> Thoughts from the future: + This is still basically true. Free speech is important!
I just have to comment about this escalating situation all over the world, as it seems to be becoming a flash point for major violence, and I don’t see it ending anytime soon, perhaps escalating more as larger amounts of people catch wind of it.
For those of you that don’t know, a Danish newspaper published various cartoons relating to Islam and caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. The cartoons were largely poking fun at various aspects of contemporary fundamentalist Islam. Though largely benign to western people, these cartoons are viewed as very serious shots at Islam, even blasphemy. This all began around October and has been building ever since. There has been continued threats and violence to Danish people, as well as the taking over of an EU office by masked gunmen in protest. The Danish prime minister has refused to really apologize for the cartoons, and I think he is correct.
As Americans and Europeans, we share a common western culture that values liberalism and democracy, and all the individual rights that encompass those ideas. Many other parts of the world value a different set of principles. The difference is obvious, but the question is should we capitulate and give up some of our free speech rights to more radical and less liberal parts of the world who take offense to western values. The answer is an emphatic NO!
We have protesters who are so angry that Islam is characterized by violence that they are committing large scale acts of violence as protest. We have more moderate Muslims condemning the violence but saying that westerners, the Danish in particular, should recognize the differences of cultures and apologize. Finally there are the fundamentalist Islamics who are already so angry at the west as a whole that violence has been occurring for decades. There is irony in each of these situations. How can someone protest and deny Islam is a violent religion by committing acts of violence? How can you preach for taking care in noticing cultural differences and then overlook the core difference in liberal ideology in the west that permits such speech? The anti-western movement and the movement against post-modernity has been going on in the middle east for decades, and I don’t think it is going anywhere until one of two things happen: the majority of the middle east adopts liberal values or they are marginalized by continued conflict and evaporating global importance (resources such as oil being used up).
One thing is clear. No one who values their free speech or western values needs to give in to “terrorist” demands that cartoons and humor about Islam is forbidden. It should be quite obvious to the middle east and Muslims who are protesting that the west is not going away, nor will it adopt Islamic values.
Another thing, I am completely and totally DISGUSTED at the major media outlets of the United States for being hesitant about showing the cartoons. This is ridiculous. I’m wondering if they even value free speech at all, or just use it as a tool when they think they can milk money out of some kind of juicy tidbit they get their hands on. Is the issue too hot? Are you afraid you will lose your vast viewership in the Middle East? (laugh) How can you coherently even do a story on these cartoons without showing them to anyone?
As for the counter to all this, the growing anti-Muslim sentiment that probably triggered these cartoons. Deal with it. Seriously, stop being cry babies. Sometimes in life your feelings are hurt and people don’t believe the same as you do. This isn’t “politically correct” world where we have to be careful what we say … this is clear cut free speech. Was it irresponsible to publish the cartoons? Probably. Was it driven by anti-Muslim sentiment? Probably. Should this kind of activity be permissible? ABSOLUTELY. It’s fundamental to liberal values to have almost unfettered access to freedom of speech, even when such speech may hurt someone’s feelings or interfere with their belief.
Of course my view is that something as widespread as religion (there are thousands of religions, maybe millions from the past, present, and more in the future) should not be something you fight over. Your religion is just one of many, you can believe everyone else is going to hell or something, just keep it to your damn self and quit trying to tell everyone else. Unfortunately it is in the nature of Christianity and Islam to spread aggressively which causes inevitable conflict.
Anyway, here are the cartoons .. because I happen to value my freedom of speech and expression.
2006-02-07 16:00 -0800