Sunday, February 05, 2006

Free speech in islamic cultures

In Jordan, two editors of 'Shihan' have been arrested for debating the caricatures

In their article, the two editor, Jihad Momani and Hisham Khalidi had chosen to bring 3 of the 12 caricatures originally posted in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten and argued that the response from the Muslim communities should 'be reasonable'.

The arrest occurred after the King Abdullah of Jordan had condemned the publishing as 'abuse of freedom of speech'.

While I am no expert on the intrinsic details of the Jordanic judicial system, this certainly appears as a very different approach to free speech than the one found in most western democracies.
Perhaps, it could be said that this sheds light on one of the fundamental differences of the perception of the role of free speech in Islamic countries compared to what is traditionally referred to as 'the western world'.

The majority of diplomatic responses to this conflict, as well as most of the interviews with imams brought in European television has included requests to the Danish government to let the publishing of caricatures have consequences - ranging from apologies to legal consequences.

This has not happened and hopefully never will. The reason for this is that the government does not regulate free speech. In Denmark the freedom to express your opinion non-violently is a constitutional right. Therefore, there is a conflict in the perception of what the Danish government is able to do about the matter, since responding with any kind of consequences for the people involved in the act of publishing would in fact be in direct conflict with the foundation that provides and justifies the position of that same government.

While it is difficult for me to say whether this example from Jordan can be used to generalize about the perception of freedom of speech, it never the less serves as an example of the differences of the roles and responsibilities of media between Denmark and Jordan.

As for Mr. Jihad Momani and Hisham Khalidi, I can only hope that the consequences inflicted upon them are negotiable and of limited severity.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case any visitors want to contribute to the debate over free speech first-hand:

6:13 pm  

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