freedom of speech not widely understood

February 3rd, 2006

Yes, as you can see, I refrained from entitling this post with the more accurate description "outrage!!!". I rarely bother commenting on political issues, as there is so much comment and debate on them anyway, but this one struck a nerve with me.

The origins of this "scandal" are found in the editing rooms of Jyllandsposten, a (minor?) Danish nationwide newspaper. The paper published a series of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. Why? For the hell of it maybe, the motive is not relevant. What followed was protests to the Danish government from various embassies representing Islamic countries, demanding an apology for this blasphemious act. This happened almost 6 months ago, but since then the reactions have magnified and recently there have been tons of protests and uproar, both in Denmark and against Danish embassies in various countries. It's gone so far as to boycotting Danish products in Saudi Arabia I believe.

Leaving for a moment the idiotic stance of boycotting a whole nation for the acts of a few people, what kind of gross misunderstanding of the concept of free speech does it take for a person to realize that satire is an accepted and legal means of expression? If the reactions here were purely an outrage over Jyllandsposten and people started to boycott the newspaper, fine. But to blacklist a country over this, to apply diplomatic pressure, to egg an embassy, to boycott Danish products? That's misdirected energy and passion, religion being the poison which incites it.

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5 Responses to "freedom of speech not widely understood"

  1. Diana says:

    I totally agree on that. Unfortunately, history of mankind teaches us that blaming an entire nation for the mistakes of some individuals is very common... And on the other hand, I am just allergic for religious fanaticism of any kind.

  2. erik says:

    You have to admit it's insensitive. What strikes me is how easily the Islamic nations disregard that there is a *clear* difference between church (mosque), state, and press in the West.

    I often hear complaints from those regions regarding Americanisation and how said nation is disregarding the cultural differences, and now those nations are doing exactly the same. Officially speaking; there is *NO* point in holding Denmark's government responsible, but that is what they're doing because that's how it works in *their* nations... Ignorance and hypocricy in their purest form.

  3. numerodix says:

    But that's the nature of satire, you *can* make fun of anyone you want, as long as it's obvious that it's not serious. There is a definition for that somewhere, I don't remember it exactly.

    Of course it's insensitive, and seeing those reaction the paper should probably apologize, which they did. But that's their business, it has nothing to do with state and government. But what I find most infuriating is how because of the big pressures the fractions of shall we call it the "Muslim world" have on this issue, the Danish government is forced into giving apologies and trying to defuse the situation. Not only that. the EU is too, American politicians have an opinion about the issue, it's sick. What is (now) purely a Danish domestic issue is being played out as a tug of war between powerful religious communities and big Danish business (and potentially not only Danish) interests. That kind of escalation is sickening, how through the power that is had one is able to influence a domestic issue so strongly that it becomes a question of national policy.

  4. ash says:

    There stupidity on both sides. People boycotting Denmark and getting angry with the government obviously have no idea about the differences between government and media, but then in much of the Muslim world there is not difference.
    The cartoons themselves were satire, sure, but they're were also gratuitously offensive. Portraying Muhammad as a terrorist serves as much point as portraying Jesus as a member of the Spanish Inquisition or an SS Officer.

    I think what's been more interesting is how the media in other countries have dealt with the cartoons i.e. the papers in France and Jordan printing the cartoons, appealing for calm and then having the editors sacked. In the UK, none of the paper's have printed the cartoons, although they've written in support of free speech.

  5. Diana says:

    It's all just politics, and politics is, in almost every country, in every situation, just a sick game. Don't tell me that those countries don't know the situation in the west: seperation of state, press and church. I have nothing against those countries, but it's obvious that they need, and want this dispute with the western world, Just as Bush needs Osama in his life. On the other hand,

    I must also state, that concerning the situation nowadays, papers should be more careful when it comes to religious satire, they could have guessed that picturing Mohammed like that would offend and hurt people. On the other hand, when apologies are made, for this world's sake, just forgive and continue to focus on more important world issues...