Carol Platt Liebau: Proving Too Much and Too Little

Monday, February 13, 2006

Proving Too Much and Too Little

Writing in the Boston Globe, Cathy Young -- mistakenly in my view -- compares the behavior of American Christians with that of the Muslims rioting over the cartoon controversy. She argues that, although they don't call for violence, "[f]undamentalist Christians, traditionalist Catholics and ultra-Orthodox Jews . . . too often equate criticism (let alone mockery) of their beliefs with 'religious bigotry' or 'hate speech.' And they, too, often seek not simply to protest but to shut down offensive speech."

Well. Young's argument is, at once, overinclusive and underinclusive. Overinclusive because, even setting aside the very great distinction between those who call for violence and those who don't, not all ""[f]undamentalist Christians, traditionalist Catholics and ultra-Orthodox Jews" are guilty of the behavior she describes.

Much more significantly, her argument is radically underinclusive. Members of almost every group -- ethnic, gender, religious, even sexuality-based -- have engaged in the tactics she decries, some much more loudly and effectively than the groups Young targets. Certainly in the (blue) United States, Arabs, women, Muslims and gays would have much greater success at shutting down speech they deemed offensive than would the groups she criticizes -- and are no less eager to do so than Christians and Jews of whatever stripe.

The desire not to see one's "sacred cows" gored isn't restricted to people of faith alone. By framing her argument as if it is, Young does her readers a great disservice, and slanders groups that, quite frankly, are already slandered enough.


Blogger Greg said...

I read perhaps the single most important comment on the subject of Islamic Extremism this morning on

"The controversy is causing moderate Muslims in Denmark to find their voice:

Moderates such as Kamran Tahmasebi say they have had enough of fanatic Islamism and its intimidation of the Muslim immigrants in Denmark. "It is an irony that I am today living in a European democratic state and have to fight the same religious fanatics that I fled from in Iran many years ago," Mr Tahmasebi says. He came to Denmark as a refugee in 1989. Today he works as a social consultant and is very grateful for the life Denmark has made it possible for him to have. He says he no longer wants to keep a low profile to avoid attracting the attention of the imams. The cartoon affair was an incentive for him to stand up and warn against the Islamist imams in Denmark, whom he says are damaging the integration process with their misleading criticism of Danish values and norms."

Maybe this is a single voice. Maybe it's the beginning of a much needed debate within Islam.

5:57 AM  

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