February 07, 2006

An overly long comment

Writing about Is this free speech? from Ankit's Reserve of General Mediocrity

Hence I decided on a trackback. Also to apologize in advance for possibly being pedantic. From the start.

The Danish paper MUST apologize

They have. The re-pubishing in other Western media seems to be the bigger problem.

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.

I still disagree. In this case, there was a reason for the cartoons when they were still in context. The main problem I see is that the Danish editors did not know the severity of depicting Muhammad [let alone in a degrading manner] and underestimated the impact of the images. As far as the re-publishing in other Western newspapers is concerned, I think that the ones excluding the prophet [eg. the school kid called Muhammad] shouldn't be a problem – cartoons like that have been printed for a long time and have not been cause for violent reactions as far as I know. The cartoons including the prophet could easily be described rather than printed.

Freedom of speech in my opinion is the freedom to say what you believe, and the freedom to inform [or try to persuade] others of your beliefs. If only the book that inspired the article – quite possibly ridiculing islam and the prophet in a similar way in word – were published, there wouldn't have been a problem. If it would have included the images excluding the prophet, there wouldn't have been a problem. The author would have brought his message across and the audience could have chosen to believe it or not.

The combination of the medium [an image - easily reproducible and anyone who can see it will understand at least some of it] and the message [highly offensive to some] caused this to escalate, and I honestly believe there is no reason to review the laws of free speech.

From the BBC we find Article 10 of the Human Rights Act:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The republishing of the offending images was irresponsible [knowing they had already caused a fuss in Denmark], and in that sense could be prohibited by law [a penalty on intentionally threatening local/national/global security]. I'm no Human Rights expert however, and it will be difficult to curtail such rights without losing the original idea.

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.

Depending on your definition of prophet, either the Jews don't have one, or it will be a prophet for Islam as well.

About the cartoons: I thought only the ones describing the reactions to the offending comics were humorous. The others seemed unnecessary, and the bomb-turban actually made me want to look away.

- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Ben

    Well, I nearly brought out 9–11 trousers with the picture of one twin tower per leg, but I thought it might be quite offensive to Imreekanis.

    Aren't I good!


    07 Feb 2006, 13:29

  2. Dear J, or Ben, or generic Warwick student,

    9–11 trousers with a picture of either twin tower per leg would probably be most offensive to fashion gurus, if offensive to anyone. Could you be more specific about why you thought bringing out these trousers would be a good idea in the first place?

    07 Feb 2006, 15:06

  3. Thorwald Stein, could you elaborate on how the newspaper underestimating the reaction is connected to the quote from my entry? I said hiding behind "freedom of expression" is wrong. All they had to do was say sorry and print a retraction. Instead they fought for their right to print them, then apologised (for "the offence caused to Muslims"), but did not retract. That is, by the way, like saying sorry without meaning it.

    Secondly, they DID know it would be a problem. They may not have expected deaths and boycotted embassies (that's where the Muslim "activism" comes in), but they had been told most cartoonists were reluctant to cartoonise the prophet (PBUH). This is precisely why they invited people to send in "entries" like some mail competition, and they did it in the expectation that they would later fight on the side of European liberty agianst Islamic arrogance, ignorance and censorship as it is frequently perceived and protrayed in media around the world (and NOT just the West).

    07 Feb 2006, 18:17

  4. Concerning the quote: From what I understand the author of a book on islam couldn't find people to illustrate his work. The newspaper ran a story on it and commissioned cartoonists for work to publish, resulting in the [offending] images. It sounds like a perfectly valid news story to me, especially as I personally didn't know of the offense of depicting Muhammad. I honestly believe there was no baiting going on from the Danish newspaper's side, and they shouldn't be forced to retract the cartoons [though whether not retracting them is a wise decision is another point].

    Looking at the timeline the BBC has produced [see also Wikipedia for more - but less reliable - information], it took a while for the cartoons to perspire to mass media and to get a reaction from ambassadors [who were strangely enough not met by the Danish prime minister]. Sadly, it took 4 months to get an apology from the Danish newspaper, but it wasn't until the subsequent reprinting in some major European newspapers that the outburst of violence broke out.

    I see the latter as the baiting you refer to, and as an unnecessary action to stir up reactions. The republishing could be defended [again in the sense that is newsworthy] and has been reasonably done within reason on your own blog and in one American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer [link to reasoning behind republishing of image]. Can you please tell me what good retraction would do?

    On your second point, there was no battle until the republishing occurred. The Danish newspaper ran an informative article, and wouldn't even need freedom of speech to justify publication. The cartoons were to ridicule the current state of Islam from a Western perspective, and to be fair, the latest reactions haven't proven this wrong. Could you please explain why this violence, why even the boycott, why even the initial urge for an apology was necessary? Could you provide me with a literal quote from the Qur'an that says that depictions of the prophet are blasphemous? When people say Islam forbids the publishing of these cartoons, is it the Qur'an? Is it Sunni or Shi'a muslims? Is it the head of the British muslim foundation or your local imam? And if it forbids, does it forbid only muslims to print them, or any person?

    08 Feb 2006, 01:32

  5. The Islamic arrogance, ignorance, and censorship [your words] appear only from a small group of people, unfortunately again the people that reach the news. If you'd have read the original article, i.e. in its original context, would you have deemed it necessary for the newspaper to apologize [I give you that one, I'd say yes] or retract the images? [I'd say no, but please explain.] Would you have gone to find a way to get the prime minister to force an apology out of the editors? Would you have found it reasonable to go to the Middle East and gain support for a boycott thus forcing an apology?

    In the end, isn't it true that you know that whoever is depicted, is not your prophet? That it's just the take of some Western cartoonist on the recent events. That although it is ridiculed, no hatred against Islam is being advocated, nor any other action. That whatever people read in the images, is to themselves. I'll join in with the rest of the blogosphere and draw a parallel with Jerry Springer, the Opera. It caused offence to some Christians who hence tried to convince the BBC not to show it. The show depicted Christian icons in an unfavourable fashion just as much Muhammad has been blasphemized in the cartoons. But nowhere it is stated that this is real, which is my problem with reactions to blasphemy. Not that I wish to condone it, but the Opera had a very positive message [despite the blasphemous nature] and the cartoons were a result of an investigation – nowhere are people trying to convince you that what is depicted is the truth. I know I haven't said all I needed to say to make sense, but I hope you'll respond to some of my questions first.

    08 Feb 2006, 01:32

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