Friday, February 03, 2006

How free is free speech?

Answer: completely free, even when it’s infantile.

Should the religious be protected from being offended? Or, why should the religious be protected from being offended?

Should atheists be protected from being offended?

Last year a controversial Polish editor was fined for insulting John Paul II. The law suit was not brought by the pontiff, of course, but by the religiously offended.

A play in Britain was closed down because Sikhs got offended by its content.

A Dutch director was shot two years ago because he dared to offend the religious in Holland.

Now we have a set of cartoons, published by the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper, depicting Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, and much more.

Two of the cartoonists have gone into hiding following death threats. Libya has closed its Embassy in Denmark in protest. A large consumer boycott has been organized in Saudi Arabia.

And now the Head of the United Nations has waded in. Stephane Dujarric, the UN's chief spokesman, said on Thursday: "He (Kofi Annan) believes that the freedom of the press should always be exercised in a way that fully respects the religious beliefs and tenets of all religions."

Personally, I think these types of ‘satirical’ cartoons are not funny and therefore are not necessary. But we must stand for the right of journalists, cartoonists, anyone – even if they are infantile cartoonists – to ‘publish and be damned’.

I thought twice before putting, even a small version, of the cartoons on the blog - and I notice that many blogs are discussing them but only giving links. And it is a matter of taste, I suppose. But, in the end, if you are talking about something like this then you have to show it - just giving a link could appear to be a cop-out. I'm sorry some people feel offended, but they'll get over it.

Are people so easily threatened, with so little confidence in their beliefs, that they have to be protected from having them being insulted? Are we becoming like children who have to be protected from pain and distress?

The Danish prime minister has said, "The government refuses to apologies because the government does not control the media or a newspaper outlet; that would be in violation of the freedom of speech". And he is right. But maybe governments in Europe should look at how they have had a hand in producing this type of special pleading by various ‘identity groups’.

But it is not, and should not, be a crime to offend someone.

Check out my new posts at the P3 blog.


Warsaw Crow said...

I was going to write a comment from 'Ali' who says he will be coming over to Europe to take away your free press and to give you back your Lurpak (but you don't allow anonymous comments...sigh)

Still I think dear Ali doesn't have a hope of changing anything (this isn't the US yet) and therefore only Lurpak and the other exporters are the ones with the right to feel so threatened and upset by the protests.

I can imagine a wonderful Lurpak advert with their buttery Morph-like character with the trombone sitting like a prophet on a biscuit reading a newspaper, bursting into flames, melting down and then being eaten.

beatroot said...

Thank you for that wondefully obscure comment. The only bit I understood of it was Lurpack, which is a butter, right?

michael farris said...

Since when do the rules of one religion apply to non-believers?

If the editor and cartoonists of the paper were Muslims, they would be wrong, by the rules of their religion to draw/print cartoons of Muhammed.

That rule does not (cannot) apply to non-Muslims. Period. Any Muslim who does not understand this has no business in Denmark or any other EU country.

Warsaw Crow said...

Yes, Lurpak is a popular Danish butter that until recently you would be able to find on many a kitchen table across the Middle East...

It has since been banished.

These graven images of the Western icon may distress or humour you:

beatroot said...

Lurpak is the Middle East’s leading butter brand accounting for a market share of approx. 64% in the UAE, Arla Foods’ second largest Middle Eastern market after Saudi Arabia.