Wednesday, October 1, 2008

There's Such a Thing As Bad Faith, And It's a Shame Too

Cribbing -- I will assume knowingly -- from Stanley Fish, Charlie Gere sees six things but professes to be unable to tell which is unlike the others:

While in no way condoning firebombing the publisher's offices, I find Jo Glanville's defence of the publication of Aisha, The Jewel of Medina as an act of courage on the part of the publisher ridiculous (Respect for religion now makes censorship the norm, September 30). Would she be so ready to describe as an act of courage a decision to publish a book denying the Holocaust, or advocating paedophilia, or race hate, or antisemitism, or violence against women?
If you're of a superficial turn of mind, the cases do look alike: a person writes X in a world in which many people dislike X. He goes on to clarify "the issue:"
The issue with this book and others that have offended Muslims, including The Satanic Verses, is that their publication is liable to give Muslims the possibly correct impression that a culture riddled with its own shibboleths, taboos and areas of interdiction does not consider it a problem to offend their sensitivities, not least by trivialising their religion and their culture in works of fiction.
I can't speak for the entire culture, but yes, I'm afraid it is exactly that bad: people in the USA and Great Britain do, as a rule, see grievous harm in Holocaust denialism, pedophilia, racism, antisemitism, and violence against women. They do not, as a rule, see grievous harm in what some consider indelicate depictions of the prophets of Islam. They certainly see nothing in such depictions worthy of bombing publishers or threatening the lives of authors.

People around here are apt to go beyond that to say things like this: Islam is worthless and false, and to the extent that its followers take its teachings too literally, it is dangerous. When they say that, it is because they consider it true, and because they are still free to do so. And they are also saying, albeit indirectly, that they will not be shackled by taboos held by others; and that they will not be willingly threatened into believing baseless assertions and avowals which they do not presently believe.

True. Guilty.

(via Norm)

5 comments: said...

this is painful to reply you on the subject which you have made rather "a war zone" against the religion of Islam.As a critic you have every right to criticise any peice of literature; philosophy; ethics; metaphysics; etc ;but; within the domain of set limits and prescribed norms.Just in English literature where you find; low profile charctters of charless dickons to the novelistic charactters of thomas hardy or shkespare; you never try to abuse the low level fictional characttersof one novelist and praise other while making comparative judgements.your athiest blog puts strong dictum on writers to address all religions with respect especially; christianity.based on political considerations; and after flouting the war on civilisations you have found every easy method to malign religion Islam with whatever; possible way under the garb of "Right to free expression and speech"Given; the fact in Europe if for example any sex worker is addressed with abusive lunguage even with regard to her "proffession of sex"the person abusing her/him is liable for action under law.Since; athiest have no concept of prohethood;leave alone the concept of God; they are unable to understand the religion in proper can;t claim to be reputed author while making perverse remarks on others.I shall hardly enter into any kind of discussion with you;but it looks prefferable; even as athiest to mantain level of decency as Bertrand Russell used to be.why could not salman Rushde prove his so called being genuis like other English authors of repute in other fields of English literature; instead abusing the religion of Islam?becuase; Rushede knew Euroipe is the best field or markewt to sell something hostile to Islam. otherwise; rushdee was knowing that his contribution in English literature is worth nothing for which Europe could hardly bother to recognise him;thus; found perverted ground for recognition.Goerge bernard shaw said" I stand on the shoulders of shakespare"which; simply means that shakespare has already done the substential part of his work in literature where from GB.Shaw had started to work. Rushdee was yet to find another shakespare to stand upon and lest to protect his failure he found Islam with myopic vision to offer it to the Europe to try upon. Thanks

Dale said...

Nazir, let's assume everything you say about Salmon Rushdie is true -- that he's a third-rate writer who has built a career out of insulting Islam. Does he deserve to die for that? I say he does not deserve to die for that. I say he does not deserve to live his life under threat for that.

Speech (including book publishing) occurs within the boundaries of norms. True. For all the *talk* of norms and values and scruples, the way such norms are actually *measured* and *enforced* vis-a-vis speech in this society is through the marketplace -- if people are too offended by a work, they won't buy it. If they like it, despite its offensiveness, they'll buy it.

To a very good first approximation, we get the art we're willing to pay for; meanwhile, and the art we find unacceptable vanishes.

This is how freedom works.

You are free to stand on the sidelines of this free exchange and beseech the parties with your special wants and desires and scruples on behalf of Islam as you understand it. For those beseechings to influence me, as I've said before, you'll need to start by demonstrating that the god of Islam exists. I see no reason to believe that god exists, and plenty of reason to believe the religion of Islam -- like all other religions -- is entirely man-made.

As for "war of civilizations," I am suggesting a way to avoid precisely that. Make your case with sound arguments and evidence, and there will be no need for war, and no need for threats.

Islam is a set of ideas. Ideas do not have rights. People have rights, but they do not get extra rights based on believing particular ideas. Your attachment to Islam, even when added to the Islamic attachments of roughly a billion more people, does not constitute a legitimate veto over the worlds of book publishing or blog posting. Or thought or speech in any venue, setting, or context. It just doesn't.

If you look about the world and find that much you read and hear offends you, I suggest you hitch up your big-boy diapers and recognize that being offended is the price of caring. So stop caring and this problem will go away (please see that this is roughly as realistic and useful as telling other people to stop saying things you don't like). Note that when I say "stop caring," it's the gentlest of suggestions -- no threat of violence implied or given.

Thanks. said...

Mr. Dale: before i could to my best ability explain your hidden position on religions more particularily; with regard to Islam; i may take opportunity to seek help from your freternety.prior to it i have gone through your athiest world and one of your athiest brother had fired upon holy Koran just holding that Holy koran is worthless; book either to be preserved or deserving to be read. Given; such darkest position of Islam; it looks contradictory as to how Islam could be a channel for your Modern progress. Let me quote Bertrand Rusell in this behalf: "Mohammendan civilization in its great days was admirable in the arts and many technical ways; but it showed no capacity for independent speculation in theoretical matters. it is importance which must not be under-rated is a transmitter between ancient and modern European civilization refer "history of western philosophy page 392"Simple question arises: could a darkest book with easy virtue prophet as held by you could groom such a society which could be an anchor to lead you to your prsent development?How such group of people based on ill-found logic could develop temper of science and philosophy which could subsist a perpetual reminder in the world history to attract the attention of well read person like rusell to find virtue in it?Athiest blog has only two options to quote: either rusell was mad to quote it or Rusell has some point to carry are an athiest and away from emotions that is good.still you keep things privy to you because of emotions which emotions are necessarily related to some of your ideas?athiest has problem not to think in plurality.athiest thinks of body not of soul; of ideas not of emotions; of art not privilege to artist.there; is no question of violence or threatining?in free society like britin the abuse of religion {christainity}is extremely punishable.Rusheede never desires death; but deserves to be reminded of his intentional guilt.politicians have their own way to work.America is a country with slogan of liberty.When; recently; indian prime-minster visited united states; his one and alone muslim journalist was denied entry in united states just because; he is muslim.Statue of liberty showed voilence to one peacful citizen for no reason or cause. similarily; if late khomani deecred death threats to rushdee can;t be attributed to one and all.last but not least in Europe one Mr. john canning wrote 100 great lives where prophet of Islam was given the highest rank being distingushed contributor to world history;the positive aspect of the book never came under discussion in such haste method as was seen in the case of satanic it not the polorised vision? thanks

Dale said...

Nazir, I think you may be referring to this passage from Russell's History of Western Philosophy (p. 427 in my edition):

"Mohammedan civilization in its great days was admirable in the arts and in many technical ways, but it showed no capacity for independent speculation in theoretical matters. Its importance, which must not be underrated, is as a transmitter. Between ancient and modern European civilization, the dark ages intervened. The Mohammedans and the Byzantines, while lacking the intellectual energy required for innovation, preserved the apparatus of civilization—education, books, and learned leisure."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I would say. But I have no grounds to doubt Russell's history on this point: "Mohammedan civilization" played an important role as a preserver and transmitter of knowledge when Europe was drunk on Christian ignorance and superstition.

I join Russell's salute to Islamic culture circa the 13th and 14th centuries.

Whatever Islamic culture did to transmit and preserve knowledge during the middle ages, it doesn't establish that the supernatural claims of Islam are true.

If you think I go easily on Christianity in this blog, you have not read it closely.

Thanks. said...

thanks very much for feeling compulsive to make selective option of Islam as preservator of knowledge.For any sane and organised community preservation of knowledge comes within the highest possible definition of squrely rebuts the atheist viewpoint that islamic civiization is composition of irrational methods with illogical approachs.while goining through the islamic history with clean mind one need not go the supernatural things; but shall have to revert to the human effort just made on the basis of reason and rationale:I may with my hesitation and possibily to your dislike quote prophet of Islam. One Mr. Maz bin jabal was appointed Governor during the time of prophet{pbuh} to far east parts of modern syria.before leaving to join his new assginment prophet{pbuh} asked the Governor: what creteria you would apply while ruling your subjects?Governor said: I would do justice on the basis of Holy koran; sharia or sunah wherever; applicable.Prohet{pbuh} asked: suppose you won;t find solution to your problems in it? Governor found himself surprised: prophet said: in that situation let you do "ijtihad" consulting intellectualls and find intellectuall answer. that is why democracy in Islam means : majlis shora" composition of intellectuals; not sex addicts; drankcard' corrupt persons usually found in the muslim countries.Rushdee missed to appreciate such other best things in islam.Islam need not to be seen through political the suppression which has resulted into present extremisim. it needs cool mind and unbaised intellect to study it even on materail things leave alone supernatural things. thanks