Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Those Cartoons, Again – Why I’m Changing My Mind

Some interesting posts around the place on the cartoons. While I posted them, I am starting to agree with the opinions below and don’t know now whether I should have.
Free speech does bring many responsibilities. Have we the right to blaspheme any religion?
The link from a cartoon to threatening another “real Holocaust” or a 9/11 stuck me as totally out of proportion and to me, those that made the link represent a scary and unreasonable threat to Western civilisation. I posted the cartoons to show that this hotheaded intolerance and quick resort to violence and violent threat was way out of proportion and completely unacceptable. But then Muslims believe that any artistic representation of the human form is forbidden, especially one of Muhammad.
What I now think I think is represented by the quotes below.

TKS @ National Review
After noting that my reaction is one of a man for whom the Muslim world starts at his doorstep and extends for hundreds of miles in every direction… while I am appalled by the violence and threats of violence by those who claim to be so offended, I have a hard time mustering much vigor for a defense of the cartoonists. Yes, they have a right to say it, but must we defend these cartoons as if they were a good thing? I don’t like Kanye West comparing himself to Christ, or Serrano’s “Piss Christ” art, or that idiotic Jesus-was-gay play “Corpus Christi”, or other efforts to poke at Christians’ sensitivities; I’m not sure why I should be cheering when someone else makes an effort to poke at Muslims’ sensitivities.
When I see someone creating a piece of art that offends me, what are my options? Let’s agree that killing him or any violent acts should be off the table. But I can protest, I can picket, I can urge others not to see or sponsor the work, and I can denounce the creator. Muslims ought to have these rights as much as we do.

The Anchoress
Cooler heads must prevail - it would be a damn shame to lose the advances we have made with moderate Muslims because we have pushed too far. While I’m all for free speech, and was glad to see French editors stand up for it, I don’t know that I can support the few suggestions I have seen, here and there, for bloggers to create “more and better” Anti-Islam cartoons. For what purpose, to fan the flames? I’d like to see the Muslims learn to lighten up. That’s not going to happen if they’re being egged on. We’re in the middle of a very long “process” of trying to bring the Middle East and the Islamists into the twenty first century. They’re currently highly pissed off about fake cartoons. If we can’t get them to slow down and acknowledge that some of their own have had a hand in creating this unrest, is it the wisest thing to say, “hey, those were FAKE cartoons, but here’s some REAL ones for your to freak out over!”

My Friend Pat, via email (use the comments, man!)

Am not sure that you should reprint the cartoons. One of the things we ask for as catholics is respect for our religion and our traditions, not to have our noses rubbed in things that we find offensive. Yes, it happens, everyday in fact, and we do have to live with it and turn the other cheek. Sometimes that is hard, and we need to kick up a fuss when it reaches an extreme level. Piss Christ and the other display with cow dung smeared over a picture of Mary are two extreme examples of this. No, we don’t burn flags and threaten to kill people over it, but we do appreciate people who respect our traditions and beliefs, even though they appear bizarre to them. We rightly get angry with protestors who storm the altar and desecrate the Eucharist, something that is just bread to them. We believe  it to be more than bread, and request respect.
The difference between us and the Islamofascists is that we don’t expect the law to punish people who don’t respect our religion – we allow freedom of speech.
But just because we have legal freedom of speech does not mean that we should always practice it. Legally we can libel the dead, but respect generally mandates that we don’t. The Islamofascists who are storming embassies are crazies who think its ok to behead people on camera but who think the sky is falling down because of a cartoon. Yet, we have nothing to gain from showing that cartoon, and your showing it is mere provocation. Reprinting the cartoon is on a par with displaying a crucifix in a jar of urine. It may be crazy to protest a mere cartoon, but that is what all Muslims believe, not just the crazy ones.

From the Sunday Herald, on its reasons for not publishing the cartoons
The most pressing concern is that to publish would further inflame an already dangerous situation. So far, most Muslims have not taken part in protests and have not echoed the demands from a minority of extremists within their community. Further provocation – deliberate provocation – may push more towards extremism. Extending Muslim outrage to Scotland could have damaging consequences in a country where relations in our multicultural community have generally been good. There would have to be a robust moral argument for taking an action which could ramp up tensions and provoke further violence. There is also the potential threat of violence to the Sunday Herald itself and to its staff, a threat that has to be taken seriously.
…………….. The British Council of Muslims should respond by accepting it too holds a moral responsibility. It should condemn the extreme response by some in the Muslim community as deplorable; it should accept that freedom of speech is part of the cultural fabric of Britain and should work hard to convince its community that such liberty should work for all citizens.

And Mark Steyn on Sensitivity (Who I don’t fully agree with)
The cartoons aren't particularly good and they were intended to be provocative. But they had a serious point. Before coming to that, we should note that in the Western world "artists" "provoke" with the same numbing regularity as young Muslim men light up other countries' flags. When Tony-winning author Terence McNally writes a Broadway play in which Jesus has gay sex with Judas, the New York Times and Co. rush to garland him with praise for how "brave" and "challenging" he is. The rule for "brave" "transgressive" "artists" is a simple one: If you're going to be provocative, it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked.
The cartoons accompanied a piece about the dangers of "self-censorship" -- i.e., a climate in which there's no explicit law forbidding you from addressing the more, er, lively aspects of Islam but nonetheless everyone feels it's better not to.
That's the question the Danish newspaper was testing: the weakness of free societies in the face of intimidation by militant Islam.
One day, years from now, as archaeologists sift through the ruins of an ancient civilization for clues to its downfall, they'll marvel at how easy it all was. You don't need to fly jets into skyscrapers and kill thousands of people. As a matter of fact, that's a bad strategy, because even the wimpiest state will feel obliged to respond. But if you frame the issue in terms of multicultural "sensitivity," the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want -- including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers. Thus, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, hailed the "sensitivity" of Fleet Street in not reprinting the offending cartoons.



Blogger Fence said...

But does the fact that you object to something mean that you have the right to ban it? Free speech means having to deal with stuff you'd rather not hear/read.

It means that the BNP can give speeches as well as Amnesty International.

Were the cartoon designed to stir up offense, or have they achieved their aim by alerting the world to how some parts of the Islam world are reacting?

February 05, 2006 5:08 p.m.  
Blogger eeore said...

But the only problem is that there is not an out-right ban on imagery in islam. What there is, is a tradition that has been around for about 200 years that has prohibited it.

To appeal to moderation and reason is fine. But to give into death, destruction, blind violence and hypocrisy.... when no law has been broken.... is to enter a very dark world.

February 06, 2006 12:27 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We’re in the middle of a very long “process” of trying to bring the Middle East and the Islamists into the twenty first century"
(the Anchoress)

When the British adopted this patronising attitide to the Irish, it only made things worse, and fanned the flames of nationalism, eventually erupting in yet more violence.

When judging the rights and wrongs of this situation we have to remember that no one party has an absolute moral authority.

My opinion, for what it's worth and I don't claim that to be much, is that if Muslims want to protest the offensiveness of the cartoon, fine. However, they must remember that Denmark is a soveriegn state in Europe and that THEY have no right to criticise our culture of free speech. Was the cartoon badly judged? Yes. But so what?

February 07, 2006 8:34 a.m.  
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