Good Point

Anne Applebaum makes a good point as to why apologizing for things that outrage most of the Muslim world is just a waste of time.

Unfortunately, these subtle distinctions are lost on the fanatics who torch embassies and churches. And they may also be preventing all of us from finding a useful response to the waves of anti-Western anger and violence that periodically engulf parts of the Muslim world. Clearly, a handful of apologies and some random public debate — should the pope have said X, should the Danish prime minister have done Y — are ineffective and irrelevant: None of the radical clerics accepts Western apologies, and none of their radical followers reads the Western press. Instead, Western politicians, writers, thinkers and speakers should stop apologizing — and start uniting.

By this, I don’t mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon; I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology. But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech — surely the pope is allowed to quote from medieval texts — and of the press. And we can also unite, loudly, in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies and elderly nuns. By “we” I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde and Fox News — Western institutions of the left, the right and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary — “we’re pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence” — but in the days since the pope’s sermon, I don’t feel that I’ve heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus. A lot more time has been spent analyzing what the pontiff meant to say, or should have said, or might have said if he had been given better advice.

All of which is simply beside the point, since nothing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all. And maybe it’s time that it should: When Saudi Arabia publishes textbooks commanding good Wahhabi Muslims to “hate” Christians, Jews and non-Wahhabi Muslims, for example, why shouldn’t the Vatican, the Southern Baptists, Britain’s chief rabbi and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all condemn them — simultaneously?

Maybe it’s a pipe dream: The day when the White House and Greenpeace can issue a joint statement is surely distant indeed. But if stray comments by Western leaders — not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions and values — are going to inspire regular violence, I don’t feel that it’s asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don’t see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.

Apologizing and trying to explain/provide context/etc. whatever enraged this segment of Muslim world seems like a complete waste of time.

Via Instapundit.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Religion, World Politics, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    I think this perspective completely misses an essential point. No sane person has ever thought that apologies, or any form of “making nice” would have any effect on the fanatics.

    The reason to apologize, or to clarify, or to generally make it abundently clear exactly what you really meant by your statement, is to convince the non-fanatical Muslims, and the non-Muslims as well, just what your position is.

    The struggle is not for the hearts and minds of the fanatics. It is for the hearts and minds of everyone else. Those are the people that the fanatics are making a play for. If they put forth the argument that the pope hates all Muslims, and they can point to certain words that he said that could, conceivably, be interpreted that way, and the Pope then says nothing – allowing the fanatical interpretation to go unchallanged, then the non-fanatics, and non-Muslims may well conclude that the fanatical interpretation is correct.

    I think Applebaum, and you Steve, are showing great cluelessness as to what the stakes are here, and to whom the arguments are being pitched.

  2. madmatt says:

    “All of which is simply beside the point, since nothing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all”
    Which one of those whacked out imams has a global audience? Targetting your hate speech to a small group of co-believers in a single mosque is one thing, when the head of one of the most powerful religious groups in the world says it, it is time for concern.

  3. McGehee says:

    Which one of those whacked out imams has a global audience? Targetting your hate speech to a small group of co-believers in a single mosque is one thing,

    You mean like The Blind Sheikh, who inspired the 1993 WTC bombing?

  4. Steven Plunk says:

    I hardly see the Pope’s words as hate speech. Taken out of context and exploited by the media and radicals the words have lost all of the original meaning and message.

    Applebaum and Verdon have got it right. Those who hold power will not accept any apologies and those who might accept an apology will never hear it.

    There comes a time when arguing with unreasonable people becomes a waste of time. We past that point long ago.

  5. Anderson says:

    What, exactly, would any sane Muslim *expect* the Pope to think?

    We have a saying: “is the Pope Catholic?” The answer, for those Muslims unfamiliar with our idiom, is “yes.”

  6. dennis says:

    We must not only unite to stand up for freedom of speech and religion and to denounce the violence. We must also demand that the media stop giving a soapbox for every two-bit Islamic “leader” who has an opinion to spew. Most of these people are not leaders; many of them speak only for various splinter groups of terrorists. WE must also demand apologies from those who destroy churches, kill nuns and demand the death of anyone who offends them. And finally, when they carry out their hate by killing innocents, whether they are Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists or other Muslims, we must rise up against and destroy them. Otherwise, they will surely destroy us.

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    I think Applebaum, and you Steve, are showing great cluelessness as to what the stakes are here, and to whom the arguments are being pitched.

    But are they getting the apologies, explanations and the protestations that they really didn’t mean to insult anyone? These are countries that tend not to have freedom of the press and the media is used to help control the populace. If there was free and easy access to worldwide media then you have a point Tano, but since this isn’t usually the case your point is severely weakened.

    And the idea that we have to limit what we say, retract what we say, even when not really all that inflamatory is in a sense giving up a portion of a right we at least say we hold dear. The right to freedom of speech, even if it is somewhat annoying.

    Or maybe I should just delete your commment and show you first hand what the real problem is Tano. Hmmm…I’ll have to think about that….

  8. Angela A. says:

    This will be a little long for some..but for some it will be “enlightening”/ “fittingly appropriate”. …So please read it, in its entirety, when/if you get a chance:

    Ms. Applebaum displays…HYPOCRISY…at its finest!

    Perhaps Ms. Applebaum forgets how Jews reacted to the previous Pope’s apologies regarding the Catholic Churches role in the Holocaust, Anti-Semitism, etc.

    He was made to apologize…over and over and over…again. …And still–his apology was never accepted by some Jews.

    I wonder what Ms. Applebaum’s comments are on that?

    Now–

    She wants to tell the Pope he doesn’t have to apologize anymore. …Is it because these people are Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims?

    We have to apologize…over and over and over again to Jews…but this is something that should not be done all of a sudden….because it’s them?

    I find it despicable that many–would use their access to the press, to incite intolerance, injustice and certain actions/reactions to their professed enemies–never revealing to the public that they are the enemies of that person/group…as I believe Ms. Applebaum (assuming she is Jewish) is doing here. …There are many Jews in the press inciting intolerance and unfairness, often anonymously (which no indication of bias/conflict of interest), against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims…which I find abhorrent. [Conversely, there are Jews who really want peace (which is a good/”ultimate” thing) with Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims…and I encourage them to continue to do so/appreciate their efforts.]

    A fair and just peace is needed…between Israel & the Palestinians…as well as with Lebanon and Syria. …Sincere/non-hypocritical democracy promotion is needed as well for all in that region (as well as in other regions that ALSO don’t have democracy…and there are several). …This will be best for all of us!

    Ms. Applebaum Talks About The Right To “Freedom Of Speech”–

    Something many Jews attempt to restrict when people are talking about matters concerning them/Israel. To have “freedom of speech” where/when they are concerned…is to immediately be labeled as some type of bigot/racist (Anti-Semite)…which of course…is most often NOT even close to being true.

    The Pope…Has A Right To CONSTRUCTIVE Free Speech–

    He’s in office…chose to be there…and knows the responsibilities of holding such a position.

    Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims…Have A Right To CONSTRUCTIVE Expressions Of Anger (Which Some Have Done), Protests And Demonstrations–

    Unfortunately–some and I specifically mean some–have chosen to do this violently…mostly because many don’t have outlets that will result in change in their governments’ policies as a result of protests, etc….because they aren’t allowed to elect their officials [who resisted/resist democracy (think currently Egypt, etc.) because they were/are “client states” of the US and others, who wanted a stable Middle East/access to oil, etc., over these people having rights and freedom]…and appeals to the West/the U.S. haven’t brought about enough/significant results…and relief. [I encourage Arabs/Muslims to take a more specific/non-violent approach…so that the message is seen/heard…not the violence. ….You’re concerned/angry about many things (several of them valid). …But certain people here “use the violence”…so that the public here won’t hear the message. …This benefits no one!]

    …No credit to Bush on this–because his “push” for democracy–is hypocritical, rhetorical and a part of political manipulation/spin. He tells people that…’people in the Middle East’ deserve democracy’ (as though that’s the only region without democracy)…while advocating torture, enabling Abu Ghraibs, keeping Guantanamo Bay as it is/was; having secret prisons/having them to avoid abiding “the law”, hiding prisoners from the Int’l Red Cross, holding American citizens years without charge and trial, engaging in warrantless wiretaps, etc.

    …People, over there and elsewhere, look at our current practice of democracy (“non-democracy” actually)…and say ‘we want something different’/’we don’t want what you have’…because what you’re (the U.S.) doing there…we ALREADY have (except the voting part). […We have the voting part…but are still getting the other part. …How is this any good?]

    …So people like me have to tell them: ‘No, democracy IS really a GOOD thing…pursue it, the way it’s really supposed to be…even though you see how things are being done over here now.’

    It Saddens Me–

    That I even have to say that to them…anyone.

    My country is supposed to be a “beacon of freedom”, standards…and maintaining the moral high ground…off “what’s going right with the world.”

    So, Last & Finally–

    Ms. Applebaum–and people like her–need to work for Peace…deal with/work to resolve issues “all around”…and do it FAIRLY and SINCERELY.

    …Not include us (and the U.S.)/perpetuate our (U.S.) involvement…in the usual agenda to discount the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims (though I’m not saying there aren’t other issues that don’t have to be addressed with them and others)…and continue war/conflict and a lack of peace…these people. […Not out of “appeasing terrorists”, extremists, fanatics, etc….but out of ‘appeasing” what is right/what should be fair policy in that region!]

    As she insists on the Pope’s right to “freedom of speech”…let her insist/not discount their right to “freedom of protest”.

    …I don’t see her discounting anyone else’s “right to protest” (and I mean that with all that it implies)…nor other unjust actions/unfair policies…when it comes to this situation with them.

    It’s time for change…it’s time to do so…NOW!

    When people…like Ms. Applebaum…use their “pen”/”access to the press” for good, truth and peace…we will have peace…and be better off.

    We, in the World, and in America…want peace (a fair/just peace)…with them (most people/anyone)! …Even if people…like Ms. Applebaum…do not!

    This writer is American, Christian (Catholic, ex-Evangelical and Other), a Centrist and non-Arab/Muslim.

  9. Steve Verdon says:

    We, in the World, and in America…want peace (a fair/just peace)…with them (most people/anyone)! …Even if people…like Ms. Applebaum…do not!

    Okay, that was stupid.

  10. Anderson says:

    Angela A. … that ellipsis … thing … doesn’t mean … what you think it … means.

    (Jesus, lady, did you model your prose style on Celine?)

  11. Tano says:

    Steve,

    I don’t think your response holds up. First of all, a considerable part of the target audience, non-fanatical muslims, are living in Europe itself – so there is no issue of lack of press freedom for them.

    Secondly, I think your assumptions re. lack of press freedom are overblown in “those countries”. Satellite dishes are ubiquitous. Arab media includes outlets with considerable audiences, such as al Jazeera, that are covering all aspects of the dispute. They may have an Arab-centric perspective, but they are not suppressing the actual words that the pope might use to explain himself.

    Thirdly, calls for the pope to explain himself are not a violation of his free speech. The charge to him is not that he is not allowed to say what he thinks. The charge is to explain exactly what he really means. If he had come out and unambiguously stated that all of Islam is “evil and inhuman”, then there would not be calls for apologies. He would simply be understood to have a certain (clearly hostile) position, and people would proceed under that assumption. The calls for apology come from the contrast between what he claims to be his overall message (peace, understanding, reconciliation) and the use of the quote which seems to imply the opposite.

    Those calling for him to apologize are actually conditionally taking him at his word with regard to his overall message – giving him a chance to make clear what his feelings are. The reaction is basically saying “how can you use such quotes if you claim to believe in peace and reconciliation”? With the hope that he would reply by clearly stating that he does not view all of Islam as evil and inhuman. If he says that, then discussion can proceed in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

    This shouldnt be so hard to figure out – just think about a political analogy. If some foreign leader were to claim to want to have fruitful interaction with the US, but then made a speech in which he implied (by using the words of others) that Jefferson’s contribution to political philosophy added only things evil and inhuman to the world, then all of us would rightly conclude that there was no real basis for mutually respectful discourse. We would challange them to either take it back, or apologize if it was a misstatement, or somehow explain it, if any disourse is to ensue.

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    Sorry Tano, I think your analogy is off in that it wasn’t a request for further clarification, but an explosion of rage. Even from the “moderate European” muslims.

  13. Herb says:

    In order to have the ability to accept an apology from anyone, one must posses the basic instincts of being civilized.

    The Muslim world is now proving, beyond any reasonable doubt, that they are NOT civilized.

  14. Anderson says:

    In order to have the ability to accept an apology from anyone, one must posses the basic instincts of being civilized.

    Note to self: do not apologize to Herb; it goes against his principles.

  15. Herb says:

    At least I have principals and that’s more than some who make out like they are “Gods Gift to Mankind”.

    But then again, what else would would one expect from a “sore losing Democrat”