. There are double-standards in the west and these double-standards are not better seen than in this article. Islam does not lead to terrorism, that is a fact. It is the followers themselves that decide how they will interpret the rather violent texts. Tolerance is simply not possible. How do you ‘tolerate’ a group who follow a book that advocates inequality and murder? This is not just Islam, this is Christianity also.

Are these double-standards in the Muslim world not worth scrutiny. Why is it that the bombers and killers are simply labelled as fanatics or fundamentalists? They are Muslims, followers of the book. To deny this is to deny reality. How can this problem be tackled while try to avoid making this socially embarrassing observation?

Of course it’s difficult for someone writing in the Guardian to tackle the non-white underdog, but they do Muslims no favours by skirting around the subject. Don’t judge people in this relativistic form based on their religion. Judge them on their behavior alone. If someone treats a fellow human well or badly, condemn or congratulate them based on the action, not their religion.


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