If I insult your God, and you get pissed at me and shoot me dead, and my family gets mad at you and kills you, and your family gets mad at my family and bombs their house, etc etc etc, who started the war?
What if I go around with a chip in my shoulder all the time, and everything about you is insulting to me? What if I beleive your very existence to be contrary to God's plan? Can we make a law against you living the way you choose because I find it insulting? Can I just kill you and be done with it and go to heaven because I was doing God's will? That seems to be the way it works.
They are talking about passing a law in Europe that bans religious insults in the press. Who is going to decide what an insult is, and how? When we begin legislating that insults are not permitted, what are the French going to do about all the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing clueless American tourists in Paris?
A friend of mine wrote that she thinks the cartoons should not have been published because it is a "sensitive time" and because she thinks it was motivated by xenophobia and religious hatred of Islam. While this is a difficult point to prove, seems obvious that in a civil society, even though we have a "right" of free speech, we choose not to offend others needlessly. It can be argued that there should be legal and official limits to free speech. For example: A person shouts FIRE! in a crowded theater, causing a stampede for the door and people to be trampled to death. Is this free speech? If it is, we should definitely put a stop to such behavior.
All of us who fly have heard the warnings not to joke about bombs or terrorism while in the airport. Jokes and pranks can fall into the same category as cartoons. In order to be funny, a cartoon has to push a button somewhere, it has to be out on the edge. For me, the cartoon about Muhammed saying "Stop the suicide bombing, we're out of virgins" is HILARIOUS. Of course, for the cartoon to make any sense at all you have to know that the suicide bombers are promised virgins in the afterlife. A dozen of them, I think. It is said that the suicide bombers are intentionally worked into a delirium of sexual excitement, perhaps to distract them from their fears of death. This is a sick and painful thing. And it lends itself to the humor of the cartoon. The point of a cartoon is to be funny, right? I believe this cartoonist succeeded, while also educating us about one of the finer points of suicide bombing situation.
So when is free speech reasonable and right, and when is it a hazard? Am I allowed free speech only when my comments don't hurt anyone's feelings? What if the cartoonist was motivated by a deep respect for the fundamental tenets of Islam? What if the cartoonist was making a point that Islamic fundamentalists have diverged from the teachings of their own religion? This is equally plausible, if not more so, in my view.
In the first chapter of The Passionate Mind, Joseph Kramer argues that belief is violence. He defines belief as something you can't prove, something you take on faith that becomes part of the structure by which you understand the world. Kramer makes the point that when you believe something and someone else challenges it, your hackles go up and you feel compelled to defend your belief. But when you KNOW something, from experience and beyond a doubt, then when someone attacks it you have no emotional reaction or need to defend. Kramer gives the example of knowing the world is round. When someone tells him the world is flat, he wonders if they are putting him on, or crazy, or what. He doesn't have to prove it, because his knowledge is unshakeable.
Belief is shakeable, that's why we defend it to the death.
This is a sensitive time. If we keep spreading eggshells and tiptoeing ever more carefully in order to avoid insulting anyone, the tension will only increase. Those who tiptoe will become resentful. Those who demand the tiptoeing will need to defend the ground they have won, and win more. The war of belief has begun. Our government has defined the "axis of evil" and the "axis" is united in believing us to be evil. We are known as "the Great Satan". There is no negotiating with evil. A passive-agressive war of control escalates into an even more hateful explosion of violence. The more we attempt to avoid the conflict, the greater it will become.
Do YOU think we can stop World War III by banning religious insults in the media?
I still say to the cartoonists: Keep Cartooning! Speak your truth. Be funny. You are not responsible for anyone's reaction to your cartoons. They are fully responsible for their re-actions. And your truth is precious, even if someone finds it insulting.
PS: I am not a christian and I resent being represented by a reprehensibly hypocritical fundamentalist christian government. Lack of capital letters intentional: I disrespect this religion in my own country. The only real Christian I know of is Jimmy Carter. Bless him. He alone has the guts to speak out against the misuse of his religion by our government. May the good Muslims of the earth find their voice also.
An interesting article on an art show that disses the Catholics:
On Danish Muslims and their response:
About the guy who says the paper must promise this will never happen again or this will never end: that is a THREAT.
Another perspective on free speech:
Moderate Muslims condemn "hate speech" (what is condemnation?)