Fatwa envy

A new term for a new phenomenon: Christians who wish they could use Muslim scare tactics

The BBC reports that a Brentwood woman has launched a private prosecution against a Gateshead gallery, The Baltic, over an exhibition that ended in January and, she claims, “outraged public decency.”

I’ve no idea why anybody would complain about something that happened over six months ago and nearly 300 miles away.  Presumably her tastes are so broad and easy-going that she couldn’t find anything to be outraged about in nearby London.

One thing that she has said rings a bell, though.  What offended Mrs Mapfuwa was, apparently, that part of the exhibition depicted Jesus with an erection.  The BBC reported earlier that “Mrs Mapfuwa, of Brentwood, said Baltic would not have dared depict Mohammed in such a way.”  This is a reference to Mohammed, the most important prophet and messenger of Islam.  And thus we have another instance of what must be now a rare growth trend among the ever-diminishing tribe of “offended” Christians.  Deliberately comparing their own religion to the more thuggish, more insanely homicidal elements of Islam, they complain that this wouldn’t happen if they’d been Muslims.

There are several problems with this, not least that, in the tradition of Islam, Jesus is also a prophet and messenger, and will return to earth near the day of judgement.  If Jesus with an erection is offensive to Christians, it is also offensive to Muslims.

But why this new term, “fatwa envy”?  A fatwa is a religious opinion on Islamic law issued by a cleric.  In 1988, the term acquired a rather nasty reputation in the west when the late, unlamented Ayatolla Khomeini, a leading Shia cleric and then President of Iran, issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers for blasphemy.  As a result, Hitoshi Igarishi, Japanese translator of Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, was murdered, and two other translators survived attempts on their lives.  Rushdie spent several years under 24-hour armed guard.

Since then the term “fatwa” in Western countries has tended to be used in the sense of a harsh and draconian legal sentence rather than a mere opinion.

Modern Christians are actually saying to us “you wouldn’t dare do something we disagree with if we had the power to have you sentenced to death.”  In view of the fact that people in art and publishing have been killed by Muslim thugs in recent years, I find that bloody disgusting.  If they want to be lumped in the same league as the islamic extremists, then so be it.

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2 Responses

  1. The term “fatwa envy” was, to the best of my knowledge, first used in P.Z. Myers’ Pharyngula blog. It describes the peculiar phenomenon of Christians who, upon being “insulted” by atheists, will immediately say something along the lines of “You’d never dare say that about Islam/Muslims!”

    This comes across as more than a little bit odd to any actual atheists, as we certainly don’t have any more regard for Islam than we do for Christianity. In fact, many of us view Islam as far worse than Christianity. The reason we don’t talk about it as much is that most of us online live in Europe, Australia or the US, where Christianity is generally the dominant religion, not because we’re afraid of upsetting Muslims.

    Fatwa envy is quite revealing though, in that it’s a manifestation of the assumption that atheists are always strongly liberal, and that those who are strongly liberal adore Islam on the grounds of political correctness. Neither is the case. Atheists come from a diverse range of political backgrounds. The only thing that can be said about atheists is our lack of belief in deities.

    To put it bluntly, I’m willing to be just as disrespectful towards Islam as I am towards Christianity. Just in case you were wondering.

  2. […] Fatwa envy and Clemens Bittlinger. Police called. September 16, 2008 at 2105 | In civil liberties, religion | Tags: catholicism, clemens bittlinger, fatwa envy, hate mail Harry de Quetteville reports that Clemens Bittlinger has become yet another target of fatwa envy. […]

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