Saturday, February 04, 2006

There Ain't No Good Guys In This Fight, Folks (UPDATED)

So, a Danish newspaper printed cartoons that were offensive to Muslims; indeed, they were designed to be so.

Radical Islam responded in its usual way, which is to say it went absolutely nuts (from my Western, non-Islamic perspective) and got probably more worked up than when Salman Rushdie came out with "Satanic Verses."

Non-muslims, getting sick and tired of radical Islam's remarkably thin skin, reacted by holding up the cartoonists as heroes, somehow, of free speech.

And Hugh Hewitt, and God bless the man for trying, tried to calm the angry non-Muslim side of the aisle down with some wise words of counsel.

Only it didn't seem to work. Listening to Hugh's show this afternoon, the vast majority of his callers who opined on the cartoon kerfluffle did not frankly agree with Hugh's take on this one.

It all sounded very, very familiar to me, and then I remembered an old essay of Orson Scott Card's wherein he took the same stance in regards to Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" that Hugh is taking in the cartoonist situation.

The situation back then went something like this:

Rushdie publishes "The Satanic Verses," which is offensive to Muslims; indeed, it is designed to be.

Radical Islam - even not terribly-radical Islam - issues a fatwa against Rushdie.

The "literary community" (however one wants to define it) holds Rushdie up as a poster boy for free speech etc etc.

Card writes an essay in which he says, "Yeah, Islam's response to Rushdie is horrible and wrong, and, yeah, free speech is vital; but for God's sake, people: Rushdie's book was overt, thoroughly ugly attack on Islam and Muhammad. You're arguing for a good thing, but you're using the worst possible man as an example of what needs to be protected."

Card didn't get any slack, either. People STILL hate him for not defending Rushdie like he was supposed to, being a writer and all.

I don't know why I'm bringing this up other than to suggest to Hugh that if things seem a little different this time around it's in this way: Back in '89, Islam's fatwa against Rushdie scared the you-know-what out of just about everybody in the western world. I mean, we knew the Middle East was nuts, but we didn't really believe that Muslims could just up and openly - like they were proud of it or something - put a price on a writer's head.

These days, with the exception of those in Denmark who are on the receiving end of Islam's latest collective freak out, there is far, far less fear, and waaaaaaaay more anger, like the world is finally getting tired of having to deal with the bullies in the back of the room over and over and over again.

I'm not sure where I stand here, either, but do I agree with a point Hugh made today to one caller, which is that we have to be more decent than our enemy. As he wrote on his blog,

We rightly condemn and must continue to condemn every anti-Semitic outburst from the president of Iran and every anti-Semitic cartoon published in the hate press of the Middle East. Those condemnations lose some of their force among some of the world if we rush to defend those cartoons that can objectively be seen as anti-Muslim.

I have my own disagreements with Hugh about other things in regards to Islam, but on this point, I'm with him.

Now if I could only get the point across to Rusty at My Pet Jawa . . .

UPDATE: In regards to the anger being felt this time around, the bottom of this post serves as a wonderful example, but also makes me waffle.

That is, I agree both with Junkyardblog and Hugh Hewitt. I tell myself that, on general principle, we need to be more decent than our enemy. But then I can't help but start thinking that the enemy includes more of Islam than Hugh seems to think, and being more decent only facilitates them.

I mean, sure, it seems like a decent thing to do, to say that we're not fighting Islam but merely a small, radical faction of Islam, but when the afore-mentioned decent statement is uttered in the context of Islam's actual long and extremely bloody history, it becomes - to be polite, here - open to serious question.

And, like Junkyardblog, I'm really, really tired of Islam's temper tantrums in general.

In other words, it ain't radical Islam driving this one, Hugh: It's Islam, period.

But . . . dang it . . . I guess we still need to take the high road, here.

I hate being all conflicted. I'm going to bed.

UPDATE: Timely advice here, which I shall try to take to heart. Hugh's link to Steyn seems particularly cogent this morning, as Steyn has written:

Speaking of which, if we are at war--and half the American people and significantly higher percentages in Britain, Canada and Europe don't accept that proposition--then what exactly is the war about?

We know it's not really a "war on terror." Nor is it, at heart, a war against Islam, or even "radical Islam." The Muslim faith, whatever its merits for the believers, is a problematic business for the rest of us. There are many trouble spots around the world, but as a general rule, it's easy to make an educated guess at one of the participants: Muslims vs. Jews in "Palestine," Muslims vs. Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims vs. Christians in Africa, Muslims vs. Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims vs. Russians in the Caucasus, Muslims vs. backpacking tourists in Bali. Like the environmentalists, these guys think globally but act locally.

Yet while Islamism is the enemy, it's not what this thing's about. Radical Islam is an opportunistic infection, like AIDS: It's not the HIV that kills you, it's the pneumonia you get when your body's too weak to fight it off. When the jihadists engage with the U.S. military, they lose--as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. If this were like World War I with those fellows in one trench and us in ours facing them over some boggy piece of terrain, it would be over very quickly. Which the smarter Islamists have figured out. They know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there's an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default.

That's what the war's about: our lack of civilizational confidence.

Food for thought, as always, from Mark Steyn.

But I've also started reading Bostom's The Legacy of Jihad, though, and it so far seems to indicate that things are not quite like Hewitt, at least, is arguing.

Anyhoo, I'm done with the subject, blog-wise, for a while. I'm going to be spending the next couple of weeks on a Civil War reading binge.

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