Thursday, May 09, 2002

One Picture vs. 681 Words

When I’m feeling confused and melancholy I seek solace in the Arab News. That, and The Onion, never fails to get me focussed and energized. For instance, how is the Fortuyn assassination playing out in Saudi Arabia? Well, let’s read the commentary in today’s online edition:

“There will be many in the Muslim world who on hearing the news of the assassination of the leader of the Dutch extreme right-wing movement will have felt some grim satisfaction. Pim Fortuyn was, after all, not merely a bigot who wanted to close the country’s doors to immigrants, he was an unashamed Islamophobe. This is the man who called Islam "backward", who believed that existing immigrants in the Netherlands (most of them Muslims) had to be integrated — by which he meant that they should be forced to abandon their Islamic beliefs and practices.”

This is rich coming as it does from a nation that gives building permits to Christian churches and Hooters franchises in equal numbers. A place where immigrants are either integrated or beheaded. For a Saudi “reporter” – actually no more an independent journalist than is the radio speaker built into the dashboard of my car – to call Pim Fortuyn an intolerant bigot is ironic on so many levels that it can only be explained through advanced quantum mechanics.

Arab News draws some troubling conclusions:

“He has opened a Pandora’s box that will not be closed. He has stripped away Dutch innocence and the result will be a cruder, more vicious brand of politics. It is not just that he has ensured that a thousand new Fortuyns spring up, hydra-like, in the wake of the dead leader, or that he has created a martyr who will be venerated by the far right across Europe — both of them appalling prospects. But by killing Fortuyn he has turned the entire Dutch political system on its head. Fortuyn will be seen as the victim, and those who opposed him as the bigots. That is an extremely frightening development.”

Yes, how unjust that a Dutch politician who lays dead because he spoke his mind is seen as a victim while the peace-loving non-bigots who found his views crude, vicious and extreme are tarred as hateful racists.

As if to punctuate this point is a cartoon that appears in part on the very same page as this plea for tolerance from the frenzied Dutch barbarians. And guess what? It’s a crude, viscous, bigoted caricature of a Jew dictating the words coming out of Uncle Sam’s mouth that would look quite at home on the pages of Der Sturmer.

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