Sunday, February 05, 2006
God Bless Denmark
(click picture to make it bigger)
Some Moslems are offended by a cartoon depicting Mohammed. The cartoon satirises the link between Islam and terrorist violence. Some Moslems are so offended by this that they march down roads bearing placards calling for extreme violence to be carried out against the infidels and they burn down a few embassy buildings to make their point. Unbelievably the Vatican then declares that freedom of speech doesn’t entail the right to offend people, a clear gesture of support for their fellow-religion.
I’ve never heard anything so absurd. The Vatican offends certain people in statements it comes out with, but no one’s calling for the Pope to be gagged. But if anyone felt that way, no one would stop that person from making his/her point.
Theatre productions, movies, newspapers, and best-selling novels present material all the time that some Christians find offensive. Sometimes these Christians demonstrate about it, which is fair enough (although usually it only brings more publicity to the events in question), but in the main, they don’t threaten to kill those responsible. And if they did they rightly would be condemned by anyone with sense.
It’s a sensitive situation. I see that. I bought a paper yesterday from my newsagent which is run by a Moslem family of Pakistani origin. They are friendly, kind, welcoming people with a great sense of humour. Whatever their views on the Danish cartoons, they have no more in common with that crowd on the streets baying for blood than I have. No one wants innocent Moslem people to be victimised because of the violent actions of a few. No one other than the political-racist elements in our society, who must be rubbing their hands in glee at current events.
But if we really believe in freedom of expression, we have to allow for the fact that a proportion of people are going to feel offended at almost anything. Those offended should have due recourse. They are entitled to argue their case. They may be able to persuade me that the creators of the Danish cartoons were insensitive and plain wrong, or they may not.
But taking to the streets with threats, violence, and arson, in the name of God, must be more offensive to God and is more offensive to other people than any cartoon.