Saturday, December 1, 2007
Cry the beloved profession
On Dec. 13, the notorious Council for American-Islamic Relations will hold a panel on “Islamophobia and the Political Cartoon.” The event will feature Peter Gottschalk, a professor of religion at Wesleyan University, and his former student Gabriel Greenberg, who have authored a book on this subject entitled “Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy” (“in the spirit,” according to Publishers Weekly, “of Edward Said’s “Orientalism”).
“The discussion,” unsurprisingly, “will focus on how political cartoons often stereotype Muslims,” – with an eye, no doubt, toward greater “sensitivity” and “restraint” (read: “self-censorship”) among American newspaper editors. The latter, of course, are already so imbued with these “virtues” that only three major U.S. papers – the Philadelphia Enquirer, the Austin American-Statesman and the Rocky Mountain News of Denver – had the journalistic integrity to print any of the Danish caricatures of Muhammad in February 2006, when the vicious Muslim reaction to them was front-page news.
In and of itself, such an event must be disheartening for defenders of press freedom. But what really strikes a chill is the venue in which it is to be held: the First Amendment Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. That no one in the National Press Club should have perceived the ghastly irony of this is a measure of the depths to which American journalism has descended.
UPDATE, Dec. 1:
Asked in a Nov. 19 interview at politicalaffairs.net (“Marxist Thought Online”) whether he thinks there is “a relationship between this negative cartoon imagery and other expressions of Islamophobia, such as religious and racial profiling and violent hate crimes,” Peter Gottschalk replied, “Yes, I do. ... What is happening with these cartoons is that a stereotype is being perpetuated that is not just about the physical appearance of Muslims – they are usually assumed to look like Arabs and dress like Arabs – but also a set of characteristics, that is, that the men are violent, the women oppressed, and that the religion itself is prone to extremes of both violence and oppression. ... There is today a kind of latent Islamophobia that works unconsciously among many Americans.”
In other words, Americans’ apprehension about Muslims’ “characteristics” are not due to the very real violence perpetrated daily worldwide by Muslim men by citing Islamic scripture, dogma and traditions, nor to the very real oppression suffered daily by Muslim women subjected to forced marriages, beatings (mandated by Qur’an 4:34), female genital mutilation and honor killings, but rather to a “stereotype” generated “unconsciously” by “latent Islamophobia.” Such is the quality of the arguments that will increasingly be used in coming years to suppress your right not only to criticize, analyze and satirize Islam, but even to gain true knowledge of it.
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