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September 13, 2012


Meh. A lot in that post depends on analogizing Islam and bashing Islam to race and bashing your least favorite racial or ethnic group. But being of a particular race has no cognitive content. I'd submit as counterpoint that the ethics of bashing a religion is more like that of bashing the Republican Party.

I do not mean that gratuitous insults of religious books/figures are to be celebrated, but I don't think bringing up Muhammad's marrying a nine year old counts as gratuitous abuse. At least it's on the same footing as ridiculing Mary's virginity or Joseph Smith's integrity. A film that brings up the marriage to Aisha to call Muhammad a pedophile, thereby questioning his moral standing as exemplar, simply isn't imo making an illegitimate [*] point. In the founding texts of all these religious books you'll find far more inflammatory words about competing faiths. I often disagree with Brian Leiter's views, but on religious toleration I'd say he's spot on.

[*] By which I only mean to suggest that it's a morally acceptable point, not that it's the accurate view. As it happens I tend to think cultural standards on age of marriage/sexual contact are sufficiently variable across space and time to make the analytical value of this argument rather questionable. But against the the charge of -gratuitous offense- I'll defend it without discomfort.

Rabindranath Tagore married a ten (eleven) year old girl when he himself was in his twenties. Time, space and culture are indeed involved.

I am as "intolerant" of religion as Brian Leiter is. Yet I wrote this post (which I brought to the front of the page today) when the Danish Cartoons episode took place in 2006 and Leiter linked to it at the time. Even PZ Myers had a different take on it than his usual condemnation of religion.

Hmm, comments are closed there. Probably for the best since they're open here :)

I suppose I differ from your (or PZ Myers's) more liberal view in that I'm dispositionally -more- critical of "hardcore" Islam, and -less- solicitous of the sensitivities of its most hardline followers, than I would be with less "muscular" expressions of that or other faiths. My desire to respect and see respect goes inversely with tantrum-throwing iow. Temperamentally there's no argument on this issue that annoys me more than a demand for "respect" transformed into heckler's veto, and as exercised by people with deep cultural insecurities, -I- have no "respect" for it at all.

I'm willing (maybe; I also dislike the idea of special consideration being shown to religious views) to call it "disrespectful" to make toilet covers out of godly images or dunk crosses in urine, but I only want to consider temperateness of speech where the background assumption is that the safety of the speaker or third-parties is taken for granted. Where that's not the case, I'm interested in deeper problems than the hurt feelings of the deranged. To take Abbas Raza's race analogy (which I do dislike as above), there's a lot of social sanction applied on people using the n-word and good job too, but a movie denigrating MLK wouldn't lead to loss of life. Of course, were that sort of safety granted here we probably wouldn't be having these particular respect-conversations at all.

To give another example, my willingness to take the VHP's hurt sentiments re. Deepa Mehta naming her lesbian heroines in Fire Sita and Radha (which obviously suits my ethics just fine; I'm getting at whether Mehta intended and expected to offend in conservative India) ends completely where they engineer riots against her, and stop the film from being screened. I think a PZ Myers response more to my taste was the (in)famous cracker incident. In fact, Myers at least shows a pretty mealymouthed inconsistency here; for him it's no deep principle motivating one response for Danish cartoon and another for cracker desecration. It's just that he personally sympathizes more with one victim group than with the other, and going purely by the espressed values of both groups, he picks the wrong one.

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