February 06, 2006

Is this free speech?

These images depict the prophet Muhammed. One with a bomb and another with a dagger. Is this what the bastion of freedom and liberty, Western Europe, believes free speech to be?

Let us remember that Islam forbids depiction of Muhammed in any way, never mind in such an insulting manner. The European newspapers publishing these pictures are appealing as if protecting their rights against state intervention or secrecy: lest we forget, this is about cartoons. The first newspaper, Jyllands Posten, knew the furore this would cause and baited Muslims with their publication. This is not free speech - if John Locke and John S Mill were alive today, they would be disgusted. This is not what they had in mind when they thought of liberty, the promised land. This is the deliberate insulting of a religion with more than a billion followers –

Mistakes on all sides

Once again Muslims around the world have not disappointed the provocateurs. Embassies have been destroyed, diplomats attacked, a Catholic priest shot dead in Turkey, and much more. If the newspaper started out in the wrong, they now seem a distant object in the whole palaver thanks to the outrageously disgaceful behaviour of "a minority" of Muslims in several countries. How is it that "a minority" are always ready to take up arms and placards and pierce the air with outrageous claims and threats? That so many Muslims find it so easy to take up arms and engage in such bloodthirsty rhetoric is a worry for the world and does not make life any easier for the 'other Muslims'. Let us see for a moment what Arab newspapers carry occasionally:

It is true that many of these images are printed in the lunatic fringe of the Arab media spectrum, but not all. The image containing Ariel Sharon and the bloody sword is from Al-Wafd, the main opposition paper in Egypt, with substantial coverage. So hypocrisy comes into it also.

However, I believe Jyllands Posten was right to apologise but must retract the cartoons - the media cannot work on an eye-for-an-eye ethos. This conflict is being painted as the inevitable fight between Islamic censorship and Western liberty - sorry to disappoint, but it is not. It is a Vin Diesel while people are pretending it's a Schwarzenegger. The issue is right, but the provocation and timing wrong. The crucial issue here is this: if Islamic censorship causes problems within the 'Western' way of life, then there is cause for people to evoke freedom of speech. If, however, cartoonists and Editors go out of their way to bait a religious group and then hide behind freedom of speech, then we have entered a wrong alley.

The reaction by a lot of Muslims has been pathetic and horrendous; mostly overreaction. But we must not lose sight of the issue here: insult of a religion. The prophet Muhammed is a tremendous figure in history and should not be depicted thus. Muslim media needs to pay the same attention to its anti-Semitism, but just because media in Islamic countries show such flagrant hatred for Jews does not mean we demean and sully the image of their prophet in return.

There is a very thin line between freedom of speech and insult. It must be trodden very carefully. Damn those grey areas.


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  1. A brilliant article!!!! Free speech must have its limits. The Danish paper MUST apologize, if so many people in this world have such strong feelings agaisnt the cartoons being published the paper wil not lose anything in apologising to help ease the anger of Muslims. Its so angering that they can offend so many people under the pretext of free speech, hypocritical really.

    The same lies on the side of the Arabs, they must also stop publishing such horrible cartoons. The outbreak of violence must be curtailed, peaceful protests are ok but its getting out of hand now.

    06 Feb 2006, 22:44

  2. Free speech must have its limits.

    But who is to define these limits? Who is to draw the line between insult and free speech? Are we to censor any speech which offends somebody?

    Cartoonists and editors may have gone out of their way to bait Islam. That's not good at all. In fact, it's infantile and stupid. But restricting them from doing so is worse – and they're not hiding behind freedom of speech, they're simply exercising it, as you are too.

    There is a free press in many European countries. Provided it does not tell lies (libel) or incite anybody to commit a crime, it can print what it wants. I fail to see why special allowances should be made for this case.

    (Well done for having the balls to publish the cartoons, btw.)

    06 Feb 2006, 22:53

  3. Your article is something I broadly agree with, but I have an open question: do you feel it is reasonable to state (in paraphrasal) that it is unacceptable to depict Muhammed in any way, while doing exactly that? I believe your argument against the publication of the cartoons to be correct, and would/do have no problem with the cartoons being shown within carefully explained background context to show the source of the contention. But combining the two into a single post just seems like muddled thinking.

    It is a Vin Diesel while people are pretending it's a Schwarzenegger.

    The strangest metaphor I've heard in a while!

    07 Feb 2006, 00:07

  4. Edward you make a valid point, who will define these boundaries? I guess if they knew it is written in the Quran that Muhammad cannot be depicted in any form, that should stop them from doing so. But yes i agree it is difficult.

    Simon – you made a brilliant point, Ankit says it is not alright to publish it, yet does so himslef (although to make a point)......nice one.

    07 Feb 2006, 00:58

  5. Damn theose grey areas indeed.
    I would propose that the difference between an insult and a criticism is a very blurry one indeed, not necessarilly in this particular situation, but often. Unless there some type of legislation can be formulated decrying the actions of certain parties can be nothing apart from an expression of personal opinion. However the issue is so delicate that I cannot even begin to conceive of how any such legislation would be formulated. A messy situation altogether.

    07 Feb 2006, 02:24

  6. Freedom of speech does include the freedom to insult, though. And rightly so, as just about anything is going to insult someone. It also seems silly to suggest that a newspaper avoid blasphemy in the eyes of a religion they don't follow.

    Still, they really shouldn't have published the cartoons, because whilst they were within thier rights to do so, it was quite obviously very irresponsible. Free speech or not, they ought to apologise for being insensitive and stupid. They weren't making any sort of point (valid or not) criticising Islam, and weren't even funny; hardly the sort of constructive journalism that free speech is needed for.

    07 Feb 2006, 07:44

  7. Aha, I actually made a mental note to justify printing those cartoons and then forgot! Anyway, here it is: I have done the thing I am against myself, but only so that people can actually SEE what it is offending Muslims so. Most people I know haven't even seen these cartoons…isn't it right to see a few of them before commenting about the issue?

    On the other hand if everybody followed this reasoning, the pictures would be all over the web, I know…

    07 Feb 2006, 08:55

  8. Christopher Rossdale

    I'm a Libertarian, and disagree with some of waht's been said here, but my opinion's been reflected time and again by different people on the matter, I won't bore you all with another opinion – I just want to raise a few points that this issue has brought up

    1. Many European countries have laws against publishing anything which denies the holocaust, or indeed publishing anything which can be seen to be strongly anti-semitic. It appears there's a double standard here, with the imperial western powers allowing the baiting of Islam, in an attempt to uphold the religions image as the 'criminal of their time'. This must be redressed.

    2. It was the right of the dickhead cartoonist to publish his cartoons. They're tasteless, unamusing and a clear attempt to stir controversy. It is the right of Muslims around the world to protest at this (peacefully, which is what the vast vast majorty of demonstrations have been). You can't restrict on religious grounds, or we're going to find ourselves on a very slippery slope. The Muslim law against images of Mohammad (pbuh) are well acceptable within the religion, but to impose those laws on others isn't fair – should people avoid working on the sunday because it's the sabbath? but on the saturday too because it's Jewish sabbath? I know they're not strictly the same thing, the point is that imposing religious values and rules on others leads to a feeling of friction between religions and cultures: clearly the last thing to be maintaining in a world where understanding and solidarity is crucial for world peace.

    3. This was so close to being an opportunity for the Islamic people. When the scandal blew up, there were peaceful demonstrations around the world – the perfect chance for the world to recieve a lesson in maturity and respect. Unfortunately, as with all mass gatherings, there were a few nastier elements. The media swooped on these, ignoring the millions who turned out peacefully, and as usual, turned a minor element of the issue into the fear-instilling major. The media started the troubles, and they took no time in making the problem seem far far worse than it was. I really thought it could be an opportunity for Islam, but once again the loyal media painted the religion as evil and manic, desperate to depict a world of panic and malice. Shame.

    07 Feb 2006, 11:14

  9. Why has this furore suddenly taken on an anti-semetic tone? BBC News reports that an Iranian newspaper is offering a reward for cartoons depicting the Holocaust in a similar "satirical" light. Anyway, this is an aside from what I wanted to say.

    I enjoyed reading this blog; it was a point of view that I'd not considered before. However I have to say I disagree with it (and with Chris Rossdale) fundamentally. I don't believe these cartoons were published to incite such a strong reaction from anyone. They are not as insulting as they may first appear to anyone with a notion of satire. To point out human flaws with incisive wit is exactly what these cartoons were designed to do and the reactions in the more Islamic countries has only served to underline the issue.

    07 Feb 2006, 12:25

  10. Ben

    Well, I think the first image is a rueful one, but gratuitous. The second makes a valid point, but less about mohammed (protect him) but more about the pretend typical muslim (worldwide, not western), and that is that whilst islam keeps its women covered and their eyes exposed, male islam is about no dress restriction, only restriction on truth and awareness. The fact is that the second cartoon IS offecnsive, but not in the knee-jerk way ignorant muslims have chosent to interpret. The fact is that it IS offensive for mohmmed to be represented as a dagger-wielding ignoramus, yet that is what many muslims do daily in their pursuit of evil. Mohammed is represented by muslims, and this is how he comes across in the modern world becuase of the stupidity of many muslims. (millions are quoted above) in truth this cartoon would have been better drawn with Mohammed exhausted, weary and saddened by how desparately evil his religeon has become.

    07 Feb 2006, 13:20

  11. Ben

    lucky for the university the lack of moderators means that you are the publisher not them!

    07 Feb 2006, 13:21

  12. Christopher Rossdale

    I don't really think there is an anti-semitic tone, i was merely pointing out the difference in legal treatment between Jews and Muslims in some European countries – i don't agree with any repression of free speech, whomsoever it may insult. I find these cartoons particularly distasteful, just as i find a book denying the holocaust morally reprehensible; the way to deal with ones enemies isn't to silence them, it's to engage them in full and open debate, and broaden understanding rather than segregate people into their beliefs. It's very easy to fight for free speech when it's saying something you agree with.

    I don't believe these cartoons were published to incite such a strong reaction from anyone.

    If they had no conception that these cartoons would incite anger then they haven't been keeping up to date with current affairs over the last 20 years. From The Satanic Verses onwards, Islamic fundamentals have reacted strongly to publications which insult their religion – why should a cartoon be any different? Merely because it's 'satire'? In the current world climate, the cartoons were always going to insult and anger – strong opinions always do. When i wrote a letter to the times in support of a non-secular society, the hate mail that came through my letterbox was unbelievable. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't publish these things – but we must make ourselves aware of the consequences.

    To point out human flaws with incisive wit is exactly what these cartoons were designed to do

    It's not a human flaw, it's a belief, and to insult a belief by which people live their lives is always going to induce anger. I'm not saying they didn't have the right to do it, but they could have forseen at least the general direction of the consequences; just as when Faurisson denied the Holocaust.

    07 Feb 2006, 13:35

  13. Daisy

    Ankit, credit to you for publishing those cartoons and also for publishing the anti-semitic ones from Arabic newspapers. One of the things that has most annoyed me about this whole scandal is the way that so many Muslims seem to have overlooked the rampant anti-semitism of much of their mainstream culture. Until they deal with that, I think it is hypocritical, insulting, and just plain wrong to use the arguments of religious tolerance. These protests are not about religious tolerance, but special treatment for Muslims and screw the rest. It's special pleading – we're allowed to insult Jews and the Jewish religion, but no-one can dare insult us.

    Chris, you are being incredibly naive if you think that this has all been blown out of proportion by the evil Western media. I am well aware of the way the media manipulate events, but nevertheless people have been killed over these cartoons. British citizens have been walking through central London with signs saying 'Behead those who criticise Muhammed'. That's not media fabrication, that happened. Nor was Salman Rushdie's fatwa a media fabrication – that happened. As for the idea that 'millions' were protesting peacefully – yes, and I am sure that 'millions' protested 'peacefully' for the murder of Salman Rushdie. It's like Omar Bakri Mohammed, who said that when he called for people he insulted Islam to be executed, he meant after a fair trial. Oh, well that is OK then.

    And the cartoonist is a dickhead is he? Funny you should be so insulting in an argument in favour of tolerance. The cartoonist is doing what cartoonists famously do do – employing satirical exaggeration to make a political point.

    And in terms of editors being sensitive to the political context of their societies, I think the editors of magazines in Denmark, a largely peaceful and religiously tolerant society, have less of a problem on that score than those editors of Arab media who publish inflammatory cartoons in a far more volatile society.

    07 Feb 2006, 14:14

  14. Christopher Rossdale

    OK, i think you misunderstand me slightly on a few points, but i'll go through bit by bit.

    Muslims seem to have overlooked the rampant anti-semitism of much of their mainstream culture. Until they deal with that, I think it is hypocritical, insulting, and just plain wrong to use the arguments of religious tolerance.

    Because they do it, we should do it? Nonsense, we need to be the example we want to see, they have the right to be offended and protest, as do Jewish people offended by anti-semitism. The fact that some Muslim factions engage in active anti-semitism doesn't give a green light to insult Islam with no regard. Cries of 'special treatment for muslims' need to be very carefully validated considering the current world climate, and considering history over the last 65 years.

    British citizens have been walking through central London with signs saying 'Behead those who criticise Muhammed'. That's not media fabrication, that happened.

    I didn't deny that happened – my point was that the overwhelming majority of protests have been peaceful and responsible. The media focussed on the small epicentre of disruption. This is what they do, they're not 'evil', just as i maintained that Google themselves are not 'evil' in the argument last week – the society and situation we're in means that episodes which are more exciting will always get more column inches. The more exciting, the more issues they will sell, the more advertising revenue they will get – it's a circle, and the media are one part of a self-perpetuating set of circumstances. That doesn't change the fact that the majority of the protests were perfectly decent – which is the fact i was putting across.

    And the cartoonist is a dickhead is he? Funny you should be so insulting in an argument in favour of tolerance.

    I have every right to insult him, it's a crucial part of free speech. I get the feeling i wouldn't like him if i met him, i probably wouldn't like the Islamic fundamentalists torching the embassies either. The difference is that they are directly impeding other peoples abilities to go about their days – the journalist isn't. He has every right to publish the cartoons, i have every right to despise him for doing so.

    07 Feb 2006, 14:28

  15. Dave

    I'm not muslim, so don't care what someone says about mohammed, but I do think that the cartoons are racist. The paper responsible has a track record of stirring up racism, that's the political point he's trying to make.

    07 Feb 2006, 15:22

  16. Daisy

    I would like to see your evidence that the overwhelming majority of protests have been peaceful. And even if they have been, so large have been the protests than even a minority of them would constitute a significant bloc. Not only that, but in the world we live in very small minorities can have significant power – four people carried out the 7/7 bombings, so when significantly more than four British people march through London glorifying the 'fantastic four' I actually think the media for all their faults aren't so out of order in being worried. And this is just in Britain – abroad protests have been even larger, more violent and disruptive.

    My point about the anti-semitism – or at least the lack of respect for the Jewish religion – in Arabic newspapers is that it is the very same people and institutions who treat the Jewish religion with such a lack of respect who are up in arms about the lack of respect Islam is being accorded and are the ones who are fanning the flames of this protest. You talk about the responsibility of the British media – what about the responsibilities of the Arabic media? To me, the way they have behaved toward the Jewish religion denies them any right to be so delicate and precious about these cartoons. Personally, I would actually argue that all these cartoons should be allowed to be published and that people who tolerate prejudice against one religion shouldn't get worked up about prejudice against another. One of the most dangerous things about the close interrelationship of religion and politics as it has occurred in the Middle East and has occurred in places like Ireland, etc., is that the need for respect for private beliefs is used to justify the closing down of political debate – the most obvious way being that in certain circles it is impossible to criticise Israel without being branded an anti-semite, and in certain circumstances justified political criticism of Israel does border on the anti-semitic, as above, which is then used as further evidence to deny the justified political criticism. But in fact what we need so vitally and what is so important at the moment is criticism and debate. I would say it is better to go too far in the direction of free speech than too far the other way. So allow all those cartoons. They're not worth curtailing one of our most precious liberties for.

    You certainly do have the right to insult and despise the cartoonist. But in your original post you called for 'maturity and respect', and I really don't think that calling a cartoonist a 'dickhead' is compatible with that. You're being just as immature and desrespectful as he was, really. And I have some sympathy with you both. Immaturity and disrespect are better than violent rioting, after all.

    07 Feb 2006, 15:33

  17. I still maintain we should just arrest everybody until I feel better.

    07 Feb 2006, 15:43

  18. James: That would make about as much sense as any of the other options people have come up with, so yeah, why not?

    07 Feb 2006, 15:53

  19. Daisy

    I too have blogged on this.

    07 Feb 2006, 16:25

  20. Christopher Rossdale

    I would like to see your evidence that the overwhelming majority of protests have been peaceful. And even if they have been, so large have been the protests than even a minority of them would constitute a significant bloc.

    It's generally accepted by all independent observers that, for the most part, protests were peaceful. John Simpson wrote a superb article about it on the BBC website, and the content of most leaders backs this up. The protests that flared into violence were few, and of those, it was generally a few extremists that riled the crowd into mob mentality. My point wasn't that these few are or aren't significant, my point was that the vast majority of protesters went with the intent of holding peaceful protest, and the vast majority of these protesters did just that. You surely can't be denying that the media embellish stories to make them sound more exciting? They have to, otherwise they just won't sell. The other European papers may claim that they were reprinting the cartoons in solidarity for free speech, maybe that was their intent, but it would be foolish to deny that the profit motive lingered at the back of their minds.

    You talk about the responsibility of the British media – what about the responsibilities of the Arabic media? To me, the way they have behaved toward the Jewish religion denies them any right to be so delicate and precious about these cartoons.

    I agree that the way some Arabic newspapers display clear anti-semitic messages, but this doesn't absolve the British media of responsibility, and this debate isn't about the arabic media. If it was, i'd agree that they should be more responsible, but again agree that they still have the right to print it. It is understandable that the Arab nations to an extent feel oppressed by Jews (not that i support that view in any sense, but in the circumstances and environment…); far more than the British and European nations do for feeling endangered by elements of Islam.

    You certainly do have the right to insult and despise the cartoonist. But in your original post you called for 'maturity and respect', and I really don't think that calling a cartoonist a 'dickhead' is compatible with that.

    I put maturity and respect in line with peaceful protest as opposed to armed conflict, i believe my remark sits firmly in the former. In retrospect though, perhaps it was slightly against the general tone of what I was saying, it was more to make the point than anything else.

    07 Feb 2006, 18:09

  21. Gary Davies

    The same Danish newspaper that did this also campaigned to censor an artist who produced an erotic image of Jesus and refused three years ago to print a cartoon because the editors said it would provoke an outcry among Christians.

    07 Feb 2006, 18:56

  22. John Dale

    After some debate, the univeristy has removed the images in question from this blog entry. The discussion has been a thoughtful and interesting one, but our view is that the potential of the images to offend outweighs the value of reproducing them.

    07 Feb 2006, 20:40

  23. Christopher Rossdale

    Were there any complaints to that effect?

    07 Feb 2006, 20:48

  24. Where's the riot?

    07 Feb 2006, 21:13

  25. Did anybody complain (or threaten murder)?

    07 Feb 2006, 21:33

  26. Threaten murder!!!! Don't get ahead of yourself.

    Don't you understand, Islam forbids the publishing of these images, there has been so much protest about it, it is for the better. I agree with the sentiments of this article, and i also agree that Ankit, and most others are defending the right of Muslims to be angry. But if the very cause of it is the publishing of images, then surely we must respect the decision for the images not to be published.

    We are in a university with students from 110 countries, it would not be right for us to publish the cartoons if it would offend them.
    I was also in favor of publishing the cartoos (in fact i told Ankit it was a good idea) but I realize that was a mistake.

    07 Feb 2006, 23:01

  27. Don't you understand, Islam forbids the publishing of these images…

    And what the rest of the people are saying on here is that it is freedom of speech. I'm not a Muslim, I don't very much care for what is permissible in Islam, these cartoons are not illegal. The problem is whoever took the decision to take these cartoons down is a little scared of what backlash might occur. It's a sad state of affairs.

    07 Feb 2006, 23:26

  28. I was waiting for that. Thats's cool, I get it. Incidentally, the entry has now become 'Warwick only' from being a global entry…

    07 Feb 2006, 23:46

  29. What Chris H said. Just because Islam forbids something does not mean that the law of the land forbids it.

    Surely freedom of speech only really becomes an issue when it does start causing offence?

    Here's what John Stuart Mill had to say on the issue, in his book On Liberty:

    Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being ‘pushed to an extreme’; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.

    07 Feb 2006, 23:57

  30. Never mind illegal…it's hideously discourteous. Isn't that bad enough?

    08 Feb 2006, 00:16

  31. The problem is whoever took the decision to take these cartoons down is a little scared of what backlash might occur. It's a sad state of affairs.

    Or possibly Hinde those who took the images down show a bit more sensitivity towards others beliefs than your good self.

    I don't very much care for what is permissible in Islam, these cartoons are not illegal.

    I don't care for your beliefs be what they may, but at least I have the courtesy not to piss all over them.

    08 Feb 2006, 00:30

  32. I agree completely…sensitivity is important. Isn't it illegal to deny the Holocaust in many countries? What if somebody wanted to voice opinions concerning the idea that it was an invention?
    Completely loony and unimaginably ludicrous, of course, but so is the cartoon with Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban…

    08 Feb 2006, 00:39

  33. Never mind illegal
    …it's hideously discourteous. Isn't that bad enough?

    Not bad enough to stop it being printed by law. Not bad enough to leave the decision to print with anybody other than the editor.

    Whether the editor made the right choice in allowing those images to be printed is another matter.

    08 Feb 2006, 00:54

  34. Sensitivity? They are cartoons! They depict nothing more than the personal opinion of the person that drew them. I wish people would stop drawing comparisons to Jews and the Holocaust; it just shows how weak of an argument the people who are "offended" by these cartoons are and it also shows how grossly insensitive they are. Ankit, you are comparing the mass murder of millions of innocent people to a pen and ink drawing published in a newspaper. Do you have any idea how childish that is?

    08 Feb 2006, 01:12

  35. Sorry, to clarify. The Holocaust is widely accepted as an event that happend and therefore largely based in fact. Cartoons are opinion, not fact. I still can't believe that you just compared the two, like these silly drawings of one man's prophet are of the same scale of insult as the genocide of one's creed.

    08 Feb 2006, 01:17

  36. Personal opinion is one thing, but it becomes something else when a journalistic organ publishes it and then defends it!

    As for the comparison, I am aware of the substantial differences between the two…as I expected, you missed the point. The point was that we don't allow people to say whatever they want on that topic (Holocaust) even though it is their personal opinion…why should cartoonists be different? Equating a prophet with a suicide bomber is very, very bad taste AND blasphemous in every language and culture.

    08 Feb 2006, 01:21

  37. I didn't miss the point. The next nearest thing you could shoehorn your words around, like Muslims elsewhere, was the Holocaust. Lack of imagination or something more?

    Speaking of missing the point, perhaps you should think of the statement the cartoons are trying to make. Do you really think that the illustrator was intending to show that Muhammed was a suicide bomber? No. I think he was trying to show that as a bearer of the word of a god, Muhammed has unwittingly created thousands of people ready to be violent in this god's name. As if to prove his point AK47 waving, flag burning, embassy storming idiots come lolling forth. Can you not see that although the cartoon may be disrepectful, it's a good piece of satire and pretty bloody accurate from my point of view? It's not baiting, it's not "hiding behind freedom of speech" it is freedom of speech.

    But perhaps we should ban everything that might offend people. Thats easier, isn't it?

    08 Feb 2006, 01:35

  38. I got news for you…they already done banned most things, and are trying to ban more: vis-a-vis the Racial Hatred Bill (which is so much cobblers). Your notion that everything goes in the name of freedom of speech (I grow tired…I will use FoS) except which has already been banned is a little narrow…I did not mean to offend you by saying you missed the point. Well, ok, I did, but I didn't wish to sound so callous.

    Anyway, calling it 'satire' gives it an air of respectability…fact is, not only were these cartoons disrespectful, they were poorly executed. In fact, I have read that very sentence somewhere…Daily Mail, perhaps?

    The next nearest thing you could shoehorn your words around, like Muslims elsewhere, was the Holocaust. Lack of imagination or something more?

    Shame, Christopher. Anyway, I strongly suggest we avoid taking that any further…

    08 Feb 2006, 02:04

  39. Some one once told me that if you try hard enough you can conjure hidden meaning and depth to a lump of shit, when it probably is just be a lump of shit.

    Ok I made that up but my point is that regardless what you Hinde have seemingly elucidated from the cartoon, it contravenes basic Islamic law. Even if it said something nice about Islam- we make the best apple pies in the world ever- with a drawing of Muhammad (pbuh) it blasphemous in our eyes.

    I'm not asking you to believe in that. I don't care if you think its a ludicrous belief. Its not belief that harms you in anyway or infringe on your freedom, our democracy or way of life. But to alot of muslims these drawings merit comparisons to the holocaust because thats the only way they can convey the magnitude of horror at these "simple drawings". I know thats hard to get your head around but thats how it is to the religious. We're passionate about our beliefs, just like you.

    You fight for the belief that everyone has the right for freedom of speech. But I ask you what makes your belief more important then mine.

    08 Feb 2006, 02:10

  40. I can't understand in what way it makes sense to expect a non-Muslim to follow Islamic law, particularly in a non-Muslim country.

    I don't think the cartoons were clever or funny, and I don't think there was any good reason to publish them once, although I agree that there's a need to see some before passing judgement, and would like to thank Ankit for the opportunity to do so, although I'm hardly surprised that the university doesn't want it done here.

    08 Feb 2006, 02:52

  41. I agree totally…things like oppression of women and forced marriages that seem to be a staple of Islam in many countries must not be tolerated in any way.
    However, not insulting their religious figures must surely not be a legal matter but a question of decency?

    08 Feb 2006, 03:04

  42. Ankit; I'm against the Racial Hatred Bill all the way and I'm not a massive fan of the government's either. I'm not trying to give the cartoons an air of respectability because they don't need one. It's just a drawing, making a point. I'm sure they have offended lots of moderate followers of Islam but, like the Satanic Verses, ultimately they have done nothing but highlight the hard-line, extremist element that Islam seems to foster and the (false) notion that freedom of speech is a cover to hide behind.

    Mohammad; I second what Colin said. I am still aghast that in the mind of a Muslim that these drawings "merit comparisons" to the Holocaust. I'm passionate about my beliefs, sure, but I'm not blind. Comparing a cartoon to the Holocaust is insane and if you don't realise that then frankly I'm glad I'm not religious.

    08 Feb 2006, 11:26

  43. You fight for the belief that everyone has the right for freedom of speech. But I ask you what makes your belief more important then mine.

    Freedom of speech need not affect in the slightest how others live their life. Applying Islamic law to what can be printed most certainly does.

    And freedom of speech (which includes the freedom to offend) is part of the law and customs of this country, something you have to put up with if you want to live here. Islamic law is not.

    08 Feb 2006, 11:33

  44. Hinde – you really should try and be more sensitive, as of now you show no compassion at all for the people hurt by these cartoons.

    You're comments so far

    "No. I think he was trying to show that as a bearer of the word of a god, Muhammed has unwittingly created thousands of people ready to be violent in this god's name. Can you not see that although the cartoon may be disrepectful, it's a good piece of satire and pretty bloody accurate from my point of view?"

    This is what you call freedom of speech right??? Insulting Muhammed, insulting muslims, I am so glad that the majority of people including the newspaper editors in UK are not so anti-Islamic and insensitive as you. More than anyone publishing cartoons your comments alone are sufficient to hurt Muslims on campus and the world over. Calling the depiction of Muhammad as a terrorist suicide bomber accurate – have you no feelings?

    "I'm not a Muslim, I don't very much care for what is permissible in Islam, these cartoons are not illegal."
    Fine, you don't have to care, but we live in a university with over 3,500 international students and at least 1,000 Islamic students. As much as you think it might be your right to publish these images just to insult others, Warwick University has only done what is sensible in such a diverse campus. By publishing thse cartoons you are ging to exclude a lot of students from feeling they are respected here irrespective of their faith. This is a university, if we don't learn to understand and appreciate different cultures here then where will we do so?

    I agree its your country and you don't have to give a shit, but remember UK also has a lot of Muslims and it is their country too as much as it is yours. Its time yu learnt to respect others who may not be like you

    08 Feb 2006, 12:59

  45. Comparing a cartoon to the Holocaust is insane and if you don't realise that then frankly I'm glad I'm not religious.

    1) I didn't actually say that I believed this so calm down old chap.

    2) Hinde not religious so I guess this all seems quite silly to you. I guess the best way to describe the cartoons is to compare them to anti-islamic attack. It doesn't matter if there not or are, they've been interpreted as that. So no matter the legalities of it Cooper (and remember law is dynamic, everchanging) surely you can admit to moral code that we should abide by. We can jump off a cliff if we want to, but should we.

    3) bq. I can't understand in what way it makes sense to expect a non-Muslim to follow Islamic law, particularly in a non-Muslim country.

    Don't be silly Colin (btw I borrowed your ketchup the other day) thats not my point. We should be free to practise our right for freedom of speech etc., but all I'm suggesting is the obvious that we should just be sensitive to other cultures, faiths etc. The world isn't just Europe, the idiots who published the cartoons should of realised this.

    4) There was wide praise for Ankit for publishing those pictures, but for those same reasons perhaps Ankit, an excerpt of the qu'ran and commentry on why Islam forbids images of the prophet should be included.

    5) Anyway I've said my piece on my blog. I think the issue now is how do we deal with the aftermath and what conclusions can be drawn

    08 Feb 2006, 13:10

  46. Ankit said:
    [...] not insulting their religious figures must surely not be a legal matter but a question of decency?

    But that's the whole problem, isn't it? "Decency" to one person is not the same as "decency" to another. Some people are offended to the very fibre of their being by one cartoon of a man with a bomb on his head, some people think it's fitting, some people think it's funny, and some people couldn't give a toss either way. Unfortunately, the argument is no longer defined by which group a person falls into, but by which of those groups has responded with death and destruction.

    Udayan said, addressing Chris H:
    Calling the depiction of Muhammad as a terrorist suicide bomber accurate – have you no feelings?

    Excuse me, but he didn't say that. Quite the opposite. As I read Chris' comment, he was saying that the depiction of Muhammed as a "bearer of the word of a god [...] unwittingly [creating] thousands of people ready to be violent in this god's name" was accurate. Not that he was a suicide bomber. And frankly he's right, as some Islamic followers have demonstrated by rioting, burning down embassies, and causing deaths. Not the best way to show that the cartoon was offensive, is it, by living up perfectly to the image portrayed?

    Mohammed M said:
    I think the issue now is how do we deal with the aftermath and what conclusions can be drawn

    Well, everyone responsible for publishing the damn cartoons has apologised or been fired, so I think the way we "deal with the aftermath" is by allowing the rioters and protesters to burn themselves out. Literally, if that's what it calls for. And as to the conclusions that can be drawn, I submit this: there will be a short (months, not years) period of fear where organs of the press will avoid publishing religiously sensitive mateiral. Then they'll get over it and everything will go back to normal. That's how I see it anyway.

    A quick note: if anyone decides to refer to me as "Kirkwood," please prefix it with "Mr." or just use my first name. Cheers much.

    08 Feb 2006, 13:26

  47. No. I think he was trying to show that as a bearer of the word of a god, Muhammed has unwittingly created thousands of people ready to be violent in this god's name. Can you not see that although the cartoon may be disrepectful, it's a good piece of satire and pretty bloody accurate from my point of view?

    I stand by that statement. Look at the headlines, open your eyes. People in other countries and even this one are using this word of god, spread by Muhammed, to commit acts of violence or incite hatred. From that point of view the cartoon has some validity. It's not the most gracious, intelligent, sensitive or subtle way of illustrating it, but in my personal opinion it is not an insult to Muslims and Muhammed to recognise that his words have created zealous individuals.

    "I'm not a Muslim, I don't very much care for what is permissible in Islam, these cartoons are not illegal."

    I stand by that also. They are not illegal. Insensitive maybe, but there is nothing illegal with publishing these cartoons. We may be both British, but the beliefs I adhere to are the rights and laws that this lands provides; you adhere to Islamic law before these. That is a fundamental difference between you and I.

    My tolerance of other cultures only wanes when it impinges on my way of life. Freedom of speech is something I hold very dear, so perhaps you should respect that more?

    08 Feb 2006, 13:39

  48. Mr Hinde is your last comment meant for me? If it is I feel your lumping me with a load of other people, my views are discussed on my blog.

    I find this following quote highly annoying:

    We may be both British, but the beliefs I adhere to are the rights and laws that this lands provides; you adhere to Islamic law before these. That is a fundamental difference between you and I.

    Other then stating the obvious whats your point here? I'm happily able to marry my beliefs with the laws of this land. Don't try and me feel dirty because I follow a religion- that's lame.

    My tolerance of other cultures only wanes when it impinges on my way of life.

    And rightly so. But how does the belief in Islam that there should be no pictures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) impinge on our way of life? It doesn't. It can be argued that theoretically this belief might impose restrictions on our belief in freedom of speech. But that is where it should stay as some theoretical, philosophical model to analyse. Because once this is applied to the real world, it has dire consequences as seen.

    A quick note: if anyone decides to refer to me as "Kirkwood," please prefix it with "Mr." or just use my first name.

    Mr Kirkwood I applaud you, there has been a dearth lack of titles when one has been addressed in these comments sections. Dammit people get your act together :p

    08 Feb 2006, 14:19

  49. On the trivial note, I have referred always to people by the first names as is customary; it was you Mohammad that started accosting others by their surnames.

    I'm happily able to marry my beliefs with the laws of this land. Don't try and me feel dirty because I follow a religion- that's lame.

    It aimed more at Udayan, but I am suggesting that if depicting Muhammed or your god in a picture is morally reprehensible and it should never be done in on the grounds of "sensitivity" then your belief system is in conflict with my rights. That's the difference; I wasn't trying to make you feel dirty, that was your own slant on it.

    But how does the belief in Islam that there should be no pictures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) impinge on our way of life?

    Because as events that are happening right at this very moment are demonstrating, it may appear that to criticise (as is my right) Islam in any way risks intimidation and reprisal. Being sympathetic to one groups beliefs is one thing, but elevating them beyond critique in whatever form is entirely another. First drawings, then what?

    08 Feb 2006, 14:36

  50. Mr. Kirkwood…decency may be a fluid concept, but there cannot be much discussion on the bomb cartoon being offensive. I HIGHLY DOUBT anyone finds that cartoon funny. Jesus, Moses or Buddha in that image would still be offensive.

    Ultimately if you make it a legal issue, then let's treat it as a legal issue. In many countries criminal history is disallowed in criminal trials and the accused are prosecuted on the basis of facts alone, rather than history OR what reaction their crimes bring anywhere. So separate for a moment the gratuitous response of various small groups of Muslims worldwide…was it an acceptable cartoon by any means?

    All I said in my original article was that both sides were wrong – various Muslims in their awful reactions and the newspaper in deliberately baiting a religious group AND THEN defending their cartoons in the context of free speech, something people have died for. Fact is, this freedom has become so sacred that people are losing sight of fairness and any notions of justice along the way…is this right?
    Is it fair for a newspaper to depict a saint/prophet (PBUH) as a killer or a suicide bomber and then be allowed to defend it?

    Unfortunately for critics of Jyllands-Posten, and somewhat ironically, a lot of European newspapers have displayed a pugnacious solidarity on this topic. But they are on to a spurious cause. Like I said before, the apparent rampant and shameless anti-Semitism of some Arab media does not grant European newspapers the right to try the same. If the same Arab newspapers appeal against the cartoons, we can accuse them of hypocrisy. But it will simply not do to tar all Muslims with hypocrisy.

    Free speech is not at stake here, decency and respect for other religions is.

    Secondly, I agree with Udayan…the way Mr. Hinde wrote his entry implied that the cartoon was 'accurate'. Therefore, you are wrong, Mr. Kirkwood. Unless we misunderstood "...the cartoon…it's a good piece of satire and pretty bloody accurate from my point of view".

    I think the way we "deal with the aftermath" is by allowing the rioters and protesters to burn themselves out. Literally, if that's what it calls for

    Can I ask what you mean by that, exactly?

    08 Feb 2006, 19:49

  51. Alex Kirkwood – you are wrong, He DID say that, and I quote Hinde again

    "Can you not see that although the cartoon may be disrepectful, it's a good piece of satire and pretty bloody accurate from my point of view?"

    So the cartoon which was of Muhammad as a terrorist bomber is "bloody accurate" from Hinde's point of view, I did not twist any of his words, that is a direct quote.

    Hinde says

    "It's not the most gracious, intelligent, sensitive or subtle way of illustrating it, but in my personal opinion it is not an insult to Muslims and Muhammed to recognise that his words have created zealous individuals."
    I don't claim to have read the Quran, but I am 100% sure that it does not insist Muslims become zealous individuals and as usual your are being insensitive. I never said it was illegal to publish it, it is not by the laws of Denmark, but it is insensitive and that should stop it being printed given the volaitility of the current situation in the rest of the world.

    08 Feb 2006, 19:55

  52. but it is insensitive and that should stop it being printed given the volaitility of the current situation in the rest of the world.

    Who should stop it being printed?

    08 Feb 2006, 20:10

  53. Oh, and Chris isn't saying that Muhammed was a suicide bomber:

    Do you really think that the illustrator was intending to show that Muhammed was a suicide bomber? No.
    So the cartoon which was of Muhammad as a terrorist bomber is "bloody accurate" from [Mr.] Hinde's point of view, I did not twist any of his words, that is a direct quote.

    You may not have twisted them, but you certainly quoted them out of context.

    08 Feb 2006, 20:25

  54. Udayan, you are twisting my words and are hilariously failing to grasp the notion of satire. You read with out care, you quote out of context, you are libelling me and moreover you amusingly state, although you have never read the Qu'ran (or the Hadith for that matter), that you're "100% sure that it does not insist Muslims become zealous individuals". Did September 11th never happen in your world? How about the London Bombings? Or did the legions of suicide bombers detonating themselves all over Israel not reach your ears? I am not saying all Muslims are extremist, but that some are inspired to become so. Which is the point that idiotic cartoon is trying to make by depicting Muhammed, Allah's prophet on earth, as a "suicide bomber". I fear I'm wasting my time describing this to you.

    08 Feb 2006, 20:35

  55. Well ok you prove to me where in the Quran it inspires people to become terrorist.

    Of course I know there are islamic terrorists, but there are also Buddhist terrorist, Christian terrorists, Hindu terrorists. you are wrong to focus only on Islam.

    Regarding the point on Satire- I know do get what you were trying to say….that the cartoons were depicting Muhammad as a terrorist to show that this is what he has ended up inspiring. I still feel it should not have been printed, not out of legality or lack of humor but simply because as I have pointed out earlier the world does not need another cause for muslims to get angry at the west.

    08 Feb 2006, 23:21

  56. The Qu'ran is open to interpretation. I suspect that anyone with an understanding of Islam will accept that the Qu'ran is not a definitive text of how to be a Muslim; hence why there has, historically, been debate as to the validity of the Hadith (additional teachings of Muhammed that are said to clarify issues in the Qu'ran). Therefore there is, as I am sure there is in all religious texts, ambiguity in the Qu'ran and therefore it is open to interpretation. This allows extreme viewpoints to be justified by 'quoting' scripture from the Qu'ran.

    We're getting somewhere; your acknowledgment of what the cartoon was trying to say is important. It's arguable that Islamic countries need no further reason to be angry at the West. However, my whole line of argument throughout this is that although it is important to be tolerant, one must stick by and defend vehemently the principle of freedom of speech. The following misquote from Voltaire, which although bordering on the cliché, sums my opinion up so well:

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

    09 Feb 2006, 01:37

  57. Just to butt in here, why are the Muslims getting angry now, months after the first time these were printed? Why wasn't there huge uproar the first time round or had the people (many of whom haven't even seen the images) not been instructed, at that time, to attack the Danes and others by their political leaders with their ulterior motives? And where, in September, was the intellectual Muslim retorts, of the kind we have seen on here?

    The people who are inciting protest are not the sort of people who would argue over niceities of deference in free speech socieities. They are people who would call westerners "infidels" for daring to allow our women to walk around without head dresses or for permitting alcohol or homosexuality. The difference is that in the west "infidel" is not a hugely insulting word (we even had a band called the Infadels playing the Union the other week) whereas those using it in the Islamic world intend it as a massive insult. They then take offence at the cartoons which suggests that they are much more sensitive to such things than the westerners are.

    Why is this, should be one of our queries. It goes beyond the forbidding of portrayals of the prophet (pbuh)* in the Koran, because some people amongst the protesters claerly have no issue with going against the Koran's equivilent of "thou shalt not kill". Why the selectiveness, why the timing, and why must the Holocaust get dragged into everything?

    *I'm not religious, I'm just being polite here.

    09 Feb 2006, 01:58

  58. Hmmm….yea I guess I am coming around to your way of thinking Hinde – something I would not have thought humanly possible. I understand that free speech must exist but I also understand that there are limits. Because if there weren't any then why imprison Abu Hamza for inciting violence? So I guess even UK has a limit to what is free speech. Whether the Muslims are overreacting is not for me to judge as I do not understand fully the effect the cartoons might have but I still respect that they have every right to be angry.

    I guess all religious books are open to interpretation…..are they not?

    Sorry about misinterpreting you earlier – I guess I was hasty.

    09 Feb 2006, 11:34

  59. It's all about interpretations, Udayan. The case of Abu Hamza is a different issue, but to quote Edward (comment 43):

    Freedom of speech need not affect in the slightest how others live their life.

    That, for me, sums up the difference between Abu Hamza's version of freedom of speech and my own.

    09 Feb 2006, 15:50

  60. But anything I say will affect the way you live your life. If I accuse you of being an anti-semitist (for god knows what reason) does that not affect your lfie?

    09 Feb 2006, 18:15

  61. I don't think that's a relevant point. As a false claim it'd be either libel or slander, plain and simple. At the end of the day you can say what you want as long as it's not breaking any laws by doing so. Whether it affects my life is my decision really, almost no matter what you say.

    This could get technical and contrived quite quickly. I've had my say on Ankit's blog about the cartoon row and I've got my own debate on my own blog so I'm going to move on as the debate here seems to have exhausted itself.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    09 Feb 2006, 20:49

  62. Regardless of whether the "debate has exhausted itself", the there remain differences on central issues. This one would expect, of course.

    To be frank (in my opinion, and perhaps mine only) giving these cartoons any veneer of respectability through free speech is bollocks. To answer my original question, this is NOT free speech. We challenge institutionalised disdain for women (like in cultures of Muslim, Mormons, etc.), institutionalised hatred of homosexuals (Mr. Sacranie), etc. because we accept the rights of the groups involved as pretty much self-evident. How and why is it self-evidently important that cartoonists must be able to satirise whichever way they like? The images with Muhammad with a goat in the middle of the desert (i.e. most of the pics) I have nothing against, even though it is still a depiction of the prophet (PBUH) which is forbidden, but aleast it is not offensive in any relative terms.

    When people dissent against government and criticise it, we fight for their right. Like that Walter Wolfgang…he became a powerful feller for a few days as Big Tone had to apologise.
    But how does that compare to a cartoonist likening a prophet to a bomber? Certain folks have expressed distaste at the mention of the Holocaust every time…how about gays? Hatred of homosexuals can be found across the spectrum, Muslim, Christian, black, white, rich, poor, and so on. I know what you're thinking…their rights are self evident too! It's obvious!

    Well, that is how Muslims feel about this issue. And I am not a Muslim, don't even know any Muslims, and I can sense that even moderate Muslims are offended by this claptrap. And even at the sight of quiet protest they are branded anti-liberty, anti-expression, anti-West. What a shame.

    09 Feb 2006, 23:55

  63. We clearly disagree. In my opinion, you're just plain wrong.

    10 Feb 2006, 15:19

  64. James

    I have posted a few comments on the free speech issue which it seems most readers are incapable of understanding, so here goes nothing again:

    1. Free Speech isn't free if it defers to other people's sensitivities and religious sentiments. Then it is 'restricted speech'.

    2. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech work together like this: anyone is free to follow whatever religion they like. I have to respect their right to do so. But that doesn't mean I have to respect the religion itself. I don't have any time for Satanic worshipping nonsense, or the sexist aspects of Catholicism. The fact that I have to respect the right of people to be Satanists or Catholics does not mean I have to refrain from writing that last sentence. Nor from attacking practices such as stoning people to death for religious infractions, nor the Hindu caste system, nor female genital mutilation.

    3. Of course people should as a general social norm refrain from upsetting others. So I personally wouldn't have published the cartoons. But that is not the same thing for suggesting publishing the cartoons should be illegal, or that people should respond with violence. Otherwise we are on the short track to issuing fatwas for offending books …. which of course we've already had in Britain.

    4. It follows from the above that there should be a separation of Chuch and State, and that all blasphemy laws etc should be repealed. Then we might have a chance of getting some agreement on basic human standards, uncabined by religious dogma.

    5. To those who worry about what would happen in those circumstances to their religion, I would say (i) America has constitutionally protected freedom of speech, freedom of religion (on the grounds outlined above) and separation of church and state, and yet religion has a much stronger following there than in the UK, which has an established church; and (ii) I am pretty sure that if there is a God, he and Mohammad can take care of themselves.

    14 Feb 2006, 11:49

  65. Lego Fan

    Once you limit free speech, it is no longer free. It's as simple as that.

    14 Feb 2006, 12:23

  66. James

    Oh and one more thing. I just read a heart-rendering article in a newspaper about a New Zealand family whose daughter was killed in the July 7 London bombings. The father wanted to know where all the Muslim protests about that abomination committed purportedly in the name of Islam. It is all very well dismissing the action as the perennial "minority" of Muslims, but the fact is that the attacks were made by Muslims for religious reasons. Why weren't the "majority" going beserk about that? If they were, they were a lot quieter than the minority who've been ranting about the cartoons. Just what is more offensive: publishing sacreligious cartoons, or committing mass murder in the name of a religion?

    BTW if anyone disagrees with my earlier post and thinks that there should be religious-motivated limitations on speech, (i) define "religion" (scientology? satanism? Greek and Roman gods? Athiesm?) and (ii) what of those religions that are incompatible with each other (monotheism which have as their founding tenets that there is only one God vs Hinduism, which has many, or Bhuddism)

    14 Feb 2006, 13:41

  67. Kostas

    This is somehow irrelevant with what you have been discussing (it has the same flavor in a way though). I am tottaly unreligious by choice (I do not know if god exists and I found that irrelevant to my life). I want to make a working hypothesis, all these people that are christians, muslims, hindu etc haven't they ever thought that if they were born elsewere (examle a muslim instead of being born in some of the arabic countries being born from a christian family in UK). He would not have been a muslim and the same applies for the case of a christian being born in an arabic country by a muslim family

    The foregone conclusion is that the religious that you believe in and the level that it plays in your everyday life is totally relevant to your social circumstances in most of the cases. So can't you see the vanity of the whole discussion ??

    Religion should in my pinion viewed as just another ideology (look for example communism, etc). There is nothing wrong fundamentally with it
    (since for most of us have the need to believe in something ) and in this sence it should not be treated different than any other ideology. In this way my understanding about the cartoons is that they tried to critisied how some people take advantage of religion and use it as an excuse for their actions.

    We should be free to critise whatever we think is wrong because that is the only way to evolve and make the most of ourselves. Personally I am always happy to hear other people critics about myself because in this way I might be able to realize what I am doing wrong and that is the way it should be with religion and I guess that you would not disagree with that. I had some sort of christian upbringing and the thing that always annoyed me is that at some point wearebeing told that we should just believe and not investigate our beliefs. This is a case of blind faith in something and that by definition is wrong and can only have detrimental effects

    We should all keep in mind that is not only bad muslims that take advantage of the religion. Georgy boy (and you all know about who I am talking about) said that he had a mission to fulfil (what a wanker!!!!!! ) and that is why he is attacking Iraq

    As I have said in another blog ( I do not know how to make a link to it) is all about control and religion in the way it is being used is the easier way to control people because in this case you do not have to justify anything since God appears as an extra variable….

    14 Feb 2006, 14:35

  68. Thank you muchly for your comments James and Kostas.

    James: This "free speech" you refer to is not free at all: it is beset on all sides by laws regarding libel, slander and decency. I cannot swear on a public stage and expect people to defend my right to it. I cannot say homosexuals and handicapped people should be exterminated (as some people in history have) and expect people to defend my right to say that. It may seem obvious to you that these are unacceptable things to say, but the lines have historically been more blurry and still are in many countries. A huge number of countries still outlaw anal sex ("buggery"), for example…nothing is absolute. Your position as defender of the faith of liberty is laudable, and as Kostas says, we must feel free to (and not be intimidated by anybody when we) criticise failings. Like I said, I am not a champion of the Islamic faith and Muslims – Islam, like every religion, has so many outdated concepts that it leads people like Nick Griffin to label it as a "wicked" faith. A lot of Muslims worldwide seem to have forgotten how to protest properly or lost their tether because they feel ignored; fine…some of their acts are unforgivable. But don't let this colour your judgement against the original issue: I am glad you wouldn't publish them either.

    Finally, this is not a legal matter. Nobody is asking for this sort of thing to be illegal. It shouldn't take legislation to teach people this sort of thing.

    And the less said about the Racial hatred Bill the better.

    15 Feb 2006, 00:01

  69. Not read all this but I'd support the freedom of speech arguement – the paper should be allowed to say what it wants. That said, freedom of speech is both a right and a responsibility. They should also have considered the reaction the publication would engender, and then decide if it was worthwhile.
    Sure, there's no legal reason they shouldn't have published it, but was there any reason they should have either? Was there any benefit from publishing it? If the cartoons had actually been funny and not just offensive I might be more willing to side with them, but this was just either stupidity or a knowing attempt to stir up trouble.
    Some more thoughts here:
    link

    15 Feb 2006, 00:10

  70. Would it surprise any of you to learn (I imagine you know already) that Jyllands Posten's Editor declined to publish cartoons of Jesus Christ in April 2003? This is what Flemming Rose said in response to the offer:

    "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

    Check out counterpunch.org:

    "....let’s look at the guy who started this whole cartoon escapade. He’s Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper. In all of the Lexis-Nexis database of stories from the American media on the Mohammed cartoons, there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Rose is a close confederate of arch-Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. Indeed, there is almost no context at all about Rose’s newspaper. On a brief mention in the Washington Post gave a hint at a fact desperately needed to understand the situation. The Post described the affair as “a calculated insult … by a right-wing newspaper in a country where bigotry toward the minority Muslim population is a major, if frequently unacknowledged, problem.”

    How bad is Pipes? He wants the utter military obliteration of the Palestinians; indeed, from the Muslim world, his racism is about as blatant as that of the Holocaust denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pipes’ frequent outbursts of racism — designed to toss gasoline on the neo-cons’ lust for a wholesale conflict of cultures — earned him a Bush nomination to the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded think tank. Rose came to America to commune with Pipes in 2004, and it was after that meeting the cartoon gambit materialized…."

    In the words of the writer in counterpunch.org, we've all been had…

    15 Feb 2006, 01:33

  71. James

    Ankit

    Thanks for your comments. I think you are blurring several things here:

    1. What is legal as a matter of fact. In the UK there are all manner of restrictions on freedom of speech, many of which I happen to disagree with. But that's not an interesting subject for a blog. Nor is the fact that other countries happen to have a lot of restrictions. The answer is so what? The question we should be dealing with is …

    2. … What should be legal or illegal. This is the interesting issue. I think we would all agree that copyright laws in some form or another are jutified restrictions on speech, as are, for example, defence secrets, and people's personal data eg their doctor's notes. The subject of this blog is of course whether there should be any legal restriction on publication of material likely to offend people on religious grounds, which I dealt with in post 64 para 2 above.

    3. Of course, irrespective of what is legal, there is always a question of how one should behave morally. I personally can't see much point in the cartoons so would have chosen not to publish them. At the same time, the cartoons seem to have achieved their aim of showing up just how much of a problem religious extremists are becoming across the world. Where were their protests about the beheading videos on Al-Jazera? The London bombings? The Madrid bombings? This leads on to weightier issues about the presence of fundamentalism in Islam, the extent to which the West should be involved in Islamic lands, the place of the increasingly large Islamic populations in the West itself, etc etc. It also raises issues about how the tide of fundamentalism and aggression is engulfing other religions – the Jerry Springer protests, the Sikh protests about the play in Birmingham, etc etc (unsurprisingly zealots in Christianity and Sikhism are thinking sauce for the Islamic goose should be sauce for their gander). But I think these should be reserved for other blogs. Let us stick in this one to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

    15 Feb 2006, 10:58

  72. Surely this is no longer about the cartoons, but the reaction of those who feel offended. Personally I don't see there being any defence for the publication of the cartoons, they were pointless and insulting, and I'm almost certain I would not want to be associated with the people who would write them.

    However, violent reactions by those who are offended at people calling their religion violent, is at the very least, slightly ironic. This goes for all groups that do the same. The Catholics who made threats after Jerry Springer the Musical, the Sikhs who attacked that play in Birmingham, and the Muslims who threatened Holocaust and beheadings because a newspaper insinuated that their religion bred violence.

    It is these people, who have bent the Koran (sorry, can't remember the proper spelling, and I'm in a hurry) and it's teachings so horrifically to think that it actually instructs them to kill the innocent, that need to be dealt with. The fact that people like Abu Hamza can preach violence in a holy building for years is clearly abhorrent to the truly religious.

    This twisted element of the faith, and many other faiths around the world needs to be actively dealt with, based not on grudges from the last few centuries, but from refocussing on the original texts that these faiths were based on, because I'm almost certain that all the major religions preach non-violence, peace, harmony and all that hippy love-in stuff.

    15 Feb 2006, 13:26

  73. What a great story.

    15 Feb 2006, 14:58

  74. I'm so glad somebody was able to use the term "love-in" in this blog.

    And James – you accept then that as far as freedom of speech goes, the status quo is NOT really free at all.

    The subject of this blog was NOT about legality. It was about who was wrong and we seem to agree that both sides were wrong, some more wrong than others…

    And as for "not interesting", well, I'm afraid we have to get through the legal morass before we legislate, is it not so?

    Incidentally, millions of children's books have gone by without illustrations of Muhammed (PBUH); why should we so desperately need one with images now? It was originally a laduable attempt to educated Danish children about a major world faith, but the newspaper turned it into a farce.

    However, there is clearly a problem in a lot of Muslim socieities in the world in that it is so easy for certain members to incite (no matter how small) a minority to commit heinous acts and the fact that there seems to be unfettered access for these 'preachers of hate'. Why is it that Muslim societies seem to find so much trouble in adjusting to their respective countries? Why is Tower Hamlets, the country's most Muslim area also the poorest district? To localise this issue, why are Pakistanis and Bangladeshis the poorest and least educated societies in the UK as a whole, when their subcontinental cousins, Indians, are among the most educated and wealthiest?

    When Harrods began to sell underwear plastered with images of Hindu deities, Hindu organisations sent a few angry letters, Harrods removed the offending underwear range and that was that. Well, not exactly…then some other outlet sold shoes with the same images, which for some was worse. But you get the point. The difference of course, is that no outlets anticipated a storm, and so none of them tried to 'bait' Hindus into a fight.

    Muslims need to realise that legitimate means have NOT been exhausted.

    15 Feb 2006, 19:26

  75. James

    What the newspaper was doing was demonstrating its stance that its freedom of speech should not be curtailed on religious grounds. It also wanted to demonstrate that Islam is currently plagued by a minority of fundamentalists who overreact wildly to the slightest provocation. It seems to have succeeded.

    Ankit I would still like your views on my post 64, I think you haven't addressed them directly. In your sixth para you've addressed a few of the issues that I said in my post 71 were going beyond what this blog should be about, though they are of course related and very important issues. But please let me have your thoughts on thepoints I raised.

    15 Feb 2006, 21:40

  76. Carly

    Sorry I couldn't be bothered to read all of the comments on this, so not sure if anyone has already said this: but re. the University removing the cartoons: under the Education Act the University has a responsibility to ensure freedom of speech. They simply cannot selectively moderate this kind of thing! I don't recall them stepping in when blogs with homophobic content were published because they may cause offence. I don't recall them stepping in to stop some very close-to-the-bone events by Friends of Palestine in the past. Make up your mind – and figure out how to enact your legal responsibility consistently!

    19 Feb 2006, 14:43

  77. Solomon

    I think that there is a major problem here and this relates to the West's treatment of islamic people. Here's a question: why do muslims feel so strongly about these cartoons and I'm not just taking about hardlien muslims but other kind of muslims too? Isn't there a sense from what they've said that they feel victimised? As if they are being singled out for ridicule, when this isn't actually the case – satirical cartoons appear in newspapers every day of Blair etc. Would muslims feel less outraged on an international scale if the West wasn't bombing muslims, killing muslims, expliting muslims, denigrating muslims on a daily basis.

    24 Feb 2006, 23:49

  78. Concern

    If it's Jesus, He will say " if they slap your left cheek, give them your right as well" It seems that all these issues regarding who insulted who has been going on for centuries. Antisemitic cartoons, Jesus being made an object of humour on the telly, etc. What is more important : to promote human rights, love for your neighbours as yourself or wasting time and life in fighting over such cartoon. Dont get me wrong, it was such a disgrace for anyone to humour such historical figure. Let it be like Jesus or Gandhi even… let them provoke you for the sake of maintaning peace. Man taking matters into their own hand and make it a point to bring religion into it is such a disgrace. Why are we so insecure that we let all these issues provoke us to the point of violence. Do we have the right to demand death to be upon another? How shameful! Shame shame beyond belief.

    25 Feb 2006, 17:05

  79. Gamaratni

    The more they impose the more people will question the whole belief system.. why is there so much violence.. why people are supposed to progress but they are still there and not getting anywhere but to destroy another… if it is such an idealistic principle, you wont have to go and defend it like others in the world don't matter… as some of the people Ive met said.. that proves that it has been such an incredible self religious system. And this shows that you cant be reasonable with them. They are always right. Forgiveness is not an option.

    "Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because The Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen." (Genesis 16:11–12 RSV). So very true… prophecy has been fullfilling itself.

    25 Feb 2006, 17:14

  80. Yolande

    Carly and solomon – I have been in many muslim countries… there are many of them who are disgusted by these so called mosleems… and I found out that they are NOT ALLOWED to even QUESTION their own belief. They are taught that they are always right and the rest are infidels. And I like what Gamaratni said above… iot has been prophecied that these people will always go againts everyone else.. its in the nature of the belief system. The Danish journalist had appologise but they dont believe in the need to forgive… its hard to be reasonable with them… Ive been to Malaysia and its much better there as people are more progressive yet there are a few who are very narrow minded. But i blieve its the best Muslim country. I felt safe when I was there.

    25 Feb 2006, 17:22

  81. PerfectStranger

    Well, Gamaratni, don't u think that is an extreme point of view.
    There could be a lot of prophecies about a lot of people that can be acquired from everywhere and presented on a lot of subjects. So please do not denigrate a whole people by insulting there forefather. There have been a lot of calls for forgiveness, but in a largely illiterate population and economically deprived populace, things are not as disciplined as they might be elsewhere. So it will take time. For most muslims these attacks are just a part of what happened in Irag and Afghanistan etc.
    People who are acting in this manner are poor and illiterate, so they act in a most disconcerting manner, but if a person from an educated background acts in the same way, then I do feel extremely depressed…

    27 Feb 2006, 13:56

  82. Alexander Nicholson

    I just want to say I find the letter 'm' offensive. So everyone stop using it now, or I shall register this unpleasantness with the authorities.

    Also, whether you agree with this stance or not has no relevance. In the interests of not offending anyone, you are all bound over not to use that offensive letter.

    Have a nice day.

    27 Feb 2006, 18:21


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