Friday, February 10, 2006

Cartoon wars

The Economist has a resounding defence of free speech and the right to offend religious sensibilities:

There are many things western countries could usefully say and do to ease relations with Islam, but shutting up their own newspapers is not one of them. People who feel that they are not free to give voice to their worries about terrorism, globalisation or the encroachment of new cultures or religions will not love their neighbours any better. If anything, the opposite is the case: people need to let off steam. And freedom of expression, remember, is not just a pillar of western democracy, as sacred in its own way as Muhammad is to pious Muslims. It is also a freedom that millions of Muslims have come to enjoy or to aspire to themselves. Ultimately, spreading and strengthening it may be one of the best hopes for avoiding the incomprehension that can lead civilisations into conflict.


Word Mincer said...

Yes, and without context and added detail, who would disagree with this and how could they? But, looking at it in the context of the last few years, and shedding light on the details of the cartoon story, only people intent on stirring up prejudicial hatred and "Iraq 2: This Time in Iran" will keep pushing this issue out of context and without a long term view. If it was as simple as newspapers being shut up then of course we could all take the moral highground freedom of speech warriors seem to be running to on this one. But it isn't, is it? The fact is that newspapers, while they could be a champion of truth and unbiased reporting, stand on the edge of a presipce of responsibility which could, depending on their editorial decision-making, see them teeter over into a place where the blood of thousands could be on their figurative hands... or not. Depending.

The problem here is, do you really want to be branded as anti-islam? Because this is how this is all coming across. If so, and this is all turning into a campaign of religious/racial hatred, I don't want to be any part of it, whoever it is directed at. It is vile.

Ian Brown said...

How quickly debate turns into mindless ad-hominem attack. I won't even reply to that kind of slur.

Word Mincer said...

I am sorry if you feel attacked/slurred by any of my comments Ian. This was not my intention.
I was reacting to the extract you posted, which I do feel homed in on Muslims in a potentially anti-Muslim way, in a direction in which this whole debate seems to be spiralling. I do not agree that my views on this are mindless, however. My undergrad degree in ancient history & social anthropology & a few months spent reporting provides a sensitivity towards written text in general and in particular rhetoric which I perceive to be of a culturally biased nature - which that extract seems to represent.