Wednesday, 15 July 2009

To burn or not to burn, that is the question...

Do you remember when the Danish upheld their principle of free speech and the freedom of the press, when they claimed that the right for a publisher to publish whatever he wants within the law, was a sacrosanct exercise in the West and in Denmark. We remember of course what happened to Danish embassies and Danish products abroad as Muslims reacted to this attrocious enactment of civil liberties. For those of you who are not familiar with this story, here is what happened in a short recap.

"The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy began after twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005. The newspaper announced that this publication was an attempt to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship." (I do not do "copy-paste" and then announce it as my own work so here is the link to Wikipedia from whence the above summary was taken).

Neither do I bow to the wishes of those who would rather I did, alas here is one of the cartoons as published by Jyllands Posten just to put the whole issue into perspective. Admittedly it is not a very nice depiction of Mr. Muhammad but it is a depiction and that is what caused the uproar down yonder.

But as the title of this post suggest the content of this exegesis is not that of Islam bashing - plenty of people do that a lot more satisfactory than myself. No, it is about the curious article of flag desecration.

As has been noted, Muslims around the world really got their knickers in a twist because of something as petty as a picture of their prophet - never mind the other thousands of contradictions in the Koran, lets focus on the non-issue of non-publishing of Mr. Muhammad's face and ignore say, the one about not translating the Koran which to me seems like a much more pressing issue not to say insulting to Mr. Allah. But I suppose we will just have to live with hypocrisy. Moving on, consider this image which was captured somewhere in one of the countries where ignorance clearly outweighed modesty.

Consider this; they are burning the Danish flag thus assuming that the "accountability" lay with the Danish sovereign and not the newspaper in question who saw it fit to muddle in religion (something which always ends bad for anyone who tries - see Richard Dawkins' The root of all evil?) . Would it not have been more appropriate to burn a manikin of the Danish PM Mr. Fogh Rasmussen or why not a copy of the Danish constitution where the freedoms to publish these pictures are enshrined? Or why not stoop so low as to burn a manikin of the cartoonist himself or to be a bit more academic about the whole issue; why not burn a marionette of the Editor of Jyllands Posten, thus making a very learned but gentile protest befitting of "moderate" muslims (the spell checker wants me to put 'muslims' with a capital M. I am not going to honour their actions with this execution as I find the non-moderate population a bit rude).

Continuing, Wikipedia reckons (and thus a portion of the internet who saw fit to edit the page about "Flag Desecration") that the reasons for burning the national flag are as follows:
  1. As a protest against a country's foreign policy.
  2. To distance oneself from the foreign or domestic policies of one's home country.
  3. As a protest at the very laws prohibiting the actions in question.
  4. As a protest against nationalism.
  5. As a protest against the government in power in the country, or against the country's form of government.
  6. A symbolic insult to the people of that country.
  7. To demonstrate one's rights.
I would also add "shear ignorance" to this list but if I were to do this someone would undoubtedly remove it from Wikipedia for it does not fall within the remits of equitability. Going back, Wikipedia is spot on in two of the cases namely Nr. 3 and Nr. 6.

Burning a flag could be a very personal issue depending on the reciprocation of the audience. The people in the audience are either very patriotic or modestly or just not at all. The first group will take great offense as a result of this act - my prejudices tell me that many Americans fall into this group. The second group will most likely take offense if this sort of behaviour continues for an extended period of time - I can see the British and French being in this cohort. Finally we have the last group that argues that it is the Muslim's right to exercise their freedom to burn a foreign flag. This is the option we will discuss with regards to Nr. 3 and Nr.6.

Option Nr. 3 finds that desecrating a flag is justified because it is seen as a protest at the very laws prohibiting the actions in question. Now consider also this t-shirt which is on sale at Ban T-shirts. Many Brits would not think twice before slinging this beauty on to their beer-bellies and within the confines of Nr. 3 they are fully entitled to since a majority despise this continental calumniator. Under Nr. 3 then yes, they were perfectly within their right to burn the Danish flag because it is seen as a symbol which represents the actions taken by the paper who according to their beliefs desecrated the holy word of Allah. Whereas most people in the west would go "ehrm, dudes it is only a couple of pictures. It is not like they are chaining muslims and feeding them pork" - quite right it is not. If someone in the UK were to burn the EU they would without question have a EAW thrown at them from either Germany or France for reasons unknown.

It comes down to this Nr. 3 is a double-edged sword. Offense would be taken in the west, at least I think, at some level were someone to burn their national flag. No matter how much the lefties (Of socialism must be said this "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery" - Churchill)in your school proclaimed that they were "a citizen of the world" and similar BS their is always a certain sentimentality towards one's country be it a Sunday Roast or Warm Ale or just cheering for the UK or Denmark in the Olympics - that is after all one of the core purposes of the games to promote national rivalry in sports rather than in arms. But we must consider the point of view as well, for it is very important. The antagonists of this story burned the Danish flags from a religious point of view. That is to say they attacked the state of Denmark for having insulted their religion. Burning the EU flag in Britain would be of different nature; it would be a protest against the ever growing powers of the continental leviathan and a message which simply reads "we want our country back". As V from V for Vendetta said

"A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world." I will leave the reader to extrapolate this quote to flags.

Is either stance more justifiable if conversation were to be kept cordial? If we take the American approach they would most likely argue no. "Flag burning" amendments to the Constitution have been proposed several times with the most recent one on June 22, 2005, a flag burning amendment was passed by the House with the needed two-thirds majority. On June 27, 2006, the most recent attempt to pass a ban on flag burning was rejected by the Senate in a close vote of 66 in favor, 34 opposed, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to send the amendment to be voted on by the states. However with Bush out of the picture this amendment will most likely never bear fruit, but it does go to show just how sensitive the issue is in the USA.

What about Nr. 6 then? Well when the Mr. Muhammad Cartoon roller-coaster got started most people thought the Danes were being too tolerant towards the Muslim world who were having Denmark-bonfires at least twice a day. Quite an insult some would say but the Danes refrained from pinching it in the bud and did not honour their existence with an apology-statement from the PM. This inevitabily precipitated the crumbling mood of the muslims since they do like attention (see Mr. Ahmadinejad, "democratically" elected president of Iran) but were not getting it from the main player, who normally is the USA, but this time little Denmark had to play that role.

Like Hamlet's soliloquy states (in our context), to burn or not to burn, that is the question. I dare say I have not provided an adequate response to the issue. Is burning a flag really the ultimate political insult as delivered by the proletariat (the vox populi it is not for that would assume that the entireity of the Muslim world are tossers which is not true) or is it merely a futile attempt to get attention to one's lost cause? (It should be noted that the countries in which the Danish flag was burned, the flag desecration was not condemned by the leaders of the nations in question - food for thought perhaps).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Watch and read mohammed T-shirt art from Sweden at,