British artists too frightened to tackle radical Islam
Britain's contemporary artists are feted around the world for their willingness to shock but fear is preventing them from tackling Islamic fundamentalism. Grayson Perry, the cross-dressing potter, Turner Prize winner and former Times columnist, said that he had consciously avoided commenting on radical Islam in his otherwise highly provocative body of work because of the threat of reprisals.
Perry also believes that many of his fellow visual artists have also ducked the issue, and one leading British gallery director told The Times that few major venues would be prepared to show potentially inflammatory works. "I've censored myself," Perry said at a discussion on art and politics organised by the Art Fund. "The reason I haven't gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat."
Perry's highly decorated pots can sell for more than 50,000 pounds and often feature sex, violence and childhood motifs. One work depicted a teddy bear being born from a penis as the Virgin Mary. "I'm interested in religion and I've made a lot of pieces about it," he said. "With other targets you've got a better idea of who they are but Islamism is very amorphous. You don't know what the threshold is. Even what seems an innocuous image might trigger off a really violent reaction so I just play safe all the time."
The fate of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker who was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after he made a film portraying violence against women in Islamic societies, is the most chilling example of what can happen to an artist who is perceived to have offended Islam. Perry said that he had also been scared by the reaction across the Islamic world to Danish cartoons deemed anti-Muslim in 2006 and by the protests against Salman Rushdie's knighthood this year.
Across Europe there is growing evidence that freedom of expression has been curtailed by fear of religious fundamentalism. Robert Redeker, a French philosophy teacher, is in hiding after calling the Koran a "book of extraordinary violence" in Le Figaro in 2006; Spanish villages near Valencia have abandoned a centuries-old tradition of burning effigies of Muhammad to mark the reconquest of Spain, against the Moors; and an opera house in Berlin banned a production of Mozart's Idomeneo because it depicted the beheading of Muhammad (as well as Jesus and other spiritual leaders).
In Britain the most high-profile examples have also been seen in the theatre, with the campaign by Christian fundamentalists against Jerry Springer: the Opera and the protests in Birmingham that forced the closure of Bezhti, a play about rape and murder in a Sikh temple.
Tim Marlow, director of exhibitions at White Cube, the London gallery, welcomed Perry's admission. "It's something that's there but very few people have explicitly admitted. Institutions, museums and galleries are probably doing most of the censorship. I would be lying if I said of course we would show something like the Danish cartoons. I think there are genuine reasons for concern. Fundamentalism is a really complex issue and one of the things artists can do is to help us through that complexity. Whether or not it's their responsibility to do that I'm not sure though."
Jewish State bad: Muslim State good
For anyone who wants to know why there is so much suspicion on the part of Israelis as to the real intentions of the Palestinian people, just listen to Saeb Erekat. Mr. Erekat, who is the chief Palestinian negotiator, this week rejected Israel's position that it be recognized as a Jewish state. The newspaper Haaretz reported that in a radio interview, Mr. Erekat said, "No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity."
No state, that is, except for the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and a host of other Arab kingdoms, sheikdoms and republics that base their rule on Islam. Egypt, the largest Arab country, has a parliamentary process with a formal penal code written and based upon the principles of Islamic law. The constitution of the new Iraq says that Islam is the official religion, and no law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be allowed.
Curiously, Mr. Erekat seems to obscure the fact that even the proposed Palestinian constitution clearly states that Islam is the official state religion and that Shariah - Islamic law - is a major source for legislation. In Europe, there are several examples of countries with official state religions, all Christian. So what, exactly, is the problem with a Jewish state?
For years, we have been hearing that the source of the problems between the Arab world and Israel is Israel's occupation of Arab lands and the lack of a Palestinian homeland. Now that Israel has withdrawn from Lebanon, Egypt, Gaza and Jordan, it appears that Mr. Erekat is saying that the real problem is not the lack of a Palestinian homeland, but rather the presence of a Jewish one. In denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination and independence, Mr. Erekat not only singles out Jews as undeserving of nationhood, but also blatantly ignores decades-old international agreements that provide for an independent homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people.
When the League of Nations first provided for a "mandate" for what was then known as Palestine, its purpose was to provide for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." When the United Nations later called for the partitioning of part of Palestine, it specifically referred to "the establishment of the independence of the Arab and Jewish States." Now, ignoring what was agreed to and denying fundamental rights to the Jews that he would extend to Palestinian Arabs, Mr. Erekat has shown that the problem is not the "occupation." The problem is the Jews.
Arabs in Israel represent about 20 percent of the population. They have their own schools, councils and national representatives. They attend universities, work where they wish and travel freely throughout the country. The Palestine that Mr. Erekat envisions will be free of Jews and has allowed rhetoric of religious leaders that, in official broadcasts, calls Jews "the sons of monkeys and pigs." But Mr. Erekat, not satisfied that Arab Palestine will be off-limits to the Jewish people, now denies Jews the right to even call Israel their own.
No doubt Mr. Erekat's apologists will spin his comments into "what he really meant was," rather than condemning his unfortunate comment - a comment that can only further doubts and suspicions rather than building trust and understanding.
As Mr. Erekat was uttering his words, Palestinians, whose obligations under the "road map" call for first ending terror and violence, normalizing Palestinian life, and building Palestinian institutions, were busy killing each other in Gaza at a memorial service for Yasser Arafat. This after years of failure to control the gangs of militias and terrorists in the West Bank as well, despite having their own security forces in all major Palestinian cities. With internecine Palestinian battles and a failed leadership, Mr. Erekat has thrown a monkey wrench into negotiations whose purpose it is to end Israeli control of Palestinian lives and create secure independence for both Arabs and Jews. So is it really the "occupation" that is the root of the problem, or is it the fact that the Jewish state exists at all?
PALESTINE, AND THE CRIME OF BEING A JEWISH STATE
My heart goes out to the Palestinians. Not only because their entire world has become one of despair, immobility, bloodshed, disillusionment, crumbling infrastructure, crumbling history, crumbling horizons. There's also this: Their leaders are even worse than ours. Imagine the most pragmatic, the most moderate, the most persuasive, the most reasonable of their representatives, preparing for the first peace summit in recent memory, by attacking the very idea that Israel should be a Jewish state. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, declared Monday that the Palestinians will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Erekat was responding Monday to a series of strong statements by Ehud Olmert the day before, in which Olmert said "We won't hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state, this is a launching point for all negotiations," adding that "Whoever does not accept this, cannot hold any negotiations with me." Erekat's response, speaking to Israel Radio, was clearer than one might have expected from a seasoned diplomat. So was the flat tone of rejection. "No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity," he said.
Never mind the fact that the Saudis, sponsors of a peace initiative which the Palestinians hope someday to parlay into an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, are a theocracy of such sectarian dimension that tourists are forbidden from entering the country with bibles, crucifixes, or items bearing the Star of David.
Never mind the fact that leftists the world over can live with the concept of explicitly Muslim states teaching the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other explicitly anti-Semitic texts, while arguing that the very idea of a Jewish state implies and, in fact, compels racism against non-Jews.
The bottom line is that if Palestinians want a state - an actual state, and not just a fantasy, not just trappings but actual indepence - they are going to have to reconcile themselves to the idea of an overtly Jewish neighbor.
The other paradigm, which has certainly gained currency in this decade, is to overpower Israel militarily, clearing away the foreign Zionist weeds so that a glorious, supremely non-Jewish Palestine may arise for the benefit of believing Muslims everywhere. It's not going to happen. The world has had its fill of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have had their chance. The Iranians would love to help them, but at this point, even their brother Muslims will not stand for it. It's not going to happen. The Palestinians are either going to have a state alongside a Jewish state, or that can choose to have no state at all.
Arafat knew this. That is why, in speaking to his own diaspora, he consistently held out hope for a Palestinian Right of Return, a way to overwhelm Israel demographically. But that is not about to happen either. Arafat knew that as well. These days, in the inept leadership sweepstakes, the graft and ineptitude and impotence has a new opposite number, the splintered and floundering upper echelons of Hamas. Once the most disciplined, well-run, canny organization in the Palestinian territories, Hamas has begun to misgovern Gaza the way Israel once did.
As Monday's disastrous memorial rally for Yasser Araft showed all too well, Hamas has begun to employ a deadly cocktail of apparent tolerance and spasms of brutality. For Palestinians, Hamas was once a pillar of hope and a role model of probity. Now the best that Hamas can boast is that it cannot bring itself to recognize Israel. Even though, in proposing decades-long truces, it has signaled its willingness to sit down with the people it will not recognize, and negotiate with the people it will not recognize, and live alongside the people it will not recognize.
Here's the rub: There was a time when everything that happened, played into Hamas' hands. If Israel invaded, or refrained from invading, if it talked peace or made war, Hamas profited. Now those days are over. Time is no longer on Hamas' side. Nor on the side of Fatah. The world has shown its willingness to let Palestinians suffer indefinitely. The world has shown its impatience with the glorious victories of Palestine, whether that means Qassam-butchering six cows about to give birth in a dairy barn on a Negev kibbutz, or raising an army which spends much of its firepower on fellow Palestinians, as in the memorial rally which left as many as eight dead in Gaza.
What matters, in the end, is not whether the Palestinians choose to formally recognize Israel as a Jewish state. What matters is whether the Palestinians can live alongside a state which happens to be Jewish in character. That is to say, can they come to share the Holy Land with a state in which the dominant religion is not Islam. Most Jewish Israelis, meanwhile, have come to accept the idea of an independent Palestinian state, in which the dominant religion will certainly be Islam.
If Palestinians cannot bring themselves to accept a Jewish Israel, there is always the default option. It may be unfair. It may seem that Palestinian suffering has been much too long in vain. But here it is: For Palestinians to choose not to accept a Jewish state, is to make the decisive choice for a future of statelessness.
Leftist self-contradictions again
Michael Polanyi felt that the secular left had succumbed to the two diseases of modernity, which are rooted in two false ideals, 1) detached objectivity as the ideal of knowledge, which eventually leads to the denial of the role of tradition, belief, and faith in the acquisition of all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, and 2) a strident hunger for moral perfectionism with regard to social and economic conditions, or Judeo-Christian religious impulses in the absence of religious structure.
You will note that these are contradictory ideals in the first place, being that belief in (1) undermines the basis for any belief in (2), that is, objectively knowable moral imperatives. This is one of the enduring contradictions at the heart of leftism, but as always, they are clueless to the fact. They are always "in your face" with their insane moral demands, even though they have no epistemological or ontological basis for having such demands.
Polanyi's term for this ubiquitous phenomenon was "moral inversion," and it is one of the things that makes the left so annoying. For example, if there is no objective morality and human behavior is simply guided by the lust for power, on what basis can they condemn Israel for merely defending itself from Arab savagery? Likewise, if President Bush is engaging in war merely to somehow advance the interests of his "corporate friends," isn't he doing exactly what their simplistic worldview predicts?
Another case in point is the redefinition of marriage. Suddenly, in the last decade or so, leftists have come up with the crazy idea that "conservatives" have been preventing members of the same sex from getting married, when this is simply the way it has always been. There has never been a culture that sanctioned homosexual marriage, because such a thing is obviously impossible by definition, marriage being the sacred bond between a man and woman.
When normal people respond to the pressure and bullying of the left, the left calls it "oppression" or "homophobia," in classic passive-aggressive fashion. The left wishes to radically experiment with the very foundation of society (which is necessarily rooted in the sacred), but projects this into conservatives, as if they are the ones pushing for change. And the left grounds their crusade in an appeal to an objective morality which cannot exist for them to begin with.
They have done the same thing with President Bush, whose foreign policy has been completely in accord with our long tradition of fighting evil and advancing liberal ideals as a pragmatic way to increase our security. You can certainly disagree with specific implementations of policy or with his administration's handling of the war without vilifying him and inventing all sorts of kooky notions as to why we "really" went into Iraq.
The reason the left does this is again because of their moral inversion. Since they subconsciously see themselves as morally superior, the motives of President Bush must be morally evil, therefore he is worthy of condemnation of the most hysterical and sadistic type from a psychotically detached and corrupt superego. For the left, he is the very embodiment of evil, even though one of the main reasons they hate him is that he believes in the objective existence of evil. Only a moral imbecile would argue that Saddam was not profoundly evil but that President Bush or Dick Cheney are.
And when I say "moral imbecile," I mean that literally -- even as a diagnosis, not as an insult. As Dennis Prager has mentioned, just as one can be mentally or mathematically or musically retarded, it is quite possible to be morally retarded -- to be incapable of soundly reasoning within the realm of morality.
And please, this is not to say that all leftists are moral retards, only that the movement is, which in turn makes it much more difficult to think with moral clarity if you are a leftist constrained by the paradigm of leftism (just as it is much more difficult for a Palestinian to be decent within the context of his indecent culture)....
Virtually every American president has implicitly believed this, that the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). This freedom-loving God is the God we're stuck with, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Which suits me just fine.
Now, you can say that Muslim culture is incapable of adopting the liberal values of this freedom-lovin' God, and you may well be right. However, a leftist cannot really believe this, for it would be at odds with his own belief that people are basically the same, that they are guided by reason, and that they all want the same things. I have no problem saying that the average Palestinian prefers murdering Jews to liberty, democracy, and economic development. But a leftist is not permitted to have such a thought, because it is somehow "racist" in his worldview.
It is not the policy, or broad attitude, that has changed. Rather, it is the left that has changed. In other words, the impulse to fight German Nazism or Japanese fascism is the same as the one to fight Islamofascism. It's very simple, really. It generally takes a highly educated mind to fail to see this, someone so imbued with hateful neo-Marxist brainwashing that they are no longer in contact with reality, only with the projection of their own fantasies.
It is critical to understand that leftists are every bit as committed to this idealistic "war on history" as are classical liberals. As Mead writes, the question up to now has revolved around "how best to define and then how best to win the war against history, not whether to fight one at all."
For example, the contemporary left has largely displaced this war to environmental concerns, projecting both sin and potential salvation onto that quixotic crusade -- as if it will have any impact whatsoever on mankind's main problem, which is the existence of human evil. But this is why they subconsciously shift the whole environmental debate to a moral plane. Al Gore will not debate anyone on the merits. Rather, he simply castigates and dismisses them in moral terms, as venal liars on satan's payroll. It's the same war on evil and on history, except that evil is redefined in their upside-down world. And from this follows the wise Talmudic saying that those who are kind to the cruel will always end up being cruel to the kind.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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