Socially Responsible Surrender
Once again, I am indebted to Annoyed Librarian for bringing yet another bit of "progressive" silliness to my attention. This time, it's ALA Councilor and (big surprise) SRRT member Al Kagan offering his take on the Danish Mohammed Cartoons:
The first couple paragraphs consist of the usual SRRT boilerplate on the evils of political neutrality and the importance of "social responsibility", as defined exclusively by the radical left. I think I've said enough on those issues, so I'll skip to the fun part. Now, normal people would think that opposing a global totalitarian movement that loathes the very principle of intellectual freedom and practices censorship by murder would be a no brainer as far as "social responsibility" goes. Unfortunately, most normal people aren't acquainted with the SRRT:
Coming back to the Danish cartoons, one should ask why they were published at this time, what the publisher hoped to gain, and why there was such a strong reaction. The answers to these questions are political. The Middle East is in flames because the current U.S. Administration is crusading to remake those countries into nominally democratic client states while grabbing control of the oil. Given that the US Government has overthrown the secular government of Iraq, the religious extremists have filled a power vacuum. All Muslims have been demonized in the West for the brutal actions of the groups that have used horrific tactics against the US Occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The backlash against the large number of immigrant Muslim workers in Europe is part of this picture. The Danish newspaper that published these cartoons has been drawn into this nightmare political situation. Whether or not the editors of Jyllands Posten understood the likely reaction to their publication of the cartoons, the seeds of this reaction were firmly in place.
My God, where do I begin. The part about America "grabbing control of the oil" is, of course, mandatory whenever an anti-American leftist discusses the Middle East. Also, it was Saddam's "secular" regime that paved the way for the "religious extremists" through its "return to faith" campaign of the 1990s. By the year 2000, the "secular government of Iraq" (good job not mentioning the name Saddam Hussein, BTW) had banned the public consumption of alcohol and beheaded women accused of prostitution. Thus, when Zarqawi and his foreign jihadists launched their war against the creation of a pluralist, democratic Iraq, they found a sizable support base of Iraqi Islamists willing to help.
Anyway, on to Mr. Kagan's main point, which is that the demonstrations and riots over the Danish Mohammed Cartoons were caused by the actions of America and the West, in particular the Iraq war. This thesis raises some interesting questions.
For example, if the Iraq War caused the reaction to the Danish Cartoons, then what caused radical Muslims to murder Iranian intellectual Ahmad Kasravi in 1947? Why did Islamists publicly burn a copy of The Satanic Verses in Bradford, England in January 1989? What caused the Ayatollah Khomeini to issue his infamous fatwa calling for the murder of author Salman Rushdie one month later? What inspired an Egyptian Islamist to kill writer Farag Foda in 1992? Why did an estimated 300,000 people rally in Bangladesh in 1994 to call for the death of feminist author Taslima Nasreen? Why did Islamists in Nigeria in 2002 respond to a column about the Prophet Mohammed and a beauty pageant by launching riots that killed 200 people and demanding the death of the author, Ms. Isioma Daniel?
Again, if the Iraq War caused the reaction to the Mohammed Cartoons, then what inspired these other radical Islamist efforts at violent censorship, all of which preceded that conflict? The answer, of course, is that Iraq had nothing to do with any of these incidents, including the Danish Cartoon controversy. Rather, they are all part and parcel of radical Islam's decades-long war on intellectual freedom, a phenomenon that Mr. Kagan and his "socially responsible" comrades choose to ignore. In particular, as with other such incidents, the cartoons became controversial because radical Muslim clerics waged a systematic campaign to make them so.
As to why the editors of Jyllands Posten decided to publish the cartoons, I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Islamists had successfully exported their campaign against free expression to Europe, including the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. As Van Gogh's collaborator, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, told Der Spiegel during the height of the Danish Cartoon crisis:
We could see the same thing happening that has happened in the Netherlands, where writers, journalists and artists have felt intimidated ever since the van Gogh murder. Everyone is afraid to criticize Islam. Significantly, "Submission" still isn't being shown in theaters.
In fact, the idea of commissioning cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed came about because the author of a Danish children's book on the Prophet had trouble finding someone willing to draw illustrations. Apparently, cartoonists feared the possible violent repercussions associated with drawing pictures of Mohammed. Eventually, the book was published, but as of last year, Danish school librarians were afraid to purchase it for their collections.
Anyway, back to the rest of Mr. Kagan's comments:
We need to address the collection development and access issues around this affair, but we also need to reflect on what else we might do as actors in civil society. The American Library Association Council has passed resolutions to lobby against torture and for withdrawing troops from Iraq. If we take our social responsibility seriously, we must act in civil society to try to counter the situations that give rise to events such as the Danish cartoons affair. Our commitment to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has little meaning for the people who have been killed, maimed, or exiled by the US war against Iraq. I would like to challenge IFLA to follow ALA in taking a stand. Furthermore other national library associations can act in the same way as ALA to lobby for peace in their respective countries. The UK is the United States’ junior partner in the occupation of Iraq. It would therefore be most appropriate and helpful for CILIP3 to get involved.
The access and collection issues around the Danish cartoons are only part of the story. We need to lobby for peace as the basic foundation for all the rest of our work.
So, in other words, the best way to counter Islamist censorship isn't by standing steadfast in defense of free expression, but rather by getting America and its allies to abandon Iraq. Yes, we will curb the growth of radical Islamism by handing it a victory that will sustain it for a generation. That should work. As they say in the Guinness commercials, "Brilliant!!!".
You know, it seems to me that before American and British librarians advocate condemning Iraqis to a lifetime of Islamist despotism, they might want to see what Iraqi librarians think. That seems like the "socially responsible" thing to do, doesn't it? Here's what the director of the Iraqi National Library, Dr. Saad Eskander, says about a possible coalition withdrawal from Iraq:
"If the U.S. and British withdraw their forces from Iraq, the extremists - Shiite extremists and Sunni extremists - will prevail ... Iraq will be a fundamentalist state and will be a world threat and will affect the interests of all countries, especially Western countries."
In short, Mr. Kagan's response to radical Islam's war on intellectual freedom is to advocate self-censorship and abandoning the Middle East to the forces of jihadism. If this is "social responsibility", I'd hate to see what social irresponsibility looks like.