February 02, 2006

Trouble with a capital D

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4670370.stm

The reprinting of that Danish newpaper cartoon depicting the prophet muhammad (pbuh) is beyond ridiculous. Its inflammatory, divisive and dangerous.

For instance, if we were to substitute Mose for Muhammad (pbut) that cartoon would never of made it to print. The paper would be roundly criticised & labelled anti-semitic (& rightly so) if it dared too. And that would be the end of the story. But because its Islam (europe's current evil darling) this is not the case and situation becomes one of a debate about "press freedom" Vs the obtruse narrow-minded oppressive "muhammadians".

"I might not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

How continental press try and hide behind "Press freedom" is pathetic. Voltaire would role over in his grave. There are limits to what we can say (or the National Front would have a field day). How this "press freedom" stance adopted by continental press is for the betterment of the general public I have no idea.

I would accept a claim of naivety when the cartoon was published orginally. Then it could be argued that this was a case of ignorance on the part of that newspaper and the cartoonist. However the reprinting of a blasphemous cartoon is another kettle of fish altogether and is a premediated attack on a religion & equates to religious incitement.


- 18 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Mathew Mannion

    From what I understood, wasn't Moses on it as well? Although I agree the characetures were in bad taste, the "Muslims vs. Denmark" thing going on is absolutely ridiculous.

    02 Feb 2006, 09:18

  2. Perhaps we should pass everything through six censors from now on, one from each of the major religions?

    The newspapers were, I feel, testing the limits of press freedom. There is nothing illegal about what they have done, although it is a bit tasteless. And yes, there are limits to what one can print, but only in as much as you can't lie about anyone (libel), directly incite hatred (this article wasn't doing that), or directly incite people to a crime.

    Write an article explaining why printing those cartoons was so misguided, print it out and distribute it. You're allowed to do that – it's called free speech.

    What you're not allowed to do is start making death threats against newspaper editors, as some people have been.

    02 Feb 2006, 09:40

  3. Were the comics tasteful?
    Probably not.

    Was it a good idea to deeply offend a significant number of people?
    No, not really.

    Should they have been allowed to do it anyway?
    Yes, absolutely.

    Our legal systems have developed to a point where religions aren't really given any specific rights (such as blasphemy). The papers have comitted no offence – slander, libel, threats, etc.

    02 Feb 2006, 10:42

  4. I'd agree that the papers were legally entitled to publish the comics, and that no one should be making death threats as a result. After all, threatening terrorist action for being unfairly labelled as a terrorist seems rather absurd (more so than most terrorist action, I mean).

    I still think the papers were wrong to publish the comics, because having a legal right to do something doesn't make it a good or sensible thing to do. Whilst the press have a well deserved right to their freedom, they ought to also have some responsibility in how they exercise it.

    02 Feb 2006, 13:49

  5. Mat- I completely agree about the muslim Vs denmark thing. Its seems a frontline has been drawn over there. Gulp.

    Cooper: I'll just pick up on two points that you make in your sound counter argument.

    The newspapers were, I feel, testing the limits of press freedom. There is nothing illegal about what they have done…

    Why was there a need for them to test the limits of press freedom, for as Mayhill highlights the press have a responsibility towards publics' well being and incitement surely goes against that code.

    …directly incite hatred (this article wasn't doing that)...

    You argue that the tenets by which the press stand by allows them to publish such articles because in your opinion its not direct incitement. Regardless if the incitement is open and direct or indirect, incitement is incitement per se. Surely thats wrong.

    Hammond: My reposte is summed up by Mayhill. However I would also like to add that perhaps the law should afford religions some sort of protection based on the sensitivities of that named religion. In an ideal world we would like it to be democratic and free and to practise our right to freedom of speech. But its not we have to live with everyone. And everyone doesn't share (& shouldn't have to) all our values and beliefs.

    Slightly off topic but I do feel that at the moment muslims are being persecuted. I don't think there is an agenda out there but I do feel that if a muslim commits a crime, the point that he/she is a muslim is felt needed, as though their religion had anything to do with the bank robbery they commited etc.

    02 Feb 2006, 19:35

  6. And everyone doesn't share (& shouldn't have to) all our values and beliefs.

    You're quite right – and the point is that the value that we hold perhaps most precious in Europe is the freedom of expression.

    03 Feb 2006, 08:43

  7. Interesting thoughts they are all indeed and well argued, which is scarely seldom in these part too.

    Anyway, I have to agree with Max (and trust me that doesn't happen often, eh max?) but we do have a right and responsibility to uphold the freedom of speech even if it will cause some grief along the line. A working democary must be able to withstand also the extremes of both sides of the spectrum, which however does not allow for incitement of religous hatred (i.e. persecution for beliefs).
    Considering Malik's orginal entry, I know there are plenty of examples where christian and jewish religous characters have been mocked in the western press and it has not caused such an uproar as it's been a long time since politics and religion have been seperated in western europe.

    E.g.: The french constitution of 1791

    "Religious commandments and prohibitions cannot take priority over the laws of the republic," it insists. "Religions… can be freely analysed, criticised, indeed ridiculed."

    This theme will be found in all european constitutions in one form or another and I believe that since it was spread and enforced by Napoleon all over Europe it has done more for the emacipation of the citizens than any other general concept. However, there are parts of the US where this would get one lynched and where this should equally be enforced by the federal government (so yes, to some degree you have a point on this).

    And everyone doesn't share (& shouldn't have to) all our values and beliefs.

    This is very true, but we all have to repect each others values and beliefs, even the ones that we don't like and ONLY as long as they don't infringe on the general human rights that should be granted to all citizens.

    03 Feb 2006, 09:34

  8. In an ideal world we would like it to be democratic and free and to practise our right to freedom of speech. But its not, we have to live with everyone. And everyone doesn't share (& shouldn't have to) all our values and beliefs.

    I forgot to affix to following to the above, and thats was that in conclusion we should practise tolerance and respect. Dressing Muhammad (pbuh) with a turban shaped bomb is tantamount to calling Islam an evil terrorist-based faith. Which obviously its not. Though it would be a clever recruitment pitch- "join our religion, and get to blow up things you don't agree with" What self respecting man with inner child wouldn't want to join.

    Anyway if I return to what Hammond said:

    the point is that the value that we hold perhaps most precious in Europe is the freedom of expression.

    Yes, thats brilliant for us. But as we all know, thats not the case, there are limits to what the press can say (racist, homophobic, sexist etc) and this attack on Islam in my opinion is obviously an other example. And the cry of freedom of speech the press voice in their defence is a lame excuse.

    03 Feb 2006, 09:50

  9. Colin Paterson

    Isn't a world with free speach without emphesis on tolerance, considration for the impact your words have not just anarchy?
    There seems to be a tone of "we're printing these cartoon repeatedly because we can so you lot who don't see our point of view can get lost" which lacks repect and understanding and if it was in a BNP publication we'd be outraged. People should have free speach but to repeatedly use it to cause offence is wrong.

    03 Feb 2006, 10:35

  10. It's massively patronising to the individual, as well as potentially dangerous, to force feed everyone an opinion. By attempting to censor things like this you're making a claim that you know what is right and healthy for everyone, that they shouldn't have to worry about coming to their own conclusions about whether things are bigotted or inciteful towards racial hatred, you believe you can do that job for them. I don't need anyone to tell me what I should think about anything. You should expose yourself to as many contrary opinions as possible. This forces you to come up with decent arguments to support what you believe and to address any problems that the opposition raises. It allows you to constantly refine, strengthen and affirm your beliefs and modify your behaviour appropriately. How is this not a good thing?
    People who try to live in a world where all the bad things are hidden away are deluding themselves. There are racists, there are fascists and yes these people are bigotted and hateful. Yet anyone who sticks their fingers in their ears, or worse demands a government does it for them, aren't addressing the problems. Issues won't go away just because they are censored. The only way they will go away is through, reasoned rational debate. In order for this to happen all parties must be allowed ot have their say. The idiots will be revealed as such to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

    03 Feb 2006, 12:15

  11. Voltaire would, also, not be rolling in his grave as he had some pretty foul racist comments to make himself.
    link

    03 Feb 2006, 13:12

  12. People are arguing on this thread that the abundance of religious caricatures of other religions in our society infers its fine to continue it. Well not really. If to begin with its not a good thing, this doesn't mean that if everyone is doing it it'll become a good thing. Critising a religion- fair enough, but insulting is completely different. If a mormon doesn't want to use technology fair enough, I can argue that he is making his llife more difficult. But I wouldn't insult his beliefs, even if I don't understand them.

    I'll return to Taver's comment and point out:

    Point 1: Hang on this isn't a question of censorship, not in the least. Its a question of tolerance and respect for other cultures. You say there is an issue to address here and your right. But its not about what we have a right to say but what we are allowed to say. (And before you quote this latter sentence and try to QED me i want to add): And insulting another religion, and that at the heart of it is what is happening here, is not on. It was insinuated in this caricature that a religious figure was a terrorist. Then the whole thing was reprinted to add injury to insult. Thats not criticism, that blantant mordacious discrimination, that is more dangerous then any ideology you Taver attempt to preserve.

    You speak in ideals. Not everyone will address these issues with the tenacity & methodology that you possess. You assume that everyone has the same capacity as yourself to differentiate from a bigotted nonce and a critic. Thats not the case as the initial rise in facism clearly illustrates back in the 1930s. I think this issue is a clear example of this. People here in my belief are under the clear misconception that this is a question of freedom of speech. Its not.

    03 Feb 2006, 13:27

  13. Yes, thats brilliant for us. But as we all know, thats not the case, there are limits to what the press can say (racist, homophobic, sexist etc) and this attack on Islam in my opinion is obviously an other example

    Yes, there are limits, but the point is that the cartoons which were published simply do not breach the limits which we accept in Europe. They're not threatening, they're not racist, they're not sexist, they're not libellous, they are satirical. And they are funny – have you seen them?

    Thats not the case as the initial rise in facism clearly illustrates back in the 1930s. I think this issue is a clear example of this. People here in my belief are under the clear misconception that this is a question of freedom of speech. Its not.

    I'm not really clear what the relevance of Facism is here; do you mean anti-semitism?

    This is absolutely about freedom of speech. Our papers can say anything they want – they are not censored by the governments, as is the case in many parts of the world. Our legal system defines what is acceptable and what is not; if these cartoons are unacceptable, then the papers should expect legal action. Not death threats.

    03 Feb 2006, 14:02

  14. They're not threatening…

    Several squillion people disagree with you on the threatening thing- see the volatile response.

    Yes, there are limits, but the point is that the cartoons which were published simply do not breach the limits which we accept in Europe.

    Well actually no, thats your point you keep trying to hammer home. My blog entry's points are of the stupidity of reprinting such an incitory article and the decadence of tolerance for others beliefs in society that allows for such publications in the first place.

    Yes I did mean fascism. I'll expand here: fascism is an ideological system dependent on negating one or several minorities. We know this wrong, but I mentioned it in response to Taver remarks on the strength of the "individual" to see sense. Obviously that didn't happen then as fascism was rife then, and I draw parallels here. I hope that clarifies things!

    03 Feb 2006, 14:40

  15. Yes, there are limits, but the point is that the cartoons which were published simply do not breach the limits which we accept in Europe. They're not threatening, they're not racist, they're not sexist, they're not libellous, they are satirical. And they are funny have you seen them?

    I have seen them and thought they were lame and not worth all the fuss.

    And no, the limits aren't set like that in Europe. In the Netherlands, the Queen and the Prime Minister [Balkenende] have been ridiculized lots, leading the latter to formally complain about the tastelessness of certain shows [some of which supposedly similar to Spitting Image]. His main concern was that facts and fiction were merged, which could confuse people's idea of the truth. The Royal family couldn't care less and stated they were rather amused by the satire.

    If criticism of Muhammad is seen as blasphemy [and according to Wikipedia bad enough to be sentenced to death] and [again Wikipedia, though read elsewhere in connection to the Muhammad cartoons] even the creation non-iconic images is discouraged, it reeks of plain stupidity to think that publishing those cartoons wouldn't offend anyone or wouldn't cause any trouble. This is an act that has global consequences. Sure, it's allowed in Europe, but that doesn't mean other regions can't denounce such an act, simply because of the 'universal right of freedom of press'. I think to say the Danish editors have done no wrong and are within their rights is no excuse, and doesn't mean that by definition they don't need to apologize.

    03 Feb 2006, 15:54

  16. I don't think any government should have censored the cartoons, because they were just a joke, albeit not a very good one.

    I still think it was stupid and irresponsible of the various newspapers to publish them, because it was quite obviously going to offend lots of people for no good reason. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it was the right thing to do. And just because the legal system can't (and shouldn't) do anything about it, doesn't mean they shouldn't be condemned for being insensitive and irresponsible.

    03 Feb 2006, 16:12

  17. Yes I did mean fascism. I'll expand here: fascism is an ideological system dependent on negating one or several minorities. We know this wrong, but I mentioned it in response to Taver remarks on the strength of the "individual" to see sense. Obviously that didn't happen then as fascism was rife then, and I draw parallels here. I hope that clarifies things!

    Facism is nothing of the sort. Facism is an authoritarian state system typically following left-wing economic policies and right-wing social policies. The facism that arose during the early 20th century took advantage of a well-established anti-semitic movement, along with a deep dissatisfaction with the state of politics in post-ww1 germany.

    My blog entry's points are of the stupidity of reprinting such an incitory article and the decadence of tolerance for others beliefs in society that allows for such publications in the first place.

    Don't you see the contradiction here? The newspapers are expected to respect the islamic faith, but muslims are not expected to respect our beliefs in freedom of expression?

    As I said before, I think it was a bad idea to publish these cartoons, and especially to republish them. There's no need to be grossly offensive toward so many people. But to argue that a newspaper should be censored because they have offended people is exactly the path to facism.

    03 Feb 2006, 16:26

  18. I've decided to close debate before the arguments become repetitive. I am not one for wading through a 60 odd comment debate where nothing new is added and I feel the selection here cover a broad spectrum of views. My thanks to the contributors.

    However if you have something of value to add, or an insight not covered here, feel free to email me and I will post your entry giving due credit.

    03 Feb 2006, 16:31


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