Protesting Geert Wilders

by Joshua Foust on 3/10/2008 · 6 comments

A few thousand people in Afghanistan have begun protesting the reprinting in Denmark of cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), as well as a Dutch film that supposedly portrays the Koran as fascist. They are burning Danish and Dutch flags, shouting provocative slogans, and generally behaving as protesters.

Now before we all go pulling a Malkin and accusing them of being protest-happy, infidel-murdering, Jew-hatin’ animals, let us establish some context. First of all—umm, shouldn’t they be mad? There seems to be a coordinated effort in Europe (however well the creators may feel it justified) to discredit and insult the Muslim faith. I’m reminded of no less than the Harry Potter book burnings by Christian activists in the U.S. Similarly, there was the laughable attempt by Fox News flapping jaw Bill O’Reilly to collapse the French economy after France refused to support the invasion of Iraq. Everyone freaks out at perceived slights by foreigners (whether national or religious). They’re not wrong to be angry at the deliberate insults to their faith.

So let them protest. So what if they demand the withdrawal of Danish and Dutch forces in Jalalabad? There aren’t any in Jalalabad… and as best I can tell, the Afghans of Helmand and Uruzgan have grander concerns than what some artist or film maker is doing 6,000 miles away.

This is the sort of thing we should encourage. If you dislike something, protest it. So long as they don’t get violent, this is a good thing. Think of it: who would rather them go on a rampage like Kabul in 2006? No one. Protests, even if Westerners find them a bit overwrought, are a healthy sign of civic society.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Michael Hancock March 10, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I tend to agree, especially since people often take these protests out of context. People in the west seem to assume that the only people who ‘know how to protest’ are hippies, feminists, and other generally pacifistic groups. While some Muslims are very militant about their beliefs, it’s not unheard of for Catholic protests outside Planned Parenthoods to turn ugly as well. They rarely escalate into violence, not counting the bombings that seem to unconnected to the protesters.

In defense of the West, though, I will say that Christians do not expect everyone in the world to live and die by their creed. Seeing someone making a model of the Christ out of shit and setting it on fire in no way affects my relationship with God. Muslims do expect everyone else to respect and honor their prophet, which strikes me as old-fashioned, immature, and unrealistic. But those aren’t hangable offenses – let them protest.

I think there is something specific here that I may be missing – there are Christians who behave the same way, that expect everyone in the world to act as they do. I think we’re just fortunate that their type hasn’t controlled the destiny of our culture for some time.

Joshua Foust March 10, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Well, for a few decades at least. Remember, under the Cold War (and I could have had a distorted upbringing there, but work with me) one of the primary complaints I would hear about the USSR was that it was atheist, that is to say Godless. And it is true that the Soviet Union’s oppression of all faiths was abhorrent and one of the many still untold stories of the many atrocities they committed against humanity, but the struggle between capitalism and socialism was just as often phrased as a religious one (or, perhaps even worse, the two—capitalism/Christianity and socialism/atheism—were conflated and used interchangeably, like “the Christian West versus the Socialist East).

Anyway, like you I’m quite glad the Scarlett Letter crowd no longer runs the country or has any real say in its politics—certain TV personalities’ efforts notwithstanding. But it took us, what—two centuries of continuous debate, movement, and stable society to get here? I’ll cut Afghanistan, and the rest of the planet, some slack, thanks.

Michael Hancock March 11, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Props for the Hester Prynne reference. Yo’ skills be flash, and yo’ verbiage be mad fly, Goetheman. Hawthorne knew what it was like to live under Christ’s thumb, and in the pleasant way that others wish to.

Dolkun March 11, 2008 at 10:26 pm

I suppose it depends on what sort of civil society you want, no?

Of course, protests (not organized by the government) are a manifestation of civil society.

Yet cross-burning was different than the March on Washington, yet they both come under a broad definition of civil society.

saj March 14, 2008 at 7:11 am

ASTAGHFIRULLAH! how can some one do some thing like Geert Wilders!

Michael Hancock March 14, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Why do you seek forgiveness from Allah? [ASTAGHFIRULLAH means “I seek forgiveness from Allah,” for those not in the Arabic know] Because you witnessed this blog post?

With both eyes open, a steady conscience, and a well-paid security squad to keep him safe from religious zealots.

But seriously, Saj, what do you expect? The problem with zealots is that they can’t forgive anyone else’s zealotry, strong beliefs, or ‘errant behavior.’

The more arguments I hear from Muslims about the evil and abuse of ‘freedom of speech’ regarding Islam, the more I stand against them. If you want to defend your religion, then you must actively defend every religion. I am willing to believe, as most Westerners are, that every religion is equal, politically if not socially or economically. Whether you’re a Christian Scientist, a Scientologist, a Mormon, a Protestant, a Hanafi Sunni or a Shi’a, I will defend your right to privately practice your religion, and your right to privately speak against other’s religions.

Christians aren’t burning crescent moons just because you refuse to recognize the divinity of Christ. They’d be more apt to listen if you chose to focus on the evils of the Crusades or the actions of the European powers in the unfair delineation of the Arab States following World World I. Getting all upset over a Dutchman’s opinions is just silly, because no matter what he believes, the Dutch people are firmly and historically for Absolute Freedom of Religion and Speech.

And may Allah bless them for that, I say.

My dad would say, “Everyone can go to Hell in their own way.”

My best friends are a mix of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and that’s the way I want it. I respect their differences, and I’m glad for them, too.

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