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The real voices of Islam: the bloggers 

My two posts about the from have been the most popular here, thanks to a boost from Der Spiegel and Guardian Unlimited, and on the web, the comments seem to be divided into two camps. There are those who are presently reasoning—Gina Cobb is one of the best exponents of this—and those who are being belligerent against , putting all Arabs and Muslims into the same category. I also have begun reading the (majority) moderate voices from and whose viewpoints run counter to those who are saying that their faith is inherently evil.
   Let us—, westerners, everyone else—step back and trace this event a little. These cartoons appeared in a (not Norwegian, as TV One last night reported in its second item) in September, in a title that hardly anyone in strongly countries read. It was pretty bad taste then, but you could still argue a . I would have been more respectful, but there are who feel the right should have been exercised. However, remember the sort of government has: it’s not exactly rosy when it comes to , with one of the more vocal parties part of its present coalition. I recall the last election campaign there where that party was quite vocal about kicking out certain ethnic groups, in statements which some nations might regard as uncivilized.
   By the time of the republication of these cartoons, we already knew what reaction it would provoke among Islam. That seemed to be gratuitous: ‘We’ll publish it because we can—and guess what? We can then report on the clashes!’
   And knowing at least one of the publications and its ’s typical behaviour in this business, I can guess that their decisions rested with a childish, gleeful rubbing of hands in wishing to create antagonism and little more. In that respect, those titles failed their to further the agenda of their readers, a point I made in an earlier post: ‘The ’s duty needs to be very similar to the wishes of citizens if we are to survive. And I sense the world would rather we have over discord, in which case we have failed to further the agenda of we supposedly serve.’ It was an act of desperation in a time when are falling. Follow the money.
   That financial agendum can be followed to a logical conclusion: a reporting on violent clashes. Thankfully in , Muslims led a peaceful protest in an exercise of their , not that it mattered to those who showed embassies being torched. I am not ignoring the fact that the violence happened, but they are not being balanced by the viewpoints of, say, Muslim bloggers.
   Some in the are serving their publics and have refrained from the images of (and I join Muslim writers in adding, peace be on him. It is a nice, respectful touch). The Guardian, for instance, felt there was no need to (linked by Ms Cobb):

It would not be appropriate, for instance, to publish an cartoon of the sort that was commonplace in Germany. Nor would we publish one which depicted black people in the way a Victorian caricature might have done. Every newspaper in the country regularly carries stories about child pornography, yet none has yet reproduced examples of such pornography as part of their coverage. Few people would argue that it is essential to an understanding of the issues that they should do so.

   Certainly in New Zealand, now guilty of republication, the appearance of the images in two newspapers served no end other than short-term gain, some massaging of their editors’ egos in a view that they effected some event (hardly the duty of a journalist), and exposure for titles that everyone knows anyway. (With respect to bloggers and readers of the Islamic faith, I will not even link them.) It has damaged the nation’s already precarious exporting record.
   What of those moderate voices? They exist in the , and it would do wonders if those of the Islam-is-evil persuasion were to search for them before blasting all of that faith. Do they know, for instance, that Al-Jazeera never broadcast any beheadings—but that it is a useful myth? I would even ask them: do they know any Muslims?
   As I commented below to a fairly civil post from one of my readers, one of my oldest friends is of the Muslim faith. Over the years I have had the pleasure of connecting with his . He is not alone among my Arab and Muslim friends and acquaintances: you’d have to live in a vacuum to not have had contact. Either they are all very good actors and they are waiting for the right time to kill me, or we in the west have a very poor understanding, post-9-11, post-July 7, of Islam—oddly enough, a charge levelled at me and Ms Cobb by a few people.
   It can be equally argued that and his conspirators were —which is exactly how the spoke of them after that awful April 19. They are hardly representative of all Christians or all . But it can be as tempting for someone in another country to draw that conclusion, just as so many have been tempted to lump all Muslims crudely into one basket.
   So where are these views? For a start, Jamal, a Muslim living in London, is one who recently linked to me. He doesn’t condone the violence, nor do numerous Arab and Muslim bloggers who are being ignored: Natasha Tynes at Mental Mayhem in Jordan (who has been following the incidents almost daily), Mahmood at Mahmood’s Den (who reckons national bans are daft), Omid Paydar in Free Thoughts on Iran (saying that dialogue would be more productive for Islam than ), and Lahoree, a Muslim living in Toronto at Hardly Innovative (who feels violence is a waste of energy). These blogs also condemned earlier , according to Global Voices, but that wouldn’t be good if we reflected a unified planet Earth with , right?
   South African Ethan Zuckerman is another gentleman who has Muslim friends, who blog, and summarizes their thoughts at his blog. (Mr Zuckerman recalls how created bias in his country’s reporting.)
   And to relieve ourselves from the intellectualizing, Steve Miller brings the whole matter down to earth (a link also provided by Gina Cobb).
   If our media don’t connect to their by providing them with , then they will die. Newspapers and their are particularly mired in uncertainty now, as pointed out in a speech last April (linked from Fulfil). Without the courage to change, the bloggers, who are more reflective of everyday views, will rule the roost.

Del.icio.us tags: Islam | Mohammed | Muslim | media | cartoons | Jyllands-Posten | branding | newspapers | Islamic | stereotypes | mainstream media | Denmark | MSM | bloggers | prejudice
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Update: it might be valid to bring up the part of those who organized these protests—they are as guilty of fuelling the incidents as much as the media.  
Hi Jack - Thanks very much for the link on your blog. Just to clarify - I'm an American scholar focused on internet issues. My friend Mohammed, quoted in my blog, is a South African Muslim journalist, who I was lucky enough to speak with during a recent trip to Qatar. Thanks for your excellent post.  
Jack, I've referenced your post and joined it with a few other posts and articles Here on my blog. This whole cartoon incident has become a real "Pandora's Box, " hasn't it?  
Ethan, I apologize for my error there, but thank you for clarifying. And Dave: thank you so much for your link. I’m just talking about it with a colleague right now and we’re surprised at how out of hand it’s all gotten. All it takes is simply having a dialogue between westerners and Muslims, which I hope can begin now that we’re linking away. Linking can save the world!  
Update: there was no mention of the cartoons in Tuesday’s Dominion Post, one of the New Zealand newspapers that published the images. Provides some weight to the argument that it was all for short-term gain to propel a few people into the limelight, doesn’t it? ‘Look at me! I have influence!’  
How the arrogant have learned humility: Fairfax’s editors apologize in New Zealand, though the television networks are yet to. Why wait? Is it so tough to apologize to the Muslim community that offence was caused, regardless of the press freedom argument?  
There is more interaction on the excellent 360 East blog, which curiously slipped my mind earlier.  
Hi jack,
Thanks very much for your post on my cartoons article. Appreciate your feedback. And by the way, Im impressed with your unbiased views and analyses of issues you talk about. Keep up the good work!  
Thank you so much, Lahoree! And thank you for your blog. I was honoured to be able to include your voice as well as others’ to create the balance and fairness that I wanted.  
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