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Monday, February 13, 2006

Islam: A response to Pete Phillips

Pete Phillips responded to me in the comments section of the previous post where I commented back. Then I noticed a response on his blog so here's my response!

Pete says:
He suggests his comments are not personal. This of course raises huge issues about what is personal and what is not - almost reminded me of the Dan-Brownian manoeuvre to create fact out of fiction...

Where am I creating fact out of fiction? I have no idea what he means. An example?
And Dan Brown? In what sense? What fact have I created? Or is Pete inventing what I said then claiming it is me who is inventing facts? If Pete meant that I was making up that Islam was all liberal and open then I didn't say that and so I can't really defend something I haven't said and that's Pete's creation of me not mine of Islam. My concern was the portrayal and stereotyping of Islam (see also Paul Nikkel at Deine on this). As for personal, as I said in the comments, this was to make sure no one who had written on it took it as an attack on them personally. It was the argument I wanted to deal with and fankly it means little to me who individually made the arguments. That really should be obvious.

Islam is not open to free speech. I know that is a generalisation. There are indeed Muslims open to free speech - many of them. But institutionally and politically this is a true generalisation. Go to Saudi and try and print the cartoons - even the most inoffensive of them and you will realise how Islamic politics is not the same as Western politics.

Apart from it being very weird that freedom loving Western Christian leaders would support such a regime, what does this mean? Why are there so much problems with free speech in Saudi? Some I know would defintely answer 'yes' to the following question so there should be no problem asking this question outright and to Pete in particular: is Christianity therefore inherently better than Islam? Ok and some more. If so what were all those centuries of burnings and heretics? And would it not be better to start thinking more in broader socio-historical terms than history of ideas?

No-one, surely, with a right mind is saying that Western imperialism is right but nor is it factual to simply say that Islam is as open to freedom of speech as the West is...
Of course, I am not giving a value judgement here.


Pete said:
James says he is an advocate of free speech. I am not so convinced that the rights agenda of the late twentieth century and twenty first century is going to be as helpful to human society as we think...I think it is another corollary to late capitalism that may well yet destroy the foundations of what we call civilization.

I'm not quite sure what Pete is getting at here. Rights and free speech as found in the West are certainly tied in with late capitalism but not what I was advocating. A lot of the ideals of rights and free speech in western contexts is a bit dubious. There are plenty of sophisticated ways of non-totalitarian censorship in the West: that's not the kind of free speech I was defending.


Anonymous steph said...

I was totally confused with Pete's apparent problem, I agree wholeheartedly with James (who writes as usual with he utmost clarity), and Paul's post on Deinde is (apart from being comment unfriendly!) absolutely fabulous. Well said, wish it were said more....great photos!!!!

February 14, 2006

Anonymous Pete Phillips said...

reception is always an issue...I read 'this is not personal' as = 'this is a factual statement and not a personal statement'. I didn't read the comment as 'I am not making a personal attack on anybody in particular'.

My reference to Dan Brown was simply to say that the stuff he says is fact is actually more prone to being personal comment. And I reckon that most of what any of us says draws close to this anyway...the danger comes when we decide it is fact in the first place and impose this fact on others.

sorry you don't get what I was trying to say...oh well...basically I agree that we need to take a wider picture. Christianity has been as bad, if not worse than Islam in areas of free speech and so on both in history and in contemporary politics.

I think the point I was making was about the gulf between what we do with the bible and what we do with the Quran - what we do with Jesus and what we do with Mohammed. And in 'we', you can read 'the church', 'the biblical guild', 'scholars', 'Westerners' or whoever you like...


February 14, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evil bastard

April 25, 2006


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