Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Teddy Bear Saga and Islamic Response

An Oman based blog I like to read by Suburban Other Oman recently mentioned surprise at the lack of responses by Muslims criticising (or even questioning) the obviously wacky verdict in Sudan on the infamous Teddy Bear case. Especially absent were such comments on the great 130+ blog comments that were sponsored by Amjad on the topic Amjads Teddy Blog

I think this is exactly symptomatic of the growing problem Islam has with regard to Free Speech. Many, many Muslims thought the verdict in Sudan was totally crazy and bad for Islam [or even not Islamic at all], and were more than willing to explain that in private. But they are in fear of saying anything in public, or even on-line, that could possibly be construed by anyone as being even slightly anti-Islamic. Very afraid.

The reason, of course, is that if any crazy long beard accuses you of being blasphemous, even if the accusation is totally unfair and untrue, you are at serious risk of having crowds of baying 'faithful' demanding your death. So, obviously much better and smarter to just keep your head down, shut up and keep such toughts to yourself or people you can trust.

This is perhaps one reason why the comparison is being made between the actions of such extremists through the new phrase 'IslamoFascism'. One similarity being pointed to is with the early days of the 3rd Reich in Germany, when no-one spoke out about what was going on for fear of being arrested, beaten or killed themselves. The famous quote attributed to the Irish born British Politian Edmund Burke seems most appropriate in this situation: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".

IMHO its about time reasonable and mainstream Muslims retake their right to speak their opinions and have respectful discussions and debate without fear of such accusations. Before its too late. The alternative is to leave the space to the extremists and give everyone the opinion that all Islam is as crazed as they are. Which is certainly not true.

There are just not enough well spoken, intelligent, sensible, moderate (and preferably who look good on TV) Muslims making their case in the public forums of the West in a form that is politically smart. And that hurts the case of reason everywhere.

Aside: An excellent essay here casts doubt on whether this was an actual quote from Burke or is a self purpetuating myth. The quote's popularity does say something about the power and resonance of this particular meme.


  1. madame suburban is a funny lady, just sometimes she should analyze issues from all sides
    The teddy bear story has been widely discussed in Sabla and Omanforum
    Usually when I deal with a topic in Sabla for example, I have no interest in writing about it one more time on my blog
    There's no fear to speak about it, no need to do it loudly cause that's not Islamic etiquette
    There were 2 tipes of opinions : those who believe that such episodes can be stopped if punished and that's it, those who said that punishment in this case was against Islamic principles but would be a good chance to let non Muslims know about Islam in general
    Um Khalid for example [and she is one of the wisest and most moderate Muslims I ever talked with] just noted that in this troubled era, it was imprudent from this lady, to call the teddy bear like that
    Actually the whole Muslim world [the so called moderate one] raised its voice against Qatif case and Sudani one
    Just for some reason media give more space to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Robert Spencer and Ibn Warraq than to others

  2. Balqis,

    I think Suburban is just sharing a stream of consciousness that includes her opinions as they actually are without a claim to balanced analysis. I admit I prefer interesting and funny as priorities. And I feel confident in being able to spot the potential for alternative views. She just makes me laugh, and in this world that’s something I cherish these days.

    That’s the thing about opinions – they are often, and usually, biased. Mine (and yours) too. And that’s OK.

    On the Teddy Bear: I was going to just comment, but my response is too long and addresses wider issues (which I'm sure you'll disagree with), so I’ll post my response soon.

  3. What you want us to do ?
    Shouting and dancing in the streets ?
    Would we be credible ?
    How comes the follow up email for answers disappeared

  4. Balqis,

    Not email - I'll post a longer response. But I want it to be a considered response, as it is not a trivial subject!

  5. Balqis,

    Response as promised posted on 30th December.

    So no, not dancing in the streets: but shouting down the extremists and saying no to violence in response to thoughts and words - that would be a positive contribution.

    Basically act like grown-ups instead of spoilt children constantly throwing tantrums because you keep being offended.

  6. D,

    THanks for the traffic boost, and as I said elsewhere, thanks for having my back. You have managed to articulate my own thoughts better than I can.


    I can and do analyze isues from many sides, but my imagination stops short at the Teddy bear thing.

    Both opinions as your present them are wrong. This was the worst possible chance to let non muslims learn about islam.

    Non muslims learned that we are crazy, unforgiving, nut-jobs, who are absolutley salavating at the oppertunity to get offended by anything that could possibly be perceived as an insult to the faith.

    Non muslims also learned that even if there are muslims who vhemontly disagree with the case in Sudan, they are a complaicent, and voicless bunch.

    Non muslims learned that even self titled "moderate Muslims" think the woman should be punished, or that she made an ignorant mistake and should have been better educated or schooled in the ways of islam.

    This was a real life PR exercise that we resoundingly failed.

    We did a little better on the rape case, but not much.

    I don't follow the forums on Sabla or Omanforum, mostly because my internet connection is just to slow, and my time too precious.

    THe other reason is that reading the insane, half thoughtout, BS propaganda that most of the kiddies are slinging around as "facts" really hurts my faith in humanity, and my faith in Oman having any future whatsoever.

    Present company excepted, the forums are primarily a gathering place for idiots, and thier handfull of intellegent keepers. God help us if the forums are representative of the future leaders of the arab world. Because then truly, We're fucked.

  7. Suburban,

    Hey. No worries. Got your back as long as you stay funny.

    The rape case was so bizarre I couldn't even be bothered to comment. Its right up there with the '├Żoung women made to burn alive' thing. I hate Saudi and really hope Oman avoids THAT fate. What was the airline joke? 'We have just landed in Saudi Arabia, please set your watches back 300 year'.

    B? Perhaps Balqis is on holiday. I know I was. I certainly don't think she's sulking.


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