Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The juvenilization of Islam

Yesterday, so-called protesters attacked U.S. missions in both Libya and Egypt. In Libya at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, four Americans were killed including Ambassador Chris Stevens by rocket attacks. In  Cairo, Egypt the walls of the embassy were breached and an American flag was pulled down and burned, though there are no reported casualties.

And why? The raison d'ĂȘtre is a documentary film entitled The Innocence of Muslims by an Israeli-American, one Sam Bacile (who is now in hiding), which was--for some reason--dubbed into Arabic and then actively promoted by well-known jackwagon Terry Jones. The film, by all accounts, is pure propaganda, poorly made, and of little consequence. It won't be shown in theaters, no major distributor will pick it up, and--if not for yesterday's events--it would have vanished into the ether in short order.

Just before the attacks began in Cairo, the embassy released an official statement--with the heading "U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement"--which has since disappeared into the ether, itself. A part of that statement:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims--as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions...Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Needless to say, the statement has garnered a great deal of attention since the attacks, as it appears to be no less than an apology for the film and for the actions and attitudes of people like Jones. Secretary of State Clinton was quick to fill the apparent hole, offering an unequivocal "There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind." The President followed suite soon afterwards, after the Administration had officially disowned the embassy's statement:
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives. 
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
Fair enough, right? Conservative pundits and politicians--along with the Romney campaign--have been making a lot of hay with the Cairo embassy's moronic initial statement (which it stood by in full, by the way, even after the attacks in Benghazi). But Clinton and Obama have made it clear that there is no excuse, no justification for the violence. Haven't they?

Sure, in a post-mortem kind of way. Going back to Terry Jones and his proposed Quran burning party on 2010, note that he was widely condemned by world leaders for the idea (and rightly so, in my opinion, because it was moronic). President Obama, in particular, said the following:
I just hope he understands that what he is proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans, that this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance.
This too seems fair enough. Again, Jones' planned event was stupid and pointless, even if Jones had every right to do it. But Obama also said this:
I just want [Jones] to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We're already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat that he's making.
And this:
This is a recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or cities.
Alright. In a realpolitik sense, he's right: such things are used as propaganda by those who wish to incite violence against America, against the West, against all things not Islam. And in the end--in the next year--Jones did burn a Quran and there was a violent response in Afghanistan. But who were the real culprits? The ignorant fools like Jones who do ignorant--though not violent--things, or the those who knowingly use such ignorance to incite others to do violence?

Moreover, doesn't it seem like a special exemption has been carved out for Islam, when it comes to respecting the religious tenets of others? When some nutjob bombs an abortion clinic--supposedly for reasons of Christian faith--our leaders have enough sense to not admonish the clinic for inciting the attack. When Judaism and Jews are mocked and ridiculed on Arab television, do any world leaders say "hey, don't do that, because it may cause the Jews to respond violently"? Jokes and insults about Romney's religion--Mormonism--are rampant on the internet (where, by the way, people in Egypt and Libya were exposed to both the new film and Jones' plans), yet are there calls from Obama and others to curtail such things because they may lead to a violent reaction from Mormons, at large?

No, of course not. And why? An expectation that these people of the West have enough sense to separate things, to not respond with random violence, to not blame victims or innocents. And herein lies a particular kind of bigotry, common to much of the left: the belief that other people outside of the West need to be treated as children, by and large, that they lack the intellectual sophistication to separate, for instance, a stupid film made by one person in America from America in general.

Thomas Bergler has a book--The Juvenilization of American Christianity--that explores how the Christian religion has been negatively impacted in some major branches by what he calls "juvenilization":
Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults. It began with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, which in fact revitalized American Christianity. But it has sometimes ended with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith.
An interesting thesis and worthy of further consideration, but it seems to me that his definition is far more apt with regard to Islam in much of the Muslim world. Religious passion is stoked among the young and cynically coupled with the tendency towards aggressive behavior and purely emotional responses characteristic of that same group for nefarious, violent purposes.

And many of our own leaders--along with those of progressive/liberal mindsets in general--actually assist the process by criticizing people like Jones above and beyond their criticism of the responses or potential responses to the things people like Jones actually do. In that respect, they treat the adherents of the Islamic faith as lesser peoples, as nothing more then--at best--automatons, capable of only responding and never wholly responsible for their own actions. The blame is parceled out to others, as a matter of course. Sometimes, justification for such violence is even manufactured by people like Ward Churchill.

Bur again, the point is that "Islamists"--for lack of a better word--are lesser peoples as compared to citizens of Western nations in the minds of such apologists. They need to be protected and coddled. Their heinous actions are "unfortunate," but are ultimately a result of a lack of empathy or respect from the rest of the world. Any apologies due are one way, from the West to the Rest. Thus, despite all of the moral indignation overt racism/bigotry produces among the Left, they appear largely ignorant of their own biases in this regard.

The need to immediately apologize for any and all slights to Islam presents a perceived relationship between the West and the Rest not unlike that of Kramer and Barry the Monkey:

And it's unfair, as it ultimately makes the average Muslim into something less than a full-fledged adult individual person who can be held responsible for choices and actions in their own right, as opposed to the same being excused by the failures of others.

Cheers, all.


  1. A couple of comments.
    First, a small thing about the creators of the film
    Second, the infantilization of third world countries (not just Muslims) is a staple of some parts of Western discourse. Everything they do is the result of imperialism/zionism/fill in the appropriate Western sin. They don't ahve an agency, they can only react etc. This is particularly visible in the leftist discourse of Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is a form of racism, though people who spout it would be appaled at the suggestion.

    P.S. The real issue of this case, at least in Egypt, is the fact that Egyptian authorities basically did nothing. It is about time US gov wakes up (maybe in private they already did) that Egypt under Muslim Brotherhood is not US's friend or even an ally. The fact that US is considering to "forgive" Egypt 1 B$ in debt while the MB is in the process of removing all the moderate elements that can potentially put breaks on its extremism is crazy.

    P.P.S. The riots in Cairo were supposedly also preplanned and were about the release of the Blind Sheikh.

    P.P.P.S. just two weeks ago people who ransacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo a year ago were let go with a slap on the wrist.

  2. Thanks for the correction and additional info, Dm. And yeah, I think we've agreed previously on the lack of agency in the third world.