[Foundation-l] Wikimania and the Muhammad pix

Dan Rosenthal swatjester at gmail.com
Thu Feb 21 14:40:11 UTC 2008

I appreciate your comparison you're drawing Robert, but the instant  
case has significant differences.

First of all, not all muslims are in third world countries, by far.  
Second, muslims speak dozens of different languages from arabic, to  
farsi, to (british) english, to (american) english, french, various  
indian and pakistani languages, various indonesian and malaysian  
languages, etc. Each of these muslims regions have their own  
literature, dress, movies, schools, and culture. They're all  
interconnected by the broader Muslim Ummah, but individually they are  
all different. Even within their own religion there are Sunni, Shia,  
Sufi, Wahabi, etc. It's very difficult to say that third-world  
countries are stirring up this controversy. When I was in Iraq, I met  
many muslims who were so far from devout they could care less whether  
Muhammed was in a cartoon, they were drinking and eating during  
ramadan, etc. I've also met the exact opposite, muslims who are  
extremely devout, and would be horribly offended by any breach of  
their religion, however slight.

And therein lies the problem: people trying to speak for a fractious,  
heterogenous group of peoples with widely divergent customs and  
beliefs. It is, in my opinion, not possible for people to say "Muslims  
believe X". Which muslims? Which sect? In which country? The clerics?  
What about the population at large? Is there opposition? No, it's  
impossible to speak for all Muslims on this issue, and to do so is  
frankly absurd. It's one of the reasons that the petition to remove  
the images is receiving so much opposition.


On Feb 21, 2008, at 9:13 AM, Robert Stojnic wrote:

> Not long ago when I was randomly browsing through a mosque's library
> in middle east, I found a children's book about Islam, and I remember
> seeing people in it.. E.g. when Muhammad was leaving Mecca there
> was a picture of *some guy* on a donkey followed by people.. There
> wasn't exactly an arrow point to him saying Muhammad, but it was  
> pretty
> clear from context..
> So, my impression is that the pictures are not huge taboo unless  
> they are
> misused. Now, how can a single pictures stir some much controversy?
> Well, for that to understand you need to try to put yourself in a
> third-world
> position. So, imagine, that western culture is not dominant in the  
> world,
> imagine it's chinese. And, all your kids read chinese literature,  
> dress
> chinese way, write in chinese script (since roman is no longer cool),
> watch chinese movies, learn chinese in school, look at chinese  
> websites,
> etc... And imagine that only thing that keeps you as community is your
> religion considered by china as barbaric, and you as possible
> terrorist and second-class citizen... and that somewhere in
> well-off china, someone posts cartoons of baby jesus being pissed
> on by buddha and confucius... Would you be offended? Would it be
> by the picture itself, or by it representing a symbol of humiliation  
> and
> power of the first-world to desecrate even the things you find most
> sacred and all in the name of free-speech?
> I'm not trying to advocate anything, just to draw a picture of how  
> I've
> seen people feel - which not might be fully representative, but might
> give some insight ..
> r.
> On Thu, Feb 21, 2008 at 1:16 AM, Dan Rosenthal  
> <swatjester at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Nada,
>> I'm not sure you're representing the position accurately of Shiite
>> muslims. Far from all muslims take offense. Many, but not all Sunnis
>> do, and some, but not nearly as many Shiite's do. Furthermore, I'm  
>> not
>> sure I believe you are in a position to state that there will be no
>> demonstrations. There have already been demonstrations, as reported  
>> in
>> the news. You cannot predict the future, and is both folly and
>> dangerous to give assurances that you have no ability to uphold.
>> Finally, I would appreciate that the conference organizers not  
>> dismiss
>> something that potentially could affect the safety of conference
>> goers, and not assume that skepticism and criticism equates to poor
>> knowledge of Islamic belief, or uncivilized behavior. That was
>> dangerously prevelant within the Alexandria bid team during the
>> Wikimania bids, it's dangerously prevalent in Egypt's demonstrations
>> (and official state action, no less) today, and it seems borderline
>> prevalent in the tone of your post.
>> When the government of the country that we are hosting a major
>> conference in, completely bans the sale of foreign newspapers for
>> displaying pictures of Muhammed, and chastises the ambassadors from
>> other countries for doing so, we have every right to be concerned
>> about the status and safety of Wikimania. And we have every right to
>> express our dismay in the heavy-handed censorship displayed by the
>> Egyptian government, censorship which is fundamentally opposed to
>> Wikimedia principles.
>> -Dan
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