Commentary: The Last Year of the Pig
by Leslie J. Sacks
IPT News Guest Contributor
June 9, 2008
We may have seen the Year of the Pig fully celebrated in accordance with the Chinese calendar for the last time. References to pigs were banned in China's television advertising in 2007, the official Year of the Pig, to prevent offending the Muslim population. In Taiwan citizens were put on notice about using ‘pig' postage stamps for mailings to Muslim countries or recipients.
Janet Levy in FrontPageMagazine.com writes comprehensively of the multitudinous ways in which some Muslims are choosing to be offended, choosing to protest and how communities around the world are also choosing to accommodate this veritable plague of Muslim religious demands.
Piggy banks, those charming inducements that promote fiscally conservative children, are objects many of us remember very fondly. They have now been banned in the United Kingdom as marketing gifts by certain financial institutions. Pig calendars, toys and objects are increasingly disappearing from public offices and institutions. We are on our way to becoming a ‘pig free' society (one is reminded of other, far more extreme attempts to cleanse society of its offending objects, including the burning of the incomparable Royal Library of Alexandria - the world's largest - in the 1st millennium CE, Hitler's 1930's Juden-Rein vision for Europe, Pol Pot's 1970s evisceration of Cambodian intellectuals and China's effective decades-long dilution of Tibetan traditions and monasteries).
Target department stores have, in specific instances, allowed their Muslim check-out employees to excuse themselves when pork products are presented at their counters. Yet these same employees were well aware of Target's product selection when they applied for their jobs.
As I understand it, orthodox Jews, Hindus and vegetarians have little interest in pork products and many exclude pork from their daily diet with the same proficiency and commitment as do many Muslims. How come they operate checkouts at supermarkets, drive taxis, receive piggy banks as gifts and visit government offices replete with pig paraphernalia without protest? How have they managed for decades at our schools and universities without kosher and meatless cafeterias? Why are they not insulted by the many instances of references to the pigs in our multicultural society? Are they any less serious about their religion, any less observant and sincere in their beliefs?
It seems, in a kind of reverse idolatry, that the Islamists have imbued the pig, in all its physical and symbolic manifestations, with a kind of mystical evilness, a negative energy of boundless proportions. It's not only the ingestion of the pig that is now at issue – it's its very existence in any form, an inverse deity as it were from hell.
Perhaps these offended Muslims not only want to distance themselves from pork and other disagreeable issues, but they seem to be refusing to allow non-Muslims their own beliefs, their own preferences. This projection of personal views onto others is clearly a fascistic and a political statement rather than a religious one. Radical Islam is becoming, in its expression, a political ideology far more than the private and personal religion that is typical for the average orthodox Jew, Christian or observant Hindu, of which there are many hundreds of millions of adherents worldwide.
The old adage "Live and let live," an eminently civilized tenet of the Western World, is a concept that seemingly has no place in most of the Middle East and amongst the more radical Muslim communities.
Is this because these Islamists believe that only their view has any validity, only their religion has any value? Is it because only their god inhabits this world, that their concern is only for their people, their religion, their domination? The Western World is bending over backwards in a multi-cultural orgy of all inclusiveness to welcome all people, all sects and all religions. In particular Muslims are to be treated with exceptional sensitivity and understanding in a vain attempt to defuse anticipated protests.
Does it have to remain one-sided? Why is it that our preferences have to be subverted to the will of the minority? Why does it remain highly problematic for a mini-skirted woman with a Pekinese and a bottle of scotch to hail a taxi, a Muslim taxi, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport?
That widely traditional story The Three Little Pigs has now been banned in a primary school in England. This and other instances represent in fact, expressions of potential self destructive cultural hypersensitivity. Buddhists are not catered to, neither are Orthodox Jews, Animists, Baha'is, Shintos, Hindus, vegans, and every other ethnic, cultural or religious minority, many of whom also have strong views and delicate sensibilities. Who decided that Muslim sensitivities were deeper and stronger than all others? Perhaps the vociferousness of the complaints, perhaps the fear emanating from the many media reports of suicide bombers, of the New York, London and Madrid bombings, has patently colored our motivations, our compromises and our accommodations.
It seems that we are ever more focused on healing the emotional wounds of the angry rather than trying to formulate pragmatic practices capable of coping with increasingly dangerous "creeping Shariah," Islamic radicals and Jihadists coalitions. Appeasement may be defined by the actions of many of our politicians, as the rewarding of others for their bad behavior.
It is ironic that it is the Koran itself that is replete with references to pigs, often in a particularly derogatory light where Jews are concerned:
Verse 5:60 Say: "those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil"
 The 10th Century commentator Al-Tabari, referencing Verse 5:112-115, says of those who commit blasphemy that they were turned into apes and pigs.
 In April 2002, Sheik Tantawi, the highest ranking cleric in the Sunni Muslim world called the Jews "the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs."
 Sheik Al-Sudayyis, imam at the Al-Haraam mosque, the most important in Mecca, sermonized that "Jews are the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs."
Another school in the United Kingdom specifically excluded stories about the talking pig "Babe" and other pig stories. Is it inconceivable to imagine a world where stories about Jews and Zionists are banned since they certainly offend much of the Muslim population? Israel already has ceased to exist on many Muslim and Arab world maps and in many of their school textbooks.
Orthodox Jews have never marched for kosher cafeterias. They privately and quietly arrange their dietary habits without voluble demands. In contrast, we in America now know that a youngster in Maine was suspended from school in early 2007 for the ‘hate crime' of placing a lunch box with ham in front of Muslim students. It used to be that hate crimes were reserved for the heinous crimes of rape, murder and the like. No more – ham sandwiches and Danish cartoons rank up there in the pantheon of hate crimes with lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan and the July 2006 shootings by a Muslim at a Jewish community center in Seattle, or with a millennia of anti-Semitism in Europe where the Nazis, the Cossacks, Torquemada, the Crusaders and assorted others all found the ghetto Jews to be fair game for any and all persecutions and scapegoating.
FeedthePig.org is an innovative new website designed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). It encourages 40 million Americans age 25-34 to take control of their personal finances through a savings campaign, courtesy of Benjamin Bankes, the website mascot. Is AICPA aware of the provocative insult their website presents to some Muslims; are they prepared for future attempts by Shariah proponents to ban Benjamin from the web?
Will the Quran replace George Orwell's Animal Farm as required reading as Janet Levy fears? What would the Super Bowl be with be without pork rinds? As Levy further notes in her FrontPage article, pork products include heart valves, skin grafts for burn victims apart from $40 billion in contributions to the GNP. Would these heart patients and burn victims be banned from Muslim communities – would Muslims refuse to do business with them? The implications would be most comedic if they weren't in fact ultimately realistic. Shariah law or democratic law – the choice remains ours.
Leslie J. Sacks is an art dealer and gallerist in Los Angeles. Before that, he founded and operated Les Art International in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was active in opposing apartheid and in supporting the Johannesburg Jewish community.
Reader comments on this item
Aug 17, 2008 15:22
Your blog is interesting! Keep up the good work!