Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

French riots and a teddy bear named Mohammed, what does it mean?

with 10 comments


A second night of riots in France, what does it mean? Actually, it doesn’t really mean much. Riots are a very popular human activity and have been seen time immemorial, almost as popular as wars or sporting events. If it means anything, it means too many people have too much time on their hands. Of course since most of these particular rioters are the children of North African immigrants to France, much will be made of this fact by people who want to demonize immigrants and Muslims for political purposes. The now president of France referred to rioters as “scum” a few years back when he was merely the interior minister, causing much controversy at the time. Then he went on to get elected, showing once again how pandering to the lowest possible denominator is the key to success in the democratic world. Sigh.

Not that I am in favour of riots mind you, rioting is a crime and should be treated as such. The problem I have with so many stories like this in the news is that they provide ample ammunition for people to reinforce their prejudices. And the media not so subtly goes along for the most part. The fact that the only thing most rioters have in common historically is that they were young and poor is irrelevant, these riots will be used by some to bash immigrants and bash Muslims. If you want to bash a particular group, it’s easy to find reasons to do so.

For example a British woman has been arrested in the Sudan and faces a possible sentence of “insulting Islam.” Her crime? She is a school teacher and she let her class of seven year olds name a teddy bear “Mohammed.” I can practically hear Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage raving over this, it is an easy target if one wants to ridicule Islam. Of course this isn’t about Islam, it’s about a European who travelled to a foreign land and mocked their laws and way of life, but in the colonial mind set that seems to underlay the world view of many in the west…our standards of what is right and wrong should be applied world wide. I mean, I agree that whipping someone over a teddy bear‘s name does seem a bit extreme, but she should have had the smarts to realize this would get her into trouble. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is as valid today as it was 2000 years ago.

In France you can be jailed for wearing a swastika, in the USA some students were just suspended from school for using the word “noose” in a conversation. Ridiculous punishments for what would seem to be trivial or non existent crimes are not a hallmark of Islam, they can be found anywhere. But of course no one in Christian countries uses these things as a slam against Christianity in general, it’s only Muslim incidents that get used this way. As if all one billion Muslims were the same and thought the same. And of course some in the Muslim world make the same generalizations about Christians and Jews.

Which leads me to the point I was trying to arrive at, I think this characteristic of judging other people by these standards is a hallmark of the three great co-religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all flawed in this way. I say co-religions because the similarities between these three vastly exceed the differences. They are all branches of the same tree so to speak, all are based on old testament teachings at their core. And all three claim to be the ultimate arbiter of what is right or wrong, no exceptions. And it’s this “God is on our side and our side alone” sort of thinking has poisoned the well and allows extremists of all three faiths to rationalize the the most frightening atrocities.

It allows people of one faith the denigrate and demonise all of the adherents of other religions. For example the Christian thinking being “These people did a bad thing, they are Muslims, therefore all Muslims are bad.” The same logic of course is never applied in reverse of course, if a Christian or a Jew does something bad, it’s an individual failing, not a flaw in their faith. And I am sure there are many Muslims and Jews who commit the same sort of logical error, for it is deeply illogical to condemn an entire faith for the actions of a few.

I’m not saying we should blindly accept what other people do since it’s “their faith.” My point is that we need to judge these sorts of things in a larger context and not simply use them to reinforce our own prejudices. That of course is very difficult to do, and the media and most of our leaders aren’t helping. Tomorrow I will try to deconstruct the unpleasant case of the rape victim in Saudi Arabia who has been sentenced to jail time and lashing, and maybe cast more light on my thinking here.

…and he looked for judgement, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Isaiah 5:7

(The above image of a riot in France is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. It is also a low resolution grey scale copy of the original image, and its use here does not in any way hamper the copyright holder’s commercial use of the original image. Credit: AP Photo. And why rioters would burn a garbage truck is a bit mysterious, but hey, it’s a riot.)

Written by unitedcats

November 27, 2007 at 10:47 am

Posted in Politics, Religion, World

10 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Doug I’ve posted on these two topic also. I agree with your analysis re: the riots. The riots only destroy any credibility the residents of the cites have concerning the issues of unemployment etc. I also agree that there are a great number that view this as an opp to Muslim bash as opposed to being concerned about crime. the teddy bear thing. Although I appreciate your take on what I’ll call “geographic common sense” ;however, the project was totally not related to religion. Neither in support of or degrading it. Add to the equation that the teacher did this over a month ago and the tipster that got prosecution going has an ax to grind against coworkers at the school not an act of religious pride.


    November 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

  2. Exactly, the teddy bear incident isn’t about religion, it’s about local politics. It wouldn’t even be in the news except that it’s a westerner being subjected to Sudanese law. And while I agree it is somewhat ridiculous, surely she was aware that Sudan was a conservative Islamic country and that one must tread carefully around the subject of Islam? At best her condoning the teddy bear’s name was remarkably thoughtless, at worst she was trying to get a rise out of people.


    November 27, 2007 at 11:38 am

  3. {{And while I agree it is somewhat ridiculous, surely she was aware that Sudan was a conservative Islamic country and that one must tread carefully around the subject of Islam?}}

    Ummm… well, she knows now, I’m sure! I suspect there was nothing more behind this than thoughtlessness. Even with the best of outcomes, her teaching career in Sudan is finished. The best thing Ms. Gibbons can do is leave at the country at the earliest opportunity. I wish her luck.


    November 27, 2007 at 8:52 pm

  4. It is naive to try to draw an equivalency between secularized cultures (in Asia & the West) & orthodox semi-theocracies (most broadly throughout the muslim world, but we see similar problems in Burma, Sri Lanka & parts of India).

    We shouldn’t misunderstand the trend of secularization in the West. It’s not simply a question of parochial rules.

    If you review the discussions between apostate muslims, Islam is famously averse to the notion of free will. All is compulsory under the orthodox view, and the orthodox view prevails even in relatively moderate muslim countries. There are few secularized muslim countries, most are theocracies by degree — adultery still results in beheadings, female genital mutilation is still widely practiced in otherwise “moderate” Egypt. Algeria beheaded three French women in the early 1990’s for wearing bikinis on the beach. Fifty percent of the population is severely sanctioned for the original sin of being female. It’s worse in Saudi Arabia, much much worse – a woman and her attorney spoke out about her rape case & now they are both are facing 200 lashes.

    And we need to look no further for the ugly, obscene face of parochial racism and theocracy, and it extend to Sudan where in the 1990’s the racist No. Sudanese Arabs went on a genocidal jihadist spree that took the lives of TWO MILLION animist and Christian black Africans.

    There’s a great deal of tribal-centricism as well, which goes along with an absolute distrust of feminine freedom. There must be no doubt
    as to the paternity of a child, and if there is, the woman is held suspect first. The bottom line is that Islam assumes the worst about people and enforces the solution via draconian methods.

    The Western libertarian ideal is to trust a person in pursuit of their own affairs, with all the responsibilities and freedoms that go with it. That libertarian ideal is actually quite settled and established the west and many parts of E. Asia, but it is anathema to most of Islam.


    November 30, 2007 at 9:00 am

  5. I do not object to your thesis, though if one wants to find evidence for the mistreatment of women in any culture, it’s easy enough to find. And orthodox Christianity/Judaism are not exactly bastions of female liberation or liberal ideals.

    And in any event the question is not that much of the world is still stuck with medieval governments and cultural mores, it’s what to do about it. And I argue that demonizing Islam, refusing to recognize legitimate Islamic governments like the Taliban and the Islamic Courts in Somalia, and worst of all invading Muslim nations in a purported effort to bring them the supposed benefits of western liberal democracy…is making the situation worse, not better. Bush has been the best ally Osama and his fundamentalist ilk could ever have dreamt of. We claim to be morally superior, yet we kill innocent people in the hundreds of thousands with our sanctions/invasion and support the most repressive regimes…it’s no wonder that Islamic fundamentalism has spread and grown.

    Thanks for dropping by.


    November 30, 2007 at 10:05 am

  6. we’ll iCant say for certain, but the end is nigh does seem to strike a chord after reading this.

    Thunk Different.

    November 30, 2007 at 3:05 pm

  7. It’s ashame, why they don’t understand why Christianity is not a post revelatory experience and does not conscribe to be…as Islam is a new world religion…unfortunately, Christians don’t believe in the post revelations…


    November 30, 2007 at 5:37 pm

  8. I turned on the Tee Vee and saw all this fuss over a Teddy bear and I knew right away that something really, really awful had happened or was still going on in the corridors of power (NY, DC, etc.).

    The minute the “news” starts talking about “War on Christmas” or begins arguing which Bond Girl was the prettiest, showing anything Britney Spears or Anna Nicole, or acting scandalized by some LAME controversy, just KNOW you’re being distracted from something “they” don’t want you to know. Check the media in a few other countries to find out what’s REALLY going on.

    The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    November 30, 2007 at 7:33 pm

  9. I wanted to comment in the name of free speech
    But I was “afraid” of some jerks reading my post, and launching a fatwa.
    So I wont…
    So much for democracy in America.
    Keep it secret… keep it silent…. keep it politcally correct. The cancer grows….
    Ivory tower Cowards ….
    And yes Ill write you my seething brain thinks of Islam and a Teddy called Mohammed.
    If you promise not to post it


    December 1, 2007 at 12:39 am

  10. I disagree with your analysis on many counts. Here are a few.

    1) Those who warn about the threat of Islam base their concerns on what Islamists say and do, and the fact that those same Islamists draw their justification directly from the Koran and established Islamic law. When Churchill warned about Hitler, was he demonizing Germans?

    2) Any action taken against students for use of the word “noose” was not based on Christian beliefs, nor have I heard anyone (other than you) suggest that any response made was based on Christian beliefs. This is a strawman in the extreme.

    3) It is my belief that Ms. Gibbons honestly believed she was honoring Mohammed and Islam by allowing her students to name the teddy bear. Your quick assessment that she “mocked” Islam is lazy, insulting, and dangerous.

    4) Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are profoundly different belief systems, and your ignorance of the differences reveals you as ignorant and biased. Do you really believe you can be viewed as credible among any group outside of liberal atheists when you demonstrate such a profound knowledge deficit?

    5) Your sarcastically dismissive comment about all Muslims thinking the same is another ridiculous strawman. Muslims, in many ways, do think the same; they identify themselves as part of the Ummah; Islam itself has roughly a 75% agreement across all the major schools of Sunni scholarship; and the message of the Jihadists has a remarkable consistency. Just because 1,000,000,000 people don’t march in perfect cohesive lockstep does not mean they all think and behave as rational, freedom loving, open minded, peaceful world citizens.

    You really need to broaden your information sources, starting with Brigitte Gabriel (, Robert Spencer (, and the Middle East Media Research Institute (

    LGF Reject

    May 18, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: