Monday, July 10, 2006

A tale of two videos

(a) Here are two clips of a children's religion show on Egypt's state-censored Al-Nas TV

(b) Here is a clip of a US Marine Cpl. Joshua Belile singing a song at a Jarhead party.

Guess which one resulted in restraints put on the speaker. Three guesses. Two don't count. Anyone who guessed (a) is thus forbidden from reading this site.

Keep in mind that the first clips, by Sheik Muhammad Sharaf Al-Din, was a private act, in a sense, but aired on the government-run Al-Nas network (one that is formally at peace with Israel, no less). And by a government not shy about censoring. Now the second one obviously is a government actor too (as they say, "your ass belongs to the Corps"). But Cpl. Belile was singing a song at a private gathering, of Marines-as-men, not in uniform (a distinction the US military does, in principle, respect). It was never intended for public consumption. Still he was made to apologize, told not to perform the song, and then even not to record it. Now, a talk-show host plans to record the song without Cpl. Belile's involvement -- thus circumventing the post-Tailhook military's political correctness, its knuckling under to the Jihad Lobby, abetted by the MSM's clueless parrotting of the whines of the professionally offended. The US Marines: they'll kick the asses of the Jihadis, but kiss the asses of the Jihadi Lobby.

Now as it happens, I disagree with Little Green Footballs about the two Egyptian videos. I don't think the second one is "you won't believe how crazy this one gets" territory. I would be the last to engage in moral equivalence, but a cleric teaching children gory and dramatic accounts of the martyrs of the past is something well within the range of experience of most Westerners. Sure, Sheik Al-Din gets ... um ... into his account, but any Catholic who has heard the stories of St. Agatha or St. Lawrence can roll with this. It's the first one that is truly pernicious. Sheik Al-Din gives an account of a Jewish plot to kill Mohammed (NPFFP) using a poisoned lamb, and God miraculously saving Mohammed (BIHFTC). Now again, there is no doubt historically that the Jews of 7th century Arabia were the Prophet's political and religious rivals. But the cleric takes a call from a listener who says "I learned that the Jews are people of treachery and betrayal." The cleric lets out the ejaculation: "Allahu Akbar" and wishes that God give the caller success and says in a gushing tone that "we want mothers who raise their sons for Jihad and know that the Jews are people of treachery, betrayal and vileness." That was the point he wanted people to take from the story -- the perfidy of the Jews. I went to a school named after St. Lawrence and learned of his marytrdom as a 5-year-old, but never was I taught that the point was what a bunch of treacherous betrayers Romans are and how we should want to avenge Lawrence's death against the Romans of today (as an aside, never did I hear the Jews of today blamed for Our Lord's death either). Right there is the essential moral difference between Christianity and Islam today, as practiced. The Muslim cleric isn't giving a general spiritual reflection on taking up our cross for God's sake, and even taking joy from it, as the nuns who taught me about St. Agatha, St. Lawrence and many others; he is giving a political lesson that he intends to apply today in the most literal, vengeance-seeking terms.

5 comments:

Litmus said...

"He is giving a political lesson that he intends to apply today in the most literal, vengeance-seeking terms."

What's Nicholas Almeida up to these days, by the way?

Victor said...

Dunno ... ask Dan Brown.

Mr. Brown is alive, wealthy and celebrated. Has anyone outside India even heard of Mr. Almeida? How many divisions does he have? Was it actually a bounty? You do know that most of the Indian Christian reaction to DVC was fasting and calling for banning the film? Neither of which is exactly killing Dan Brown.

Here's what the moral equivalenceers will never get -- in Christianity, the killers in behalf of the religion do exist, but are considered kooks. They have no official, mainstream or widespread (the three adjectives are different and equally relevant). In Islam, the killers not only exist in far greater numbers, but they are squarely in the Islamic mainstream and have much popular and (in some cases) official backing.

Litmus said...

"Was it actually a bounty?"

I don't know if he filled out the Bounty Request Form properly, but apparently he did check off the "dead or alive with money attached" box...

"Has anyone outside India even heard of Mr. Almeida?"

I was unaware you were discussing the sheikh above with respect to his popularity outside Egypt, or citing the size of his following inside the country. The points that seemed to be valid were a) his rant is government approved in some sense, and b) he is mainstream insofar as anything appearing on Egyptian TV is considered mainstream. My point, on the other hand, was simply along the lines of "there exists an X such that..."

If you are interested in discerning what is widespread and mainstream, you might at least check whether the phenomenon of Amr Khaled poses a challenge to your thesis, someone who probably has a bigger audience than this dude and is also known outside of Egypt.

Victor said...

The Egyptian government kicked Khaled out of their country. Which tells you, combined with the sheikh video, what they do and do not consider tolerable opinion.

But I wouldn't overstate Khaled's "moderation." He maintains (as Muslims must) that Islam has the right to run the world, and told the West, apropos of the Danish cartoons, that free speech should give way to Muslim religious doctrine

Litmus said...

"Which tells you, combined with the sheikh video, what they do and do not consider tolerable opinion."

Yes, although the issue of maintaining control comes into play as well. Rembember how official, widespread, and mainstream were three different adjectives? That was awesome.

"But I wouldn't overstate Khaled's "moderation.""

How about just stating his moderation? He does say "the prophet trusted the Jews and gave them all the rights of citizenship in Madinah, guaranteeing that no one would harm them, take any of their money, force them to convert, or intercede with their freedom to worship." Which is exactly the kind of thing the other guy would not say. And it is only significant insofar as Khaled is popular.

"He maintains (as Muslims must) that Islam has the right to run the world, and told the West, apropos of the Danish cartoons, that free speech should give way to Muslim religious doctrine."

What are the quotes you're referring to here? I'm aware he has said free speech should be adapted to Muslim values in the case of the cartoons, but perhaps you'd like to explain how this is worse that calling for the banning of the Da Vinci Code? As for the right to Islam running the world, how he advocates obtaining that right is of practical significance. Given his popularity and his alleged moderate stance, I would think he'd be a more worthy opponent.