Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On freedom, religion and violence

Over the last week, the responses to the conflict have escalated - both in scale and in severity of responses.

The discussion has become increasingly complex and polarized.
I think that there are currently a lot of discussions that need to be addressed in relation to this conflict.

First of all, while it is important to respect that there are differing opinions on the severity and range of justifiable consequences in response to the publication of the cartoons, it is vitally important for a continuing constructive dialogue that these responses are kept within the limits of diplomatic, economic, verbal or written responses.

The attacks on embassies are completely unacceptable. Indeed, a the cartoons have been perceived as a provocation, but in any conflict, one part chooses to shift from verbal to physical means and in my book that is indeed the one to blame for the violence.

As for the western world, however, it is also important to recognize that part of the debate in what might be called the "Islamic world" is spurred by other issues than the drawings alone.

There are regional and national political conflicts and interests involved that are not immediately transparent without detailed knowledge of the inner workings and current political issues in these countries.

Also we must recognize that both sides of the debate are exposed to biased media coverage. While I do not believe that a more detailed or unbiased coverage might provide any justification what so ever for the acts of violence, I doubt that every single participant in these actions have responded to the cartoons actually published in Jyllandsposten alone.

In response to Mr. Hesham Mohammad's comments:
I understand that we both have very clear stands in this debate. In my personal discussions with Muslims, I have also noted a tendency to bring questions like the ones you put forward into the debate, such as: What do you know about Islam as a religion? about the prophet? etc.

I am no expert on the Qur'an, but am aware of some of the differences in broad terms between the Qur’an and the Bible. One of the notable differences seems to be that there are two main interpretations (in lack of a more fitting term) of the Qur’an, namely the Shi'a and the Sunni writings. Also, I believe that these two interpretations
actually have some differences on precisely the issue of depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.

While I agree that informed opinions are better than uninformed ones, I do not, however agree that the question of what I know about Islam as a religion is the central issue here. I am not saying that it is unimportant, as insufficient knowledge about the Qur’an might have been one of the explanations the cartoons got published in the first place.
Rather I would argue that the conflict is now only indirectly linked to the cartoons. The outcome of bringing physical attacks into the conflict has changed the focus away from whatever excuse is brought forward to justify these acts of violence and in stead, the discussion has now become a matter of protecting the fundamental principles in western democracies.

To put it in the words of John Stuart Mill (from On Liberty):
Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being ‘pushed to an extreme’; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.

While I understand that the publication of cartoons has been hurtful to many Muslims, it is imperative that the freedom to express your opinion does not become inhibited by the fear of consequences.

I am afraid that the diplomatic relations of some of the countries actively involved in this conflict have lasted severe damage, and I do not believe that Denmark is the country that has been hurt the most.


Blogger Ceridwen Devi said...

Lives have been lost in the Cartoon Wars as in every war. That is after all what war is all about. This whole episode has been a huge own goal for Legoland. I thought you guys just stuck to bacon and porn. Still now we are all in the trenches let's mobilise that greatest of weapons humour. This episode has more Monty Python than John Stuart Mill about it. These cartoons are hardly Voltaire. Why won't Jyllands-Posten publish some Holocaust cartoons. Maybe there are some limits to free speech. Hoist by your own petard, me hearties!

3:26 pm  
Blogger Enraged viking said...

Indeed, I think they (Jyllandsposten)wouldn´t hesitate (in bringing holocaust cartoons)(which are not disallowed in DK), if they thought it would gain readers,and be popular in it´s own country, foremost.
This is the great diference to our world and the middle east; we have freedom!
I would die gladly in any war concerning the rights of the individual over some religious tyranny, despite the fact, that I have many muslim friends, who are dear to me.
Don´t ever come to the west, claiming a right NOT to be offended by our free press, that will never happen.
Fine, you have a religion, keep it to yourselves and do not bother us with it. The fact that you apparently want to be ruled by power-driven Imams, and submission is your way of life, fine, just DON´T impose it on the rest of, please!!!

11:07 pm  

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