The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Misunderstandings Abound


Mick Hall • 16 March 2006

Since the Blanket made its decision to re-publish the anti islamic cartoons which were first published last Autumn in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, I have faced a certain amount of criticism from 'some' comrades on the left due to my decision to stick with the Blanket and to continue to write for the e-magazine.* What these people have to understand is the Blanket is not a collective in the sense we all sit around and come to an agreed consensus about the e-magazines content. What happens is much the same as within most magazines, the Editor has the final say as to what goes into it.

Ireland's media is a small pond with a long history of self; and governmental censorship. Indeed the latter was one of the reasons why the Blanket was first established and I believe this history of periodic censorship undoubtedly played a part in the Blanket's decision to run the cartoons. Thus when the Republic of Ireland President, Mary McAleese went to Saudi Arabia and said "Ireland [and its people] abhors the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed", the Blanket felt the Irish people and not just their leaders had a right to see what the fuss was about.

I have made my position against publication clear in an article in the issue of the Blanket in which the first cartoon to be published appeared. However I am not going to get into a public kerfuffle condemning the Blanket nor those who run it, as knowing them reasonably well, I do not believe for one moment they were motivated by racism or prejudice. By publishing the cartoons the Blanket believes it is sticking limpet-like to its mission statement which is as follows:

"The Blanket project exists as a commitment to freedom of speech. Its purpose is to facilitate analysis, debate and discussion, to resist censorship, and to create the space for a diversity of views."

However, having said this l feel there is a double misunderstanding going on here. Firstly those few on the left who have either withdrawn from publishing there work in the Blanket or criticized the likes of me for continuing to do so have IMO misunderstood what the raison detr'e of the Blanket is as spelt out in its Mission Statement. It is not some democratic centralist publication of this or that central committee or even primary a vehicle of the socialist left. Nor is it there as a tool to condemn the Provisional Republican Movement without rhyme or reason. Its purpose is what it say's it is in its Mission Statement which is clear and precise; and to put it bluntly I find it hard to understand why for example Eamonn McCann would withdraw from publishing his work in the Blanket over a single, although admittedly for him an important political difference, when he has had no qualms about publishing in the Belfast Telegraph and various other capitalist publications which have a long history of attacking working class people and those engaged in struggle, including millions of Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. Whilst I am not criticizing him for so doing as I believe it is the first duty of a writer to get his/her opinions out by whatever means within reason; and I may well be mistaken here, but one cannot but help feel his decision to withdraw from the Blanket has more to do with toeing the SWP party line due to the connection the British SWP has with the Respect Party than the actual publication of the cartoons by the Blanket.

Having said this I feel the Blanket's editor has not handled this situation well and in my opinion is misunderstanding Islam as a religion and more importantly what Islam means and how it interacts within the daily lives of the majority of those who believe in that faith. By failing to understand this, the Blanket on this issue has substituted the public statements of a minority of prominent [in the western media] and reactionary imams, ayatollah's and their political acolytes and acted upon them by publishing the provocative cartoons.

For example few people who live in the World would see the US right wing Christian fundamentalists as being the mainstream representatives of 21st century Christianity, let alone the voice of the majority of Christians throughout the world. Yet whilst this is so, many Christians who disagree with these fundamentalists christians would be hurt if a non Christian, started by criticizing these fundamentalist christians, but in the process proceeded to call Jesus Christ a terrorist etc or indeed published a cartoon which portrayed him, bomb in hand. This hurt and how they expressed it would have little to do with the fundamentalist christians beliefs, but everything to do with how they themselves felt about their own Christianity being portrayed in such a sacrilegious manner. If we can but try and understand this, it is not difficult to foresee why those who demonstrated against the cartoons felt so aggrieved.

What some bigoted Islamic scholar or imam may proclaim does not impact as much as many in the West presume on ordinary peoples life's in the Muslim world. True with the USA's despicable foreign policy and military adventures post 9/11, which in turn have kick started the rise of political Islam, such reactionary statements cannot be completely ignored and we on the left have a duty to defend the secular nature of the societies we live in. However such bigotry is only very rarely put into practice by the billion or so Muslims here on earth. If anyone doubts this they should analyze who the main victims of fundamentalist Islamic extremists are and they will find they are Muslims who mainly live in the Chaotic States the West, especially the USA, had a hand in creating.

Thus to publish cartoons which equate violent acts with all those who practice the Muslim faith or in the very least could be interpreted as such is a grave error, as it is just a short step within the current post 9/11 climate to equate all Muslims with bigotry and reaction from which it is but a slippery slope to a repeat of the type of holocaust that took place between the years 1933-45, only this time it will be the Muslim people who are the victims. This being so perhaps it is time for the Blanket to cease publishing these anti Islamic cartoons or at the very least stop this drip drip approach and be done with it by publishing them all at once.


* If we were to do this nothing would ever appear as we are a group of writers who have a host of differing opinions.




















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

19 March 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Profile: Irshad Manji
Anthony McIntyre

How Muslims are Caricaturing Ourselves
Irshad Manji

The Clash of the Uncivilized
Imam Zaid Shakir

Misunderstandings Abound
Mick Hall

A Vital Question Not Easily Washed Away
Malachi O'Doherty

Zen and the Heart of Blasphemy
Liam Clarke

Gerry Peacemaker
John Kennedy

John Kennedy

Closer to Home
Anthony McIntyre

Drawing a Line Under the Past
David Adams

It's Our Easter, Too, You Know
Dr John Coulter

'The Way Ireland Ought to Be'
Michael Gilliespie

Former Hunger Striker leads 1981 Commemoration March in St. Pat's Day Parade
Deirdre Fennessy

Corn Beef & Lunatics
Fred A. Wilcox

The Letters page has been updated:

New Convert


About the Possible Posting of the Muslim Cartoons

Well Done

A Muslim's Response

Straight Talk vs Orthodoxy

Freedom of Speech index

12 March 2006

Profile: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Anthony McIntyre

The Right to Offend
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Spool of Threads
Marc Kerr

Wrong to Claim Freedom of Speech
Mick Hall

Anti-Racism Network Urges Website Not to Publish Racist-Cartoons
ARN Press Release

Fires of Hate
Anthony McIntyre

All is Far From Lost After Riots
David Adams

Who's A Nazi?
Dr John Coulter

'Screamingly Funny in its Absurdity'
Liam O Ruairc

The Letters page has been updated:

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Prophet

Christ Collage

An Eye for An Eye

Glad to See Someone is Not Afraid

There Are No Sides to Peace

Silence is Not Golden; It is Complicity
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index



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