Friday, February 17, 2006

Why?


While one can accept the concept of freedom of speech being analogous to a religious creed in the Western democracies, it does not logically follow that such a freedom can be willfully used to denigrate the beliefs of other people – be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu et al.

Although Jyllands-Posten - a Danish right-wing Christian newspaper - by publishing offensive cartoons of Islam’s Prophet, has insisted that it was simply exercising its right of free expression, its past actions belie this claim.

As the
Guardian reports:

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of...cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

And according to an account in the
International Herald Tribune, Flemming Rose, editor of Jyllands-Posten the Danish editor behind the offensive cartoons said in an interview that:
[He] would not publish caricatures of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel strangling a Palestinian baby since such an image could be construed as racist.
Okay, cartoons of Christ were censored as they would ‘provoke an outcry’ and caricatures of Ariel Sharon suppressed because such images ‘could be construed as racist.’

So, it does become somewhat evident that Jyllands-Posten did not wish to afford Muslims the same deference that the newspaper was willing to provide to its Christian and Jewish readers. So, one can therefore reasonably infer that the cartoons were purposely published without least bothering about the sensibilities of the members of the Danish community of Muslims. Having looked at the statements and actions of the newspaper’s editorial staff chronologically over the past few months, I would go further and suggest that the gratuitous publication of the cartoons, in fact, were intended to humiliate the local Muslims.

While one can accept the fact that in Western Europe the governments have no control over its press; after all freedom of the press is one of the fundamental bastions of a modern democracy. But Denmark’s rightwing and stridently anti-immigrant PM Anders Rasmussen’s obduracy added fuel to an existing inflammatory situation.

As
Time magazine reported:
[T]he tempest might have remained a largely local dispute had Prime Minister Rasmussen not compounded the editors' intransigence by refusing to meet with the ambassadors of 11 Muslim countries to discuss the cartoon flap.
Rasmussen’s unusual behaviour even came in for criticism from his nearby colleague, the Swedish prime minister, who
said:
Rasmussen has remained passive, "If I were him, I would say the government and the press have no right to humiliate and hurt people because of their religion."
In retrospect, if Jyllands-Posten had displayed less arrogance towards the rising Muslim protest and the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen shown some empathy, the contraversary may have been contained in the earlier stages. But both were playing to the public gallery - there has been a marked increase in anti-immigration sentiment among the Danes, particularly towards Muslim immigrants who are perceived by many locals as posing a threat to Danish culture.

And so, it becomes increasingly obvious that this issue is not really about a clash of cultures – i.e. the democratic concept of ‘freedom of expression’ vs. Islamic fundamentalism. Instead it is about a newspaper, carried away with jingoistic exuberance, deliberately seeking to insult members of a religious community under the pretext of press freedom.

Many western newspapers, believing the issue to be all about democratic freedoms, have injudiciously proceeded on a wrong course of action. To my mind the freedom of expression is a hallowed right of a free society, but in this instance it has been intentionally misused for malevolent purposes.

Free press, like other freedoms, comes with an obligation of exercising responsible judgment. Newspapers should have the complete freedom to speak out on any issue of their choice, but publications that deliberately seek to offend powerless minorities (Danish Muslims, in this case) do not further healthy debate nor advance the cause of freedom.

And finally, I would suggest that those who wish to demonstrate against the publication of these insulting cartoons have every right to do so – but peacefully. Resorting to unnecessary violence has no place in a civilized society.







9 comments:

Syed said...

I am quoting below few lines from;

'The firestorm waiting to erupt'
By Ayaz Amir

In a democracy where regular elections are held, anger and frustration are vented through the ballot box. You get fed up with one party, you vote in another. What do you do in Pakistan where the choice is between one general and another or between a civilian government pushed around by the military and outright military rule?
-------------------------------------
This might explain the cause of violence in our 'civilized society'.

Onlooker said...

Syed

Cannot disagree at all with your comment.

The other thing worth noting, which seems to have missed the local press's radar (or at least I think it has), is the hefty increases in the price of basic commodities, such as flour and sugar.

There are numberless Pakistanis today who are sadly finding it difficult to feed their families. Many of these will probably provide dry tinder for anyone wishing to light a flame under the Chowkidar's kursi.

What happens next is anyone's guess. The Pakistani masses have indulged in a lengthy sleep since the PNA movement of the 1970s.

If indeed a spark takes to flame then the jobless and the hungry will be out in the streets, most likely under a religious banner calling for 'Islamic' justice.

n.g aka zephyr said...

Hi there,

I bumped into ur blog through some blog site but have been hooked on to it for some time....

A pretty balanced view of the event because it has been politicized to gain mileage and the people have played into the hands of politicians....

I think that restraint in both publishing and prtesting shud be have been practised....

Syed said...

Dear onlooker,

"There are numberless Pakistanis today who are sadly finding it difficult to feed their families. Many of these will probably provide dry tinder for anyone wishing to light a flame under the Chowkidar's kursi".
---------------------------------------
Not under the Kursi but right on his tail, which I believe he has been able to grow if it was not already there.
There must be some thing extraordinary about him justifying his position of being a superman or subhuman among all Pakistanis.

Arun said...

Was the murder of Theo Van Gogh sufficient provocation for the Jyllands-Post to solicit and publish those cartoons?

Onlooker said...

Can the killing of a political leader by a religious extremist justify an onslaught of any type on any particular community?

The only examples that spring to mind are Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination by the Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse and Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin by the Jewish extremist Yigal Amir.

In both slayings the law took its course and the murderers were found guilty and incarcerated. To the best of my knowledge no wider community was taken to task or held responsible for these crimes.

Gedroshian said...

OFF TOPIC

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It just got solved.

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Hold your breath...

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As expected...

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THE BUGTIS

Paul M. Kingery said...

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