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Friday, February 03, 2006

Standing up and being counted

As some of you may have read in the papers, there has been a rather huge comotion about some cartoons that were published in a Danish newspaper depictingthe Prophet Mohammod. Guns have been trained on the EU building in the Gaza strip, flags burnt and mass demonstrations held as certain muslims protest at the publication. The managing editor of a French newspaper has been sacked for daring to reprint the cartoons. Newspapers in Germany, Swizterland and Italy have published the cartoons. The BBC showed the cartoons swiftly. Channel 4 showed them in more detail. The Telegraph declined to published the cartoons on the grounds that they were offensive to some of their readers, but did point out that if one objects to Western culture and values , one does not have to live here.
I believe it is NOT blasephemy for an unbeliever to draw a picture and have it printed in a secular newspaper. The attempted intimidation strikes right at the core of Western democratic values.
I have seen the cartoons, and while they are not very good or indeed funny, by the actions of a few, they have become a symbol of free speech, freedom of the press and the cartoonists' right to satire. I may not approve of what they say, but I do defend to the death the right for them to say it.
You may view the cartoons here.

2 comments:

Kate H said...

Really tough subject, Michelle. I believe very strongly in the right to free speech. At the same time, I think being deliberately inflammatory is misguided. Extremists take themselves so seriously and have such blinkered views/lack of tolerance for other people's point of view that satire is just going to make them explode. So I'd like to know the reasons behind the cartoons - was it fair comment on extremism, or was it to gain publicity/higher sales figures? (Cynicism, I know, but...!)

Michelle Styles said...

I think the Danish prime minster's reaction was admirable. He regretted the publication of the cartoons, but said he was powerless to stop it as Denmark had a free press.
It is very similar to the Jerry Springer Opera --designed to offend, but in the end the indivdual has the option not to go and watch. One hopes good manners would cause people to know where to draw the line, but when they don't, a dignified silence is often the best approach, not deomnstrations with slogans such as Bomb Denmark or The War on Terror is War on Islam or praising the 7/7 bombers. Over reaction does nobody any good.
Equally much of the Arab press is guilty of vilfying the Jews.
There needs to be more than a one-sided concept of press responsibility.
Also why is it happening now as the cartoon first appear several weeks ago and vanished without a trace...