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Rationality and Simple Commonsense

is nowhere to be seen in another Islamic nation: this time in Sudan. A British school teacher thought that it would be nice to let her students name a teddy-bear. Muhammad being a very popular name, not only for prophets but even for less-than-pr ophetic males, the students finally settled upon calling the teddy-bear, Muhammad. How sweet.

This teacher was tried and convicted of insulting Islam and has been sentenced to 15 days in prison followed by deportation. It is, apparently, an insult to the entire religion to name an inanimate object, Muhammad. Who knew?

The teacher was lucky. She could have been convicted of inciting religious hatred, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine followed by deportation.

I suppose she’s lucky to just keep her head attached to her shoulders.

Gotta love those Islamists. They just keep one in a perpetual state of amazement at their rejection of anything like enlightenmen t values in favor of barbarity.


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10 Responses to “Rationality and Simple Commonsense”

  1. Craig,
    I should point out that there is a lot of misinformati on this being reported in Sudan. The bear was named after a child in e class and so is in no way connected to the Prophet, but to hear the Sudanese reporting, this is a plot by the West to insult Islam. So it’s a popular measure in Sudan, and that can only be good for the government there. It’s not like they could get less popular in the West given Darfur so why not buy some extra popularity at home?
    Also all the Muslims I know are shaking their heads and saying this is ridiculous and they can’t understand why it got as far as court, never mind conviction as there was clearly no intent to insult anyone.
    Finally, this isn’t an Islamic problem specifically . All religions try to behave in the same way. Or at least, some practitioner s of all religions do. I know, for example, that a group of Christians has tried to get Jerry Springer: The Opera banned for it’s tasteless portrayal of Christ as an adult-baby. The only difference is that in Sudan the religious people have the power to implement things that they don’t have in the US or UK.

  2. Paul,

    I slightly disagree. Every person named Muhammad is connected with the Prophet because every person named Muhammad is named for Muhammad the prophet.

    Also, sounds like you don’t know any radical Islamists. I wasn’t saying that no Muslim had embraced any aspect of enlightenmen t or that Islam is unamenable to the Enlightenmen t’s ideals and practices. Rather, I am arguing that Islamists have rejected enlightenmen t for barbarity. It doesn’t sound like one can say the same about those Christians who wished to ban the play.

    Let’s look at that. First off, I’m not familiar with this case so correct me if I go astray here, please. Some Christians TRIED to have what they viewed as a tasteless play banned, on the one hand and, on the other, an Islamic country brought the full force of government to bear in order to punish a woman for allowing her students to name a teddy-bear. The Christians are engaging in one of the enlightenmen t’s greatest inventions: free speech and shaping of public opinion through speech. The Islamists had hijacked legal trappings of the Enlightenmen t — the rule of law, legal procedure, etc. — in order to punish a woman for insulting religion by allowing her students to name a teddy-bear by flogging her, imprisoning her and casting her out of the country. What evidence have you that those Christians, if in power, would be threatening to use governmental force to flog and imprison
    producers of a play that portrays Jesus in an unflattering light?

    Okay, given the dark ages, the inquisition, holocaust, perhaps you are right. Perhaps those Christians, were they in power, would have done much worse to the producers of the play than the Sudan did to this teacher but I doubt it and here’s why. We’ve had the dark ages and have, as a society and even as religionists  , moved beyond it quite a ways. We’ve seen the horrors that were the inquisition and holocaust and we’ve withdrawn from them in horror. The Islamists want to live in that world. It is their ideal. I don’t think that even your play-banning Christians do. They’ve embraced enlightenmen t. The Islamists reject it altogether. Those Christians were content to engage in enlightenmen t informed political action within a free and open society in an attempt to sway society to reject such forms of entertainmen t. The Islamists, it seems, feel cheated that the worst they could have done to this woman was flog her and imprison her for six months before throwing her out of the country. The judge’s ruling, 15 days, no flogging, was a compromise and a very unsatisfying one at that for the hard-liners.

    Then there’s Theo van Gough, the producer of the short movie showcasing the extreme misogyny of Islamist culture who was stabbed multiple times and had his head nearly removed from his shoulders by an Islamist. This in a free and open society, perhaps freer than the US and the UK. Your Christians engaged in a display of democracy. Theo’s killer engaged in a display of medieval barbarity. Shalman Rushdie had to hide for decades from Islamists whose criticisms of The Satanic Verses went way beyond panning the book in the New York Review of Books.

    Someone will no doubt bring up those who murder abortionists as a counter argument so I may as well do it here. This is not an argument for murdering abortionists but at least it can be viewed as someone taking the most extreme measure in what he views as protecting innocent human lives, millions of them a year. Whose life did Theo van Gough’s murderer think that he was protecting?

    Again, I am not impugning Islam, the religion, nor Muslims, its practitioner s per se, and certainly not those Muslims that you refer to but radical Islamists. The murderers of Theo van Goughs, and would be murderers of Salman Rushdies and Ayan Hirsi Alis as well as the one’s who have taken enlightenmen t’s trappings to advance medieval barbarity by protesting by the thousands with signs calling for the beheading of journalists for the offense of publishing cartoons, also. Even when they embrace enlightenmen t as an outward trapping they long for the dark ages.

    Craig R. Harmon

  3. Paul,

    Now I understand from news reports that protesters in Sudan are demanding the woman’s execution. Did any of those play-banning Christians call for the death penalty for producing a play that portrayed Jesus in an unflattering light?

    Craig R. Harmon

  4. Sheesh! Sorry for the repeat comments. None of them showed up immediately so I thought they had mysteriously disappeared.

  5. Craig,
    No, they didn’t. All they did was try to bring a private prosecution for blasphemy against the opera and so should be banned and the people responsible punished, thus trying to bring the full force of the law down on them. So rather more similar than you first thought.
    I’m not trying to argue they’re the same. They are different in terms of degree, but not in terms of principle. Both groups believe that their beliefs are above criticism and those who mock them should be punished under the law. The degree of punishment is on completely different scales, although I don’t think you’re correct that the extremists wouldn’t like to have similarly serious punishments  (although flogging is unlikely, massive fines and jail time does not seem unlikely). But both want it to be illegal. I don’t see why it makes a difference what the punishment is in that respect. Free speech that does not incite violence shouldn’t be illegal regardless of who’s being mocked.
    Being an agnostic with atheist tendencies, I can’t say what religious zealots think, but I’d imagine they think they’re protecting something more important than life. They’re protecting God. I don’t agree with them, but I don’t agree with the murderous Christians who kill doctors either.
    I should point out that I’m not really trying to disagree much with you. This is ridiculous and unacceptable . The ‘crime’ shouldn’t have been and the punishment she got was harsh, never mind the punishment she might have got. However, Christians wouldn’t do this? Tell that to the Muslims of Kosovo or Bosnia. Christians are just as capable of being barbarous as Islamists. In both cases it is a small number of extremists.
    And if we want to go with barbaric penalties, ‘death penalty’ anyone? Not on the same scale, and arguably more in proportion to the offence, but barbaric? Certainly arguable.

  6. Hmmmm. Veered into rather a lot of tangents there.
    Incidentally  , she was tried and convicted under the law of Sudan. What exactly is wrong what? Some people in Sudan think the punishment is too lenient. Are you saying no one in the US has ever protested a sentence as being too light? I know they have in the UK.
    Now, I agree with you that this shouldn’t be a law. But it is. She broke the law and was punished according to the law. That seems to be a perfect example going along according to the law.

  7. Damn. Missed a sentence. hat last paragraph should have said:
    Now, I agree with you that this shouldn’t be a law. But it is. She broke the law and was punished according to the law. That seems to be a perfect example going along according to the law. Whether it should be a law is another matter entirely and there I’m pretty sure we agree completely.

  8. Craig,
    Having reread what I said above, I sound a lot angrier nd more hostile than I should have.

    We agree that this is outrageous and this ‘crime’ should never have been a crime. We also agree that the crowds outside chanting death threats, including against the Consul (what did he do?), are extremists and should be condemned for it. I’d agree with you that they are not children of the Enlightenmen t.
    Where we disagree is that this is purely an Islamist thing. If I recall correctly, the Scopes trial gave him a fine for his actions. The means and extent differ markedly (the extent of comparing a thief to a murderer or more), but in both cases the people concerned wanted to make someone insulting or challenging their faith a criminal. You are probably right that even if a Christian zealot group made a similar law, the punishment would not be as extreme. But three shouldn’t be any punishment (which I think you agree with as well)
    So in closing, I think we actually agree on the vast majority of the issues involved here. I over-reacted as I read your original post as much more sweeping than you’d written.

  9. Clearly I had a different picture in my head of the attempt to ban the play. What’s a private prosecution? Is that what we call a civil law suit in the states? Is blasphemy still against the law there? Somehow I wouldn’t have thought so but then you don’t have quite the degree of separation, at least as a formal principle if not in actual practice sometimes, of Church and State in Britain as we have here.

    You are right that this was prosecution according to law however I think it is what our courts would call overbroad. That is to say, written in such a way that it is difficult for a person within the Sudan to know what behavior will fun afoul of the law. It seems like anything that any Muslim might find offensive is against the law and unless one has actually lived in that culture, one could never know what will offend.

    But the fact that that’s the case, that this should be counted an offense that rallies protesters to execute the offender goes to my point, with which you agree, that they are seriously lagging behind in enlightened principles. Perhaps I am too quick to rally to Christians’ defense. Certainly in this case, I did so without knowing the barest facts of the case aside from their attempt to stop an opera. Perhaps I’m merely projecting my own beliefs, principles and attitudes on to all my co-religioni sts.

    I think we have broad agreement on what counts on this case and you argue a good case for your point. I believe that I’ll leave it there. Thanks for the discussion. I always learn something from you. And don’t sweat the anger. It’s a feature, not a bug — and even if it were a bug, it’s one that we, as a species are unlikely to debug anytime soon. Passion’s a good thing as long as we can keep from crossing the line and I don’t think that you even came within sight of the line at any time in your discussion.

    Have a tea on me.

    Craig R. Harmon

  10. Craig,
    Thanks. I think I shall.
    It might not have any parallel in the States, but here people can, if the state doesn’t, try to bring a case to trial, acting as the prosecution, in effect. The state can take over the prosecution at any time. It’s very rare as in most cases of a crime, the authorities will be prosecuting. I know of two cases in recent years, this one and one where a family brought charges of murder against suspects, when the authorities thought there wasn’t sufficient evidence.
    Blasphemy is still on the books, but it is rarely, if ever prosecuted. The last public case I know of was against the Life of Brian, so it’s not exactly common. And the last person jailed for it was in 1921. In the UK, it only applies to the Church of England. Wikilink>/a>

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