I have very mixed feelings on the current controversy sweeping media and blogland. Whether people out there really give a crap is of course a different matter. This is an attempt to address several points that others have made, as well as provide a roundup of some interesting opinion.
1) To re-iterate my position: I fully believe in defending freedom of speech and expression, but also believe that it comes with responsibility. So gratious attempts merely to offend others is not that worthy of respect IMO.
2) It is a given fact that Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are highly sensitive of portrayals of their gods and prophets. To assume these cartoons would not have offended someone is naive, specially when some cartoons imply that the prophet himself was a terrorist bomber. The question then arises: when is it right to offend (because it will happen sooner or later)? IMO – when its for the right cause. I don’t see any underlying cause here that kicked it all off.
3) Jyllands-Posten also has an interesting background. The centre-right paper was “infamous for its sympathy for fascism and understanding of the German Nazi dictatorship”, according to Wikipedia. And while I’m not saying all Danes are Muslim haters, the climate there is sometimes quite hostile towards Muslims. So does the paper have an ulterior agenda? I would argue so.
4) Danish and other European governments cannot be held responsible for what their press publishes, a fact that has completely missed most of the Middle Eastern hot-heads busy burning flags and pointing guns at Europeans. But it’s worth noting that while the Danish govt is busy sending out its message across Arab media as we speak, it initially rebuffed any dialogue with Arab governments. Talk about silly backtracking. Either they should have done it initially or stuck to their guns.
5) The idea however that Middle Eastern regimes can dictate to Europe about religious tolerance and freedom of speech is totally laughable, a fact many Muslim bloggers have chosen to ignore, apart from some like Sepoy. He also cites previous examples of depicting the prophet and says “if â€˜anyâ€™ depiction of the Prophet is an assault on the sensibilities of the global Muslim, than we have more to worry about than bad Danish cartoonists.”
6) Reformist Muslim puts it more succintly when arguing: “it seems to me that the unfortunately inevitable threats of violence has made this into a false, ‘our free speech v. dangerous fundamentalists’ debate…. The major problem with this is that seems to make apologising for the original cartoons into an appeasement of the threat of violence which doesn’t do anyone any good.
7) Thabet has an excellent roundup of opinion from many Muslim blogs, clearly showing that they are not as hysterical as everyone is trying to make them out to be.
8) Svend White makes a good point on his blog:
An aside. This is where I have issues with the shows of solidarity by various other European media in republishing those cartoons recently. Not only are they allowing Jyllands-Posten to duck responsibility for sparking this crisis–its actions displayed grievously poor judgment, if not outright bigotry– in running those cartoons, but these other European media are creating the impression in the Muslim world that, you guessed it, Europe is united in supporting attacks on Islam and spitting on Muslim sensibilities. It is doing so at the very same time that it’s incessantly preaching to Muslims about religious extremism, anti-Semitism and other unsightly social phenomen in Muslim societies. Muslims will understandably wonder at their silence on open prejudice and Islamophobia.
9) A point that some Muslims miss is this. The longer-term issue is not if there should be more blasphemy (there inevitably will be), but how people choose to react to it. Any violent reaction is instantly condemned (rightly) and unless that is dealt with, there will always be tension. At least people don’t get killed in Europe for disrespecting God.
10) Let’s get this clear. We started with one newspaper with a publicity stunt. It escalated with a bunch of rabble-rousing Danish Muslims looking to get themselves better known by conveniently inserting some extra cartoons into the original twelve so they could get the brothers suitably pissed off. It has since turned into a massive pissing match with each side trying to make out they are more righteous.
While I’m on the side of FoS, to pretend there are absolutely no taboos within European media is ludicrous. It is just a matter of which ones you choose to break.
11) UPDATE: Nosemonkey is just as annoyed and more blunt about it, with links to others who feel the same.
12) UPDATE 2: The Jordanian paper that re-published some cartoons with a call for better perspective on the issue has sacked its editor unfortunately.
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Filed in: Media,Religion,The World