The Loon world was whipped into a frenzy based on, as usual, the reinforcing winds of ignorance and hate. In what was meant to be an unremarkable story, Tim Marshall a reporter for Sky News blogged on a mass wedding celebration in the Gaza Strip officiated by Hamas. Marshall reports in his excellent blog Islamophobia. Ignorance or Propaganda?,
The party is for 450 grooms, the brides are elsewhere, some among the 5,000 or so guests. It’s the way things are done here, Personally I’m for the mixing of the sexes, but I’m not about to argue, I’m outnumbered.
Up on the stage there’s music and dancing. Everyone’s having a good time, even me, although the Hamas robocops are making me a little nervous. Sure Hamas have cold blooded killers among them, sure they support the murder of children in Israel, sure they are cracking down on women’s rights, but many of their supporters are just ordinary people. And they need a break…Then the fireworks explode, the cheering begins, and in march the Hamas scouts, bashing drums, looking every inch the future Hamas fighters many will be. Then the grooms, aged about 18 to about 28. They are holding hands with their young nieces and cousins, little girls aged from about 3 to 8, made up to the nines, wearing white wedding dresses.
So what has gotten the Loon world completely riled up? Well it seems that many of the anti-Muslims misconstrued the occasion and thought the grooms were actually marrying the little girls who were their nieces or cousins! Tim Marshall explains,
Our report on this put it into context saying that it took place just a mile from the Israeli border and was a message from Hamas about its strength confidence and future fighters. Oh and that the brides were elsewhere. Pretty straightforward.
It never struck me for a moment that the little girls might later be described in the bloggersphere as the brides! How naive I am.
Dozens, and I mean dozens, of websites took the video of the event and wrote lurid stories about Hamas mass paedophilia with headlines about ’450 child brides’, and endless copy about how disgusting this was, how it showed how depraved Islam is, et al, ad infinitum. Site after site jumped on the story, linking from one totally wrong load of rubbish to the next. I’ll give credit to Tundra Tabloids who at least took down the video, but most sites just ploughed on regardless.
So which sites are these, and what have the various reactions been? Bartholomew gives us a hint,
The many websites that picked this up have responded in various ways: some issuing corrections, some quickly deleting their postings, and some insisting that it’s all true and that Marshall is trying to cover up the fact: “Why”, demands one site “would Tim Marshall defend the Gaza pedophiles?” One of the sites that decided to scrub was Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, which is worth noting as Spencer claims some sort of academic expertise on Islam.
Where does this collective hallucination and fixation on fiction originate from? The simple, straight forward answer is that it comes from the collective hysterical hatred shared by those who despise Islam and Muslims. It is a manifestation of Islamophobia, “ie. an irrational fear of Islam.” It springs from the idea that Islam is evil, inherently backwards, oppressive to women. The talking point goes, “Muhammad was a pedophile who married 9 year old A’isha and these vile Mooslims must be doing it now on this massive scale!” George Readings puts this into some context in a recent post on The Spitoons (via Bartholemew),
The “argument” goes that Muslims believe Muhammad to be a perfect model for behaviour and therefore the fact of Muhammad’s marriage to A’isha somehow proves Islam to be a depraved religion…This attempt to aggressively apply a modern British definition of paedophilia to seventh century Arabia strikes me as a sign of severe anthropological illiteracy…
…Marriage to a pre-pubescant child with whom consummation occurs upon reaching puberty is not a model most people would be happy with in the modern world (although Bolivia sets the age of consent at puberty).
Which is probably why nearly all Muslim countries have reformed these rules beyond recognition. The age of consent in Algeria and Malaysia is 16, in Indonesia it is 19 for males and 16 for females. In Egypt it’s 18 for both and Tunisia 20. Reform has not, however, come to Saudi Arabia. Back in April the world followed the case of a mother trying to obtain a divorce for her eight-year-old daughter who had been married off by her father to a friend he owed a debt. In the end she succeeded and now there is even talk of Saudi Arabia preventing marriage before the age of 18.
Poor Tim Marshall scoured the net in an attempt to let the Islamophobes know that they had gotten it wrong but what was the result?
I spent a few hours visiting websites and leaving comments where I could. To little avail. Instead I received a steady stream of vitriol. The best response was on a site run by a Debbie Schlussel . The guy who posted it said he wasn’t interested in the detail. The detail being the fact that the girls weren’t the brides.
It showed how much some people want to believe nonsense like this, as it re-inforces their prejudices, always a comfortably fun thing to do. But Hamas, and the jihadists do enough terrible things without having to make things up about them. Most of the stuff I read was outright, unthinking, gleeful, Islamophobia from people who clearly knew nothing about Arab popular culture. It’s as is they really beleive that because there are examples of child brides, it means all weddings are with child brides.
Debbie Schlussel is not new to LoonWatch readers, her doozy looniness is par for the course, so Tim shouldn’t worry, but he hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “It showed how much some people want to believe nonsense like this, as it re-inforces their prejudices, always a comfortably fun thing to do.” This is exactly the case — loaded with a bagful of prejudice and preconceived notions the Islamophobes took the wedding to be an affirmation of their pre-set conjectures.
When they were presented with the fact that they had stupendously erred some corrected themselves while others went into denial. It almost reminds you of some Biblical literalists who believe the world is 6,000 years old, you can present them with all the overwhelming evidence that point to the fact that the world is many millions of times older but they will stubbornly hold on to their literal interepretation of the Bible. This is not much different, and serves as a sweeping manifestation of the kind of irrationality that ignorance coupled with hate can produce.