Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Homosexual, a Newspaper Editor and a Radical Danish Imam Walk into a Bar....

I got a call from the BBC yesterday inviting me to be a guest on their show "World Have Your Say." Apparently I sent the the show's producers an email and I must have written something smart because they seemed pretty eager to get me on. I was given the opportunity to ask some questions of two major figures in this whole Muhammad cartoon scandal. On hand to field my questions were Arnaud Levy (the editor of the newspaper France Soir, which published the cartoons early in the controversy) and Danish Imam Mustapha who spearheaded the effort to distribute these images in the Muslim world. I wanted to know what did he hope to accomplish by taking these cartoons publicdanish cartoon
We have Jay on the line from New Jersey in the U.S............
First of all, this story is getting a ton of play in the media here in the U.S., um, but I really don't believe that these pictures of Muhammad--which are causing so much controversy--really inform a negative stereotype of Muslims as much as watching people buring down embassies does, quite frankly. I guess my question for Imam Mustapha is what were your motives, what were you hoping to accomplish by encouraging distribution of these images in the Middle East? I guess I'm wondering if you're trying to encourage some kind of dialogue or were you, you know, just trying to get people angry?
Imam Mustapha:
Can I have a word now?
Yes actually, I mean we have to make something clear, to clarify something which is very very important. Nobody has to tell about freedom of speech because, in the Bible, ummm, in the Old Testament, God I mean Allah was speaking to Satan and gave him the chance to clarify what he said to Adam. Freedom of dialogue isn't freedom to insult, insulting Islam! You can criticize, you're not supposed to believe in Muhammad if you don't like to! But criticizing, but you can criticize, but it's insulting. So if you're insulting something else, I mean, Mr. Levy tried to run away! I mean, he praises loudly Hitler for example, for what he did to the Jews, he can not of course, not....
Ok, but Imam with all due respect, We've asked you to answer Jay's question......
What his question was? Yesterday our committee, we have welcomed, umm, since we are starting this, we have started with the dialogue now. We have welcomed the call of the (Danish) Foreign Minister and State Minister and let's together and make a delegation and, well, because I am living in Denmark I want only peace for my country, the country I'm living in.
Do you take any responsibility for the lives lost and the damage done?
Eh, no! I should not take any responsibility but I condemn what's happening, but actually if anything is happening--harm I mean--the damage at the embassy it's because of you (refering to Levy) not because of us! This newspaper is hurting 1.2 billion of Muslims who, at least, I mean, being civilized to say, "I'm sorry, I did not mean that." An expression we can accept. As for the violence, it's not in my hands to stop everything. But we have welcomed that that we have sent a letter to foreign minister, that we are calling for dialogue. Then we can sit together and make a dedication to go and stop this. It's only crazy people who like what happened in Iran! Nobody likes, very hurting what's happening and we are very sorry for what happened because the people, but we can not control all of them. And about the prophet Muhammad, these big writers and thousands of others, they know he's our prophet.....
Ok, Imam, let me stop you there 'cuz we've got a lot of people who want to get on and speak with you. But let me give Jay a brief opportunity to respond. Jay does that answer your question? Is that sufficient?
Not really Sir, but let me take this opportunity to apologize if you and your Muslim brothers and sisters took offense at these images. But I don't wanna make this a free speech argument. What I am suggesting that all this response to the controversy, which i believe you, umm, I believe was sort of predicated on your own ambition. It's, you know, a lot of energy and attention is going toward this and no one is thinking about, um, all this wasted effort. This isn't going to get the Danish troops out of Iraq, this isn't going to address the Palestine question, this isn't gonna accomplish any of the goals of the Muslim community here or abroad. Or is it?
Are you trying to say that, to suggest that Muslims aren't putting enough effort into protesting against violence or hostage-taking, this type of thing? Is that what you're getting at, Jay?
Not, not exactly. What I'm saying is that I find it very curious that there is such an uproar over comics. Maybe this is my own culture-bound western sensibility, but quite frankly-- instead of ostensibly inciting violence-- maybe a more appropriate response would have been for the Imam to challenge Muslim cartoonists to parody Danish culture.
Reporter: Thanks Jay very much indeed.
Is it me or is this guy nuts? Here's the mouthpiece of the radical Muslim cleric's organization that made it their business to inflame tensions in the Muslim and Arab world with these cartoons, and he's trying to tell me that he seeks to encourage peaceful dialogue between the east and west. Sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. I hate to say it, but chatting with a radical Imam really reminded me who the enemy is here.
Listen for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(I hope to have it on mp3 later tonight.)


Shakespeare's Sister said...

That was really interesting, Jay. I listened to the whole 18 min, and I have to say I agree with your assessment. A caller after you also asked, point blank, why the Imam wasn't directing as much energy toward radical Islam associated with terrorism, and he just didn't have a good answer.

And I think, once again, this is relatable to things we see at home, like the Catholic church making hay about political candidates who support gay marriage or abortion being denied communion, or ferreting out gay priests, while simultaneously providing shelter for pedophiles.

I stand by my position that as soon as any religion makes a religious issue political, it's fair game for critique - and hiding behind, "You must apologize for offending us" just doesn't cut it.

Al Sturgeon said...

Sounds to me like the guy was nuts.

And what an interesting experience for you, huh?

Sissy Willis said...

"I read her as telling me that's hopeless"

Teresa said...

Am I right in thinking that an Imam is a religious LEADER? In other words, he gets up on the pulpit every day or week or whatever and preaches to a bunch of people? But maybe I've misunderstood this and he's just some guy on the street...

I wonder how in the world his congregation makes heads or tales of what he says! I don't know if it was deliberate... but from just reading the transcript, the man can't put together one single coherent sentence. Amazing.

This leads me to believe, if he's been able to inspire such an uproar, he must preach in a very different manner than he speaks on the radio. Meaning he's trying to hide (somewhat) just how much he hates Westerners. By trying to tone down the usual spiel, it becomes nonsense.

Ben Heller said...

I try to look at this as objectively as possible, but it's difficult because one can very easily be drawn into a pre-conceived notion that whatever ones religious beliefs, some of these people put their extremist beliefs before human life in a peaceful civilised society.

What I find disconcerting, is the way some of the European political media commentators seem to keep stoking the fire by printing these images of the Prophet, totally disregarding the type of reaction that it will continue to spark.

Anonymous said...

I've reached the same conclusions as you over this whole cartoon uproar. They reminded me who the greater enemy is, and who hold up signs calling for a European holocaust, more 9/11's and the like. Ironically, I thought they believed the holocaust was a myth?

Anonymous said...

Jay, I don't think you can seriously have a dialogue with someone who is so ideological as that muslim "cleric". It would be like having a dialogue of ideas with george bush. The only solution to this is to make sure that the law breakers are punished for their violent protests. Countries also have to enforce immigration laws. If protesters are caught breaking the law and the have immigration issues, send them back and do not allow them back in. cheers, irving

'Bean said...

This leads me to believe, if he's been able to inspire such an uproar, he must preach in a very different manner than he speaks on the radio. Meaning he's trying to hide (somewhat) just how much he hates Westerners. By trying to tone down the usual spiel, it becomes nonsense.

Yes - you are utterly correct.

DBK said...

I congratulate you, Jay, for believing in dialogue enough to try and actually discuss the issue sensibly with a lunatic. You gave it a shot.

Crazy people got a bunch of other crazy people stirred up and sent them out to cause havoc.

Anonymous said...

Gay people are persecuted by law in 55 ot of 56 Islamic States. Compare that with the freedoms taken for granted in the civilised world.

Two consenting adults should be stoned to death but a 54 year old man (Mohammed) who gets his sexual kicks with a 9 year old girl is revered as a shining example of how to live your life. If you mock him, expect arson and murder in reply.

Religion of peace my ass.

Professor Kim said...

That last comment engages in just a bit of presentism, doesn't it? Sexual exploitation runs through much of the Old Testament as well, but I don't hear people using that as a reason to criticize Judaism.

Interesting experience you had, Jay. You made your point well.

The Imam clearly had an agenda -- to make the point that the press uses its freedom as a license to attack Muslims. From what I've read, there is a perception that this happened because the countries in which the cartoons have been published perceive Muslims as "weak." If that's a correct assumption, I imagine that from his point of view, any focus on his motives, or concession, would be an admission of weakness.

What's interesting as well, are the analyses of the non-religious causes of the violence. According to some analysts, much of the violence is the result of the conditions within these countries, but political leaders find the cartoons a useful way to divert attention away from those conditions to defuse their opponents.

Nice to be introduced to your blog, by the way -- and thanks for the comment you left on mine.

earthchick said...

Well done, Jay. I heard this guy give an interview on another program on NPR and I was pretty aghast at his total unwillingness to take any responsibility for his actions and their results, as well as his complete inability to clearly answer a direct question.

I'm impressed with your questions and observations - you did a great job!

Anonymous said...

I think the bottom line is that you cannot REASON with these people. They simply don't think in a rational manner. Their idea of being rational is far different than ours. It's their way or death..plain and simple.

augustknight said...

What I would have liked to ask the Imam is this. Why does he feel that non-Muslims are bound by Muslin law? Depictions of the prophet Mohammad are prohibited, that is their belief. Do they acknowledge and accept Catholic or Jewish tenets of faith? I think that it is far more insulting to use a Mosque as a military garrison than having unbelievers draw cartoons. I do understand that they may be offended. The rational responce would be to seek an injuction from the courts, or the court of public opinion. If they need to fulfil their anger more, perhaps they could take the offending materials and burn them. Make a day of it. Have everyone bring a side dish and slaughter a lamb. Than go to the peace and quiet of home and pray for understanding.

Sildenafil Citrate said...

What I think about that is that man was invited to the program wrongly, for that reason he had the opportunity to do those questions to the major figures.

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