Monday, February 27, 2006

The Freedom to Speak About Restricting the Freedom to Speak

The catch phrase now in the Cartoon War is "clash of civilizations". But in dealing with a "civilization", large numbers of whose members can be driven into frenzies of violence by taboo-violating cartoons, the real situation more closely resembles the Roman Empire under siege by barbarians.

Even Islam's intellectuals are infected with the false logic that springs from trying to reconcile seventh century mysticism with modern democratic freedoms. Dr Abdelwahab El-Affendi is a senior research fellow at University of Westminster in London.

Writing for al Jazeera, Dr. El-Affendi calls for Muslims in European societies to use democracy:
Muslims, especially minorities living in Europe, are likely to be the first victims of new restrictions on freedom. They should, instead, make use of democracy to build coalitions which would isolate the hate mongers and extremists and cause them to be condemned by all.

In calling for more, not less, freedom of expression, they should also try to reach a consensus on using that freedom in a more responsible and constructive manner.
In other words, Dr. El-Affendi would have Muslims use freedom of expression to create a Muslim fundamentalist cousin to Political Correctness, call it Taboo Correctness.

Dr. El-Affendi's column tries to maintain a veneer of balanced, rational thought, but it's betrayed by this passage, which proves that he just doesn't get it:
The very idea of giving Rushdie a literary prize after his book Satanic Verses was like offering Hitler the Nobel Peace Prize after Auschwitz. And the very inability of Western intellectuals and leaders to understand this simple fact lies at the heart of the threatened "clash of civilisations".
In Dr. El-Affendi's mind, writing a book is equivalent to starting a World War and murdering millions of people. That's primitive thinking coming from a man who has had every opportunity to be capable of moving beyond taboos.

Also posted at The Jawa Report and Vince Aut Morire.