Thursday, 15 January 2015

Po-faced fanatics

The Charlie Hebdo massacre has prompted a lot of soul-searching and fierce debate about whether the magazine is right or wrong to poke fun at religion. Some people defend the magazine unconditionally while others say they are being deliberately provocative for no good reason.

It seems to me that Suzanne Moore in The Guardian makes the best point about the whole thing. "Why must I have respect for religions that have little respect for me?" she asks.

In her case she's talking about the widespread religious view that women are second-class citizens and should be treated as such. But of course many religions are equally intolerant of gays, transgender people, atheists, people with "inappropriate" clothing and appearance and so on.

Suzanne Moore goes on to say "Tolerance has to be reciprocal or it is not tolerance at all." Precisely. Tolerance can't be one-sided. If a religion wants to suppress what I do or believe, then why should I respect what they do or believe?

Of course there's a difference between not respecting repressive religions, but keeping that disrespect to yourself, and on the other hand publicly mocking and criticising those religions. Is public mockery acceptable or does it merely fan the flames of religious intolerance and make the situation worse?

I think people have to make up their own mind about that but personally I'm reluctant to mock another person's deeply held beliefs merely for the sake of it or merely to exercise my freedom of expression. I'm content for people to follow whatever beliefs they wish to, without comment, just as long as they're not attacking my own beliefs. In that case, they're fair game and I have every right to attack them back.

You could argue that Charlie Hebdo magazine went too far in deliberately lampooning a major religion. But then you could also argue that those who object, and those who think such disrespect deserves a bullet in the head, are simply self-righteous, po-faced fanatics with no sense of humour or perspective.

26 comments:

CheerfulMonk said...

I learned a new word! so the po comes from the French word for chamber pot. Very appropriate.

The trouble with the offensive cartoons is there are a lot of Muslims who disapprove of the killings but are also upset by the cartoons of Muhammad. The cartoons makes it harder for the moderate Muslims, and they probably help recruit more followers of IS and al-Qaeda.

Another problem is people are being arrested/suppressed in France for hate-language, being anti-Semitic, so the Muslims think there's a double-standard there.

It isn't over by a long shot.

susie said...

I thought po was short for popo. Like the po-lice.

John Gray said...

Ms moore took the words right out of chris' mouth
He always say" why should I respect a medieval religion which would have me stoned on the street"
He has a point

Helen Devries said...

I thought Charlie Hebdo a crude sexist, racist, homophobic magazine...
Clearly the staff should not have been killed because they produced a puerile cartoon strip but what bothers me more is that police protection had been limited to the editor only and not to the premises...

Nick said...

Jean: This is the perennial problem, that innocent observers are caught up in this sort of controversy and subjected to hate and prejudice they've done nothing to provoke.

And yes, a lot of people see a double standard here, the magazine having published some very contentious material without being penalised.

Nick said...

Susie: Ha ha! I remember my parents always referred to a chamber pot as a po.

John: Exactly. The same people who so quickly take offence have no problems with the way their religion offends and suppresses those who don't toe the religious line.

Nick said...

Helen: I think a lot of people have an equally negative view of the magazine, even though they're defending its right to publish whatever it likes.

I didn't realise the police were only protecting the editor. How can that be justified? Though in the event the police protection proved to be inadequate anyway.

Bijoux said...

All religions get satirized. I haven't followed the story that carefully, but from Helen's comment, it sounds as though this publication is particularly offensive.

Sane people will react by ignoring it or not giving business to its advertisers. And now we've seen what insane people do.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Having never read it, I can only go by other people's opinions, but I've seen several adverse comments on the magazine's content.

As you say, the sensible course if you object to it is not to buy it or advertise in it. Violence achieves nothing. Or in this case, huge profits for the magazine as the print run is increased from 60,000 to five million.

Maria Perry Mohan said...

I am very tolerant of all faiths. My husband is a Hindu and I am a Christian. We have lots of friends of different religions. What annoys me is when people make derogatory remarks about my religion while expecting full respect for their own. That's not fair at all, is it?

Nick said...

Maria: Absolutely. To my mind, people who attack other religions are lacking confidence in their own religion. Otherwise why would other people's beliefs be a problem for them?

Grannymar said...

Nick, as I said on my own blog today “If everyone kept their religious views to themselves, we would not have half the trouble in the world.”

Nick said...

Grannymar: Too true! I don't knock on people's doors trying to persuade them to be atheists, so why do the religious feel free to doorstep me and introduce me to God?

CheerfulMonk said...

Maria,
How do you handle situations like that? In the past I haven't spoken up, but I'm starting to change on that. It's tricky if one is outnumbered and/or the other people get belligerent.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Ill admit up front, I know very little about this case or the magazine. Reading earlier comments, it sounds as if I would have found the magazine offensive. Personally, I have little patience with any religion that promotes intolerance and violence against women. And obviously, murdering the cartoonists was absolutely wrong. But I wonder sometimes, about the wisdom of that sort of mockery.

Nick said...

Agent: It's hard to judge the content of Charlie Hebdo because it doesn't seem to be readable online - and even if it was, it's in French. And I can't buy it from the local newsagent! So like you I really have no opinion about that.

I totally agree, any religion that encourages misogyny is not worthy of any respect. And I also agree, mockery sometimes goes way beyond the bounds of a robust exchange of views.

Liz Hinds said...

I've been thinking about this issue myself and I plan to post on it - when I get round tuit!

But did you see about the Tory who has finally come out of the closet and confessed to being an atheist? He intends to step down at the election so he feels he can speak publicly now for the first time.

Nick said...

Liz: I'd be interested to hear your views on the subject.

Yes, I did see the story about the atheist Tory MP. He "came out" after 28 years, and only then because he's standing down as an MP so his non-religious views won't matter any more.

Liz Hinds said...

A curious turn-round. I've never thought of the Tories as being particularly Christian. Religious possibly.

Nick said...

Liz: According to Wikipedia, Tories historically are generally of a High Church Anglican heritage. Not sure how many Conservatives would describe themselves as Tories in the traditional sense.

Wisewebwoman said...

Evangelism is part of most religions, ergo we have this "one true faith to save YOU" philosophy and of course in whatever Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper's name they choose to use.

And ICH drives these religions on to kill in ICH's name and reward them with virgins and free passes to the Kingdom.

The world is full of such extremists and not just the Muslims.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: As I understand it, Islam says that to kill one person is to kill everyone, in which case the Charlie Hebdo killings were absolutely not justified by their religion. They were following their own warped idea of Islamic doctrine.

Keith said...

If I am offended by a satirical magazine, or any other mag, I just don't buy or read it anymore. If a TV programme offends me, I know where the on/off switch is.

It's the same if someone criticises my beliefs I just walk away from them.

I am a robot!

Nick said...

Keith: Exactly. If you don't like what's in the magazine, you're free to ignore it. Nobody's forcing you to buy it or agree with the contents.

kj said...

The cartoons in question were in my opinion offensive, inflammatory . I support free speech but I have similar objections with the violence in Hollywood movies and in video games. There is a line that harms. The problem is reaching consensus on that line.

kj

Nick said...

kj: I tend to agree that the cartoons were unnecessarily offensive. There's a difference between thoughtful criticism of other religions and poking fun for the sake of it, for some cheap laughs.