Sunday, September 23, 2012

Finger wagging

There is nothing like a bit of violence to send people scuttling for the cover of some semi-apologetics. Whilst the violence has been dutifully deplored all round, it has been accompanied by much hand-wringing about the importance of not denigrating religious beliefs (a bit difficult if you are an atheist like me). This isn't just a failure to stand up for free speech, it concedes that the cause of the troubles was religious offence. By now it should be evidently clear that the YouTube riots were less the result of the rage caused by a naff video clip and more about the continuing attempt at grabbing power by the far right in Islamic countries. And in one place anyway they seem to have won. The minds of much of the commentariat and several foreign offices have fallen into their hands with little resistance.

For example this is a really strange outbreak of isolationism, its contradictions splendidly taken apart by Norm here. But it was the conclusion that got to me:
Islamists need to stop attacking the west, and issuing fatwas against those outside the Islamic belief system. Likewise, the west needs to solve its own problems, rather than insisting on interfering in the affairs of Muslims, while failing to admit that previous interference might have provoked much of the "Muslim rage" that westerners find so "medieval". In fact, the finger-wagging criticism from Islamaphobic zealots is just more of the "We know what's best; you do what you're told" attitude that has already caused such mayhem. It is time for both parties to get a grip.
The assumptions underlying it are the same old stuff. The west is primarily to blame, we have no right to criticise and that if we do it is another example of colonial arrogance. This is, of course, the narrative of the Islamic far right, with the exception of the exhortation to leave us alone and just kill your own people. They would rather like to kill some of us as well.

Of course this 'neutrality' is nothing of the sort. It is a way of accommodating, rather than confronting some spectacularly nasty politics. It is at one with the 'talk with the Taliban' conventional wisdom. Eager to hear the voices of those who would use a suicide bomb to kill skateboarding children, they are deaf to the cries of the Muslim majority being assailed by these political movements. Believe it or not, a fair number of ordinary Muslims rather like the idea of not being oppressed by savage tyrants and appreciate the chance of living in a country that respects civil liberties and human rights. And on occasions they can make their views known:
As fires blazed and protesters danced in the ruined compound of a vanquished jihadist militia, I watched as the citizens of the Libyan city of Benghazi staged a dramatic display of raw people power. Numbed by the murder of an American ambassador in their city, furious with jihadist militias lording it over them and frustrated by a government too chaotic and intimidated to react, ordinary Benghazians took matters into their own hands.
These are the people we should be standing with, the majority. But then solidarity with them would be Islamophobic finger wagging, wouldn't it.


George S said...

It is fear talking pretending to be virtue. The same people would have no compunction mocking this or that church because - until your Greek cleric - it was a safe game.

The Plump said...

There is an irony here too. In part, fear drives the theocrats. Of course there is a desire for power and the totalitarian temptation too, but there is real fear of the success of the secular. In the competition between religious hierarchy and secular, tolerant societies, they are losing. They fear that competition. It is a rational fear. And so they try and impose their god by force to the exclusion of all others because they fear extinction. So of course the west is a threat - not in the way that the crass anti-imperialists think - it threatens the power of religion.

So they set out to kill their opponents and force adherence, fantasising that it will satisfy their god. They cannot win in the end, but they will create much human misery in their wake.