I have commented before on the significance of meaning and how it can change and carry addition weight to things.

If one considers words to begin with we can see easily how these can become politically charged and people are often fearful of the power of words that have such impact and they seek to dispossess that power by banning the words. In my experience that does nothing more than add the frisson of forbidden to the words themselves and their power as part of the emotion around them increases.

Words are just words. We use words to describe things it is our method of verbal and written communication. Much can be gleaned about us from our style of expression and the words we use to do this. We all make subconscious judgements of people by the way they speak or they way they write. Speech can have a number of different factors for us to use to make up that judgement such as accent, dialect or fluidity that we may not get from the written word.

People with a gift for writing can use certain words and phrases to good effect, building description and power and this is generally under their control. However the words they may use and their phraseology and style may mean quite different things to other people, things the author may not have intended. Take for example emotive words such as nigger and paki. No, I am not going to say “the ‘n’ word” because this gives such a word some mythical quality and power and this is precisely what I am illustrating. Now black teenagers often refer to one another as “nigger” are they being racist? The effect of this usage has been very much to debunk the power of the word and this has marginalised its ability as an insult. Likewise my twin Sarah uses the word ‘paki’ in a way that if I as a white person here were to do so it would be severly frowned upon and considered racist in spite of me not being a racist at all.

So it is all in the meaning, as the title says, it’s the way you tell ’em. There are certain people who can use the most innocuous of words and make them offensive, but most people will choose certain key emotive words if they wish to cause serious offence. It is rarely ambiguous when people use words like ‘nigger’ or ‘paki’ or ‘mick’ or the like to offend just as it is obvious when people refer to their friends as an ‘old fucker’ or a ‘stupid twat’ or a ‘fat git’ that the term is of familiarity and not to cause hurt.

So to put this situation into the recent context of religious offence we can summise the following: If the Danish publication of the insulting cartoons was innocent then the furore that followed has certainly done no good for Muslim-Christian relations, if however the cartoons were designed to cause offence then the mass calls for violence in retaliation by those marching has not only damaged relations but furthered the cause of the extremists and added further weight to the nature of the offence. What I mean by this is that not only has the publicity been huge and more people made aware of the cartoon but the huge reaction has made it seem as if the cartoons are really something terrible indeed and as we know forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest.

So far the cartoons have been published in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, New Zealand and Hungary and they will continue to be reprinted whilst the fervour surrounds them because newspapers sell on sensationalism. People do not seem to see that at the moment the people who win biggest are the press moghuls who must be rubbing their hands with glee.

I cannot speak for the religious circumstance but in my position I can only say that if someone insults me with innacuracies it has far less effect on me than if they attack at the root of insecurities. The best way to try to cover up these insecurities is to shrug off any assault, to show the weakness encourages the enemy to sustain attack in this area. Think of how children act when they are trying to annoy you. If you act annoyed and get progressively more agitated they will continue mercilessly in the same vein whilst in contrast if you do not seem bothered they will attempt to find something else. I know it sounds simplistic to say “ignore it and it’ll go away when it comes to matters of such emotional gravity but the reason the saying has survived is precisely because there is more than a little grain of truth in it.

I can condemn any action that is designed to offend people and I suspect most decent-minded people would do the same without a thought. By and large the way to tackle this is through eduction because such offence is generally through ignorance. The way to answer critique is not to incite violence and death, or to burn buildings and flags in aggressive counter-actions.

By virtue of the reaction to the cartoons anyone that would act offensively towards Islam and Muslims alike knows exactly what vehicle to use to do so. I don’t see how that can help the cause of Islam or its followers.

Song Of The Day ~ The Cazals – To Cut A Long Story Short

Original Comments:

sarah the evil twin made this comment,
i think it is unrealistic to expect people to just ignore the cartoons or anything that insults their religion. it is easy for us (as non-believers) to think that way but that’s because we don’t feel strongly about it. there have always been protests and demonstrations (albeit non-violent ones) whenever religion or a prophet has been portrayed in a way that contradicts beliefs held by the followers (example: passion of the christ, da vinci code, etc).
also, the more i read about this, the less i think that cartoons are as innocent as they seem. for one thing, apparently the same papers editor rejected cartoons of jesus three years back on the basis that they would offend christians. also, muslims have been described as a cancer to the danish society in speeches in the parliament, by the Danish People’s Party members. that doesn’t make it sound like a society that cares too much about their muslim minority.

obviously, the muslim fanatics or extremists reacted in a way that deserves to land them all in jail. however, that does not make the original act okay. muslims have a long way to go before the world starts seeing them as anything other than terrorists but such cartoons aren’t exactly helping them feel like they aren’t being picked on or treated with the same respect given to a believer of any other religion and unfortunately, they tend to push even the moderate ones into a corner and more inclined to agree with the fundamentalists.

read the article on Salon – i thought it was excellent.

p.s: don’t worry, you can call me paki as much as you want (in spite of being oh so white!). given that i don’t live in the UK, it just doesn’t hold the same connotations – its just a convenient short form for me. my sis (who is a little dumb and missed out on all the baggae that goes with the word) calls our sudanese friend a nigger to his face all the time, and he finds it quite amusing.

comment added :: 8th February 2006, 17:46 GMT+01