Tuesday, February 07, 2006


For Whom The Bells Toll

Not hear? When noise was everywhere! It tolled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,--
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
-- Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

I looked, and saw between us and the sun
A building on an island; such a one
As to age to age might add, for uses vile,
A windowless, deformed and dreary pile;
And on the top an open tower, where hung
A bell, which in the radiance swayed and swung;
We could just hear its hoarse and iron tongue:
The broad sun sunk behind it, and it tolled
In strong and black relief.
--Juilan and Maddalo

"Exterminate Those Who Mock Islam"; "Be Prepared for the Real Holocaust". And so on. And these people have a right to say these things - the very right they are trying to deny others with the threat of violence. “–Andrew Sullivan

“Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all...This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death….The same point holds for international relations: There can be no negotiation under duress or under the threat of blackmail and assassination. And civil society means that free expression trumps the emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be inconvenient. It is depressing to have to restate these obvious precepts…” --Christopher Hitchens

“In America we take our freedom to offend seriously; we would never threaten the lives of artists who paint the Virgin Mary with animal dung, or put a crucifix into a jar of urine -we limit the argument to whether our National Endowment for the Arts will subsidize these artists.” —Daryl Cagle, in one of the best blogs about the bust.

It’s been reported in print that the Ayatollah Sistani declared that Denmark should take measures to prevent blasphemy. Fair enough, after all he is the Grand Ayatollah, so this comes with the territory presumably. However, more interesting, CNN International also reported that Sistani had declared that Islamic terrorists brought these cartoons upon themselves. Thus, if the report is true, what we have is a situation where an Ayatollah in Iraq assesses the situation with the same boldness (if not more on occasion) than our own supposedly secular press. That our conservative government meekly suggests “the freedom of speech is not a freedom to insult” is perhaps not surprising (it is of course just such a thing, what it is not is an inclination to insult). However, to hear similar things from those who are not otherwise inclined is truly sad. Yusuf Kanli in the Turkish Daily News writes: “We must, however, once again clearly underline our strong conviction that there's a limit to all freedoms…freedom of expression and the free press understanding should not and cannot entail the right to hurt the feelings and insult the beliefs of people of other religions.” No, what it should be limited to is that which incites violence and can be directly connected to acts of violence. And by “inciting violence,” one does not mean inciting it against themselves as they seem to have done in this case. Had the printing of these cartoons themselves been traced directly to the harassment of Muslims then they may have had a point, and no I don’t think “contributing to a general atmosphere of discrimination” is a strong enough case since any editorial suggesting an unwanted association of Islam and terrorism could fall under such a category. As for British appeasement, well, they have their hands full, politics as it is these days. Salman Rushdie gave a warning earlier with his piece on Pamuk: "The Turkish application is being presented (most vociferously by Tony Blair and Jack Straw) as a test case for the EU. To reject it, we are told, would be a catastrophe, widening the gulf between Islam and the West. There is an element of Blairite poppycock in this, a disturbingly communalist willingness to sacrifice Turkish secularism on the altar of faith-based politics. " You’d think the rigid secularists here would take this opportunity to take a stand, but they seem to be hiding behind the Islamists as well. The desire to be balanced in one’s criticism seems to hinder one’s objective stance. A carpet ban on drawing a prophet, whether negative or positive, is analogous to a fatwa against mentioning the prophet’s name outside a prayer or mosque. When the other side is reacting violently, such concerns are not merely theoretical. All this at a time when our foreign minister is declaring that Turkey is where civilizations meet and that anti-Semitism is being replaced with anti-Islam in Europe, the same day a Catholic priest is shot in Trabzon by a teenager for either the same reasons, or for Pope-murdering Mafioso mimicry, or a combination of both. Or, perhaps, simply on a whim, because the sun shined so…


Major Major Major's Section 8

The trial of five journalists who criticized a judge's decision to ban an Armenian conference should remind one of the recent episode involving the National Security Council Secretary General’s trip to the US where he said that the Turkish courts should do a better job of educating their judges. This resulted in a quick response by the judiciary, expressing the language of a clearly outraged and insulted party. Had Pamuk been the one denigrating the reputation of the Turkish judiciary outside the country, perhaps he would have also faced an additional 10 years.

Speaking of matters of the law, the juxtaposition of the Agca case and the conscientious objector case brought to the European Union courts also exposed the ridiculousness that's brought on by the rules governing mandatory military service. Somehow being a convicted murderer did not automatically disqualify Agca from serving the military. In the short time that he had remained released, he had a mandatory health check-up to determine whether he was eligible for military service, during which time it was determined that he could not do his military service because he was, to the surprise of everyone, "anti-social". On the other side, you have an otherwise innocent guy who refuses to go into the military and is punished because avoiding military service is a criminal offense. It's apparently an interesting proposition to suggest a convicted murderer should be banned from military service purely on blatantly obvious ethical grounds, but if that's the case, then under the present laws you have a situation where there are many innocent people who are trying to avoid doing their military service being punished while a convicted murderer is being rewarded, from their point of view, for the crimes he committed. Anyone seen Yossarian?


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