Freedom of Expression,  Islam,  Islamism

Lies, Damned Lies and Religious Lies

Cross-posted from Shiraz Socialist.

It’s not hard to find a skunk ready to lie and cause mayhem in order to advance the power of their religion:-

At a Council of churchmen and magnates called to Clermont in France and in a flurry of papal letters accompanying it around 1095, Urban [Pope Urban II] described renewed but completely imaginary atrocities against Christian pilgrims by Muslims in Jerusalem, so that he could arouse appropriate horror and action would follow. The effect was sensational: noblemen present hastened to raise their tenants to set out on a mission to avenge Christian wrongs in the East.

(From A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch)

And thus began the First Crusade.

When I read this I was reminded of latter day lying skunks in the Rushdie affair and the Danish cartoons.

Both these events seemed simple enough. A novelist, cartoonists, produced works that devout believers found blasphemous. Outraged, these believers rioted, burned buildings and killed people. Liberal commentators deplored the violence but had a sweet sense of empathy for the rage boys, and were inclined to scold Rushdie/the Danish cartoonists for their lack of sensitivity.

However between the blasphemous work and the spontaneous-seeming riots there were the clerics with the lack of scruple of Mafia bosses ramping up the outrage. With Rushdie it was the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, trying to gain political advantage over the Saudis.

The Danish cartoons were a chance for clerics lower down the scale to make their careers. The Motoons did not at first cause much of a stir, but journalists began to move events towards a story:-

Only when journalists, disappointed by the lack of controversy, contacted a number of imams for their response, did Islamists begin to recognise the opportunity provided not just by the caricatures themselves but also by the sensitivity of Danish society to their publication.

Among the first contacted was the controversial cleric Ahmed Abu Laban, infamous for his support for Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks. He seized upon the cartoons to transform himself into a spokesman for Denmark’s Muslims. Yet however hard he pushed, he initially found it difficult to provoke major outrage. in Denmark or abroad. It took more than four months of often hysterical campaigning and considerable arm-twisting by Saudi diplomats, to create a major controversy.

So Laban travelled around the Middle East and with him went an imam, Akhmad Akkari. To big up the blasphemy they included three extra drawings that were far more grossly offensive than the originals.

The first of the three additional pictures, which are of dismal quality, shows Muhammad as a pedophile deamon , the second shows the prophet with a pig snout and the third depicts a praying Muslim being raped by a dog. Apparently, the 12 original pictures were not deemed bad enough to convince other Muslims that Muslims in Denmark are the victims of a campaign of religious hatred.

Akhmad Akkari, spokesman of the 21 Danish Muslim organizations which organized the tour, explained that the three drawings had been added to “give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims.” Akkari claimed he does not know the origin of the three pictures. He said they had been sent anonymously to Danish Muslims. However, when Ekstra Bladet asked if it could talk to these Muslims, Akkari refused to reveal their identity.

Akhmad Akkari given the pig treatment

This story now has a further unlikely twist. After spending some time in Greenland reading Montesquieu and Rousseau. Akhmad Akkari has recanted:-

“The world doesn’t need a lid on human expression. That also goes for people you might disagree with. There was something deep-seated in the mentality of the group I belonged to, which I just didn’t notice. There was this fundamental idea that people were not allowed to express themselves freely, and that is just wrong,” said Akkari.

It sounds as though John Stuart Mill was on his reading list as well.

Akkari’s days as an imam are now behind him and he says that he is “no longer a part of the Islamic mission”. He further claims that many of his former colleagues are hypocrites with a mindset that is “horribly wrong”.

When asked whether the cartoons were misused.

“The way I see it today, yes. Behind all the talk of protecting religious imagery, there is always power and abuse,” he said. “It is simply revolting.”

That’s a succinct summing up of this and similar affairs. You can hear Akkari on the World Service 5:04 in. He has apologised to one of the cartoonists.

Akkari repentant

So credit to the man for recanting, unlike Urban II and Khomeini, who should both be rotting in the hell they were so ready to hand out to those outwith their own religious kingdom.

(H/t Thomask)


The Guardian has covered the story in its own particular way.  No mention of his sexing up of the original set of cartoons, which to me is the most reprehensible part of the whole affair.

His unexpected change of heart has received praise from pundits and politicians in recent weeks, though some question his sincerity. It has also disappointed some in the country’s Muslim minority who were deeply offended by the cartoons.

Jeez – weren’t they disappointed that their self-appointed leaders should have lied so vilely and shamelessly on their behalf?

Further update:-

Ophelia Benson further explains why that Guardian piece was so annoying.

“Stupid Guardian. Even in an article about the guy who led the campaign that triggered “fiery protests in Muslim countries,” the Graun is still using that stupid inaccurate stock-phrase “the Danish cartoons, which sparked fiery protests.” Imbecile Guardian. The cartoons did not spark the fiery protests, you buffoons. Pay attention to what you write. . .

That group of imams and their spokesman got people killed. The cartoons didn’t do it. People deliberately stoking outrage about the cartoons did it. Sometimes outrage has to be stoked, but this was not one of those times, and the stoking got people killed.”