Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Thinking about the cartoons

I've been thinking quite hard about the Danish cartoons. This Danish blogger confirms what I have heard, that the cartoons were published in the most right wing of the Danish mainstream newspapers. I'm reminded of the offensive depictions of Irish people as thugs with bombs - for instance in the Cummings cartoons in the Daily Express in the 1970s. Clearly this was an attempt by a group who hate Moslems, to provoke Moslem protest.

I think we do need to see the cartoons to help form an opinion. When you see them, you can tell they are offensive, in the way that anti-Semitic cartoons are. I think this makes it different from a cartoon about the links between religion (or particular religions) and violence, or a cartoon which depicted Mohammed with normal physical conventions (ie without grotesque racial offense). When I first heard about it, I thought it was the latter. Only seeing the cartoons made me realise there was a second agenda.

Although the Moslem protest is explicitly about religious issues ('thou shalt not depict the prophet' or something like that) I think the emotion behind it is probably in reaction to the contempt of the racism, and of course the long standing contempt that has been directed at Arab people.

The incident is a gift to the UK Labour government, which is passing a bill putting religious hate speech on a par with racial hate speech. Once again Blair - in everything but the Iraq war - is the luckiest politician. The Danish right wing are providing a nice point and click lesson in how anti-Moslem speech can be explicitly racist and offensive.

I do think we need to see the cartoons, to avoid thinking the Moslem protesters are going mad about nothing. But the same facility to see them rubs them into the face of the Moslem world. We must be able to criticise religion, or things will get much worse. But on the other hand it's easy for me as a white person to say 'Oh, I wish they hadn't done it, but it's the price we have to pay for freedom'. Because I'm not paying the price.

Protesters and boycotters are not undermining freedom of speech, they are exercising it, and that's about the only thing I am confident of. People who say Moslems should keep silent because of free speech are showing their own prejudices IMHO.

I don't know if that adds up to a coherent position. If it was a British newspaper I'd probably want to reach a tighter conclusion.
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