Archive for February, 2006

Systematic desensitisation

Protesters in Beirut have added their voices to demands for change in European law which would forbid depictions of Mohammed. The Muslim Action Committee have already demanded an amendment to the Race Relations Act which would do the same thing.

Obviously, such legislation is out of the question. If one religious taboo is given special protection by law, then why not others? Christians will insist the Blasphemy law be strengthened. Scientologist will want to make it illegal to disrespect L Ron Hubbard. Elvis fans might want Elvis impersonators outlawed.

Let’s be frank here. Say someone sketches a picture of a bearded bloke with a fuse in his turban. If he labels that sketch “Dave”, it’s unlikely to provoke much response in anyone. But if he labels it “Mohammed”, and looking at that sketch suddenly causes you inconsolable grief, or sends you into a murderous rage, it seems reasonable to conclude that you need help.

This help could take one of two forms. Either you are protected from seeing any such image again, or we work on changing your response to such images. The former is impossible, but fortunately there is a real possibility of implementing the latter.

There is a technique in cognitive-behavioural therapy called systematic desensitisation. Unlike other psychological therapies of the Freudian or Jungian schools, this technique is evidence-based, and actually seems to work.

From wikipedia:

To begin the process of systematic desensitization, one must first be taught relaxation skills in order to control fear and anxiety responses to specific phobias. Once the individual has been taught these skills, he or she must use them to react towards and overcome situations in an established hierarchy of fears.

So rather than go down the repressive and censorious legislation route, the European press should take the healthy option and help that small-but-vocal number of Muslims who are suffering from this disorder by publishing Mohammed cartoons every day of the week. Start with small and respectful depictions, and over the months work up to outrageous bomb-headed caricatures. By the end of the year, hey presto! The only murderous nut cases demanding the heads of cartoonists will be the ones who don’t read the papers.

Just a thought.

“Muslim Action Committee” calls for special privilege

Demands for Islam to be afforded special legal protection continue to grow, with the latest news that a group calling itself the “Muslim Action Committee” is calling for a change in the Race Relations Act and the Press Complaints Commission code to prohibit depictions of the prophet Mohammed.

They claim that this will give Muslims the same protection as Sikhs and Jews. But as neither Sikhism nor Judaism have any protection under the law, it’s hard to see what the hell they mean by that. Christianity is protected by the Blasphemy law – but that is completely toothless, and serves only as a cash-drain for idiotic zealots daft enough to try to get a prosecution under it.

Another question that needs to be raised more often: how on earth do you know that any particular picture of Mohammed is indeed a picture of Mohammed? Listen to Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels:

Really – why do all the offended people accept that the cartoons are of Mohammed? Because a bunch of non-Muslim Danish cartoonists say they are? But how would they know? And what are they, magic? They can transform a drawing of some generic bearded guy in a turban into a representation of a specific person who died fourteen centuries ago? How? By saying so, by writing his name underneath, by the context of the jokes. But that still doesn’t make the cartoons cartoons of the actual Mohammed – not for people who just don’t accept that that’s what they are. Why don’t all the infuriated Muslims just laugh and shrug and ignore the whole thing? Why don’t they just say ‘those goofy Danish cartoonists, pretending they’ve drawn pictures of Mohammed – like they have any idea what he looked like. I’m so sure’? Why don’t they just say ‘you guys don’t know what Mohammed looked like any more than we do, and probably less (because we have this like inner intuition, which is denied to non-Muslims), so dream on – draw your stupid little pictures if you want to, we don’t care, it’s nothing to do with us’?

Actually the whole taboo is empty, it’s a taboo without a referent. It’s like a taboo on walking on water, or a taboo on sleeping on the wing of a jet plane when it’s in flight. Nobody can make a representation of Mohammed, it’s quite, quite impossible – so why worry about it? Just making representations of a man and naming them Mohammed doesn’t make them Mohammed – so why on earth worry about it?

Answers on a postcard.

BTW, and Egyptian paper apparently published them back in October – and nobody batted an eyelid at the time.

(Hat tip PP)

Toon hoax exposed

American blog Neandernews has discoverd the source of one of the three “extra” cartoons distributed by Danish imams in their successful attempt to stir up outrage in the Middle East.
mo pig hoax
The image on the left was one of the three added by the imams, allegedly showing Mohammed as a pig. It is actually a grainy photocopy of the image on the right, which is a photo of Jacques Barrot, a contestant at the French Pig-Squealing Championships in August 2005.

Maybe the Danish imams should enter a team for this year’s championship?

(Tipped from Brussels Journal)

New York – 0, Moscow – 1

Editorial staff at the New York Press have resigned because they were not allowed to publish the Mohammed cartoons.

More at Harry’s Place.

Meanwhile a museum in Moscow has announced that it will exhibit all 12 of the Mo toons. Yuri Samodurov, director of the Sakharov Museum and Pulic centre, said:

We must show the whole world that Russia goes along with Europe, that the freedom of expression is much more important for us than the dogmas of religious fanatics

A couple of questions for the Danish imams who kicked up all the fuss, and for the Saudis who made it go global:
– Have your actions improved the image of Islam worldwide, or tarnished it?
– As a result of your actions, are there now fewer disrespectful images of your prophet in the world, or more?

Marching for special treatment

Thousands of Muslims are expected to attend a rally this weekend. According to Iqbal Sacranie of the MCB, the purpose of this rally is twofold:
1) To demand that Islam be treated with a higher degree of respect than any other religion. In particular, that one of its taboos – that its prophet must not be depicted pictorially – should apply not only to good Muslims, but also to everyone else in the world.
2) To condemn those Muslims who make this demand too shrilly and violently.

We’re just as touchy, claim Springer campaigners

The anti JS:TO campaign turned out in force last night at Birmingham’s Hippodrome. About 60 tambourine bashing leafleters turned up – twice the number that attended the opening in Plymouth.

Inevitable comparisons with Muslim toon rage arose. Nigel Powell, of Hurst Green Family Church in Halesowen, said:

It is the same sort of thing – the Muslims are offended by what was in the Danish newspaper and we are deeply offended by what is taking place here.

“One of the Muslim spokesmen actually made a comment that they were the only religion in the world left that really cares about their God – they said even Christians are happy to let the Life of Brian and Jerry Springer – the Opera take place without any protest. Well we do care and there has been a lot of protests. We love Jesus with a passion and we find this deeply offensive.

This “loving” of semi-mythical dead prophets “with a passion” does seem to cause a few problems, doesn’t it?

Cardiff student paper publishes cartoons

At the foot of the Omar Khayam article comes the news that the Cardiff University student newspaper published the cartoons and then apologised for it. Gair rhydd (“free word” in Welsh) won the Guardian’s Student Newspaper and Magazine of the Year award in 2005. Now its editor and two of its writers have been suspended. Its website is down at the time of writing.

UPDATE: The BBC now reports that the magazine has been withdrawn and pulped, although about 200 are thought to remain in circulation. The same report says

It is thought Cardiff University’s student union paper Gair Rhydd is the first UK publication to use the image which has caused global protests.

Actually, The Freethinker, the UK’s secular humanist monthly, published two of the cartoons back in November (the fizzy-bomb-head one was on the front page). But this year’s Hajj trajedy hadn’t occurred by then, and the Saudis hadn’t yet felt the need to kick up a distracting stink.

Cartoon revenge

Yes, I know. It’s still going on and it’s getting a bit boring, but this latest idea of cartoon revenge is quite funny.

First, the Arab European League decide to test the boundaries of free expression by publishing a few anti-semitic and holocaust-denying cartoons on their website. And now Iranian newspaper, Hamshahiri, is holding a holocaust-denying cartoon competition.

While these cartoons will undoubtedly be hurtful to many Jewish people – just as the Mohammed cartoons were hurtful to many Muslims – it will be interesting to see how many death threats the AEL will receive, and how many Iranian embassies are torched as a result.

Suicide dress-up boy says sorry

Omar Khayam, the former smack dealer turned cartoon protester who committed a fancy-dress faux pas at the Danish embassy, has said he is sorry, and hopes that will be the end of the matter.

But the police are still investigating him and a prosecution may yet follow. Didn’t know there was a law against making a twat of yourself in public.

However, there is a law against incitement to murder, which some of his fellow demonstrators broke. They should get the book thrown at them.

UPDATE: Omar is back in jail for breaching his parole.

Stones get Super-Bowled

As a bit of light relief from murderous Mo toon temper tantrums, let us turn our gaze across the Atlantic where the Rolling Stones are considered too fruity for the sensitive ears of your average American football fan.

According to the BBC. the Stones played three songs during their half-time performance, two of which were censored. Start Me Up and Rough Justice both received the blue pencil treatment, but (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction remained untouched.

Presumably the Start Me Up line that caused faint hearts to flutter was

You’d make a dead man come

As to Rough Justice, it’s a toss up between

Once upon a time I was your little rooster
But am I just one of your cocks


So put your lips to my hips, baby
And tell me what’s on your mind

Maybe next year they’ll invite Iggy Pop?

(Thanks to Andrew)