Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Acceptance of Intolerance

I've been following the Mohammed cartoon controversy with increasing unease at the level of hatred and violence which has been unleashed. Today I came across this and decided others needed to see it.

From: Australian Prayer Network


Source: Miranda Devine writing in the Sydney Morning Herald

Editors comment: The raising of voices of protest against cartoons that Muslims claim to be blasphemy is understandable and acceptable in a free society. If only Christians would similarly verbalise their protest when Jesus Christ is regularly vilified in the name of "freedom of expression". The destruction of property, the loss of life, and the ongoing threat to human life by Muslims in many nations across the world however is not, and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.

As the following article expresses, the protests which we have seen recently take on much greater significance beyond the obvious immediate implications, because they represent a worrying intolerance towards non Islamic views (even in non Islamic countries) which we must be alert to and see the significance of in the stated wider radical Islamic agenda to Islamicise the world. In our own country Islam has already been at the forefront of court action endeavouring to force Christians to be silent in their critique of Islamic belief. If this trend, as evidenced by recent events, is allowed to continue unchallenged it will inevitably result in a loss of freedom of expression and a subservience to whatever Islam decides it will or will not allow, even in countries where they are in the minority. People of any religious belief must of course always have the right in a free society to express verbal non violent dissent towards things they disagree with, however current attitudes of intolerance of anything that conflicts with their religious worldview is unacceptable and must be resisted at all costs to protect our own freedoms.

THE insane violence of riots over religious cartoons is a flexing of muscles by those men of the Islamic world who have long felt emasculated and insulted by the West's economic superiority. Empowered by Osama bin Laden's September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, they have also been emboldened by the West's internal divisions and its feeble response to increasing acts of intolerance and provocation.

Similarly, a semi-official policy by NSW authorities of not antagonising groups of young Arab-Australian men behaving criminally or antisocially in Sydney has enfeebled police, while emboldening law-breakers to ever more audacious behaviour, such as the revenge attacks after the Cronulla riots.

The institutionalised weakness of the West is epitomised by its reaction to the riots over the cartoons: the apologies from governments, the sacking of an editor in France, the ready acceptance by newspapers of a limit to free speech, despite the fact the cartoons are so tame by the standards of Western satire. The most provocative cartoon is probably one that shows a Muhammad-like figure with a fuse coming out of his turban, or one with a queue of smoking suicide bombers on a cloud with an Islamic cleric saying "Stop. We ran out of virgins".

But the global over-reaction to the publication in a privately owned newspaper in a Western secular society shows that there are increasing numbers of Muslims who expect to be able to control what non-Muslims do in their own countries. The murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 by a Muslim extremist enraged by his documentary about violence against Muslim women was just the start.

In Australia all but one newspaper has refrained from publishing the cartoons because of the uncharacteristically sensible desire not to inflame the madness, which has so far resulted in nine deaths. But while we accommodate the intolerant, we seem ever more determined to ferret out any whiff of intolerance in ourselves.

Witness the calls this week by a Victorian teachers union for cultural re-education of children after a survey of 551 high school students found a majority had negative attitudes towards Muslims. An editorial in The Age even attempted to excuse the inexcusable, saying of the survey results: "Little wonder many Muslims see the 'war on terror' as a war on them. Their community is besieged by hostility and suspicion, which helps explain why they want to make their hurt felt ."

Civilised people don't usually make their "hurt felt" by torching other people's embassies, stoning churches and waving the sort of banners reported at a protest over the cartoons in London last week: "Massacre those who insult Islam", "Europe, your 9/11 will come".

This creeping acceptance of intolerance in our midst is what Daniel Pipes, the director of a US think tank, the Middle East Forum, has warned about as the second prong of a radical Islamic attack on the West: a relentless demand for cultural change. This non-violent but incremental encroachment on Western secular society curtails freedoms and accords the Muslim minority special privileges.

For instance, during a visit to Australia after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Pipes warned against allowing driver's licence photos with faces obscured by veils. Militant Islamists believe their totalitarian ideology is superior to our liberal democracy, he said at the time. "When there's a difference between their approach and the Australian approach, they want Australia to become like them and not vice versa," he said.

It was the hate-preaching imams of Denmark who were said to have ignited the controversy over the cartoons, four months after their publication in September, when they travelled to the Middle East with a dossier of cartoons aimed at bringing attention to Danish insensitivity and inflaming attitudes against the country they had made their home.

In Australia, a new generation of Islamic leaders who are antagonistic to their moderate elders have also been preaching the evils of the mainstream culture they live in and the need for "good Muslims" to disengage.

The now infamous Bankstown sermon last year by the Sydney-born Sheik Feiz Mohamed, in which he said rape victims have "no one to blame but themselves" because they dress provocatively, is but one example. The American Sheik Khalid Yasin, a regular visitor to Australia, betrayed similar intolerance when he said last year: "There's no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend."

But antagonism to Western culture appears in more subtle forms. In Melbourne recently the first training course for home-grown Islamic religious leaders was launched at the Minaret College in Springvale, funded by a reported $1.8 million of taxpayer money. While it says it embraces a moderate 21st-century form of Islam, the college features on its website a fatwa, or official ruling, from Sheik Yusof Al-Qaradawi, professor at the University of Qutar, who is banned fromentering the US and Germany because of his support for terrorist groups. The letter calls for donations because educational institutions for Muslims outside the Muslim world are "castles for jihad and shields of protection from surrounding evils".

Teaching young Muslims that Australian society is evil is not a recipe for cultural harmony.

[Article by Miranda Devine published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February 2006]

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