Hamlet ne Linden Au can't help gushing about a recent photo on an SL blog of a woman celebrating Ramadan, her eyes closed in contemplation.
It's typical of the lefty geek to gush this way not so much to authentically appreciate a different culture but to signal how superior he is to the usual Walmart-shopping SUV driver of Second Life who is perceived as a a bigot. Of course he doesn't say that, but we know how it works.
But there's another funny thing about SHamlet's encomium to Ramadan here -- he features a screenshot that cuts off the woman's breasts -- the original contains a beautiful woman with a plunging neckline and partly bare breasts, as I've shown above here, from Strawberry Singh's blog. Look at the difference:
Of course, if he were to show the full picture, that might risk destroying the myth of the religious piety he was trying to convey in the first place -- and the inevitable "woman as Madonna" concept. Er, that is, not "Madonna," but -- the equivalent of a virginal deity to be worshipped in the Muslim faith. And frankly, we know there *are* some Muslim clerics who might not be too happy about showing a woman with a plunging neckline in relationship to Ramadan.
This picture is the work of famous SL fashion photographer Strawberry Singh, who is Muslim in real life and in fact really fasting in RL, as she writes on her blog So SHam not only gushes about her work but urges other SL residents to wish her a happy Ramadan. That would be normal, if he did the same thing urging people to wish other designers Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah -- but this secular geek has never done that. It's because fawning on Muslims is all about striking a particularly superior politically-correct pose these days, and fits in a political context in the US.
If SHamlet really cared about Singh's work, he would have also mentioned her recent achievement in getting on the front page of the secondlife.com splash page. There, this Muslim woman is featured as the photographer of a scantily-clad beach-goer in a bikini with pink hair. How's that for busting Muslim stereotypes!
In fact, there are many Muslim women in the world who practice their faith but also go to the beach in such bathing suits. Or maybe they don't, but they don't mind taking pictures of them for Second Life or playing in Second Life. And all that's ok. Few religious believers match the stereotypes others have of them. For example, the Catholic Church isn't filled with pedophile priests and rebelling nuns but has many quietly dedicated clergy who serve their communities without scandal or crime. You would never know it from reading the New York Times.
I mention this juxtaposition of the pious and the erotic because these are themes that religions often have trouble with -- and Islam is most visible in the news with this issue, usually with the extremes, like covering up women with burquas in Afghanistan. But the politically correct don't want to hold these contradictions in their minds -- that not all Muslims are like this, but that some are, and that is a problem for women's rights -- and so they deal with their discomfort by coming up with PC notions like the cartoon that shows the bikini-clad Western woman being ogled by a man, and a veiled woman walking unnoticed modestly nearby, with a comment that the veiled woman has freedom through privacy even as the ostensibly free Western woman has now become objectified by a male in her freedom and lost her privacy.
Sure, but it's ok to wear bikinis and ok to look at women wearing them, you know? That's freedom.
BTW, I've welcomed the FICification of the SL front page, despite the problematics of FICdom, because it represents a real breakthrough from the awful pics that we had up for years by some really no-talent Linden web designers who made SL residents look like shlubs (they hate us -- remember that awkward couple kissing on the Titanic, er, some rusty ship, who hogged the front page for years, and that woman twirling in the ugly dresses while the guy with the too-tight suit and his ass hitched up looked on in the dorky glasses?).
I recall looking at Singh's SL front-page photo the other day and marvelling at how she was able to turn what could have been merely an SL cliche of a beach-blanket-bingo Barbie into something more beautiful, even arresting. It's something about the cerulean-eyed serene gaze of the model; something about the exotic pink beads and their sheen; she's able to portray beauty instead of kitsch, even with the pink hair. Interesting.
Others were waiting to gush and posture about Singh's photos of Muslims in the past, however -- one guy on Flickr urged that "we need more Muslims in Second Life -- as if this is a politically-correct mandate -- and Singh herself shrugged and said in fact there are a lot of Muslims in SL already, such as Club Habibi and other sites which I've featured in the International Bazaar for years.
Now, what is this political context I'm talking about?
Well, this is a week in the US in which the right-wing failed presidential candidate Michelle Bachman and some other right-wing congress people wrote a hateful letter to the Department of Justice casting suspicion on Huma Abedin, deputy chief of state for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and listing other acts that they felt were treacherous by various State Department officials.
Fortunately, John McCain stepped right up and loudly and vigorously denounced this bigotry and insanity for what it was -- a kind of witch-hunt. McCain's good deed here is why there is such a thing as "McCain Democrats."
Of course, many compare this sort of thing to McCarthyism, although that's exaggerated, as there isn't a congressional hearing calling for people to be blacklisted and fired from their jobs. But it is hateful and needs a big pushback -- and it got one, not only from McCain, but many others.
The letter lists all kinds of ignorant stuff. For example, it castigates State Department officials for meeting with officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that seeks to impose shariah worldwide. Yes, it's true, the OIC does hold those views, but hasn't been terribly successful with the agenda. Yet I had to facepalm at this one, because if you want to be part of the United Nations -- and the US does -- you have to meet with the OIC like any other regional bloc, i.e. the Group of 77. The OIC is the bloc that put forth in fact the resolution for airstrikes in Libya; the OIC in fact pushed for human rights observation teams in Syria. The OIC is a diverse organization with many members with many varying types of Islam. If you want to try to accomplish diplomacy in the world, of course you have to meet with the OIC.
There's also a knock on the decision to let Tariq Ramadan into the country, who was previously banned. Now, I totally agree with the critics that Tariq Ramadan is a cunning apologist for Islamism that wraps himself in PC language and connections and actions to constantly distract from his true agenda. He is one of the most wily of the caliphate promoters in Europe. But you can't go against your liberal values and not allow him into the country to go on speaking tours or have meetings with universities and such. The way to deal with a manipulator like Ramadan is to debate him and constantly keep track of his writings and constantly challenge them, not ban or censor him. It's the only way.
In Bachmann's letter, Human Abedin is accused of having relatives in the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't know the facts here, but it wouldn't matter if she did (her father is dead); she has to be judged by the content of her character, her actual policy statements and actions, not putative associations. This poor woman has been forced into the glare of the news again -- she also has the misfortune to be married to Anthony Weiner, the congressman who posted pictures of his wiener on Twitter, and was pregnant at the time the Weiner wiener scandal broke and had to suffer all the stress of the press attention and the blow to her marriage. Public service is, well, public.
Weiner is said to want to make a bid for mayor after Bloomberg completes his term -- finally. Well, there's something to be said for having the sex scandal already pre-known and sort of out of the way. I won't be voting for him, however. I think men who send photos of their dicks over the Internet to strange women, including very young women, have very poor judgement and should not be in government. And my belief in this is not going to change if I'm told (as I will undoubtedly be by some) that I must hate Muslims if I'm not willing to vote for Anthony Weiner. See how that works?
As for giving aid to Egypt, well, we gave aid to Egypt when it had the tyrant Mubarak who tortured people? What would be our excuse for not giving aid now that a "democratic election" has taken place even if very flawed? I'm totally unimpressed with these particular results of the "Arab Spring," which I predicted, but I think probably the US has to be pragmatic here. Would it be better to be starving Egypt after all the turmoil it has experienced? That doesn't seem warranted. I suppose the Obama Administration hopes that by giving this aid, they will buy peace and a deterrent on war against Israel or support for the Palestinian war against Israel -- and we'll see how that works. Maybe the lump sum wasn't warranted. I'd be happy to hear the arguments.
But with the din of the Bachmann scandal, you almost couldn't hear anything about the terrorist attack against Israelis in Bulgaria. Remarkably, I found colleagues who hadn't even heard that it had occured. Five Israeli tourists coming to Bulgaria on a vacation were murdered by a suicide bomber who used a fake Michigan driver's license, on the anniversary of another terrorist attack against Jews. The suicide bomber was believed to be from Hezbollah and aided by Iran.
So we're very far from bejeweled fasters and blazing pink bathing suits and Second Life here, and we're also looking at a story that reflects what a minority of Islamic believers think and do -- that's why they use the term *Islamists* or *Islamist fundamentalists*. But just like nobody can get through a discussion about Obama's decision to force Catholic institutions to pay for birth control and abortion inducers in health care plans without mentioning pedophile priests, so you can't get through any discussion about Muslims without a reference to terrorism. And some people think the way to solve that "imbalance" is to shut up any references and be politically correct.
I think you can both encourage tolerance of Muslims in all walks of life in the US, but also condemn Islamic fundamentalist terrorist attacks roundly when they occur.
Over on G+, I got into the usual debate with the odious "Jeff Brown" (I'm pretty convinced that he isn't just some "geek dad," but is a composite character engaged in propaganda efforts there). His shtick is consistently to claim that Islamists are not responsible for most terrorist attacks, that this is a bigoted, hateful claim, and that the FBI and Interpol prove it by showing statistics that indicate low percentages of fundamentalist attacks.
He gets this "factoid" from the Islamaphobia publications and ignoring the fact that they achieve this claim by skewing the numbers:
o they count all attacks of any kind, any bombing whatsoever, regardless if anyone was killed
o they don't count attacks in every country, but only the US and the EU
o they go back in time to the 1980s, long before Al Qaeda, 9/11, etc.
So naturally, if you pad out the numbers with Basque separatists and communists in Europe, and militia-types and MIPS nutcases like the Colorado Batman movie shooter, you will not show Islamism as a problem.
But if you take the attacks where people were killed and take them from all over the world -- London, Moscow, Mumbai, Kabul -- then of course you'll see the real story: Islamism is the most deadly terrorist force in the world today.
And it's ok to say that. It's ok to condemn it. It's ok to combat it. It can be done without hating Muslim Americans who do their jobs with pride. It can be done without posturing in Second Life and misrepresenting a photograph to fit a stereotype "better" (Hamlet called this duplicitious act "sampling" of the photo -- which is especially mendacious when Singh's photo has "some rights reserved," i.e. it can be published with a credit for non-commercial purposes.)
Credits for items in Strawberry Singh's Photo:
*Skin: [PXL] FAITH OLIVE RC.16 MEB by Hart Larsson (not released yet)
*Top: Zaara : Syona kurta top Fuchsia by Zaara Kohime
*Jewels: Zaara Nizam color set by Zaara Kohime
Scarf: [LeLutka]-FAITH scarf vine by Thora Charron
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