Tuesday 12 May 2015

Picture imperfect

Harry’s Place is featuring this funny clip. (We should be so lucky, if you know what I mean)

Sarah AB also draws attention to an article in the Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah, which sets out to deconstruct the sketch, and tries to make some completely idiotic moral equivalences. He’s not arguing for the violent reaction, but he is trying to rationalise the Muslims’ right to be offended, while asserting that most Muslims are not.

Muslims are not the only ones who get offended, he opines, citing the opera “Klinghoffer”, which he reminds us, upset some Jews who considered it antisemitic. (with good reason)
The libretto of “Klinghoffer” rationalizes terrorism, denigrates Jews and treats the plight of the Palestinians as morally equivalent to the Holocaust.”
Obviously the opera went ahead; there were no death threats involved and no-one’s freedom of speech was smothered, even though its message was factually deficient and morally obnoxious.

He also brings up Christian groups objecting to a film about a gay Jesus, and an anti-Catholic interpretation of an artwork that depicted the Virgin Mary dotted with elephant dung. Offence was undeniably taken, end of. (as they say on Eastenders)

The writer wishes to be seen to be tolerant of the Picture Perfect  sketch whilst accusing Pamela Geller of “demonizing Muslims for a living while masquerading as an advocate for freedom of expression” arguing that the many Muslims who responded to Geller’s antics with a collective yawn were a) in the majority, and b) to be applauded. Sure. Big round of applause for the Muslims who don’t kill cartoonists who depict Mohammed.

Of course, if the majority of Muslims merely responded with a yawn, the murderous minority might feel less motivated, and the taboo on merely ‘drawing’ the prophet Mohammed, let alone ‘insulting Islam’ would probably have less of a life-threatening element to it. So why don’t we get more sketches like that on UK TV?

I suggest that the BBC is so keen to normalise everything ‘Islam’ that they too regard depicting The Prophet Mohammed as justified, or legitimate, or understandable ‘provocation’, therefore doing so must be avoided at all costs.

At the same time they don’t respect the quirks and  idiosyncrasies of any other religion, never mind holding back on allowing other religions to be lampooned or ridiculed throughout the entire spectrum of their output.

There is of course a big difference between being deliberately insulting and breaking some religiously-rooted taboo. Steve Bell, the Guardian’s cartoonist is much more insulting than amusing, for example. His antisemitic cartoons are very offensive; I don’t know how many death threats he gets. 
The winning cartoon of the ‘Draw Mohammed “ competition didn’t insult Islam in the way Steve Bell insults his targets. It merely drew attention to irony of the  taboo from a freedom of speech angle.

As it happens I’d much rather comedy wasn’t based on bias, as in the Klinghoffer opera, and for that matter on the Jeremy Hardy school of pro-Palestinian / Israel-bashing, factually inaccurate cliche and innuendo. 
However, if that needs to continue in the name of freedom of speech, I’ll just have to lump it. But adopting the Islamic taboo on depicting their prophet because of a) misguided, selective, muticulturally  positive discrimination, or b) plain fear of being killed is quite another matter.


  1. Sorry Sue . I can't agree with you It is naïve to feel that freedom of speech is so important because the real situation is that our very freedoms are being threatened by incitement to hatred in words and speeches. Prof Irwin Cotler former Canadian Justice Minister starkly said “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers –it began with words” We desperately need to re-consider our relationship to "freedom of speech " if we are to fight the battle of those that want to take our freedom away. Professor Honrich made a comment after a nasty anti Israel and USA documentary in 2006 on C5 . He called for civil disobedience to overthrow British foreign policy . Offcom ruled that "they were sure that the Prof was being metaphorical " !!!!! This type of justification because of the "freedom of speech" idea is a nightmare for all of us.

    1. Thanks for your comment, but I don’t really know what you are disagreeing with.
      Incitement to (racial) hatred in words and speeches is already a crime.


      Perhaps it’s hardly ever enforced?


      We know that many of the “Free Palestine” rallies feature incitement and hate-speech. It’s a close call, but I think I’d prefer to see them countered by reasoned argument in the form of unbiased reporting than have people like that awful woman with the megaphone martyred by being clapped into prison.
      Yes of course the Holocaust began with words. That’s why we’re highlighting the BBC’s biased reporting, and calling for the BBC to espouse Judeo/Christian values rather than pursuing a rigid policy of ‘impartiality’ which gives credence to the enemies of freedom and democracy in equal measure with those who support it.
      The government’s promise to ‘crack down’ on extremism is a step in the right direction - they say they don’t just mean incitement to violence, but also radicalisation in the form of ‘grooming’. How will that work? Will they imprison Anjem Choudary?
      By the same token, Ed Miliband’s doomed threat to criminalise ‘Islamophobia‘ would have been caught up in a similar procedural minefield.
      Thank goodness that idea went down the pan.


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