In light of the recent unrest across the Muslim world due to the publication of the Mohammad cartoons by a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, I can’t help but think that now is the time for lessons beyond showing some Muslims what freedom of speech means.
The “Mohammad cartoons” in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper were intended to demonstrate:
“The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context… we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him…”
So, it is only fair that you must “practice what you preach” or even more importantly “if you can’t take it then don’t dish it out.”
“The Iranian newspaper Hamshari daily has stated that it will publish anti-Semitic cartoons in response to the Danish Mohammad cartoons. The newspaper, owned by the Tehran city council, says that the anti-Semitic cartoons will lampoon the Holocaust, following denials by the Iranian government that the Holocaust even happened. The newspaper has launched an international competition to find the most suitable caricatures about the Holocaust.
Farid Mortazavi, the paper’s graphics editor, said to the Guardian newspaper that “The western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let’s see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons.”
Again, my problem with these cartoons is not that they were printed but the real reason they were printed.
A 2004 report by the European Network Against Racism, funded by the EU, concluded that the Danish media devoted an excessive proportion of their time to the problems posed by immigrants, and most often Islamic immigrants, while often ignoring the problems that these immigrants face. They hold newspapers such as Jyllands-Posten to blame for the rise of the anti-immigrant right-wing in Danish politics.”The seeds of xenophobia, or cultural and religious intolerance have in fact been sown by a range of political, cultural and media elite for several years which have brought Denmark to the brink of violation of international and European conventions on human rights.”
As part of this study, Jyllands-Posten was singled out as one of the most anti-immigrant of all Danish papers. Over the 3 month period studied, from September 1 2004 to November 20 2004, 19/24 of Jyllands-Posten’s editorials on “ethnic issues” were negative, 88/120 op. ed. pieces on “ethnics” were negative, and 121/148 letters to the editor on “ethnics” were negative.
Some organizations, such as the Danish anti-racism group, Faklen or “The Torch” have collected the anti-immigrant editorials posted by Jyllands-Posten which have attacked or smeared Danish immigrants. They conclude that a large number of editorials have been slanted against immigrants.
Tolerance does not seem to be one of this papers strong points. So, why is this paper taking it upon itself to teach tolerance to some Muslims?
And, why are these Muslims crying out and destroying and killing when they are not innocent either? Muslims have printed many objectional cartoons in the past as well as a proposed competition for 12 new cartoons by Iranian newspaper Hamshari. One of these cartoons depicts Anne Frank lying in bed with Hitler naked. Hitler is shown saying to Anne Frank, “Write this one in your diary, Anne.” I am curious to see how this one goes over in Israel.
I, also, found Wikipedia’s explanation for including this cartoon on their website interesting:
The Arab European League have stated that they expect European newspapers to reprint the cartoons, so it would appear fair use of images to put them on Wikimedia Commons.
The choice of Anne Frank for the cartoon is somewhat ironic, given that Anne was an avid supporter of freedom of expression and freedom movement, and she believed that restrictions on freedom of speech were partly to blame for the rise of facism in the 1930s. Suppressing this cartoon from public view would have been against these beliefs of Anne Frank.
So, when will it all stop? Where will it end?
I must admit I am not happy to be placed in the middle of two groups of extremist.
Now, how will we turn this around peacefully instead of fighting fire with fire?
People have died and buildings have been burned. There are rumors that the extreme right in Denmark is planning on burning the Koran. This has the potential to grow into something much bigger than cartoons and freedom of speech. It has the potential to grow into a war of cultures and ideas without respect for anyone or thing.
I strongly believe in freedom of speech but I don’t believe in freedom of speech when it comes out of the mouth of hate.
Think about it!
Robert Fulguhm-Author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace