One of the most widely circulated newspapers in the world, Egypt’s Al Ahram, recently ran a fake picture depicting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak walking in front of U.S. President Barack Obama and a pack of other Mideast leaders [at the White House]. In fact, based on the original photo, Mubarak, the octogenarian, appeared trailing last.
So poor in pride and apparently also in intellectual honesty, and desperate for recognition of some important role that Egypt was playing in world affairs, the editor rationalized the deception:
Al Ahram editor Ossama al-Saraya defended the fraudulent photo by referring to it as an “expressionist photo … a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Mubarak in the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington.” All well and good, but beyond the euphemisms and rationalizations, the fact remains: by portraying something that was not true, the state-run Al Ahram intentionally tried to deceive the people.
الانترنت شيء عظيم! or, The Internet is great! Some Egyptians, however, don’t appreciate the effort, reports Ibrahim.
As Wael Khalil, the Egyptian blogger who first called attention to the altered photo, pointed out, this anecdote is a snapshot of the routine deception the Egyptian government foists on the people: “They lie to us all the time. Instead of addressing the real issues, they just Photoshop it.”
Very reminiscent of how President Barack Obama and his administration report the successful “reality” of their programs and policies in their repeated and unsuccessful attempts to deceive the American people. But, that is another story. It is also reminiscent of the “toilet paper” fatwa pronounced on a German blogger who reported that Fatwa No. 40378 in the Encyclopedia of Fatwas specified that the New Testament and Torah could be used as toilet paper. Ever defiant, she also featured a graphic of the Koran as a roll of not-so-Charmin. That exercise in freedom of speech earned her a death fatwa. Nevertheless, Fatwa No. 40378 was removed from the Encyclopedia site in an attempt to deceive. Read the story here.
However, I am reminded by Ibrahim’s article of an episode of “Seinfeld,” in which George, the neurotic moocher, liar, schemer, and ne’er-do-well, buys a car from a used car salesman who tells him, quite tongue-in-cheek, that it was once owned by Jon Voight, the actor. George buys the car for that sole reason, and his chronically tenuous self-esteem is inflated because now he can boast to distraction that he owns a car once owned and driven by a famous person. It turns out that the car was indeed owned by a “John Voight,” by a near-namesake but not by the actor. George’s new-found self-esteem rapidly deflates like a defective balloon.
The episode described by Ibrahim here of the newspaper faking a photograph of Hosni Mubarak’s falsified place in the scheme of things is equally pathetic, and also points to a problem not only with Islam but with Muslim “culture.” If by a “culture” we mean a set of fundamental beliefs and practices shared by a specific group of people, then Muslim “culture” is fraught with many deterministic and nihilistic premises grounded on one core tenet which Islam shares with Christianity and any other religion: the assertion of an unprovable existence of a supreme being, one who authored creation and who is either omniscient or omnipotent, or, paradoxically, both.
The name of this being is immaterial. The formation of a moral code based on the belief in the existence and power of a ghost that no one has ever seen (except, apocryphally, by Moses in the Old Testament) is destined, and arguably even intended, to inculcate and encourage a dishonesty (in this case, Koran-sanctioned taqiya) that manifests itself in countless forms even among those who are not particularly avid devotees to the religion, including indifferent Muslims-in-name-only (“moderates”) and alleged secularists such as Hosni Mubarak and the newspaper’s editor. The tenet requires men to work against the evidence of their senses, and often to pretend that some things are “real” and significant, even though no one can observe them. It requires them to fake reality, to appeal to an attribute of man that the creed denigrates (faith is "superior" to reason) in order to perpetrate or perpetuate a lie, a fraud, or a myth.
While dwelling on how Islam and Muslim culture are mutually crippling in terms how the creed especially corrupts a society that is not entirely founded on an esteem for truth, Ibrahim notes:
…if Muslim culture is more tenacious and consequential than Muslim doctrine, still, the former has strong roots in the latter. Thus, while radical Muslims consciously seek to uphold the letter of the law, moderates unconsciously adhere to its cultural, social, and political manifestations.
Lest one still doubt that aspects of a religion can become casually embedded in the social fabric of a civilization, one need look no further than to Christianity, which continues to exhibit a strong, albeit unconscious, influence on the secular West, including upon those who most disavow it. After all, tolerance, human rights, a desire for peace, being the “nice guy”— indeed, all of those concepts most championed by today’s liberal secularist, did not develop out of a vacuum, but rather out of a 2,000-year-old Christian heritage that preached what was then absurd and today aberrant, but which nonetheless jibes so well with the West’s secular mindset. Surely not a coincidence.
The phenomena of dishonesty and a willingness to fake reality may be observed in cultures dominated by Christianity, as well. Witness the recent statements by Pope Benedict XVI in Britain that atheism or “godlessness” can only lead to Nazism, when in fact Nazism was founded on its own virulent brand of mysticism, with Hitler as its “prophet” (and it was mostly German Protestants who buttressed his regime, with a major assist by the knowledge-repressing Vatican) espousing the superiority of the German race and culture, Germany’s “rightful” place in the scheme of things, its “destiny” to rule the globe (an Islamic dream, as well), the elevation of instinct and force over reason, and so on.
In his address, the Pope spoke of "a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society.” He went on to urge the UK to guard against "aggressive forms of secularism.
He said: "Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny."
Churchill and Roosevelt did not fight Nazi tyranny solely because it sought to “eradicate God from society.” They fought it because it was tyranny. Benedict knows this. But, there he was, faking reality, begging the faithful not to abandon God by listening to those advocates of “atheist extremism,” because that would only lead to a repetition of the horrors of the 20th century.
But, there is an old, non-atheistic nemesis rising unopposed, and that is Islam. Historically, Christianity has acted like a ball-and-chain on Western civilization, hampering its progress and muting its capacity to foster human happiness. Nevertheless, men were and still are able to move forward. Islam promises destroy Western civilization from within and without, to condemn men to a state of miserable and permanent stagnation, and is the author of horrors past, present, and for the foreseeable future
I disagree with Ibrahim’s random list of benign concepts that were “casually embedded” by a ubiquitous Christian morality in Western civilization -- he omits individual rights, which are not the same as the vague notion of unspecified “human rights,” which any statist or power-seeker can champion by just filling in the blanks, while “tolerance” can also mean a toleration, and, by extension, a sanction of the irrational -- but he is right that “the teachings of a religion can subtly color the worldview of its non-observant posterity.” Not only subtly, but dramatically, such as America's self-sacrificing effort to "remake" Iraq and Afghanistan into so-called 'democracies."
The ultimate solution for “moderate” Muslims who wish to reform Islam and chuck its poisonous and tribalist influence in Muslim “culture” (whatever that may be, aside from the equally faked “Golden Age” of Islam and Cordoba) is to abandon Islam altogether and discover and advocate reason in all things, especially in all things moral. They must acknowledge, in such a commitment, that there is no room in reason for Allah, God, or faith. They must grasp that Islam cannot be “reformed” without turning it into a “ghost” of its former self.
They, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other notable “apostates“ have done, must recognize that Islam, like Christianity, is a used car lot clunker or a money pit and was never a great deal even when it was new. It was once owned by scimitar-wielding thug who falsely claimed it won a NASCAR race, but it will require fortunes in labor and parts to keep it in running order as a “living“ religion. ”Moderate” Muslims should just cut their losses and walk away from it, and discover a philosophy of reason.
Reality cannot be Photoshopped. And the man who begs that it be, is a fakir who deserves the scorn of all who value the truth.