February 08, 2006
A few days ago I wrote about how deliberations increase extremism.
Let's take a look at the Muhammad Cartoon controversy.
I want to look at thoughtful deliberation, not grandstanding, so let's pass over the thousands of opinion-leaders and bloggers spouting on about their principles of "free speech," or outrage over "blasphemy," or paternalistic calls for "tolerance."
Let's instead look at all the people who are struggling to explain the reasons behind the situation. Why do the Muslim demonstrations continue to spread? And why now, why this time? What dominoes must fall for 12 unfunny Danish cartoons to cause so much anger four months later on the other side of the planet? Smart people everywhere are trying to explain.
The West Deliberates
The Telegraph's Anton La Guardia has been analyzing the events from the Western point of view; he can't believe, it seems, that Muslims around the world can possibly be so nuts, so there must be a reason. He points out "the role of [Danish imam] Ahmad Abu Laban in stirring up an international campaign," but believes that it is important to recognize that "the political dimension in the Middle East is a vital ingredient of the explosive mix - particularly the role of Saudi Arabia."
Being quite reasonable, he proposes this is not because of a "shadowy co-ordinated plot across the Middle East," but because of "intense competition to demonstrate zeal in defending the honour of the Prophet." In his opinion, the dynamic between Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Hamas is one of one-upsmanship: "None can allow their rivals to claim ownership of the Prophet Muhammad."
Muslims aren't so nuts, it seems; the actions of callous and power-hungry Islamist governments are driving the people to anger.
The Middle East Deliberates
The Beirut Daily Star's Rami Khouri takes the Arab point of view; he can't believe, it seems, that Muslims around the world can possibly so nuts, so there must be a reason. "It would be a huge mistake," he says, "to focus mainly on the few violent political skinheads, and to ignore the meaning of the vast majority of hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched in earnest and in an orderly way."
Being quite reasonable, he proposes that the protests are "no mere clash of clutures." Instead, they reflect a much more pervasive anger among Muslim populations on a broad range of issues. For example: "Many ordinary citizens in the Arab-Asian region see the European position on Iran's nuclear industry and the victorious Hamas party in Palestine as moving closer to American-Israeli positions that grossly discriminate against Arabs or Muslims."
Muslims aren't so nuts, it seems; the actions of callous and power-hungry Western governments are driving the people to anger.
Cool-headed deliberations arrive at polarized, extremist conclusions. We discuss amongst ourselves using thoughtful language. We look at all the facts. We believe that the world is basically rational. The whole time we try to be quite reasonable.
But in the end we conjure the demons that we want to see.Posted by David at February 8, 2006 11:02 AM
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