« $&&*%@%*()@#%)_#_()! | Main | Facts on Fats? »

February 07, 2006

How Not To Change a Culture

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

The whole Muhammad cartoon situation does more to depress me than to infuriate me. The cartoons themselves range from uninteresting to dumb, and there's nothing good about violent religious fanatics anywhere.

Everyone ought to object to the illiberal and antifeminist aspects of Islamic culture, and people across the world ought to work together to change them. The great delusion of right-wing bloggers is that this change can be achieved by military means. That can sometimes work against a nationalistic ideology, where the complete defeat of a nation in battle can break the will of its people. But religion puts its highest value on things outside the world, far beyond the blast radius of laser-guided bombs. Mere conquest won't eradicate a fundamentally religious ideology, unless you're willing to enslave the people for a century or two and kill anyone who doesn't give up the faith. I have enough faith in human decency to believe that even the majority of right-wing bloggers don't want that.

The way that the face of Islam will eventually be changed (and I'm sure it will) is by a gradual process of cultural engagement over several decades, and by simple improvements in Muslims' standard of living. Give Muslims stable jobs and education and pharmaceuticals and TV and classic rock and Kobe Bryant jerseys, and they'll act less like savage tribesmen and more like liberal city folk. This process happens everywhere -- throughout the history of the West, and now it's happening in the small Indian villages where my mom and dad grew up. It just needs to happen in a few more places.

This mess with the cartoons isn't a huge step backwards in that process -- the invasion of Iraq was a lot worse, in terms of making Muslims less suspicious of the West so we could better influence how things go over there. But if you dream of a better Islamic world, it's nothing to be happy about.

February 7, 2006 in International | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c572d53ef00d834a7f42769e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How Not To Change a Culture:

Comments

Interestingly, the invasion of Iraq did not provoke anything like this reaction on the "street." Why didn't it?

Posted by: TigerHawk | Feb 7, 2006 11:56:03 PM

Interestingly, the invasion of Iraq did not provoke anything like this reaction on the "street." Why didn't it?

Ok, I think I remember that Iraq was a Shiite majority that was ruled by a Sunni minority. This minority was fairly secular, wasn't it? And I believe that Saddam was known for his disdain for the rules of Islam. I wonder if many Muslims saw this invasion as a chance for the Shiite majority to claim power.

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 8, 2006 12:29:47 AM

The cartoons themselves range from uninteresting to dumb

Yup. THe worst of thses cartoons was milder than the nicest anti-Nixon cartoon.

Posted by: Brenda Helverson | Feb 8, 2006 1:12:16 AM

Interestingly, the invasion of Iraq did not provoke anything like this reaction on the "street." Why didn't it?

The invasion of Iraq produced a bloody insurgency that's killed hundreds of US troops. No, a couple of riots aren't anything at all like that. They barely even scratch the surface.

Posted by: Nick | Feb 8, 2006 9:10:49 AM

Interestingly, the invasion of Iraq did not provoke anything like this reaction on the "street." Why didn't it?

Here are just a few possible reasons:
1. I understand these riots were provoked in large parts by the government of Saudi Arabia, among others. Saudi Arabia is our ally and wouldn't complain about Saddam going down, so they wouldn't go out of their way to incite this stuff.
2. Apparently you only notice disapproval if it comes in the form of polls or rioting. Nick above is right - it's a good thing the troops fighting the insurgency aren't as myopic.
And this is just conjecture, but
3. It's possible to dislike both sides of a conflict. Invading Iraq might have been imperialistic, but the first and biggest victims were the secular, Sunni, exceptionally oppressive Baathists. In that situation Arabs in other parts of the world wouldn't take a side (at first), just wait for each one to bleed the other.

Posted by: Cyrus | Feb 8, 2006 9:36:13 AM

I don't know that I necessarily agree with Werewolf here either. There is a difference between a lightly supported, minority-based insurgency and widespread, widely agreed-upon offense to the degradation of a religious symbol. I've seen no evidence that on the whole Iraqis view the War as an attack on their religion. The may indeed be skeptical of our intentions, i.e. oil, etc., but I don't think they view it as an insult to Islam. I think there is polling over there by organizations like ABC News to back that up as well. I'll have to do some research.

There isn't a majority support for the insurgency and their killing tactics. Of course, in the latter case of the cartoon, they are right to be offended. Also, there is less of a physical target to project that frustration on. There are no Danish troops roaming Muslim countries as targets. Which is why I think you'll less killing over real, actual offense v.s. the insurgency. Ultimately, while some of the protests have clearly gotten out of hand, the masses that have a legitimate gripe are likely more moderate Muslims who don't view killing as an appropriate response to the cartoon. But just because they don't kill, doesn't mean this cartoon didn't spark more skepticism about the West.

This also stems from European problems, not American ones. We all know how bad OUR reputation is in the Muslim world right now. It may not be fair to lump resentment of America with resentment of Europe as one whole West v.s. Middle East conflict. There are different forces at work.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 8, 2006 9:44:41 AM

Everyone ought to object to the illiberal and antifeminist aspects of Islamic culture, and people across the world ought to work together to change them.

This the first time I have heard the hard left acknowledge this, and it's about time. Thanks to Neil for bringing this up. Mostly, it's been ignored...especially by the wacko feminists such as Panda-Poo.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 8, 2006 10:30:07 AM

"Everyone ought to object to the illiberal and antifeminist aspects of Islamic culture,"

Those 'aspects' are tenants of the Islamic religion. The same religion that orders it's followers to kill non-believers, women and children.

"the invasion of Iraq was a lot worse, in terms of making Muslims less suspicious of the West"

Yeah! That is probably why 9/11 happened!

Wait a minute!?! We weren't in Iraq during 9/11!

I'd say Muslims should be suspicious of the West after Muslims leveled the worst attack ever on American shores.

Now Iran wants nukes.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 8, 2006 10:44:58 AM

Actually, we were in Iraq (and Saudi Arabia) before 9/11. We were there about 10 years before, and that's when Osama got mad at us. Irrational? Sure. But that's where it all started.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 8, 2006 11:18:08 AM

We were containing Iraq, like many on the Left thought we should have kept doing, when 9/11 happened. But we had not attacked Iraq since January of 1991.

You are not suggesting we shouldn't have been there, I am sure.

Oh, and the Saudis invited us.


Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 8, 2006 11:28:38 AM

Those 'aspects' are tenants of the Islamic religion.

Religions don't have "tenants".

The same religion that orders it's followers to kill non-believers, women and children.

From Luke:
19:26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

We could trade quotes all day, but really, if you feel that killing non-believers, women and children are inseperable parts of Islam, I'll just ask why things aren't much worse than they already are. Why aren't American Muslims convicted of murder so much more often than other Americans? Why have some Muslim countries been able to avoid wars for, gosh, entire decades?

And how, exactly, does this religious belief manifest itself besides the non-constant war and the non-epidemic murders? For example, do Muslims make cookies out of the blood of Christian children?

I'd say Muslims should be suspicious of the West after Muslims leveled the worst attack ever on American shores.

So you're agreeing, then? And all the rest of your post is just whining and gratuitious insults?

And I could argue with Fred's assertion that the "hard left" never talks about problems with Islamic cultures, but instead I'll just ask if he noticed the very next sentence after that: "The great delusion of right-wing bloggers is that this change can be achieved by military means."

Posted by: Cyrus | Feb 8, 2006 11:41:41 AM

Those are "tenets". Fred.
Christianity and Islam have an enmity going on for millenia. Religious extremism is a phenom depressingly difficult to moderate. The variety is no more remarkable than the fact that people are upset with each other over unobserved and unprovable "perceptions" : that's why they call it faith. It is reinforced by programming.
"Disrespecting" such without the motivation of an opposing agenda is most annoying when those advancing it don't even recognize that's what's going on ; positions re "divinity" are not value neutral. People used to assess each other's fantasies with more appreciation for their devotion to personal delusions ; and resentment of those who pricked their bubble.
Which may or may not resonate in a secular state ; is the U.S. promoted and perceived as religion based elsewhere ? Likely not.
Funny thing is, the country which arose from religious intolerance and diversity ended using missions in Vietnam and South America to further intel based objectives. Check out the history of JARS and the CIA if interested.
Religion has been used as a tool to advance particular views. It is a carrier for propaganda payload. I doubt this is news in Washington these days.

Posted by: opit | Feb 8, 2006 11:47:45 AM

We were containing Iraq, like many on the Left thought we should have kept doing, when 9/11 happened. But we had not attacked Iraq since January of 1991.

Interesting. I guess bombings and missle strikes are "containing," not "attacking."

Oh, wait. Toke wrote this. No wonder it's half-assed, barely coherent drivel.

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 8, 2006 12:20:18 PM

As Cyrus hints, American feminists were criticizing the Taliban long before the Bush Administration came to power. It's just that feminists criticizing the oppression of women on other shores never get much media play.

Now, there are perfectly good reasons for feminists to oppose the Iraq War. The new Shiite fundamentalist rulers are more scary from a feminist perspective than Saddam was.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 8, 2006 12:22:00 PM

Those are "tenets". Fred.

Why not direct this to the right person, BOZO!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 8, 2006 12:42:35 PM

I do think the substantive point of the Werewolf's point is correct, however:

The way that the face of Islam will eventually be changed (and I'm sure it will) is by a gradual process of cultural engagement over several decades, and by simple improvements in Muslims' standard of living.

Undoubtedly change happens slowly and with rational engagement.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 8, 2006 1:10:33 PM

I should have added...and not bombs, bullets and tough talk from a Christian President who wears his faith on his sleave that is easily miscontrued as inciting crusade.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 8, 2006 1:15:44 PM

Undoubtedly change happens slowly and with rational engagement... I should have added...and not bombs, bullets and tough talk from a Christian President who wears his faith on his sleave that is easily miscontrued as inciting crusade.

Easily misconstrued? How so? It's a direct quote.

Posted by: Cyrus | Feb 8, 2006 1:52:03 PM

Sorry, Fred. I have to admit your moniker isn't as good a target ; missing smoky was a shame.
Actually, I sympathize with your 7:30 post. We're a long way from the days of the Peace Corps here.

Posted by: opit | Feb 8, 2006 2:40:24 PM

Stephen,

I am sick of doing your research for you. Type 'containment + Iraq' into a search engine and you will see that is what the policy toward Iraq (by Dems and Reps) was called throughout the nineties. If you are too stupid to understand that, maybe you should start with a less intense web site, like michaelmoore.com or moveon.org. Those sites will reinforce your liberal ideas and won't hurt your mind so much.

Stephen, do you attack me cuz I correct you so often and embarrass you in front of your friends here? When you attack me on "containment is not dropping bombs on Iraq" (like Clinton did a few times in the nineties) and the other stupid shit you say, you look that much more foolish because it is so easy to correct you. But you are a fun punching bag, kinda like one of those clowns that keeps bouncing back up for another punch in the face.

Opit, my mistake, not Fred's.

Cyrus,

Mainstream Christians don't defend beheadings, murdering women and children, flying planes into buildings, blowing up busses, executing school children at school, etc. by radical Christian fascists.

Mainstream Muslims defend or turn a blind eye to all theses things that radical Muslims do.

As far as liberalizing the Muslim religion, they may eventually get to the point where they don't advocate the killing of infidels simply because they don't believe in Allah, or killing someone cuz they made an offensive film or cartoon, but I doubt we will see muslims tolerate homosexuals or abortions in our lifetime.

Would that be the goal of liberalizing the Muslim religion? To get them to the point where they don't kill those who don't believe as they do?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 8, 2006 2:56:35 PM

Uninteresting? I thought some were perplexing in that cartoons from other cultures don't always translate well and some were not all that clever (but then the New Yorker has yet to hire Sergio Aragones!)
I wouldn't have called them uninteresting or dumb. I wonder why you did?

Posted by: slickdpdx | Feb 8, 2006 3:53:15 PM

Well, there weren't any real jokes going on in them.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 8, 2006 4:13:25 PM

Toke,

Who the fuck cares what it was called? I didn't say anything about policy, or Clinton. Holy Jeebus, you're stupid. And once again, when I call you on it, you hide behind poorly conceived word games and a belligerent attitude, hoping that no one will see how dumb you are.

If we're going to play with words, how about you look up the word attack. How about you see how many articles in the 1990's referred to U.S. and British attacks on Iraqi targets. It doesn't matter what the "policy" was called. The actions themselves were called "attacks" by the media, by the British and by the American government.

Until 2003, we hadn't invaded Iraq since 1991. That's the word your feeble mind was looking for. And just because you don't have the intellectual juice to remember hard concepts like the proper use of language is no reason to attack anyone else. Your idiocy is of your own doing.

Oh, but please do insult me some more and claim that I'm "embarassed" here. Yeah, that's good. And it really hurts when you come up with some juvenile insult. Oh noes! Toke called me a name!!1!!1!!

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 8, 2006 10:12:14 PM

"Who the fuck cares what it was called?....Holy Jeebus....I'm "embarassed" here....Yeah, that's good.....Toke called me a name!!1!!1!!"

Angry, bitter, delusional libeals. It don't take much to set them off.

I bet Stephen got a little bit of spit hanging off his chin right now, his head still shaking a little.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 8, 2006 10:59:13 PM

Wow, Cletus, speak English much? "It don't take much" for you to fall back on the only "argument" you know.

"I. . .got a little spit hanging. . .right now. . .head still shaking a little."

Fun game, isn't it?

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 8, 2006 11:04:07 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.