Deutsche Oper said it will scrap planned showings of Mozart’s Idomeneo because of warnings by Berlin security officials that a scene in the current production depicting the head of the Prophet Mohammed (along with the heads of Jesus and the Buddha)  present an “incalculable security risk.”  Actually, they said references to “world religions” but we know which one is the problem.

This is the kind of infuriating capitulation that can push otherwise rational people at least temporarily into the nuke ‘em back to the Stone Age camp. 

But, we need to remember that Death of Klinghoffer and the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Silver Tassie suffered similar fates in this country in the wake of 9/11.  As always, perspective depends upon whose ox is being gored.

28 Responses to “Jihadists 1, Mozart 0”
  1. david toub says:

    Jerry, I am very, very sensitive to the nature of Islam, and other religions as well. I have nothing but respect for it, and have received more than enough scowls from friends and colleagues when I disagree with what I perceive to be anti-Muslim comments and generalizations.

    That said, this is wrong. Just as it was wrong to censor Klinghoffer. Just as it was wrong for the Taliban to blow up the Buddhas in Bamyan, Afghanistan. Interestingly, while many Jews wrongly (in my opinion) condemn Klinghoffer as anti-semitic (it\’s not that at all, but rather presents the Palestinian viewpoint on an equal footing), to my knowledge, Jews don\’t take to the streets and burn things to protest affronts against their religion or the state of Israel. We just don\’t do that. And it would be wrong for our Muslim friends to do so in response to Idomeneo. Anyone is welcome to express outrage and peacefully protest. But violence is not warranted; indeed, it never is.

  2. David says:

    BTW, has anyone else noticed that if you edit a comment in WP, you get backward slashes (\) when apostrophes are in use? Weird—I always thought \ was not cool in Unix-based systems (I like to think that Unix uses forward slashes while crap OS’s like DOS use backwards slashes since Unix is forward-thinking and DOS is…well, you get the point)

  3. zeno says:

    David, as you may guess, I agree with you completely that violence is never warranted as a means of protest. That said, it is of course unclear whether Muslims in Berlin were indeed actually planning violence aimed at the German Opera House, or only outrage and peaceful protest. Given that most Western political capitals are on some degree of elevated alert for “incalculable security risk” of terrorist attack, it is hard to fathom that an opera production — no matter how controversial — would trigger a terrorist plan/action, as opposed to outrage and peaceful protest. Do you believe that Al-Qaeda cells in Hamburg first planned a terrorist action against the western Berlin modern house following the first Berlin performances of this production of Mozart’s Idomeneo three or fours seasons ago?

    One must also remember that Berlin’s performing arts cultural organizations — operas houses, ballet companies, and the Berlin Philharmonie — are granted large educational and community relations budgets from the City of Berlin to reach out to that city’s large Muslim communities. Additionally, major German State-funding has been allocated for a very large expansion of the Islamic Art Collections of the planned Museum Island Complex, which will no longer be confined to just part of one wing of the Pergamon Museum, as at present.

    Additionally, I wonder whether German security services will also seek the cancellation of the German Opera’s premiere production, next month, of Alberto Franchetti’s and Luigi Illica’s GERMANIA, due to potential for fringe right-wing violence from right-wingers who may have spies infiltrating the dress rehearsals. Recall also that present day Germany has strict laws governing the display of Hitler-era symbology. Why should this sensitivity not be extended to Western-Islamic relations during this tense opening period of the twenty-first century?

    *

    I also disagree that any people should ever be “nuked back to the Stone Age”. Didn’t Israel threaten something similar to Lebanon this past July before actually dropping one million cluster bombs on South Lebanon, over a three or four day period, this past August?

  4. Seth Gordon says:

    And here I thought that severing heads made Allah happy… go figure. Guess there’s subtleties to this stuff I’ll never understand.

    What makes this even worse is there haven’t even been any threats – this is a “pre-emptive surrender” of sorts. I think I actually hate both sides of this one equally. Like, okay, I could understand this kind of woosiness in France, but Germany? Cripes, it’s no wonder the Neo-Nazis are making a political comeback over there.

    Personally, I think Germany should commission German artists to paint murals along the remnants of the Berlin Wall, all based around the theme of “Theo van Gogh sodomizing the Prophet Mohammed”

  5. david toub says:

    Zeno, not sure I disagree with anything you said. But to clarify, I didn’t actually say that there were going to be terrorist attacks all because of an opera. I mean, c’mon. I’m disappointed that because of fears of some sort of violence or whatever, whether real or not, this production was ditched.

    I wouldn’t be surprised however if, in today’s environment, the concern about violent protests were at least understandable if not justified. I don’t approve of anything that is disrespectful of religion (short of Piss Christ, for example, which I view as really great art), but also don’t approve of violence in support of religion. When people are killed and churches attacked because of a stupid and insensitive remark by the Pope, I think that is disproportionate. As disproportionate, perhaps, as the recent Israeli counterattack in Lebanon.

  6. andrea says:

    theo van gogh was dutch, not german. was weisst du, eigentlich, ueber das leben in deutschland?

  7. Seth Gordon says:

    Ich weiß nicht viel. Umm… Ich mag Wim Wenders. Und Fassbinder. Und Mahler. Und… manchmal Stockhausen – aber nicht sehr häufig.

    Der Punkt war nicht über Deutschland, es war über Islamische Überreaktionen. Aber… wenn es ein Deutsches sein muss, würde Papst Benedict annehmbar sein?

  8. andrea says:

    Doch, der Papst gilt sicherlich als Deutscher. Du hast ja recht, daß die Aufregung auf beiden Seiten ist total blöd. Haben Wir nichts besseres zu tun? z.B., ein Film von Wim Wenders angucken. Wim und seine Filme sind doch spitze.

  9. Jerry Bowles says:

    Of course, Fassbinder made a great film about the isolation of Muslims in German society in 1974 called Angst essen Seele auf or, as we say over here on 57th Street, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. This whole rage thing has been stewing for a long time.

  10. Judd says:

    Well said, Zeno, on all points. Especially that about the hyper-sensitivity of contemporary (post-WWII) German culture, entrenched in a legal system that privileges human rights and human dignity above all other law. What is disturbing here, though, is that the given reasons for the cancellation of the opera seem to have nothing to do with human rights or dignity – and then it would force the uncomfortable question of whether censorship is a greater or lesser offense than religious parody, a question that most of us would probably answer on the side of the former – and instead deal with, as was said (pre-emptive!) security concerns. An open society should have debates about censorship, about state funding and sponsorship, about human rights and dignity. But those aren’t the issues on the table, and that’s what makes this such a mess of a situation.

  11. Seth Gordon says:

    Selbstverständlich, würde ich lieber zuschauen Der Himmel über Berlin zum 1000th mal.

    Oper ist zu sehr betrachtet, sowieso. Wer braucht es? Lassen Sie die Terroristen zerstören das Opernhaus! Eine weniger finanzielle Last für den deutschen Steuerzahler…

  12. andrea says:

    Du schlagst mich ja tod! Aber ‘betrachet’ ist der falsche Wort. Du meinst ‘überschäzt.’ Wahrscheinlich gibt’s auch irgendeiner ‘cooler’ Wort, etwas aus der Umgangssprache. Leider bin ich zu doof es zu kennen.

  13. zeno says:

    Here is a link to an article — “German Government Launches Dialogue With Muslims” –about the Intercultural Dialogue launched earlier today, in Berlin, by the German government. This Intercultural Dialogue apparently is funded for the next three years. I suggest that we all take the time to read it, in order to better understand Europe today.

    Note the final sentence: “Religious groups complained before the meeting that they were only allocated five of the 15 Muslim seats at the table, with the rest distributed among secular and other groups.”

    Five of 15 seats allocated to religious groups sounds reasonable to me. What do others think?

    http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2187588,00.html

    *

    And here is an image from the German Opera 2003 production of Idomeneo (which I have not seen):

    http://www.spiegel.de/img/0,1020,708014,00.jpg

    I guess that European directors don’t have to apply to the N.E.A., where, I recall, there was a White House and Congressionally imposed criterion that N.E.A.-funded works of art must not offend any particular organized religion, show or describe sex with animals, etc. Sorry that I can’t recall the battlefield specifics of our own recent culture wars.

  14. Walter Ramsey says:

    Why has nobody stopped to ask the most obvious question, why in Gods name is a Mozart opera staging featuring the severed heads of the most beloved world religious leaders? This kind of idiocy should be banned, just because.

    Walter Ramsey

  15. david toub says:

    idiocy is in the eye of the beholder. In my eyes, it could be artistic expression, not idiocy.

    Interestingly, a lot of Muslims in Germany are also questioning the decision to halt the production. They feel that people shouldn’t reflexively fear Muslims, and I absolutely agree.

    BTW, what’s with the German in these posts? Those of us who are illiterate in German are out of the loop (all I know is some of the text of Moses und Aron, and that’s not helping me out). I have enough trouble with English these days…Ich weiss fungornisht, as my grandparents would say

  16. zeno says:

    Walter and David, apparently the whole scene with the paraded and shackled world religion leaders and later their heads on chairs is an interpolation by the German director Hans Neuenfels. According to the New York Times reports I read late yesterday, Mr Neuenfels and his lawyer may or may not have been approached by the new General Director of the German Opera about leaving out the offending scene. They may or may not have refused to do so, citing artistic license.

    How do you think the ‘karma’ of New York City or Washington, D.C. would have been this September if either the MET or the Washington National Opera had opened their cosmopolitan seasons with Jesus Christ, Muhammad, and Buddha (and Poseidon) shackled and later beheaded before the eyes of their well-healed live and locally broadcast populist audiences. Peaceful riots by the Christian Right and Muslims in Times Square and Foggy Bottom?
    Any chance of a comparable bomb threat, do you think?

    And what if the head of Moses had been included in the line-up and beheading in New York City or Washington, D.C? Interesting that the head of Moses was not included by the German director, perhaps due to ‘sensitivity’, no? Nor is it clear whether the director would have had license to display the shackling and beheading of Adolf Hitler, even if the display was technically within strict German law on representation of Hitler era symbolism, as noted earlier. Do you think that if would be wise for the upcoming German Opera premiere production of GERMANIA to feature Moses’s head opn a pike and hundreds or thousands of additional Jewish heads?

    In yesterday’s late New York Times reports, there were pictures of the four religion leaders before and after beheading. The reports also note that the director is apparently a ‘strict secularist’ who rejects the role of all religion in human life and civilization.

  17. andrea says:

    Der sehr geehrte Herr Ross hat etwas dazu zu sagen:
    http://www.therestisnoise.com/2006/09/berlin_opera_sc.html

    and come on mr. toub, german is all the rage in music academia! und es macht einfach Spaß in Fremdsprache zu plaudern, gell? wim wenders in english just isn’t the same (that’s right, nicholas cage, goo goo dolls, and the city of angels!)

    we should start foreign language versions of sequenza 21, so we can all improve our skills! Toll! Grandioso! Bien sûr!

    and as for your rhetorical questions, zeno, yes, this country would have had a massive hissy fit.

  18. David says:

    Zeno, while certain speech and displays may be offensive to certain religions, that does not excuse violence. And personally, the religions need to lighten up a little. That’s the problem with Western religions in general—their adherents are very easy to rile up, and the history of religion is marked by many episodes of violence.

    That said, I really, really doubt that a scene with the heads of Moses and hundreds of Jews on pikes would lead to violence. At worst, maybe some outrage and letters to various newspapers. But that’s it. Did you ever see the Inquisition scene in Mel Brooks’ epic movie History of the World, Part II? Ever see the Springtime for Hitler production in The Producers? None of these caused anyone to firebomb a building. And I can’t wait for the forthcoming movie Borat which is filled with lots of offensive (and hillarious) jokes about my coreligionists.

    Zeno, even the recent Iranian display of cartoons about the Holocaust didn’t provoke much more than a yawn. We don’t care. We’re too nerdy and nebbish to hold an effective violent protest. Now, that’s not to say we haven’t had our share of Jewish terrorists—we certainly have, with tragic results. But outside of that, some fringe Hasidic groups who fight amongst themselves, and the military in Israel, we really don’t get violent. And were we to, it would be in response to some baseball team losing or something like that.

    The planned German production had an artistic vision. It may not have been to everyone’s liking (hell, I’m still not a big fan of the Achim Freyer staging of Satyagraha, but that’s me), but that is never an excuse for violence. Period. At the same time, while I don’t support the decision to pull the plug on this production, I understand the concerns given recent events. I just wish politics and public sensibilities didn’t get in the way of art.

  19. It is always easier to point at the Other. What about the play about Rachel Corrie that was canned in NYC?:

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/theatre-gets-stagefright-over-play-on-israeli-death-of-activist/2006/02/28/1141095740986.html

  20. david toub says:

    None of this stuff should be prevented from being experienced by an audience.

  21. Seth Gordon says:

    What about the play about Rachel Corrie that was canned in NYC?

    I’m sooooooooo tired of people crying “censorship” when they haven’t been censored in any way. Yawn. Sure smells like a marketing ploy – no one’s been thinking about Rachel Corrie anymore, that was 2004’s movie-of-the-week. But add a little “artists vs The Man” to the story and that’s gold, baby. When they do open it next year (it wasn’t canned, it was frickin’ postponed) it’ll be a big cause célèbre again and the hottest ticket in town.

  22. Walter Ramsey says:

    “while certain speech and displays may be offensive to certain religions, that does not excuse violence. And personally, the religions need to lighten up a little. That’s the problem with Western religions in general—their adherents are very easy to rile up, and the history of religion is marked by many episodes of violence.

    That said, I really, really doubt that a scene with the heads of Moses and hundreds of Jews on pikes would lead to violence. At wo”

    Its right and probably self understood that nothing can justify this outpouring of violence. Rushdie also said in an interview about the longtime fatwa on his head, that no culture can justify death for opinion just because it is part of their culture.
    That being said, I should like to point out that the vast majority of violence we hear about in todays world, and I do mean vast majority, comes in the name of Islam. Although the history of Christianity is particularly violent, that is after all history. Although war rages in the middle east, Israel fights in the name of a nation before religion. Where are the Christian suicide bombers, the Jewish hijackers? The reason that a scene of Moses and his followers on pikes wouldnt cause a violent uprising, is because those religious violent uprisings seem to be reserved for Islam alone. In stricter parts of the Arab world, Christian churches are not allowed to exist. If this happened in the Western world, it would be an outrage, and surely violence would follow. If the UK banned mosques and deported the fire-spitting preachers preaching terror, they would be the victims of attack over and over again.
    In this respect you cannot compare all the world religions and say they are equally destructive.

    Walter Ramsey

  23. david toub says:

    Walter, I think you have to also take into consideration these facts: Islam is a far more recent religion than either Judaism or Christianity (you can’t compare Islam with modern Christianity; a more appropriate comparison would be with early Christianity, and we know that was hardly an enlightened era), and also has tended to be a religion with particular appeal to the less fortunate and downtrodden. I also think you are making some pretty severe generalizations. When you consider that the majority of Muslims reside in Indonesia, rather than the Middle East, it’s hard to assert that most Muslims are violent, or that Islam is, on the face of it, inherently violent. I’m not seeing people in Turkey, a tolerant country with an Islamic majority, calling for acts of terrorism in any significant way. Indeed, most of the terrorists seem to be coming from either Arab nations where there is a large disparity between rich and poor and from Western nations where their poor classes are disenfranchised or otherwise lack empowerment, such as the UK. Islam has been around for centuries, yet we’re only seeing terrorism associated with it since the 1920’s. Perhaps that suggests that Islam isn’t the problem so much as colonialism and the disparities between rich and poor, with Muslims comprising a non-insignificant proportion of the poor.

    And in the spirit of truthiness, I’d also call your attention to both Jewish and Christian terrorists, such as the Lehi, Kahane Chai, and Aryan Nation/Posse Commitatus movements. All have been marked by violence. Perhaps not suicide bombings. But violence nonetheless. Many of these groups were not fighting based on nationalism so much as racism itself. The Kahane Chai movement wants to expel Muslims from Israel and the Territories, while the Posse Commitatus wants to make this country a white-only, Christian-only nation. Religion can be a force for good as well as evil; for these people, it is a force for evil.

    You also have to consider why some groups resort to suicide bombings (or from their perspective, “martyrdom operations”) and hijackings. None of these are, to my knowledge, an attempt to replace Judaism or Christianity with Islam. These are fundamentally politically-motivated acts of terrorism, particularly by groups that don’t have an army or air force. If you watch the movie Paradise Now, which I think is actually a compelling anti-terrorism movie, you’ll see that the acts of terror you describe are things that are resorted to by groups that do not feel empowered, that have nothing to live for and nothing to lose, etc. None of this justifies the bombings and the hijackings; Paradise Now actually makes a point of urging the terrorists to take the moral high ground and use, by implication, nonviolent tactics.

    Nothing excuses acts of terror, whether committed by Jews trying to establish and maintain a nation, by Muslims who are lashing out at those countries and groups whom they feel have wronged them, or by Christians who want to keep American for white Christians only. Similarly, nothing excuses violence in the name of religion, including that in response to cartoons, statements (even hurtful ones) or theatre productions. We all need to play together in the sandbox, and need to respect one another’s differences. When one group unintentionally insults another, this should be resolved through dialogue, not violence. In the same vein, characterizing one religion as more “destructive” than the others is inappropriate and not a constructive solution.

  24. Seth Gordon says:

    Nothing excuses acts of terror, whether committed by Jews trying to establish and maintain a nation, by Muslims who are lashing out at those countries and groups whom they feel have wronged them, or by Christians who want to keep American for white Christians only.

    I think you’re making a big mistake in comparing what are fringe elements within a group (Kahane Chai, Aryan Nation, etc.) with a culture that at best accepts and at worst encourages terrorism as valid expression. Yes, sure, there have been terrorist acts committed by non-Muslims. And yes, there are a large number of Muslims who live in countries like Indonesia and Turkey which aren’t plagued by the same problems. But no one said that “most Muslims are violent, or that Islam is, on the face of it, inherently violent” – re-read Walter’s post. What he was pointing out was the undeniable fact that the majority of terrorism in the present day is committed by Muslims. There are examples of others, blah blah blah Timothy McVeigh blah blah blah, but that doesn’t change where the majority – not just a plurality, but an absolute majority – of terrorism comes from. It comes from men of Sunni and Shia descent.

    Point being, you can point to all the “other” terrorism out there every time someone brings up Muslim terrorism, as if it somehow ameliorates it, or makes it seem less unique in context. As if terrorism is a problem in every community, and we shouldn’t look at the particularly Muslim brand of it as anything out of the ordinary, but part of some larger problem that includes the McVeighs and whotnot of the world. To that I say: Bollocks. You can’t lump it all together. No one’s shutting down operas in fear of the Aryan Nation. This “other” terrorism is so miniscule as not to be a concern to the world at large. But forget just the scope of it: it’s roots are very, very different than the kind of terrorism which beheaded Nicholas Berg and flew planes into the WTC.

    There are disenfranchised Christians in the word, disenfranchised Jews. There are poor Britons, poor Americans, poor Spaniards, poor Israelis of all religious backgrounds. To suggest that perhaps the dispersion of wealth and power is behind terrorism is ludicrous. If that were the case, there would be an epidemic of terrorism everywhere. If that were the case, we would be worried about representing Moses’ (or Jesus’ or Buddha’s) head on a spike. But we aren’t.

    I won’t deny it can add fuel to the fire. But fuel needs a spark. And sparks are flying from the mouths of Imams and other religious leaders throughout the Middle East. Sure, it’s certainly easier to get someone to go do something rash and violent when they aren’t particularly comfortable with their own position in life to begin with. But it’s also easier when violence and death are seen as natural parts of “religious” life.

    Now, let’s be clear, I’m talking about a few branches of Islam here – we’re not talking about Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sufi mystics, we’re not talking about the Druze in Israel, we’re not talking about the Kurds – we’re talking about Sunnis and Shi’ite primarily, and a few other fringe elements. The fact is, that within societies dominated by either of these groups, death is looked at as a solution. Read Nat Hentoff’s recent piece on Sangsar and think about what value life has in a culture so ready to kill it’s own most disenfrachised – for religious reasons. The list of crimes punishable by death in Iran, Suadi Arabia, under the Taliban – and likely in Iraq, as soon as we’ve left – is so long as to boggle the mind. How any human being, let alone someone of liberal thinking who opposes the death penalty, can offer up caveats, can avoid the very specific problem of Islamic terrorism by pointing the finger at these “other” terrorists, is beyond me. There is not merely a disregard for life in Sunni and Shia culture, but an actual pervasive love of death. To wit:

    Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah: “We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.”

    Chief Palestinian Authority cleric Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri: “We tell them, in as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom.”

    …to say it’s not religious in nature is to know nothing of Islam. This has been part of the Islamic story for centuries, dating back at least as early as the mid-600s and Caliph Abu Bakr’s letter to Commander Khsoru of Persia: “You should know that I have come to you with an army of men that love death, as you love life.” – a statement one can find reprinted in many Muslim textbooks. The love of death / disregard for life is exacerbated by passages in the Koran which absolve the killer of responsibility by giving all credit for death to Allah, i.e. “So you did not slay them, but it was Allah Who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote, but it was Allah who smote.” (K 8:17, if you need to know)

    You can blame it on their leaders, political or religious, sure – and I’d be right beside you castigating them. But lay people are complicit in these crimes too. Lay people are making the choice of strapping a bomb to their chest and blowing themselves up on buses full of innocents, in crowded markets, in discos… Lay people made the concious decision to board those planes and crash into the Twin Towers. Their own communities are kept in line by terrorism, when lay people pick up stones and beat women to death for the crime of having been raped (that’ll show women not to get get raped!) No one is forcing their hand. And the fundamental difference between the 19-year-old kid from Yemen and Timothy McVeigh is that there’s another 19-year-old kid from Yemen every couple of weeks. The Aryan Nation, for all their moronic evil, are 99.99% hat and .01% cattle.

    Does that make Islam inherently evil? No, and though there are certainly passages in the Koran which don’t read so nicey-nicey, you can say that about pretty much any religious text – everything from the Old Testament to the Hsi-Yu Chi to the Book of Mormon has some degree of at worst violence or at best intolerance. But the culture of the Sunni and Shia that’s another matter. There’s something rotten there, and the sparks of modern day Islamic terrorism are to be found in Sharia, and the culture of hatred and death. While some early terrorism committed by Muslims can be accounted for with the traditional liberal keywords of desperation and downtrodden, sure – Algeria would be a case in point – that’s in the past. It wasn’t disenfranchisement that led to the death of Theo van Gogh. He didn’t represent the power structure. Of the four London bombers, only one came from a poor family. It wasn’t the gap between rich and poor that caused the riots following the Mohammed cartoons.

    But all that said, I still think the Germans are woosies for cancelling the show. I say put it on, and station an IDF battalion outside the theater.

  25. Seth Gordon says:

    Oops. Forgot a /i in there somewhere…

  26. david toub says:

    Seth, what Walter clearly and unambiguously implied was that Islam was more “destructive” than the two other Western religions. I beg to differ. Without question, there are religious leaders fanning the flames. But the fires as best I can tell originate in oppression, in feelings of having nothing to lose, etc. The fact that many downtrodden Muslims are committing suicide bombings rather than taking a good antidepressant or just killing themselves without taking others with them is partly cultural/religious, partly an act of desperation. The fact is that such tactics are effective in the short term. These guys wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t produce some gains, whether the US withdrawal from Lebanon in the 80’s or the recent defeat of Israel at the hands of Hezbollah. Sure, Seth, there’s a difference between Islamic terrorists and many other groups. But don’t you think it’s just a bit too simplistic to chalk it all up to Islam being at fault?

    There is nothing in the Koran, as best I can tell as a non-Muslim, that urges Muslims to commit suicide bombings. To be sure, many religious teachers are interpreting this text to suit their own purposes and situations. But that doesn’t mean that the problem simply equals the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam; that’s like saying the problem with America lies with the Christians, since Bush is a Christian. Some Christians, perhaps, but you see how much of a generalization this all can become.

    I suspect that had there been ammonium nitrate or other explosive material available to inmates at Auschwitz or Dachau, someone would have tried the suicide bomber thing. And it might have been effective, even desirable under the circumstances. If I were faced with either certain death anyway, or a miserable life under Nazi occupation that had no endpoint in site, I would have easily volunteered to take out a bunch of Nazis using myself as a bomb. Nothing to do with religion in that case, just a way to potentially change the imbalance of power in one’s favor. Indeed, one can speculate what this might have done to the Holocaust had the crematoria been taken out by several Jews with bombs, even committing suicide in the process.

    Seth, the knee-jerk response to all that’s going on in Iraq, Israel, etc. is to see Islam as the root of all of it. That’s what many right-wing people like Michael Medved, Michelle Malkin, Jerry Falwell and a host of others preach on a daily basis. But while aspects of Sunni and Shia Islam do play into the actions of terrorists, they’re not doing all of this so much as a religious war as a political/nationalist one. Palestinians want a state and are living under occupation, so many of them resort to terrorism no less than the Irgun or Lehi did under the British Mandate (indeed, David Raziel of the Irgun brought the first bombs to Jerusalem, and there’s a town and a street in Jerusalem named after him). No less than Basque separatists have done in order to try to gain independence. There’s no excuse for any of this, of course. But it doesn’t have as much to do with religion as it does have to do with politics and nationalist aspirations.

    That doesn’t mean that terrorism wasn’t present before Israel was created in 1948; it was very much present. That also doesn’t mean it will go away once a Palestinian state has been created, as it will be eventually. But 9/11 wasn’t an attempt to force the US to become an Islamic state so much as it was an attempt to force our troops out of Saudi Arabia. Lunatics like bin-Laden certainly would love to see another caliphate established in N. Africa and the Middle East. But that’s not the rationale for why so many Muslims commit terrorism. It has much more to do with the policies of several countries. None of them, as far as I know, are threatening to bomb Finland or Jamaica, for example.

    Regarding Sharia—any fundamental set of religious laws tend to be bad news for women and freethinkers. I’m not seeing anything particularly unique here, only that there are states that actively apply Sharia despite its being rooted in a very outmoded and ancient jurisprudence. The Torah, were it applied to everything in Israel, would call for many things that you and I would find atrocious. Same with the Christian Bible, which is why I don’t think any state should follow religious laws.

    So what’s the answer, Seth—making Islam illegal? Jailing all the mullahs and imams? The best way to make their messages of hatred irrelevant to the young Muslims they are cultivating for terror is to create alternatives. If a Muslim youth has a reasonable probability of becoming educated and having self-determination and does not feel that countries like ours are able to commit offenses without being answerable to the world community, why would he or she commit terrorism? You are quite correct that many terrorists are well-educated and from better economic situations. But that’s why they are able to lead terrorist groups. Their underlying motivation, however, stems from what is happening to other Muslims, be they in the Territories or Iraq. No different than how many Jews from the US and other free countries contributed to the underground efforts at building the State of Israel in the 30’s and 40’s.

    I understand where you’re coming from, Seth, I really do. I just think arguments that attribute terrorism strictly to religion miss the other underlying reasons for terrorist acts. If the US were more like Finland in terms of its foreign policy and relations with other countries, I doubt any of this would have happened on our soil. Except for McVeigh—that’s a different matter.

  27. seth wrote: ‘I’m sooooooooo tired of people crying “censorship” when they haven’t been censored in any way. Yawn. Sure smells like a marketing ploy – no one’s been thinking about Rachel Corrie anymore, that was 2004’s movie-of-the-week. But add a little “artists vs The Man” to the story and that’s gold, baby. When they do open it next year (it wasn’t canned, it was frickin’ postponed) it’ll be a big cause célèbre again and the hottest ticket in town. ‘

    You have missed the point that I was making.

    CMZ

  28. Seth Gordon says:

    You have missed the point that I was making.

    I assumed that your point was that in America we kowtow to political pressures as well, and shouldn’t be so quick to point overseas. Maybe I was incorrect in that assessment, I dunno.

    My point was that I had my doubts as to whether or not any kowtow really took place, and that it looked more like good marketing.

    ——–

    David – too busy to get into this one today. But I completely disagree with your comparison to the Holocaust, as there’s a profound difference between “downtrodden” and “systematically exterminated” – at least to me. YMMV.

    But for now, I’m gonna cut & run!

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