Friday, May 12, 2006

More debate on the Danish cartoon fiasco

A British journalist and an American cartoonist debate on the issue of whether and how freedom of expression can go too far when dealing with religion.

Events of the past few years have seriously been inflammatory for any Muslim. The campaign in Afghanistan, the infamous episodes in Iraq (I and II), the ongoing occupation of Palestine, atrocities and hypocricies of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. And to blame 911 and the series of terrorist attacks that followed on ‘The Islam’ or ‘The Muslims’ is to lump together a bunch of extremists who hijack religion to further their own political agendas to the detriment of the majority, who profess a peace-loving and non-violent faith. Part of the exchange:

Dissent is near treason even when the state commits crimes and violates
international law. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king;
and in a world largely blind to the realities behind the attacks on Muslim
nations (coincidentally with abundant oil), "the group mind" has taken over.
Demonizing and dehumanizing Muslims help justify even more attacks on
(Kingdom of the Blind)
But then again freedom of expression is about the ability to write (or draw) anything that is influencing, be it in a negative or positive way, society. This is a fundamental right in a democracy:

Cartoonists must be free to draw about religion because it is often fanatics
acting in the name of religions who try to hijack our freedoms. They are the
ones who want to set the "limits."(NO!)
And what about boundaries of 'respecting thy neighbour'?:

There are boundaries that are basics: courtesy and respect for the richness
of the diversities of cultures with which the world has been honored. Those
are the building blocks of our common humanity. They should be within our
being and that being should be built on respect. Attacking or making fun of
any religion falls without this. It does not need writing down. It is called
civilization. Our duty in the media is to defend it with all our might
without bias. (Basic Boundaries)

I can't remember who wrote it, but a right to express yourself does not automatically mean a duty to do so. And if a right excercised will have harmful effects on your neighbour, a little discretion and self-control is necessary. Write, but do so with responsibility. Draw, but do so wisely.

(Cartoon from, by Signe Wilkinson, published Feb 8 2006)
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