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.


thelastnoel said...

Well said.

shug said...

It seems a bit absurd that an innocent Brazilian, going about his lawful business, can be shot 11 times on the Underground after being mistaken for a suicide bomber while a Muslim protester can dress up like a suicide bomber and carry a placard that says 'Massacre all crtics of Islam' and get away with it.

Scalljah said...

I don't think this cartoon business can be viewed as cut and dried as your opinion suggests. We in the west are often tempted to believe that we are a caring democratic and tolerant humanist society, but failing to see the beef of the muslim world indicates we are not.

The cartoons are offensive because the Islamic faith is adhered to in a way western christianity was in its heyday. And being pragmatic about it, it would be a lot more sensible for the publishers to apologise for the cartoons and let it go. Failing to see how antagonistic this is is foolish and arogant, I think.

Iran now is proposing to do a few holocaust cartoons, and no doubt many of the liberal minded who say the muslims are moaning about nothing will not see this sacred cow being the subject of a cartoon, in a similar light.

I think that what is important is not the cartoons but the way people react to it, and beneath the argument of free speech, I detect a confrontationalist mentality. Muslims are nutters type of view, failing to realise that Islam draws on a whole mass of highly different cultures.

It's like lumping Scottish culture with Romanian. I think that, like the PC stuff that goes on, the free speech angle can be used to shield more unpleasant mindsets masquerading as only being interested in fairness, but really, consciously or subconscioulsy, just taking it for granted that the western mentality is superior to that of other nations.

Rob Mackenzie said...

thelastnoel - thanks

shug - yes, it does seem absurd.

scalljah - you make your points with genuine intelligence. I think a lot of what comes from the west does betray an ignorance of Islam, which is often unhelpful in dealing with existing tensions.

I agree that freedom of speech can be used as a defence for exhibiting all kinds of bad attitude. But violence and threats are hardly valid ways of countering that. I mean, Iran may release distasteful cartoons about the Holocaust, but I'm not going to set fire to Iranian embassies as a result, and anyone who does so should be arrested.

I also feel that if people apologise for the cartoons, then it will show that violence gets results. They can't now apologise.

I'm intrigued that you say, "the cartoons are offensive because the Islamic faith is adhered to in a way western christianity was in its heyday."

I don't think an average Christian follows his religion with any less fervour than an average Muslim. And Christians do find it an an offence when their vision of the sacred is cheapened. But they don't set fire to buildings in retaliation.

But I can see that much of what you say has some truth in it. You're right that democracy and tolerance in the western world is a shallow concept in practice - as we've seen recently by the negative reaction to the democratically elected Hamas Government in Palestine. Western nations tend to choose who and what they want to tolerate.

The Blind-Winger Jones said...

Excellent post - the Muslim community is struggling with the well-organised rentamob fanatic faction, a struggle which isn't helped by Western commentators who elide Islam as a worldwide faith, with the actions of a minority. Talk of a "clash of civilisations" is ridiculous. Which Western civilisation and which Islamic one are we talking about here ?

Rob Mackenzie said...

Thanks for commenting. The situation is getting more and more confused. Time to move on, I would say.