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August 21, 2006

On Bad Faith And Cultural Equivalence

David Thompson's latest 'Bad Faith' column for 3:AM builds on his previous column, which dealt with cultural equivalence and the moral contortions that can result from it. In today's piece David offers additional reflections which include a critique of cultural equivalence, along with the Dalai Lama and even South Park:

[...] To recap briefly, cultural equivalence is evident when Tariq Ramadan (at al-Guardian) depicted those who criticise religious intolerance and intimidation as "extremists", thereby suggesting some parity of derangement between those who published the cartoons of Mohammed, or argued for the right to do so, and the believers who made homicidal threats and set fire to occupied buildings. (This echoed Karen Armstrong's reference to "aggressive" cartoons, published "aggressively" -- again, attempting to suggest parity of motive and blame, as if one excused the other, or shared the same moral gravity.)

Cultural equivalence is also found in superficial comparisons between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims, as if no significant differences existed or should be sought. In February, Reverend Patrick Gaffney of the University of Notre Dame blamed perceived associations of Islam with violence on a history of anti-Islamic prejudice, insisting "there are parallel behaviours in every tradition". Gaffney maintained there was little point looking for "distinct features" within Islamic theology that might have bearing on the wave of cartoon-related violence. Attempts to deflect attention away from theological specifics are commonplace, even habitual, though not entirely convincing. One cannot simply assume that all religious traditions are exactly equal in how they deal with various slights and taboos.

One might, for instance, contrast how the Christian Messiah and the Prophet of Islam are said to have dealt with unflattering comments. To the best of my knowledge, the New Testament does not inform believers that Jesus sanctioned the assassination of his critics or mocked their dead bodies. While Mohammed did occasionally forgive those who ridiculed him, this forgiveness was by no means the typical response, particularly in his later career. Al-Nadr bin al-Harith, Kab bin al-Ashraf and Uqbah bin Abu Muayt were killed at Mohammed's instruction in 624 AD, and the poetess Asma bint Marwan was killed the same year for writing a disrespectful verse. Given there are those who are gripped by literalist passions and view Mohammed as exemplary in all regards and for all time, perhaps these events shouldn't be dismissed quite so lightly.

Continue reading "BAD FAITH" ...

In the light of recent and ongoing global events, I call this one an important read.

Related: "The Brink of Madness"

Cross posted from Hyscience

Posted by Richard at August 21, 2006 1:58 AM

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