What Progressivism Looks Like: Terrorists’ Murders Are Your Fault for ‘Insulting’ Them
November 15, 2015
In light of the Charlie Hebdo shootings last winter and the terrorist attacks this week in Paris and elsewhere, I posted on Facebook, without comment, a link to where people can buy a T-shirt with the drawing of Mohammed from the contest in Texas earlier this year. It drew several responses from a person who is intelligent and well educated, who works in one of the cultural centers of our country, and who is also a relative, my own flesh and blood. Nevertheless, because he is also of the left, he said that I shouldn’t be “insulting” Muslims by spreading others’ drawings of Mohammed, and seemed to blame the artists and people like me for the murderers’ actions. I pushed back—surely he didn’t really mean that?—but he reiterated that it’s our own fault—“those who generalize and insult religious groups serve to fan long-burning flames”.
Below, the exchange in its entirety, unedited except to remove our names.
- [Mr. A:] That looks like him
- [Mr. B:] The sword is not curvy enough
- [Relative:] Because directly insulting Christianity based on the actions of some self-labeled Christians would be a very productive and loving thing to do.
- [Chillingworth:] Not so, but far otherwise! If some people (regardless of whether they described themselves as Christians) claimed to be insulted by the mere visual depiction of Christ and threatened to kill people for depicting Him, then yes, people should draw Christ for just that reason. You don’t have to be against Islam to be against bullying.
- [Relative:] You understand that such visual depictions are insulting to many who would never suggest a drawing entitles or requires them to kill, so why insult and pretend that the actions of bad apples represent the views of the many?
Why, in response to those few, would you find the malice to insult so many other Muslims? Religious restrictions aren’t “bullying” because they aren’t identical to your religion. The irony of your post, in my view, is that bullying by definition is to threaten OR INTENTIONALLY AND UNNECESSARILY INSULT others.
I fully support your freedom to draw what you want, and there are many ways to articilate the importance of freedoms and question folks’ views, but why would you use your freedom to be malicious?
- [Chillingworth:] “. . . so why insult and pretend that the actions of bad apples represent the views of the many?”
I never said that; you’re adding that.
“Religious restrictions aren’t ‘bullying’ because they aren’t identical to your religion.”
I don’t recall ever suggesting that Muslims who tell each other that their religion prohibits them from depicting Mohammed were thereby bullying me.
“. . . why would you use your freedom to be malicious?”
You seem to be arguing with someone other than me.
Do we agree that killing people for drawing Mohammed is one kind of bullying? If so, the masses of Muslims who would not kill a person for depicting Mohammed are beside the point. At that point, drawing Mohammed is an essential part of resisting the bullies, however few they may be. The fact that some other Muslims’ feelings will be hurt in no wise makes such peaceful resistance an act of “bullying” or “malice”.
Some people are going around killing people for merely depicting Mohammed, but those who try to spread non-insulting depictions of Mohammed are the ones being called bullies and “malicious”. That’s pretty weird.
- [Mr. B:] Was this the same draw Mohammad contest in Texas that some muslims attempted to shoot up before being stopped by an armed civilian, [Chillingworth]? Or was that a different incident
- [Chillingworth:] Yes, that was one instance, and that was the one this particular cartoon comes from.
- [Chillingworth:] I think they were stopped by a policeman
- [Relative:] [Chillingworth] ” The masses of Muslims who would not kill a person for depicting Mohammed are beside the point.” Those people are the very point you are missing. You are intentionally insultingthem. If your intent was to have a conversation about certain freedoms, there would be many productive ways to do it.
Imagine for a moment that there was a pejorative term that clearly applied not only to you, but also a billion other people. I didn’t initially intend to ever use that pejorative term, but then you threatened to kill me if I used that term. In response, I didn’t say it back to you to make a point to you about freedom of expression, or even take the higher road by starting a conversation with you in the abstract about it, but wore that very word on a T-shirt for the population to see. I’d be perfectly within my rights, but an inconsiderate jerk to all the other people to whom that term applied. And I’d worsen relations between people like you and me. So no, we clearly don’t agree that distributing drawings of Mohammed are “an essential part of resisting the bullies [who threaten to kill folks for doing just that]”.
If you want to take those people on, start a conversation about how the Quran doesn’t explicitly forbid images of Muhammad (according to Wikipedia only some of the hadith do). Or better yet, don’t take them on, but use it as an opportunity to learn and ask them why it is so important to them. I’m no scholar here, but imagine it’s out of reverence.
You’re not obligated to revere Muhammad. But I’d appreciate it, in a world where too many people continue to die because certain Christians and Muslims can’t seem get along (and IMHO focus too much on their differences than their commonalities), if you exercised some respect. That seems like the loving thing to do.
- [Chillingworth:] “If you want to take those people on, start a conversation . . . .”
Again, are we talking about the same thing? “Take on” the people who murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists etc. by “starting a conversation” with them?
“Or better yet, don’t take them on, but use it as an opportunity to learn and ask them why it is so important to them.”
“You’re not obligated to revere Muhammad. But I’d appreciate it, in a world where too many people continue to die because certain Christians and Muslims can’t seem get along (and IMHO focus too much on their differences than their commonalities), if you exercised some respect.”
Again, terrorists are actually killing people, but it’s our fault for not being sufficiently deferential to the murderers. Pretty weird.
- [Chillingworth:] I don’t know whether this will do anything to clarify the discussion or bring us back onto the same page at this point, but I thought this article put it pretty well (first two paragraphs are free, rest requires subscription):
In short, when people are no longer under threat of death for simply drawing Mohammed, _then_ we can have an argument about whether depicting Mohammed is appropriate, “offensive”, etc.
- Relative:] I didn’t suggest you talk to the people involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack. This is the first time CH was raised in this thread. I asked you to not egg on others. I did suggest that it would be productive to engage in conversations about the above offense especially if there is a way to reach anyone inclined toward violence. That’s how peace happens. The next generation is watching and is capable of either continuing to demonize or seeing gaps bridged.
Your words are that its “our fault” for folks killing people (I”m not sure who “our” encompases here), and that anyone should be “deferential to murderers”. I am weary of folks killing in the name of religion. I do think that those who generalize and insult religious groups serve to fan long-burning flames.