“So it is made out, George Bush-style, that you are either for freedom of expression or against it!” Yep.
“Zapiro: Drawing the Line: Zubair Bayat,” from Dispatch Online, May 29:
[…] Two things are wrong with Zapiro’s cartoon. Firstly, any attempt to depict him in illustration is an attempt to depict the sacrosanct, which is not allowed. Secondly, the nature of cartoons is to satirise and trivialise. This is clearly not acceptable in the case of a personality who is held in the highest esteem by over a billion people globally.
In this particular cartoon, the insinuation is that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is in need of psychiatric help, an idea which prejudiced and hostile Orientalists have always attempted to project in their works. This dimension of the cartoon adds insult to injury and serves to rub the proverbial salt deeper into the wound.
When Muslims object, the stock response is that they do not appreciate freedom of expression. The media and others view this as an infringement of the right of freedom of speech. So it is made out, George Bush-style, that you are either for freedom of expression or against it! However, one aspect often overlooked is that no right is absolute; there are inherent limitations. Every right is counterbalanced against other rights. Every right comes with responsibility. And responsibility was certainly not displayed by the publishers of this cartoon.
But who decides what is “responsible” free speech and what isn’t? That person is the one who holds all the power that matters. To set up such an arbiter is to embark upon the road to tyranny.
Irrespective of the motive for publishing the cartoon – whether it was a cheap publicity stunt, a gimmick to boost waning sales, deliberate provocation, or sheer ignorance – it was grossly offensive and highly insensitive. The worldwide anger and protests following the publication of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet (pbuh) made it amply clear that Muslims would not accept his depiction as a caricature or a cartoon figure.
Note the veiled threat: he is saying that Motoons should not be published because Muslims will react with the violent irrationality that greeted the publication of the first Motoons (after the OIC stirred the pot, that is).
The media have a duty to act responsibly in respect of sensitive issues and not to push the right to freedom of expression to ridiculous levels, where the lines of distinction between the profound and the profane are virtually obliterated. Sensible leaders around the world, including the Pope, issued strong statements condemning the inflammatory Danish cartoons when they appeared.
A spokesman for the US state department, Kurtis Cooper, was equally strong in his condemnation: “These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognise and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”
It is important to remember that when Kurtis Cooper talks about “inciting religious or ethnic hatreds,” he is talking about cartoons. In a world with an ounce of sanity left, he would be explaining how the freedom of speech is an essential safeguard against authoritarian government, and calling upon the Islamic world to show some maturity and restraint, and not kill innocents or issue violent threats, or, for that matter, attempt to impose its laws and mores upon the free West, over some drawings.
Muslims, for their part, accept the principle of wholesome and constructive freedom of expression, but not the freedom to wantonly insult, which is sometimes deviously and deceptively masqueraded as freedom of expression. True freedom of expression is freedom from insult, not freedom to insult. Freedom to insult has ultimately resulted in hatred, bigotry and even destruction. Studies indicate that reckless use (or rather abuse) of freedom of expression contributed to a great extent to the genocide in Rwanda, as an example, leaving over a million dead.
Who decides what is insulting and what isn’t? I’m insulted by Islamic supremacist attempts to restrict free speech. Why is my feeling of insult worth less than a Muslim’s?
Muslim outrage is often simplistically misconstrued as a lack of humour and over- sensitivity….