That’s what I said!!!
That’s what I said!!!
Humour is a weapon against bullies and totalitarians: this is why ‘cartoons’ have such power.
You know that something is part of ‘the culture’ when it keeps showing up in pop culture.
Personally, I enjoy watching Netfix – and one of their shows is ‘Orange Is the New Black': a show about a posh girl who, while young and ‘experimenting’, had crossed some lines and now has to pay the price in prison. It is a fun show, based (loosely, I presume) on a real life story, that makes us re-examine the whole ‘drug war’ and related issues.
Another thing I like is binge-watching shows: so, the Netflix ‘thing’ of releasing a whole season of a show at once pleases me beyond explanation. Perhaps it is the Aspie in me, but, I have a difficult time going from one world to another. So, when a show paints an alternate world for me (like, say, fictionalized life in prison), it takes me hours to transition from that world to my reality and vice versa. Which means that it only makes sense that I should watch all the episodes back-to-back!
Alas, the real world tends to intrude….which is why it was not until tonight that I saw this particularly salient line in the show…
The women’s prison celebrates ‘Mother’s Day’ with particularly open visitation from the babies/children of the inmates. As a direct result of the families’ visits, the women’s prison becomes infested with both scabies and bedbugs.
In order to combat the infestations, the prison burns all possibly infested items: from mattresses to prison uniforms to…the books in the library.
The pertinent line:
All the books in the prison library had been burned, as they had all been infested with bed-bugs….except for one book – the book that nobody had dared to burn!
The prison had been left with a single, bed-bug-infested book: a copy of the Koran….
This post is dedicated to all those who say:
“I believe in freedom of speech, but drawing Muhammed is a provocation, Islamophobia and hate speech!”
Or something along those lines.
And I answer you that nothing could be further from the truth!!!
When the original Danish Cartoon controversy erupted into worldwide violence, my son had a classmate, Abdulahee, whom he was very good friends with. Abdi’s dad used to be a Math teacher before immigrating to Canada from Africa and their mutual love of Math led them into a great friendship.
As parents dropping off and picking up kids in the lower grades of school often get to know each other and chat together, I got to know Abdi’s parents: his mom was shy, and would only return greetings and a smile, but his dad was more open and the two of us would often chat about the weather and such.
As an immigrant myself a few decades earlier, I was curious how the ‘new immigrant’ experience had changed since my days and so I would ask him and our conversation taught me some interesting things. At times, we even discussed politics…
It was at the time that the violent reaction against the cartoons was at its highest that, while offering Abdi’s dad a ride home after we had dropped off our little ones at school, I asked him what he thought…
Yes, my dear readers, many have pointed out to me that asking a newly arrived Muslim immigrant his opinion on the cartoons and the violent reaction to them in the Muslim world was not politically correct and that I might have been ‘putting him on the spot’, so to speak. Rest assured, I asked as politely as my little Aspie self was capable of and assured him he did not have to comment if he were uncomfortable.
Which he was not.
He thought the cartoons were totally horrible and should not have been published and that death was an appropriate punishment for the cartoonists and the publishers.
OK, I asked – and was told.
By this point, we had arrived near his house, but he seemed very reluctant to leave the conversation at this. So, we sat in a parked car in front of his house and, for the next half-hour to an hour, we talked. And talked. And talked…about the cartoons, the reaction, and all that…
Because I knew this was an intelligent and educated man and I was truly interested in learning why he thought political cartoons were sufficient justification for killing someone, and he was open to explaining his reasoning to me, I sat, and listened, learned and, at times, asked questions.
This issue was front and centre in the Muslim community he was a part of and they discussed it a lot among themselves. And the anger and bitterness were not faked: they were truly felt.
Because their religious leaders explained to them that this action was a direct attack on the Muslim family, an act of intolerance and racism. Islamophobia!
“You guys would not do this with an image of Jesus, so why do you think that you can do it to our prophet and get away with it? If they did this about the Christian God, they’d be in jail or dead!” he explained animatedly to me…
Well, you can see where this is heading, my dear readers. With a smile of surprise on my face I asked why ever would he think this?
It seems that he was assured by his religious and community leaders that this is absolutely so!
He was incredulous.
So, I walked him through (in my limited manner) some of the reasons behind the reformation and enlightenment and how criticizing -nay, ridiculing, parodizing and blaspheming – political and religious figures in our society is the cornerstone of our culture and the root of our tolerance.
Because if nothing is so sacred that it cannot be lampooned and parodied, then nothing can be so powerful enough in our society as to force everyone to officially respect it, even if it is contrary to their own belief system.
If everyone can make fun of Christ, then nobody can force a non-Christian to bow to him as a God.
If everyone can make fun of a Guru, then nobody but his followers need to act as if he’s more than any other man and bow to him in respect.
If everyone can make fun of our politicians and famous people, then nobody gets pun in jail for telling political jokes – but, more importantly, nobody gets put in jail for pointing out when said politician brakes the laws. It keeps them ‘human’ and not above the rest of us.
It is not a perfect mechanism, but it is the best one we have!
After his first incredulity, Abdi’s father started thinking.
And then he asked: “So, when they make fun of Muhammed, it means he has become an important figure in your culture?”
It is precisely because Islam has become a part of our cultural tapestry that Muhammed has become an influential political figure in our culture, along side of Jesus and others.
And yes – apart from being a religious figure, Jesus Christ is also a political figure. And now, since Islam has become a part of our cultural tapestry, so is Muhammed!
In a very real sense, criticism of Islam in general and Muhammed in particular, and drawing cartoons/caricatures of him, is far from ‘rejection of Islam’ or ‘Islamophobia': rather, it is the tacit acknowledgement that Islam is now part of our culture and that its leading figures – religious, political or cultural – are being treated equally to leading religious, political and cultural figures in the rest of our society.
Even at the height of the violent times, a reasonable Muslim grasped that drawing Muhammed was a symbol of acceptance, not rejection, of Muslims into our midst. I just hope others can be as open minded!
Frequent readers of my blog know that I have a strong opinion on the United Nations: FIRE THEM ALL!!!
Un-elected, un-accountable, corrupt and arrogant beyond belief.
Frequent readers of my blog will also know that I was one of the first Western voices raising alarm over the horrific and unconscionable – frankly, inhuman – treatment Raif Badawi, the Saudi Liberal, had suffered simply for creating and running a website.
The fact remains that the corrupt and tyrannical theocracy that is Saudi Arabia has no business being accepted as an equal member in organizations that pretend to be a platform for civilized countries.
Saudi Arabia is not exactly the bastion of ‘human rights’.
After much international outcry on behalf of Raif Badawi, he was permitted to appeal his sentence of 1000 lashes (that’s flogging, no ‘falsies’ here) and 5 years in prison just because his blogging ran afoul of the religious police and their fancy fetishes.
It is important to note that Raif is to be flogged in many instalments, because 1000 lashes at oncewould, effectively, remove the skin from the back part of his body and kill him long before the punishment could be carry out in full – which, of course, would spoil the whole ‘fun’.
So, instead, the punishment is given a bit at a time, giving the man time to at least partially heal and recover from it before the next instalment of torture. This both extends the physical suffering and creates incredible psychological torture as one is awaiting the next torture session.
Of course, any ‘healing break’ is too short to allow complete healing. This will lead to a progressively weaker and more sick Badawi at each ‘session’ – ensuring he will, eventually (but not too soon) die of his flogging.
The only good bit in this story is that his wife and babies are now safely in Canada – and I wish them all the best!
And, enough people have volunteered to take Raif’s place in each instalment of the floggings that, had the Saudis accepted the swap, he would be safe. At least there is some moral support in knowing that people were willing to put their hides on the line for him!
So, no sooner had the Saudi courts ruled and upheld the 1000 lashes and 10 years in jail (upped from 5 by an in-between court, I presume) than…
…and I kid you not…
Please, please, PLEASE!!!
Contact your political masters and beg them to get out of the cesspool of corruption that is the UN!
It has been two weeks since my failed attempt to hold a Draw Muhammed Day event on Canada’s Parliament Hill.
To read what had transpired then, please see my posts on the topic.
In the aftermath, everybody wanted to know what was I going to do next?
To be honest, my failure had taught me just how naive I was when it came to this issue. Yes, I knew I had to DO something – but I didn’t want another failure. So, the first thing to do was to learn.
In the last two weeks, I spoke and corresponded with many peoples: some passionate, some intelligent, some knowledgeable – and most a combination of the above. I got a lot of suggestions and a lot of advice.
One neighbour of mine asked me why I would bother with this – when I could be gardening or doing something else fun. I pointed out I had kids and could not leave the country in a worse shape for them than it was when I came here. He just shook his head and drove away.
Another neighbour, whom I had considered a friend, ‘jokingly’ suggested that perhaps I should move, so that her house does not get shot up by accident when ‘they’ come for me…
But most people were actively supportive and gave me some constructive criticism and good advice.
One suggestion I got from a large number of people went something along the following lines:
While I agree with this in principle, there is more to it that just the principle…
You see, there is an organization that is in charge of the activities on Parliament Hill. It’s some kind of a committee – of course…how else can the bureaucrats avoid individual responsibility – but, it exists for several very practical reasons.
It is necessary to co-ordinate the various events, for simple logistics reasons.
And it is also their responsibility to, through the RCMP, provide security on The Hill (or, in their shorthand, PH).
So while I reject any suggestion that they have the right to judge the substance of the protests in PH (and their multi-page guide to the use of PH indeed does reserve this right – down to who will speak and what they will say and to limit this to what will ‘fit their image’), I do understand the practical necessity of crowd control and event co-ordination.
In addition, it seems that if I am deemed to trespass on PH, this organization has the right to get me arrested. And while I think freedom of speech is a worthy issue – worthy enough to go to jail for – I am not certain if getting arrested for ‘trespassing’ has the same impact. (Which, of course, why this loophole is there…)
So, this is not the course of action I plan to take right now.
Others have urged me to go the Texas route: to rent a private venue and private security to hold the event.
And while the Garland, Texas, event was a success story (yes, a couple if ISIS goons showed up, but security dispatched them quickly and nobody besides the terrorists got killed – so, despite the media negative spin, this WAS a success story), it feels too much like trying to hold a free speech event in an unmarked basement room with nobody really knowing about it. And a sign on the door saying ‘beware of the leopard’…
Yes, I am exaggerating – but with my highly limited media reach (I’m no Pamela Geller), I’m not exaggerating anywhere as much as I’d like to.
So, for now, that is also not a preferred course of action.
Then there were those who said that any form of blasphemy is ‘not nice’ and that it is an abuse of the freedom of speech to use it for the purpose of blasphemy. (These are the same people who say “I am for freedom of speech, BUT…”)
To you, I say that without the freedom to blaspheme, there would be no freedom of religion!
If I were not permitted to blaspheme most Christian’s belief that Jesus Christ was/is the son of God, born of a human woman, who was crucified as a human sacrifice of his corporeal self to his divine self to atone for the sins of humanity – then I would not be free to worship as a Muslim.
If I were not permitted to blaspheme the Muslim belief that Jesus was fathered by a human and did not die on the cross, I would not be free to worship as a Roman Catholic and many Protestant sects.
If I were not permitted to blaspheme the Hindu belief in many deities, then I would not be free to worship as a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew or any other forms of monolatrism/monotheism.
And that is barely scratching the surface!
It is no coincidence that religious books/teachings are exempt from hate-speech laws, because they all hate-speech each other!!! Which, of course, leaves atheists and ignostics (I do consider myself an ignostic more than anything else) at a bit of a disadvantage: if everyone else is free to blaspheme and even hate-speech each other’s religion, why are we not allowed to even civil-ly criticize any of them?
NO – blasphemy is not only good, it is absolutely necessary for freedom of religion – and freedom from religion – to exist!!!
Which still leaves me with the question…
What to do? What to do?!?!?
First thing on my list was a bit of self-education.
If the reason my original event was cancelled was due to ‘security concerns’, then I had better educate myself on this topic in particular.
OK, perhaps picking the International Draw Muhammed Day was not the best for security’s sake. Perhaps I should pick a less inflammatory date, like, say September 11th – but I jest!
The next item on my list was to learn a little bit about security, public spaces and events and both the theory and how to in that. I was in luck!
As it so happened, yesterday, 3rd of June, 2015 (exactly 2 weeks to the day when I had intended to hold my failed event), the International Security Conference & Exposition was held in Ottawa – just across the street from the big RCMP building!!! What luck!!!
Of course, I could not miss an educational opportunity like this!
In my usual bumbling manner, I asked for directions at a hotel nearby the convention centre – and got very exact ones from a nice lady at the front desk. I followed them to the letter and soon found a room. Seeing people within, I boldly entered….only to find out that this was ‘the speaker’s lounge’!
Eventually, I found the registration desk, got my badge – and soon found the room with the seminar I knew I could not miss: ‘Securing Public Spaces’.
It was awesome,
A moderator from The Hill Times (a sponsor) had three most esteemed panelists: David Harris, Director, International and Terrorist Intelligence Program INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc., some Commie prof from Carleton U who kept insisting that policing causes income disparity (and boasted of helping Greece organize their policing…really, I’m not making this up) and a lady from the City of Ottawa who is in charge of emergency stuff.
The moderator and two thirds of the panel were most excellent!
Joking aside, I really learned a lot about both the theoretical as well as practical aspects of policing public areas.
So, I feel that with my newly acquired knowledge, I might be better able to co-operate (I will NOT ‘collaborate’ – where I come from, collaborators are lined up against the wall and shot – and I am most definitely against violence of any sort) with the powers that control PH.
Perhaps with a different date – one that will work for them and not be so provocative – we can still succeed in having this equal-opportunity blasphemy event on PH.
So, my next step will be to re-contact the power that be and see what hoops I need to jump through to get this event happening!
So brilliant, it’s healthy to watch it again!