Sunday, February 05, 2006

 

Cartoons, Islam and Free Speech

Final evidence that the world really is mad? It seems unbelievable that- we are told poorly drawn and unfunny- cartoons published in a Danish newspaper, should have caused so much worldwide fuss. I was going to ignore dignifying it with a posting but, it seems, it won't go away. My first instinct was to support the principle of free speech and to reinforce my basic antipathy to any religion, let alone this one, which applies such strictures on the human spirit. Then I began to think it through a bit. Now, an articulate contribution to Andrew Marr's show this morning, by a representative of a Muslim body in the UK, plus a well argued piece by Henry Porter in the Observer, has made me reassess. This is how I see the argument against publishing the cartoons:

a) free speech is not absolute- we are not allowed to publish defamatory untruths about anyone and we would not, presumably think cartoons depicting child abuse to fall within its ambit.
b) it is a fact that we do not really understand Islam; though we ought to try as the 'clash of civilisations' threatensd to obliterate far too many innocent people.
c) there seems to me to be a case for pragmatic caution: if the patient is paranoid, surely we should be careful about giving grounds for inflaming the condition?

So I reckon, whilst free speech is of great importance, it is not more so than needlessly endangering innocent people- our own children maybe as they use the underground or are out enjoying themselves. The editors should have exercised such caution and not published and others should not have republished.

But this restraint must surely apply equally:
a) Muslim papers constantly carry archetypal cartoons of Jews with big noses, black hats and evil faces. If our editors have to withold offence- so should theirs.
b) some of the demonstrators in London and elsewhere, were clearly inciting violence or murder e.g. a sign saying 'We will butcher you'.
c) Muslims should make an effort to understand that the west is not devoid of principle and that free speech is a foundation one.
d) whilst there is some possibility of us understanding demonstrations against the cartoons, it would be nice, to see, from time to time, equally passionate demos against the televised beheadings of hostages, the 9-11 or 7/7 attacks.

Reciprocity has to be a principle accepted by all nations and cultures if we have any chance at all of peaceful coextistence.

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