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About Entrenched Positions

Reader comment on item: How the Cartoon Protests Harm Muslims [by Leading to a Separation of Civilizations]
in response to reader comment: Lack of understanding remains

Submitted by Paul (Canada), Feb 18, 2006 at 15:33

Bader S,

Thank you again for your comments. You raised a variety of topics, and I think we can certaily go on further here.
On the topic "freedom of expression", someone already posted
(http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/36043) a funny little definition (although focusing on "freedom of speech") which I think is quite fitting. The restrictions you talk about are not on freedom of expression per se, as this freedom is guaranteed in the constitution. But you are right, governments on occasion **attempt** to restrict, for one reason or another, how and when people may say certain things and the people then fight back, in the courts, when their constitutional freedoms and rights are being violated in this way.

On the other hand, there are occasions in which temporary bans (and I stress the temporary nature of the ban) are put in place to, for example, ensure an unbiased trial by peers. Canada, for example, is notorious for these bans, which, by not being binding in the U.S., causes sometimes information to be available in one country and not in the other (until the ban is lifted). But you don't see Canadians burning and stoning U.S. diplomatic missions over that.

I can't really comment on the fate of the Egiptian newspaper; as far as I can tell, it is up an running (http://elfagr.org/). Since I can't read it, well, that's as far as I can go. But it does have a couple of funny cartoons on the cover... But it seems the editor took
some time off, leaving the country. Fear for his life?

We should also look at this idea of "Islamophobia". If we take it literally, that is, that "phobias involve persistent, unrealistic, intense anxiety and fear in response to specific external situations." (The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, on-line edtion), we could
suggest, for sake of argument, that "Islamophobia would be characterized by significant and unrealistic anxiety and fear induced by exposure to Islam or its followerws, often resulting in avoidance" (remember: I am making this definition up based on an accepted definition of phobia). Well, considering the intensity of the reaction of many muslims, the death threats and bounties on the heads of the cartoonists and the overall path of death and destrucion behind many demonstrations, we can hardly argue that any fears and anxieties are unrealistic. **And that is exactly the point of Pipes' article!** You can certainly think of other actions carried out by Muslims in the name of martyrdom that fits the model.

Quoting Sam Harris in his "The End of Faith", "it is time that we recognized that the only thing that permits human beings to collaborate with one another in a truly open-ended way is their willingness to have their beliefs modified by new facts. Only openness to evidence and argument will secure a common world for us. Nothing guarantees that reasonable people will agree about everything, of course, but the unreasonable are certain to be divided by their dogmas. This sprit of mutual inquiry is the very antithesis of religious faith."

You could say that there are two core beliefs behind the actions we see. On one extreme, there is a belief in the sanctity of "freedom of expression"; on the other, the belief in the sanctity of Mohammed. The question is, can both sides (not one or the other), willingly, drop such dogmatic views to build a common path forward? If you answered "hardly", then you understand how deep the chasm is.

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