Thursday, February 09, 2006

on the cartoon kerfuffle: at last

Much has been said, written, uttered, and spit out in regard to the decision of an otherwise obscure, global-wise, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, to publish 12 drawings pertaining to Islam, including the most notorious one (allegedly) depicting the Prophet.
I just wanna add my two cents by focusing on a small party of this story. While the cartoons have been reprinted by various European media, in North America no major newspaper has done so. This fact was noticed that the explanation was that it somehow another evidence of Europe's deep xenophobia and intolerance.
But I think the difference here is that in Europe 'militant secularism' is much more pervasive and powerful whereas in the USA, and by extention in Canada, religion has always been in much higher regard. Protestant Europe rejected religion long time ago, long before the current tide of post-modern secularism based on the fanatical hostility to the two thousand year tradition of European cultural Christian heritage, which has firmly put Europe on the road to oblivion, began to hold its sway. Religion was traded away for the first time, for nationalism in XVII-XIX centuries. Then came communism and nazism and by the time the current holders of the discourse arrived there had been not much left to salvage.

Despite Muslims' continous claims that they took offence at the cartoons due to their religious beliefs it is quite evident to me that deep down they are offended as people. On the other hand, European (overwhelmingly post-modern and hence 'liberal' in the American sense of this word) intellectuals are offended that Muslims do not want to see how they had always defended and excused them as people.
For European intellectuals it has been always customary to distinguish between ethnicity/race and religion. That's why up to this point it was quite easy for Euro-politicians to condemn Israel and suppor the Palestinian cause, as they thought of the Palestinians as just another victim of Western imperialism and in this context their particular religious beliefs were of little importance. When they mock and denigraded GOD that was always presumed that it was the Christian God simply because other Gods didn't matter and mocking and denigrading Judaism became off-limits after the Holocaust. But it would be only a matter of time before the hostile attitude towards RELIGION in general will be tested against Islam and so the time has come.

However in the long run this dispute will be resolved in a realm far the intellectual and cultural battlefield of today. It will be demography that determine the future. Post-modern(Protestant) Europe is dead and will only become deadder by simply dying out in a generation or so. I'm not so sure it will be Muslims who replace the Danish, Norway, Swedish, German and so 'folk' but I know it is going to happen.

P.S. On a second thought I should probably replace Protestant with post-Protestant - American evangelical movement is alive and well.


At 7:05 PM, Blogger A. Shah said...


The 'militant secularism' of the Europe is an interesting point which I haven't given much thought too. I think you're right that most European countries are more secular-minded and openly critical of religion than the US, or even Canada. This is probably an aggravating factor in terms of Europe's relationship with contemporary Islam. However, I suspect there are other factors that are stronger than secularism.

Europeans define themselves by their ethnicity/race to a much larger degree than North Americans. This also applies to their national identities too- they are defined by ethnicity, race and language. It only makes sense that Euros would therefore be more prone to view those foreigners trying to settle in their countries with suspicion and sometimes hostility.

I think another factor is the emphasis on preserving history and the old culture in the continent. Overall, I believe North American society is simply more dynamic- they are simply more willing to change their culture because of changes in their population and technology. So they are less likely to become apoplectic over immigrants altering the culture they live in.

I think another reason for the difference between NA and Europe are the successful battles for the rights of various minorities that have been fought for in NA. The sensitivity to ethnic/racial minority issues is strong in NA. I suppose a less flattering way of putting would be that NAs are more PC. To put it in your terms, NAs are 'more militant' when it comes to tolerating minorities. Europe on the other hand has a very history. I think you would probably agree that the major racial and ethnic conflicts in Europe in the 20th century have either led to the creation of new nation-states or the eradication of a minority. In the US and Canada, almost every major racial, ethnic, or religious conflict has been improved over time without the fragmentation of the state or wide-spread massacre (the major exception being the native population- but most of that abuse occurred a relatively long time ago) . I believe this has produced very different cultures- in NA there are strong cultural norms and attitudes that mitigate conflict between diverse groups (e.g. American historical 'amnesia' and orientation towards the future). Of course the emergence of the EU goes against these sweeping generalizations I've made. I think the EU might have a very positive transformative effect on old Euro culture- particularly with the inclusion of Eastern Europe and possibly Turkey. What do you think?

Finally, I think Euros are just less libertarian in their outlook. They're more likely to expect individuals to adapt to the community rather than having a live and let live attitude. This inevitably leads to more hostility towards Muslims who sometimes resist adopting their cultural norms. And yes- one of the most important cultural conflicts is the relative lack of secularism in Islam.

Phew, I didn't realize I would ramble on so long about this, but sometimes I just can't help myself :)

At 5:46 AM, Anonymous max said...

I would not agree with the claim that Europeans will die out in a generation or so. In fact, (non-Muslim, non-Asian) French women have the highest fertility rate - of 1.94 children. I think we are witnessing the slow transition to the new demographic model.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Oleksa said...

I think we are witnessing the slow transition to the new demographic model.

I never meant to imply that there would no one to inhabit those lands. But it won't be Europe as we know it.
The new demographic model of which I speak also means a new cultural and perhaps political and economic model. One might be quite content with the idea but it's important to realize what's going on.


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