February 06, 2006

Trouble In Toon Town

I was resisting commenting on the images of Mohammed cartoon scandal because I think it is foolish to feed the flames of these extremist storms in media teacups. But now that the issue has most defnitely become fully inflamed (expect the governments of Syria and Lebanon to put an end to the shennanigans pretty quickly now that they have made their political point) I think there are a few things worth saying.

Firstly, it is important to note very clearly that the people wreaking violence do not speak for all Muslims: they are minority extremists. Even if a majority of Muslims are offended, a majority does not support violence like this. Sadly, that majority's voice is heard less and less these days. For a glaring example of this, just look at how the reformists in Iran have been side-lined over the past 6 years. Now why is that, hmmn?

Secondly, can anyone seriously claim that this violent flare-up would not have occurred were it not for Bush's inanely childish ("with us or against us") threats and hypocritically cultivated warmongering? As I said earlier, people are angry about the Iraq War the whole world over, particularly stereotyped Muslims, and given the lack of government accountability it is no surprise if the people demand a pound of flesh - political or literal - wherever they can get it. Add to this the popular rise of militant Islam and the chances of that pound of flesh being literally extracted by violence are clearly increasing every day. As numerous reports have warned, we in the West are clearly losing the "war" for Muslim hearts and minds.

Thirdly, this bogus war has inflamed fear levels among Westerners to ridiculous levels. Would any cartoonist have even considered these cartoons funny, or would any newspaper have even considered publishing them, if we had not all been so relentlessly barraged by fear-inducing images, stories and rumours for the past five years? Such humour is only funny because it pricks our fear: take away the fear and the joke is lost. I'll tell you this: fear is not the way to beat terrorism, it's the way they win.

We should all agree that violence is not only wrong but also counter-productive to any real, long-term settlement of differences.

And we should keep our sense of humour, too, because God knows we need it right now!

This cartoon debate reminds me of the old neo-con line: "If you do not support our illegal invasion then you wish Saddam was still in power." When faced with extremism, both extremes can be wrong. As the Buddha said, "Follow the middle path."

Or as Anakin Skywalker said: "Only a Sith deals in absolutes!"

(Image courtesy of Antony Loewenstein.)

UPDATE: We are also losing the battle for hearts and minds on our own shores (if by "we" you mean we who think our governments should not be promoting dangerous stereotypes). This just in from SMH:
One out of two Australian non-Muslim school students regard Muslims as terrorists and many do not know or care about any positive contributions from the Muslim community, a study shows.

A recent study of year 11 and 12 students found about 60 per cent of students had not learned about Muslims at school and about 35 per cent did not care.

Many believed Muslims were unclean while others were able tolerate them from a distance.

Initial results from a survey of 551 students conducted late last year found one out of two students did not have any positive feelings about Muslims.

"One out of two says yes, Muslims are terrorists, full stop, no qualification," the author of the study, Abe Ata, a researcher from the Australian Catholic University, said.
UPDATE 2: The Murdoch-owned Courier Mail and Aussie blogger Tim Blair (a Bush shrill in sheep's clothing) have published some of the disputed cartoons. Seems like certain interested parties are inclined to inflame the situation, doesn't it?

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