Profiles in Cowardice

Thomas Landen describes the hypocrisy and cowardice of European elites faced with works of art criticizing or mocking religion:

Depicting Jesus sodomizing his apostles is not considered to be a “degradation of religious symbols” in Austria, but referring to the historic fact that Muhammad married a six-year old girl is “incitement to racial hatred.”

People are facing prosecution and jail terms even for citing accepted facts about Islam. Meanwhile, those defending Geert Wilders’s right to make Fitna, a film critical of Islam, seem to feel a need to distance themselves from it. Manfred Gerstenfeld, writing in the Jerusalem Post, is only one of many:

The movie’s strength is the cumulative effect of mass murders, incitement and hatred all shown within a few minutes and all resulting from the same worldview. Where it goes radically wrong is by suggesting that the Quran must necessarily lead to these crimes, that all Islam is violent and that this is true for Dutch Muslims as well. Its reprehensible exaggeration makes Wilders and the movie an easy target for wide criticism, creating a heyday for appeasers and deniers.

This is preposterous. Wilders never suggests “that the Quran must necessarily lead to these crimes”; indeed, he ends the movie asking Muslims to renounce the verses that seem to inspire them. Nothing in the movie implies that “all Islam is violent”; Wilders shows us Quranic verses that call for violence, shows actual acts of violence that accord with and are inspired by them, and shows us Muslims advocating violence on the basis of them. The existence of those verses, acts, and exhortations should by now be uncontroversial, powerful as it is to see them brought together in one place. There is no assertion that all elements of Islam, all Muslims, or all Dutch Muslims are violent. So, where’s the “reprehensible exaggeration”?

I am seeing an increasing tendency to use blatantly fallacious reasoning in responding to what someone else has said, attribute the conclusion to them, and then criticize them for advancing it. The pattern is by no means confined to discussions of Islam. Roughly, the reasoning goes like this.

  1. A says that some F are G.
  2. B notes that A is associating F with G, and
  3. Claims that A thus “implies” that all F are G.
  4. Since not all F are G, B then sanctimoniously observes,
  5. A is guilty of exaggeration, faulty reasoning, or worse, and
  6. Must be motivated by racism, hate, prejudice, etc.
  7. Since steps 1-6 don’t involve anything unique to A,
  8. Asserting that some F are G (often, an obvious truth) is a hate crime,
  9. So, asserting that some F are G should be forbidden.

In Europe, many embrace the last step; in the U.S., most weaken ‘forbidden’ to ‘discouraged’ or ‘denounced’. But the general point remains: there are obvious truths that must not be mentioned in polite society.

Oops… is that one of them?

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