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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

War of the Kitchen Utensils

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... or The Pot Calling The Kettle Black.

Image taken from - hosting by PhotobucketEveryone has their own point of view - that's life. Regardless of whether one is conservative or liberal in their thinking. The difference between conservatives and liberals though, in a very broad general sense, is that conservatives tend to want to impose their points of view on everyone else - this is not always the case, however, as any rule has its exceptions. But in general, this is usually the behavior conservatives exhibit.

So, a few days ago, when Walski came across this post on how to spot a religious liberal, written by someone with very conservative views when it comes to Islam (more on that later), it took a while to realize that he, in fact, was not writing about himself.

The blogger lists down 7 (plus one bonus) characteristics. The blogger, incidentally, shall not be named, yet, but if you looked at the site, you can probably guess who it is. Here is a summary (and Walski's commentary) of the seven (plus one bonus) attributes (see here for the post):

1. "They arrogate themselves to the position of the intellectual, assuming they have the authority to speak about religion"
Now, this statement makes the assumption that one cannot have liberal views and be an intellectual at the same time. Or to put it another way, in order to claim a certain "acceptable" level of intellectuality, having conservative views is a pre-requisite. Kinda exclusivist, don't you think? The point is elaborated further to claim that liberals who express their views on religion are not trained, and therefore not qualified to comment on religion. Again, this is making a broad assumption. As a matter of fact, apart from being well-read in comparative religions (and other areas of knowledge), the blogger is not formally trained in law or Islamic jurisprudence either (although he blogs on these two subjects frequently). His biggest beef, however, is in not following the "methodologies and sciences in religious law".

Walski's time-out: Now would be a good time to define the terms conservative and liberal per how defines them. This will help explain why people with liberal viewpoints do not follow MENJ's classical methodology (Walski supposes by now you whould have guessed who this blogger is, so no point with the pretense anymore). There are numerous meanings to both words, but we'll only focus on the ones within context:

conservative - adj. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change

liberal - adj. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. Also, favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

But then again, MENJ has a history of ignoring actual meanings of words (at least from Walski's experience), and choosing the meanings (and sometimes non-meanings) that suits him.

One of the commenters wrote something pretty scathing (but appropriate) in response, and you should go take a look, if it interests you.

2. "In the name of human rights and personal liberties, they will justify anything,..."
Today's traditional and conservative view of Islam, which is not based on the Quran alone, by the way, (see this post for "traditional" Islamic sources) takes a very dim view of human rights and personal liberties - which the conservative Muslim usually labels "western" (and therefore 'evil'). Going by the Quran alone paints a very different picture. It's a long drawn discussion, and is beyond the scope of this post.

A person with a liberal outlook does not "justify anything" in the name of human rights and civil liberties, contrary to MENJ's claim. He states homosexuality as an example - well, Walski cannot speak for all liberals, but what Walski is against is the persecution of homosexuals. Actually, Walski is against persecution of any kind.

3. "They will mock and demean those they do not agree with, hiding behind labels of being 'progressive', 'enlightened' and call others 'conservative', 'bigot' or 'fanatical'."
By the very definition of the word liberal, the liberal person is progressive. Rarely, does a liberal label himself or herself (except for being a liberal), but do assign labels to others whom they may find enlightened. As for mocking and demeaning - well, this is where the War of the Kitchen Utensils' comes in. This is "oh, poor me" statement is really a case of the pot calling the kettle black. A number of MENJ's posts have done exactly just that - mock and demean viewpoints contrary to his.

And as for labelling conservative behavior and writing as conservative, if something looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, smells like a duck and waddles like a duck, what the heck else would you call it? An emu?
(more kitchen utensil warfare in the full post)

4. "They are the most vocal in a religious community, so they assume that "silence is golden", and everyone agrees with them"
Oh, this one almost takes the "kitchen utensil warfare" grand prize (except that number 7 is even better). And who is it that has, of late, mobilized all kinds of seminars and talks about challenges to Islam in Malaysia?

The rest of point 4 claims that any dissention from the vocal few will be silenced via the labelling described in point #3 - umm, who's been so actively labelling liberal minded people and opinions then?

5. "They will rely on the believers of the other religions to make a point,..."
If someone from a faith other than yours agrees with you on something, does that automatically mean that they are pandering to you? And is promoting religious harmony, versus religious animosity, necessarily a bad thing? Just because you happen to hold a certain view doesn't mean everybody has to hold those same views. Oh, Walski forgot, that's the kind of behavior conservatives tend to exhibit.

6. "Public morality should not be governed. Everyone can shag it on the streets, were it up to them"
This is probably a misunderstanding on MENJ's part - there are certain commonly acceptable levels of public decency that even liberals ascribe to. And no we do not condone public sex, which even in a liberal's book (at least in the Malaysian context) is indecent behavior. There already are civil laws governing public decency, and liberals generally have no problems with those.

What liberals are against is intrusion into the privacy of others, and that individuals are entitled to privacy as a personal liberty. What that individual does in the privacy of his/her own private space, provided what they do poses no harm to others, is entirely the individual's business.

The other thing that liberals are against is harassment.

7. "One word: stereotypes"
And this takes the grand prize. If nothing else, his entire post is painting a stereotype of how he sees a liberal. Doing this, by many people's standards, is being hypocritical. And it should be no secret how Islam views hypocrites - even the liberal Muslims view hypocrites the same way.

Bonus attribute: Liberals are intolerant of jokes.
Well, that again is not entirely true, but a broad stereotype. Liberals are not beyond ridicule, and we can take a joke. Some of us (like Walski) don't even mind insults. Non-liberals, too, sometimes cannot take a jibe.

But insulting somebody else's faith is something else altogether. Even when something insulting is written for the sake of satire, the reader is usually forewarned that a piece is satirical.

In any case, it just occured to Walski that MENJ's entire post may have been one big joke. Well, if that's the case, the joke's on you, MENJ.