Thursday, February 02, 2006

Now who is being offensive?



The cartoon image on the left comes from Al Ahram, an Egyptian newspaper, which published this on 21 April 2001, though not in its English language edition.
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The cartoon image on the right is from Arab News, of Saudi Arabia, published 10 April 2002. Interestingly, opinions supporting freedom of speech against Islam are absent in both papers.
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This and other images depicting Jews, Americans or the west as being murderous, carrying out the 9/11 attacks and part of some insane conspiracy are a matter of course across the Arab world. Not only are these undoubtedly offensive to those portrayed, but are blood thirsty with violence – something that is comparatively rare in western newspapers. There are plenty more here and here.
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So continuing that theme and following on from the protests and condemnations of governments of some predominantly Muslim countries, we now have armed thugs (Islamic Jihad and the Yasser Arafat brigades) surrounding EU offices in Gaza demanding apologies from the governments of Denmark, Norway, Germany and France, about the comic strips satirising Islam published in newspapers in their respective countries. They are threatening to attack civilians from those countries in Gaza if there are not official apologies.
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Evil fuckers.
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How dare they believe that the actions of privately owned newspapers are the business of the government or that doing violence to people who happen to come from the same place, is somehow a just reaction to being offended? Well, look at September 11 – that is how they believe it.
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So are there double standards here? Not by the West – Christianity is satirised constantly in Western press, music and television. The BBC comedy Father Ted being one example, where priests are depicted as being incompetent, really stupid or drunk and lecherous.
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The hypocrisy lies with the Muslim Arab world in particular which tolerates the depictions seen above - but then again, with total state control over media and education, any lies or slander about the rest of the world has little chance to be challenged.
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EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said that any trade sanctions against Denmark must be considered as sanctions against the whole EU, and that action will be taken at the WTO if WTO member states impose such restrictions. However, many of the states protesting are not WTO members, such as Saudi Arabia and Syria – they don’t have the rule of law to achieve membership, but others such as Indonesia and Malaysia do.
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Charles Bremner, Paris Correspondent for The Times congratulates France Soir for having the balls to print all 12 of the Danish cartoons across two pages.
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The online edition of the Spectator is publishing one of the images, but none of the British newspapers has the courage to do so, although plenty Daily Telegraph readers are encouraging it – you can understand the Telegraph’s editor wondering whether it is worth risking the lives of his staff for it, given London remains a high profile terrorist target. New Zealand newspapers have far less to fear, and I hope one prints them. In fact, I dare the NZ Herald, Dominion Post, the Press and the ODT to print them all.
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The editor of the Danish Jyllands-Posten, Carsten Juste, apologised for the offence caused but is not saying sorry for the publication. “the dark dictatorships have won” he said.
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No they have not.
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The final words are an extract from France Soir, published in the Guardian. Don't let anyone tell you that French people can lack courage when their freedoms are fundamentally under attack.
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“It is necessary to crush once again the infamous thing, as Voltaire liked to say. This religious intolerance that accepts no mockery, no satire, no ridicule. We citizens of secular and democratic societies are summoned to condemn a dozen caricatures judged offensive to Islam. Summoned by who? By the Muslim Brotherhood, by Syria, the Islamic Jihad, the interior ministers of Arab countries, the Islamic Conferences - all paragons of tolerance, humanism and democracy.
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So, we must apologise to them because the freedom of expression they refuse, day after day, to each of their citizens, faithful or militant, is exercised in a society that is not subject to their iron rule. It's the world upside down. No, we will never apologise for being free to speak, to think and to believe.
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Because these self-proclaimed doctors of law have made this a point of principle, we have to be firm. They can claim whatever they like but we have the right to caricature Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Yahve and all forms of theism. It's called freedom of expression in a secular country ...
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For centuries the Catholic church was little better than this fanaticism. But the French Revolution solved that, rendering to God that which came from him and to Caesar what was due to him.”
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Now it is time for the Muslim world which is so outraged personally to stop for a second, and instead of looking at themselves, shut up, listen and learn four points:
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1. We in the West are not all Christians and most of us couldn't care less what religion you follow. It is your business, why not let whether or not we follow Islam (or any religion) be our business. With the exception of a minority of nutters, we don't want to convert you.
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2. We in the West have limited the power of governments to regulate what is published in newspapers, since they are almost always privately owned and anyone can set up their own newspaper or magazine to spread the ideas they wish. Our governments have not got the power to interfere in the publication of a newspaper or the lives of our citizens unless laws have been passed, by democratically elected parliaments, to allow it. Politicians are subservient to the law - something that most of your societies do not yet have, where Kings and Presidents have unlimited powers.
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3. We in the West do not fear Islam. Unlike your societies where Islam is taught from birth, and schools, media and publishing do not contradict it - ours lets people choose their religion or not to have a religion. Yes there are social problems involving crime and poverty, but you are not without those yourself - on average, people in our societies have higher standards of living and more ability to live life and be happy than those in yours. You may find a lot of it offensive, but you have no more right to tell others what to do, that we have to tell you. Ask yourself why you fear your religion being challenged - if you have been convinced of the wisdom and justice of Islam, why do you think that alternative views could change that? Are your arguments strong enough to stand scrutiny? Surely they must be!
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4. We in the West get offended all the time, by different religions, politicians, businesses, individuals, and we do not resort to violence to respond to it. We have learnt that there is no right to not be offended. Many of us are offended by your traditions, and the stories and images portraying Europeans, Americans and Israelis in your media. We wont threaten violence against Muslims in our countries because your newspapers print such images, so why should you? Why are you so ready to use violence instead of engage in discussion?
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I am so sick of religion - it IS the root of so much evil.

1 comment:

PC said...

"The BBC comedy Father Ted being one example, where priests are depicted as being incompetent, really stupid or drunk and lecherous."

I always thought Father Ted was documentary. :-)