Sunday, July 25, 2010

732 Arabian Nights

I bet you thought I was going to do another article on Muslim prudery and misogyny. Well, you'd be right. But this one's a little different. It's more like my libel tourism article, only overseas. And it's one of those stories that you know is true because nobody could make this stuff up. Poor Scheherezade was under attack, along with the entire 1001 Arabian Nights. Can Rimsky-Korsakov be far behind?

I'm sure you've all heard of Doctors Without Borders. But I'll bet you never heard of Lawyers Without Shackles. I have to admit, they're not exactly a household word. But I didn't make them up. They really exist. The group is comprised almost entirely of Egyptian Muslim lawyers and their stated agenda is to "delete salacious passages from contemporary literature and cherished classics." The group chose as its first victim 1001 Arabian Nights. They filed pleadings to completely ban the work in Egypt, or alternatively censor the hell out of it (hence, 732 Arabian Nights).

The common expression for this type of litigation is "lawfare." Unlike libel tourism which tries to squelch free speech in the United States by obtaining large monetary judgments overseas and attempting to collect them here, lawfare is the tactic of filing multiple frivolous or dubious lawsuits to promote an agenda which costs the defendants so much that they'll just give up and get out of the business. It's aimed at both authors and publishers. The lawyers and plaintiffs are well-funded Islamic extremists who have unlimited sources of money to pursue the lawsuits. Most defendants don't have those resources, and often cave in at the likelihood of being driven into bankruptcy by the legal costs.

This tactic has been used by unscrupulous plaintiffs and ambulance-chasing lawyers for years, both here and abroad. But the Islamists have raised it to high art. To paraphrase Clausewitz on diplomacy and war, Islamic lawfare is the continuation of jihad by other means. It's not personal. They just want everybody, anybody, who prints the slightest hint of criticism of Islam or the prophet Mohammed to shut up, crawl into a hole, and die. Ditto for any work that depicts human existence and activity in any manner not consistent with good Islamic fundamentalist thinking.


The Egyptian lawyers and their religious masters found many portions of the Arabian Nights to be salacious, and particularly Scheherazade's tricking of the king a very un-Islamic suggestion that a woman might out-think a man. Burn the infidels. Oops, I mean burn the books. This suit might have been successful in Iran or Saudi Arabia, if the works were allowed in the first place. But if the government stops publication before it begins, there's no need for Islamic shysters to go to court. But it did fail in the Egyptian court. Not the issue at all. The infidel-chasing Egyptian lawyers will just file another action, worded slightly differently or with slightly different contentions and the poor defendants will be back in court again soon. It's a recipe for the end of freedom of expression, which concludes with the instructions: "cook until done."

America already fought the obscenity battles in the 60s and 70s, and obscenity won. The recent anti-libel tourism act in the Senate bill would effectively shut down most of these obnoxious attacks on the First Amendment. But America is just one country. These insults to Allah in Muslim lands and hate speech statutes in the West will produce never-ending litigation until the defendants all simply give up or the western governments revise their speech and press statutes to protect thoughts and depictions which offend a segment of society which would rather kill than switch.

Lawyers Without Shackles does not understand that the shackling of the mind is as evil as shackling of the body. Or as the words of the poem say, "stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." Now I'm left wondering what these misogynist homophobes would do if they knew that Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat, translated by non-traditional classicist scholars, reads: "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and a comely youth beside me, singing in the wilderness."

12 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

I'd read some time ago that they had already banned "Arabian Nights" in several Muslim countries and they were looking to ban a lot of western works as well. This fits that perfectly. If the government won't do it, then use the legal system and basically force the government to do it.

Islam has taken on all of the nastiest traits of Catholicism in the darkest moments of the Dark Ages and then some. Indeed, these guys make the Catholic Inquisition look like the a day at the Playboy Mansion.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: There are definite advantages to world religions that have basic religious tenets but allow for exegetic interpretations of stories, parables and poetry contained in the religious texts. The Ten Commandments are the Ten Commandments, but when Jesus said "I am the door," and "I am the Good Shepherd" nobody took it literally because intelligent people can understand a metaphor. It's a good thing Mohammed never said he was a door, or there would be a billion people trying to figure out how a door could receive the unalterable words of the Koran.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Are you saying Mohammed makes a better door than a window? ;-)

I actually think the problem runs deeper. I think the core of Islam is twisted. The idea that the rules of conduct only apply to believers is simply wrong on so many levels and will always lead to the kinds of problems Islam is now causing.

ScottDS said...

Lawhawk, Are you saying Mohammed makes a better door than a window? ;-)

You're forgetting... "Love flies out the door when money comes innuendo." - Groucho Marx

(Writing this line reminds me why puns don't translate very well.) :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Yeah, it works better on film than on paper, but it's still an excellent line!

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I agree with you to a very large extent. But even at that, the Old Testament is replete with orders to kill non-believers and dietary laws that made sense then, but make no scientific sense now (that is not to say that I don't respect the religious observance of keeping kosher and the like). Yet the bloodthirsty Koran holds little of the "do good deeds" portions in both the Old and New Testaments, and nobody is allowed to believe that killing everyone else or forcing them into slavish submission has any less validity as a humanitarian matter than it did 1400 years ago.

Tennessee Jed said...

I guess Jihad by lawfare is better than by warfare, but I can't respect a religion that prohibits any disagreement. As I write this, it makes me realize the similarity between Islamic jihadists and liberals.

LawHawkRFD said...

Scott: I hadn't heard that Marx routine in many a year. Thanks for the chuckle.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: The analogy is sound. For deeply-committed liberals, social welfare doctrine is a replacement for religion. And neither Islam nor liberalism will tolerate differences of opinion.

Lawfare is better than warfare only in the fact that lawfare leaves no blood on the floor. "Bloodless jihad," if you will.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Good article. The reference to Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam reminded me of a musical. The Music Man. In it, the mayor's wife, played by Hermione Gingold, was upset because the librarian, played by Shirley Jones, had that book in library. The mayor's wife had found the book in her daughter's possession. She wanted it banned.

Now, when ever I hear of banning books, I will think of what a battleaxe that woman was and how it compares to current idealogues.

Basically, the Islamists are a bunch of old women who can't stand that there is pleasure in the world and want to stamp all of it out.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: It reminds me of the old definition of a Puritan as someone who was deathly afraid that someone, somewhere, was smiling.

rlaWTX said...

Joel: that's a mean thing to say about old women! :-)

This whole thing brought to mind that NASA directive about the Arab world's self-esteem. All of the discussion about it made the point that their last influential impacts were made centuries ago. Now, the Islamists aren't even happy with their stuff that was done in the distant past - they want to "fix" it so it's, um, "better"...

I'm sure that there is some deep conclusion to draw from these two areas, but my deep thoughts do not operate well on Mondays...

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