War of the Worlds

Friday, April 18, 2008


Our interview with Naseem Mithoowani a couple weeks ago sparked a heated debate on our site about free speech, xenophobia, and a clash of cultures when it comes to Muslim immigrants in western societies. This week Bob takes a broader look at some of those issues in Europe, where this clash has been forceful, public, and at times violent. Bob talks with some of the main players in this struggle to define the future of free speech in Europe.
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Comments [28]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT


As you know, I am no fan of submission but resignation can be very useful. I have often in my life repeated, "I give up", usually five times in a row, and relaxed. Most of the time I went on to complete whatever I gave up on but relief from stress prevented futile obsession.

An excellent report and follow-up, I especially enjoyed the update on the Danish cartoons controversy and hearing again from the courageous Ms. Ali.

Apr. 24 2008 11:18 PM
Darrel Plant from Portland, Oregon

When Lawrence Pintak said this:

"And I may have no credentials Islamically, but if I've set myself up as a cleric and if I can convince a small group of people around me to follow me and then set up a website and influence others, I have a big impact, which is something that Islam as a whole is struggling to figure out how to deal with."

All I could think of was the various right-wing commentators and pundits that have been plastered all over the web and the airwaves for the past decade or so here int eh United States. I don't think that's an issue that has anything to do with how "Islamically"-inclined someone is.

Apr. 24 2008 02:55 PM
derek monroe from round lake , il

Mr Foster has a very valid point. Unfortunately, in the real world the political correctness is often used as fuel to get as much political mileage as possible for whoever has their own agenda. I think that it's time for us, normal and sober citizens to start taking our society back from all of these zealots and hotheads whose notion of propriety is scewered by their own twisted perception of honor and religiocity dipped into ketchup of intolerance and bigotry. A lot of it comes from ones own self feeling of victimhood that breeds a sense of entitlement as societal block to be later dispersed to individual own personal benefit. The system is as old as humanity itself and it played itself out in many other scenarios and cultures.

Apr. 24 2008 12:59 PM
Bruce M. Foster from NYC, NY

"It is just ironic that a relatively 'slight' insult on blacks and others is hugely condemned in the civil society (AND MOST RIGHTLY SO), but to insult Muslims is debated under the guise of Freedom of Expression."

Exactly what is the irony in this? Please explain because I see an utter lack of irony here. I see a misunderstanding of the concept of irony. Which might explain why this person apparently misunderstands other things, too.

But then apparently the actions of two competing groups of violent half-wits represents some massively fatal flaw in the notion of civil society. I see the reasoning here: If a someone objects to violent acts but some one who has nothing to do with them commits a violent act, then the objections to the original violent acts is trivial and not to be respected.

Call me when that is not the stupidest thing that I have ever heard. Apparently we are dumbing down so that bigots and fools can understand the world now.

Apr. 22 2008 02:05 PM
derek monroe

I think many people who bring the points here have a lot of arguments full of validity. However, if you believe in western democracy you also should believe in self-restraint as democracy first and foremost doesn't exist without responsibility. Yes, Canadian Muslims as well as Muslims elsewhere should use existing legal infrastructure to protect their rights, if they feel they are victims of hate speech they will have a plentiful opportunity to prove it in court. However, as golden rule all of these religious zealots whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Jews should ask themselves one and a very fundamental question:
Do they basic premise of modern ,secular society fits into their own premise of how the society should be and if they are ready to put aside they own religious prejudices and mindsets in order to live in a peaceful and productive co-existance. If not, I suggest they vacate themselves to the place that suits their aspirations and ideology better. Harping one side's injustice vs the other does not make the things better or let the people get along more. To all believers, your religion is judged soley by your personal actions whether in life or business and the grandstanding on religious principles while fulfilling own personal egos is the biggest bonfire of vanities that burns throughout centuries without stopping.

Apr. 22 2008 09:54 AM
joe magner from Corvallis, OR

At the U of OR, a student group called the Insurgent, decided that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and so tried to publish a cartoon called Coppertone Jesus but the really offensive one was Jesus on a cross with a Hard On.

One can read below about the response to the Jesus cartoons. A search on Goolge will bring up a few more references. I remember reading many really vitriolic and threatening comments directed at the Insurgent. Sound Familiar?



(note above you will find the ONE cartoon if you scroll down, this website is a conservative site and loves to find a way to show hate torwards liberals and uses what ever means, even if it requires publishing something offensive to do it)

This caused a response not unlike what the Islamics had against the Denmark cartoons. It was amazing, all those who reacted with horror at the Islamic response did EXACTLY that same reaction they damned.


Well we found out - they did just like the Islamics whose actions they condemned.

This brings to mind the statement of Jesus about the splinter or speck in the others eye when one has a planck in ones own eye.

Apr. 22 2008 01:29 AM
N Van der Riese

(cont.) Are such cartoons not challenging but incendiary? Like the bomb in Muhammad’s turban? Not incendiary but challenging?

The West was built on and stands with the blade, the bomb, the bullet, and the serpent’s tongue. It was built for the preservation of Europe and to establish the Euro-white race and its cultures at forefront- the mecca-of freedom, thinking, art, science. Good news, the West is already dead. It’s already gone. But death is a process, and this struggle with Islam is not for ‘right’ but survival. Let both great destroyers, the West and Islam, die together.

Apr. 21 2008 10:15 PM
N Van der Riese

First, I would posit ‘the folly of minority mentality’ against that of white guilt. As majority, behave as such. In the west, it’s called democracy. A political cartoon to demonstrate the point is captioned, ‘Animal assumes 5/5,’ and shows African Americans beating, lashing, and lynching a naked Thomas Jefferson with the declaration that the Constitution entitles men to pursue happiness. Another cartoon shows European imperialists distributing to native men on foreign soils “Euro-Hegemon Kits,” including white face and rosy cheeks, European texts to quote, classical music to reference, European languages to study, spirits to guzzle, and a white woman to rape. The caption is, “On becoming the third world.”
There is a cartoon with Hitler adorned as Moses leading his people, white Jews, into the promised land of Israel as seas of those from extinct civilizations and those today partially extinct and culturally cleansed under democracies and constitutions bow on either side in atonement. There is a cartoon captioned ‘Education Redistribution Campaign,’ where ancient civilizations are given white face to ease the transfer of information. In another, Indigenous Americans are shackled and interned by the Statue of Liberty. The last I will mention, Hitler strokes his chin settling with the Western World and its ‘multiculturalism’ on this thought, “But on the life of every Jew, I couldn't have built a greater Aryan race.”

Apr. 21 2008 10:14 PM
Dr. Carol Poll from Sea Cliff, New York (Long Island)

Your coverage of the role of the fundamentalist Islamists on censoring debate on issues of the role of democracy and Western values and Islam was superb. It was a riveting program capturing the seriousness of the issues.

Dr. Carol Poll

Apr. 21 2008 06:08 PM

It is just ironic that a relatively 'slight' insult on blacks and others is hugely condemned in the civil society (AND MOST RIGHTLY SO), but to insult Muslims is debated under the guise of Freedom of Expression.

Apr. 21 2008 03:19 PM
naomi dagen bloom from new york city

Excellent program that needs to be heard in venues other than NPR--such as educational settings where students have the maturity for what the commenter Melissa rightly describes as "nuanced and thoughtful" perspectives on this issue.

Apr. 21 2008 01:55 PM

Athar Murturza - you don't know what you're talking about. maybe you didn't realize this but the Muslim group who are trying to stop this newspaper article are asking that they should be allowed to publish a pro-Islam counter argument written by anyone they choose, and that it be published on the front page of the PRIVATE paper without any editing. wake up. that's ridiculous. it's a private paper. nobody has the right to do that. that's called censorship. a private paper can print whatever they want to. nobody is forcing Muslims to read it. oh boo hoo people are offended by it. everyone, everywhere, could find something that offended them. but who are the ones blowing themselves up for it? who are the ones who forced a CARTOONIST into hiding because of death threats? Muslims. and stop bringing up historical events. maybe you didn't listen to the actual show. it's about "Islam VS free speech". please, stay on topic. it's not difficult.

Apr. 21 2008 03:15 AM

free speech is absolute. hate speech included. offended by something? don't look at it.

Apr. 21 2008 03:10 AM
Alissa from Seattle

The story and the interviews (and the comments) are among the most nuanced and thoughtful takes on the issues of inter-cultural participation in the world's "democracies" - fledgling or otherwise. Just goes to show that it can be done. Not perfect, not pleasing everyone, but interesting and thoughtful. Thanks.

Apr. 20 2008 10:05 PM
Athar Murtuza from south orange, NJ

Dear Bob
with due respect, let me say the following:
I find it difficult to believe that you do not kmow about the hundreds of thousands people killed by your "Christian President" for his lust of oil, not to mention the trillions of dollars sunk in Iraqi quagmire. Why don't you ask former King of Belgium Leopold about how many millions of African he had killed. While you are at it, look up how many Africans were lynched by people who think Jesus was blond, blue-eyed, red-necked and spoke with a southern accent. by the way what did your Christians did to American Indians? and was it not a Christians who went around shooting family planning clinics.

When Jesus said love others--he was talking not about loving one's genetic clones, but others, no matter who they were. If you don't know that, sue your priest/minister.

You will find Luke 6:46 instructive! "why do you keep calling me "Lord, Lord" and never do what I tell you."

Apr. 20 2008 08:38 PM
Athar Murtuza from south orange, NJ

Mr. Monroe says "that many people would use a legal process in western countries to try to reinforced their own rights that they themselves deny in their own countries."
Muslims living in Canada are Canadians---so what do ou mean when you claim that they would deny those rights themselves to others?

it is you who is in denial when you deny the Canadian Muslims the right to make use of the Canadian Laws to prevent hate speech.

If there a opperssive regimes in the Muslim countries who put them there! United States' nourished Saddam and it overthrew a demoncratic goverment in Iran back in 1953. You are also in denial about the policies of your own politicians that led to 9/11. Religion had nothing to do with it.

Apr. 20 2008 08:25 PM
bob from USA

I wish to take issue with those who note that insults to Christianity were met with protests. There were complaints, not riots. People wrote letters to the editor, but did not kill people in the streets. Southpark routinely depicted Christ in images that even atheists would call blasphemy, yet not a single person died. There is no comparison.

Years ago, futurist David Brin pointed out the fundamental flaw in multiculturalism: it acknowledges all POV's, including the ones that believe that multiculturalism should be eliminated. Islamic Fundamentalism has realized Brin's prediction.

Apr. 20 2008 07:10 PM
derek monroe from round lake, IL

As person that visited middle east as writer and Israel I have an opinion that both West and Muslims are blamed for the current status quo. It's very nice that many people would use a legal process in western countries to try to reinforced their own rights that they themselves deny in their own countries. The number one problem of Muslims which they always are in denial is the lack of modern education of majority of population while living under opressive regimes that ration the anger of their people to divert them from their own issues and shortcumings. That said, I believe the most decent Muslims that I know actually live in the West and many are able to learn western values of freedom of speech and individual freedom and respect and hopefully they will be able to pass it on. The dark Muslim masses first and foremost have to fix their own countries so there is a major reform for justice , empowerment and equal distribution of wealth as proscribed by Koran. Otherwise, look at the issues of who is benefiting from the turmoil and how people live whether in Gaza, Cairo, Marrakesh of Jakarta. On the other hand the West is opportunistically supporting the opressors or giving the priority to many corporate agendas that have nothing to do with freedom or democracy.

Apr. 20 2008 04:20 PM
Athar Murtuza from south orange, NJ

If proof was needed that Israel is the self-desiganted heir to Apartheid, one only need look at the highways in Occupied Palestine to know South African legacy is alive and sustained by right-wing Likudniks. The New York Times as well as the New York Review of Books have published pictures of such highways in Israel.

What about speaking out when right wing Jewish settlers spread rat poison on the pasture grazed by the goats of Arabs who live in the caves of North Hebron. There is a book about it written by a University of Chicago professor who also happens to be Jewish.

why is questioning the status of what Holocaust has turned into by a Jewish professor denied tenure not protected by freedom of speech?
killing is killing, whether done by cluster-bombs supplied by the United State to those who effectively control the behavior of its politicans, or by suicide bombers or even gas chambers treated any different. why is a death of a jewish right wing fascist any worse than the killings at Sabra and Shitila?.

what about the 50+ Americans killed by Isreali bombing that went on for hours on USS Liberty? That nobody talks about those murdered American sailors is a proof of stranglehold AIPAC has on United States and the freedom of speech.

Isreal is actually doing to Palestinians what Iranian President mouths off. but nobody talks of that double standard. The documentary, "where in the world is Osama," shows the right to free speech does not exist in Israel.

Apr. 20 2008 02:59 PM
Athar Murtuza from south orange, NJ

It seems amazing when Erica Jong calls Arabs animals( it is the title of one of the chapters in her book, Fear of Flying), nobody gets stirred up. Nobody seems to mind when Right Wing Jews routinely refer to Arabs as animals. Oriana Fallaci--should it be Fallacy--routinely called Muslims animal. Yet the latter day proponent of the BIG LIE never seem to get tired of repeating how Arab childrens are taught in schools.
Why do you shed crocodile tears when some of 1.5 billion Muslims act the way they have been portrayed in the Western books and media for 12 centuries. If you demonize that many people for that long a time, don't be surprised when some them act out that characterization.

european cartoons would normally be ignored, were it not for the european history of colonial oppression. combined those cartoons with speech by the Pope, daily demonization in the Western Media, TV evangalists mouthing off, and you know what would cause anger to boil over. It seems. as pointed in David Lewis's Crucible of God, Europeans cannot get over the facts that Chinese discovered Paper, compass, gun powder; South Asian discovered zero; and Muslims brought the Chinese and Indian knowledge as well as a great deal more to Europe which was at that time a place whose inhabitants were in need of being toilet trained.
No body minds when abuse is heaped on Jimmy Carter when he points out the apartheid that is part and parcel of the Zionist Theocracy in the Middle East.

Apr. 20 2008 02:48 PM
Daniel from Atlanta

I did enjoy the report, but I did notice two things. First, why frame the report as Muslim vs. the West and then claim the launching point was the reaction to last week's story about Canadian press freedom? Did you not see last week's story as how Canada has chosen to differentiate between free speech and community responsibility? Were Muslims the driving force in creating that difference? It would make a good story to explore how other Western countries interpret free speech and how far they go. By framing the story the way you did, you laid blame on clashing cultures. That's true, but in the case of Canadian story it's a clash of our northern neighbor's values.

Secondly, did you notice the word acculturation was said only once in the story? And that came from an interview. Assimilation was used a lot, implying that is the standard immigrant groups should hold to. Perhaps a story exploring the difference between the two. Of course, it could lead to a conclusion that people in the West have something to learn from others. Be prepared for some negative feedback on that one.

Apr. 20 2008 11:27 AM
Jay Tea from http://www.wizbangblog.com

I have a very simple question that I have never received a good answer to:

Do I, as a non-Muslim living in a non-Muslim nation, have the right to not obey Muslim laws?

I believe I have the right to do whatever I wish in contravention with Muslim laws -- including blasphemy, defaming the Prophet Mohammed, draw pictures of him, and discuss what I consider the most heinous aspects of Islam. I have that right because I am an American living in the United States.

Others can discourage me from doing so, appealing to my sense of responsibility and calling for civil behavior, but no one has the right to force me to obey Islamic law. If I choose to be rude and contemptuous and insulting, then that is my right.

At least, that is how I understand the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. If I am mistaken, and somehow the sensibilities of Muslims trump the Constitution, I apologize -- I missed that particular change.


Apr. 20 2008 10:26 AM
Rich from USA

Great report, Its very metaphorical in that the same interaction occurs with issues of race, pro life, and so on.

The repressive society aspects of where people come from and what they expect are a great illistration for an attempted explanation of this violence in most respects. A cultural willingness to absolutely condemn must be tamed. Patience and free speech must be maintained at all costs. It take years to realize why one reacts the way they do.

But the point at the end when the word submission came into play was interesting because rhetoricaly people dont submit they buy into a better or perceived better way. And if the words deliverence and understaning are used then I beleive that peaceful change will manifest but over time. Time which few in the more peaceful societies are not so patient with.
The perceieved disrespect with the cartoon must be attoned and be used to provide communication the overall message. The absolute condemnation of the 'hand that feeds you' must be attoned as well.

Apr. 20 2008 10:23 AM
Greta from France

Some of the comments on this blog are so inane, they are embarrassing to anyone who is intelliegent. Do we condemn the Catholics for the church's pedophilia? Do we condemn the Mormans for some member's polygamy? Do we condemn Jews for the insane actions, including murders of Christian and Muslim Palestinians, of illegal settlers in the occupied territories?

The answer should be a resounding 'no'. It's people who are doing those actions, not the religion. But we seem to have no perspective when it comes to Islam. Islam, like the other two mono-theistic religions has its good points and its bad points. Since it's mostly MEN who defy the teachings of these religions, bastardize them, and make women and children suffer... maybe we should just condemn men.

Apr. 20 2008 08:07 AM
Chris from Montgomery County, MD, USA

Wow! This story kept me listening for the whole hour and I will be thinking about it for some time to come. The not so subtle idea, returned to again and again from several directions, about how the discord in the various Islamic communities is simply part of the process of acculturation. It is very powerful and worth exploring further, if only because this process isn't following the expected/traditional paths many western societies are accustomed to.

I did hear the story last week which spurred this week's follow up story and I hope that "On the Media" returns to this topic again in the to future to get a sense of where the discussion may be going.

Thank you for following your curiosity and bringing greater depth to a set of issues without easy definition, which often require long term, complicated solutions to address.

Apr. 19 2008 05:19 PM
Joan Gabriel from West Tisbury, MA

Excellent program -- examining in depth the issue of the Islamic vs. free-speech conflict! Thank you.

The angry reaction of Muslims to the Palestinian issue is a legitimate one in response to injustices that the Palestinians have suffered. But beyond that, the problem here is that the radical Islamic double-standard is murderous. Some Muslim religious "leaders" defame, incite violence against and demean other religions and people OUTSIDE of the Palestinian issue with what they feel is complete justification and a basis in the Koran. But according to their "rules" no one is allowed to defend themselves or respond in kind upon threat of death. This is equivalent to a rageaholic saying "I'm allowed to scream, yell and tell you you are worthless and should be punished. But if you dare disagree with me or raise a hand to me, I'll kill you!"

I know moderate Muslims and I respect their beliefs and they respect mine. However, when anyone says it's fine for them to do or say whatever they want....but I have to shut up -- I see very dangerous signals.

I suspect that we will confront real peril in this area soon unless we can convey a message to Muslim leaders that say: "Until you treat others' religions with some consideration you will need to expect that others will react strongly and speak out in their own defense." And unfortunately because radical Islamists provoke so much anger in those they insult, it is not surprising that some people react in anger.

Apr. 19 2008 05:05 PM
Alan McKenney from Westchester County, NY, USA

I wish to speak specifically to the issue of the Danish anti-Muslim cartoons.

When people in the US discuss these cartoons, they talk as if they were just Islamicly-incorrect depictions of Mohammed. However, a while back, I looked them up on the web, and I have to say, some of them were, to my (non-Islamic) mind, clearly hate speech, intended to shock and insult. Muslims, and maybe Mohammed, were depicted in some as sub-human, inherently bloodthirsty monsters, whose only purpose in life was the destruction of all civilization.

Moreover, one must see the reactions of European Muslims in context. Europeans "tolerate" Muslims, but they still see every way in which Muslims differ from their Dutch/Danish/etc. neighbors as, at best, evidence of Muslims' lack of civilsation, and at worst as a threat to their country. Muslims see these cartoons, like the positions of right-wing politicians throught Europe, as simply public expressions of what most of their neighbors think and say in private.

I should note that Christians can react just as strongly to "insults" to Christianity -- does anybody remember the reactions to the movie "Last Temptation of Christ"? I seem to recall hearing of death threats and threats to blow up theaters that showed the movie.

By the way, the violence in Egypt and other Muslim countries has to be seen for what it is: local politicians exploiting the issue for local political advantage.

Apr. 19 2008 08:44 AM
A Muslim from Somalia

You can’t expect Muslims to demonstrate when someone did bad thing to a non Muslim, I don't see must Americans and Europeans condemn people who insulting my religion and my prophet (PBUH), western country are so corrupted they become center of hypocrisy.

Apr. 19 2008 05:34 AM

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