Cartoons of Mohammad

Flemming Rose discusses the philosophy that lead to the publication of the controversial cartoons of Mohammad at the Washington Post in the aptly titled “Why I Published Those Cartoons”

I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn't mean you publish everything. Jyllands-Posten would not publish pornographic images or graphic details of dead bodies; swear words rarely make it into our pages. So we are not fundamentalists in our support for freedom of expression.

So why did they do it?

By contrast, I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out.

And the cartoons themselves were not extraordinary.

We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims.

Is this level of respect universal? Apparently so:

On occasion, Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those.

I have always maintained that there's no such thing as a right to not be offended. If such a right were universal communication would be set back hundreds of years. Sometimes the harsh truth needs to be said. Sometimes it's necessary to point the finger of satire at the overblown and overwrought. There would be a safety in experimenting because that's where true innovations and breakthroughs occur.

After reading The World is Flat and a billion or so blog postings on culture clashes and the global community I am convinced there are a lot of sacred cows in the road to a well-functioning global society. Freedom of speech is not a tenet to be sacrificed. Instead, it is a catalyst for getting to that goal. Flemming Rose explained that they wanted to start a dialog with moderate Muslims because of many cases of self-censorship over fears of offending fundamentalist Muslims. He claims that some victories have been won there, but in the press they are overshadowed by the violent reactions of a minority of opinion. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted Sunday, Feb 19 2006 07:58 AM

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Paramendra Bhagat

Posted Sunday, Feb 19 2006 04:52 PM

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