Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Danish cartoon affair revisited

(For the record, a post of mine on the Indo-Eurasian Research yahoolist from August 2009 is reproduced, concerning the Danish cartoon affair of 2006, the hypotheses proposing to "explain" it, and my own role in it. The affair was a touchstone of Western intellectuals’ willingness to stand up for freedom of expression; they largely failed the test.)

In, [Islam scholar] Michel Tavir wrote:

> [Moderator note. The terms "party line" and "party liners" are really loaded, Michel. What supposed party are you talking about? When you say that "Denmark was chosen because, more than anywhere else in Europe, the anti-muslim ultra-right had (and still has) a de facto grip on political power...", who was supposedly doing the choosing? Without naming names it sounds more than a bit conspiratorial. – Moderator Steve Farmer]

There was no need for Michel to withdraw into a figurative reading of the expression he used. In Denmark, an "anti-Muslim" political party (Pia Kjaersgaard's) did have a "grip" on power, in the sense that it gave indispensible outside support to Lars Lökke Rasmussen's minority government.

But I wouldn't call it "ultra-right". When moving rightward from the centre, the farther right you go, the less likely that you will meet "anti-Muslim" people, who are usually also anti-democratic, anti-American and anti-Zionist. Neo-Nazis in their demonstrations nowadays carry pictures of the Hezbollah sheikh [Hassan Nasrallah] and of Iran's president [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, comrades at arms in the struggle against the Zionist World Conspiracy. Recently the leader of the Dutch neo-Nazi group [Nederlandse Volksunie] said on TV that Bosnian and Albanian Muslims were fully part of Europe, because they are white and also because of their numerous volunteers in the Waffen-SS, but African Muslims were not, and nor were African Christians or native religionists, because of their race. From the Nazi viewpoint, not religion but race is important: history shows that religions come and go, but race is forever, at least if we do the demographically right thing. And that's where religion may play an auxiliary role: in Himmler's footsteps, some neo-Nazis theorize that the white race would be better off by converting to Islam, a martial and pro-natalist religions that leaves no womb unused. Some neo-Nazis have put this advice into practice and converted to Islam.

"Anti-Muslim" positions are more common in a more moderate segment of the right, viz. libertarian, pro-democratic, generally also pro-American and (pragmatically rather than religiously) pro-Zionist. And are now reviving among the Left. Increasingly, leftist intellectuals on the European continent are realizing that the instrumentalization of postmodern "cultural relativism" as a shield against criticism of Islam's treatment of women and of non-Muslims just can't be reconciled with their basic commitment to equality and emancipation.

> > It was, in short, scholarship, not sensationalism.
> That's also how I viewed Jytte Klausen; (...) yet, if she is quoted properly:
“Ms. Klausen, who is also the author of "The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe," argued that the cartoon protests were not spontaneous but rather orchestrated demonstrations by extremists in Denmark and Egypt who were trying to influence elections there and by others hoping to destabilize governments in Pakistan, Lebanon, Libya and Nigeria. The cartoons, she maintained, were a pretext, a way to mobilize dissent in the Muslim world.
> it appears that she is [toeing] the "party line" that was propagated around the world by the West's willing media.<

That was indeed the line taken by the hegemonic media, but for a different reason than the one your propose. It was to abort the rising impression of Muslim hatred for liberty that they shifted responsibility for the anti-cartoon riots away from "ordinary Muslims" and into the hands of fringe movement leaders or impersonal state actors.

> For those who like myself were on the front line at the time and refused to be blinded by ideology or prejudice, it was obvious from the start that we were witnesses to an orchestrated (not a "well-orchestrated", as the cliché goes) provocation that fit all too nicely into one of the neo-cons favorite paradigms, Huntington's so-called clash of the civilizations.<

That's exactly what Ayatollah Khamenei said at the time. It was also said by the editor of the Flemish weekly Knack, who argued that Jyllands-Posten's Jewish editor Flemming Rose, the American alleged Likudnik Daniel Pipes with his Middle East Forum, and also the Flemish website Brussels Journal, then the main clearing-house for news about the cartoon affair, had concocted the cartoon scenario with the aim of provoking the Muslim masses in Syria and Iran into vandalism and other ugly scenes for the TV news in order to prepare the ground for an Israeli military attack. Pen-pushers and pencil-pushers conspiring for world war, no less! Considering that I have written for both the Middle East Quarterly (about a similar affair, Rushdie's The Satanic Verses) and Brussels Journal, I suddenly found myself in the middle of a truly ambitious conspiracy. At least I can say I was "on the front line at the time and refused to be blinded by ideology or prejudice".

(You may notice that, extensively elsewhere but also on BJ, I have repeatedly written against the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and possibly Iran; war polarizes opinion and only hardens the existing beliefs, whereas what the Muslim world needs is a thaw that makes their beliefs melt and give way to Enlightenment.)

Well, after that promotion to crown witness, it is my testimony that to my knowledge, there was no such pre-planning involved. A journalist simply wanted to know if you can make as much fun of Mohammed as is routinely done with Jesus and Yahweh in European papers. And he found out.

> The most serious, comprehensive and trustworthy book published on the Mohammed cartoons affair is "Karikaturkrisen - En undersøgelse af baggrund og ansvar" ("The Danish Caricature Crisis - an Investigation of Background and Responsibilities"), published in 2006 by Tøge Seidenfaden, the editor-in-chief of Politiken, Denmark's second largest newspaper, and renowned analyst and commentator Rune Engelbreth Larsen, whose outlook on current affairs is rooted in the traditions of humanistic Renaissance and the Enlightenment:

Strange what positions these "humanists" take: shielding obscurantism from scrutiny and attacking secularism and freedom of speech. I know a different breed of humanists, who swear by the Enlightenment. Or knew, for quite a few have been murdered, such as Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh. Others are absconding, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali ex-Muslim politician, or have been smashed out of court, like Mohamed Rasoel, the Pakistani ex-Muslim who was sentenced by a white judge in Amsterdam for "anti-Muslim racism" after writing critically about Islam and its view of non-Muslims. He hadn't written anything about Islam that hadn't been written in essence already by Ernest Renan or Winston Churchill or Bhimrao Ambedkar, or has since been written by Henryk Broder and other respected mainstream intellectuals. Anything held against the cartoonists also counts against those big names.

The lead in criticism of Islam now rests with pro-Enlightenment ex-Muslims like Ibn Warraq or Ali Sina or Taslima Nasreen. They put their lives at risk, they are the vanguard in the struggle for secular modernity against religious obscurantism. Another reason for genuine secularists to support them and the cartoonists is the worldwide anti-freedom alliance that soon materialized between different religions. In India, the Hindu-nationalist BJP supported a resolution (in the Andhra Pradesh assembly) condemning the cartoons. In the Netherlands, Christian parties surprised everyone with a proposal to reinvigorate the dormant law against blasphemy, now explicitly to include "blasphemy" of Allah and Mohammed. And did you ever hear GW Bush, the reborn Christian and neocon par excellence, applaud the cartoons?

> It doesn't seem that their book was ever translated into English, most likely because what it had to say wasn't very popular among party liners.

Strange, for the same things have been said in English by well-published writers like Karen Armstrong. It was also supported by every single member of the panel at the 2006 AAR conference (I was there in the audience); they had not cared to invite a single expert or participant willing to defend the cartoonists.

> Sorry if I come across with a certain sense of frustration, but this remains a very sensitive subject for some of us, considering where the swamp of intolerance the world, and Europe in particular, has increasingly got itself mired in since those events took place.<

Every one of the Islam critics I mentioned, including the tenors of the cartoons affair, have stated as their reason (or at least one of their reasons) to hold Islam up for criticism, that Islam is intolerant. Their stated intention is to do something about intolerance. Shouldn't that make you happy?

> Needless to say, I'm not taking issue with the freedom to publish controversial material, anymore than Seidenfaden or Engelbreth would.

That's at least one thing we can agree on. As Jawaharlal Nehru said: "Freedom is in peril, defend it with all your might!" That's what the cartoonists intended to do.

Steve Farmer wrote:

> > Note that the NY Times article doesn't give a link to the cartoons either.
> >

In the case of the US and UK press, I could understand why, at the height of the Iraq war, and with many other entanglements in the Muslim world, they would choose to avoid hurting Muslim sensibilities. In case an al-Qaeda operative were to cite the publication of the cartoons as justification for the killing of their soldiers in Iraq, the newspaper editors might feel morally implicated. But to continue this prudishness about the cartoons today is no longer justifiable.

> >
> >
> >

Sometimes Mohammed shows his face in these pictures, sometimes he is veiled. When in 1990 the Dutch-Pakistani Islam critic Mohamed Rasoel, when he was still an unknown name behind his book, was invited by the press, he appeared on TV (there to be grossly insulted) with his face covered.

Incidentally, his name was a pen name, meaning "Mohammed Prophet". After he had seen Muslims demonstrate in Britain and also in Rotterdam with slogans like: "We will kill Salman Rushdie", he calculated that they would think twice before shouting "We will kill Mohammed the Prophet".

> > Please note that I'm not "anti-Islam": I'm against all pre-Enlightenment- style political/religious extremism: Islamic, Zionist, Hindutva, Christian, Mormon, Dravidian, general-American, whatever. They are all hangovers from pre-modern states of culture.
> >

Another point of agreement! Good to see how this painful affair, viz. the violence by obscurantists against cartoonists exercising their freedom of expression, gives rise to such a chummy situation on this forum.

Kind regards,

Koenraad Elst

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Was Hitler Aryan?

(Quora, 20 March 2020)

Question: "Was Hitler even Aryan, or was that what he just wanted for the country?"

My answer:

Adolf Hitler spoke an Indo-European language, and that made him an Aryan as defined by the coiner of the term, Friedrich von Schlegel, 1808. The same counts for, say, Barack Obama. Later, race became all the rage, with Charles Darwin's discovery of evolution and Benjamin Disraeli's observation that race is the key to all of history. The Indo-European speech community was obviously not identical with a physical type, being roughly half-white and half-brown, so some tried to distinguish between real, original Aryans, of a recognizable physical type, and all the racial flotsam that had adopted the Indo-European language. This emphasizes the importance of the Homeland question, as physical types come about in certain climate zones, e.g. if you claim that real Aryans are blonde, an Indian Homeland becomes unlikely. Linguists like Friedrich Max Mueller were embarrassed when they saw this racial twist given to their science, but the spirit of the times favoured this aberration. The identification of the Aryan type as blonde, tall, long-skulled, straight-nosed and with a backhead knob prevailed and ended up becoming official in Nazi Germany's courses of “racial science". But by that criterion, Hitler was not a very good example.
This question would hardly have been worth answering, were it not that today we note a return to this identification of language with race. The last few years have seen, in the remaining Euro-nationalist fringe but esp. in India, a wave of enthusiasm for supposed new genetic evidence deciding the Homeland debate. We now get to read deadly serious claims that a skeleton found in Rakhigarhi in the Harappan culture “was Dravidian" because of his genes. Certain supposed immigrants from Central Asia (we express no opinion on the correctness of these genetics-based claims) are found to have the gene R1a1, like the East-European and Central-Siberian populations. Like the blonde long-skulls of yore, this gene is now routinely called “Aryan". R1a1 counts as an indicator of Indo-European speech, as “the Aryan gene". When studying Indo-European linguistics, we were always warned against this identification of language with a physical type.

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Quora censorship on the Delhi riots

(On 8 March 2020, I answered the Quora question whether the Delhi events were a one-sided pogrom or a two-sided riot. My answer is here below. No one could pick a single hole in it, so Quora removed it.)

"The facts here are very clear, but rest assured that they will be contested. Like most Hindu-Muslim riots, this riot started as a Muslim pogrom on Hindus, with some spectacular killings of Hindu policemen, but then Hindus started striking back, and ultimately the Muslim death toll surpassed the Hindu one. Similar to Gujarat 2002, which started with a Muslim pogrom of 59 Hindu women and children in the women's wagon of a train returning from Ayodhya, locked in and burned to death. Then the Hindus retaliated, and it ended with some 300 Hindus and 800 Muslims killed. In international reporting, the all-explaining opening move is scrupulously left out, as if you have WW2 start on 6 June 1944 with the Allied "aggression” on Europe and highlight the higher death toll on the German compared to the Anglo-American side.
"Major media have been caught in the act of fabricating fake news, e.g. the Wall Street Journal brought an interview with policeman Ankit Sharma's brother, who described how a (Muslim) mob had stabbed his brother to death. In the published version, the WSJ inserted that this mob was shouting a Hindu battle-cry to shift the blame to the Hindus to save their narrative that the Hindus were committing a pogrom. Fortunately, the brother and other witnesses publicly denied this and pointed out the WSJ's manipulation. and other papers published a photograph of a Muslim mob on the attack, easily recognizable by their clothes, and captioned that this was a “Hindu mob". When this was exposed, Scroll removed the photograph, i e. the evidence, but maintained its mendacious narrative. Same manipulation in Wikipedia, which suppressed corrections; or how blatantly fake news was quickly turned into the received wisdom."

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