“Freedom of Speech” and Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed
(Originally written on September 20, 2007). Around July 2007, Swedish artist Lars Vilks, created some drawings that claimed to be the face of the Prophet Mohammed on the body of a dog; his idea was to provoke people by proposing a model to be placed on a roundabout in Sweden.
He got his wish.
Muslims around the world obliged Vilks by denouncing his art and condemning Sweden as well. Fanatical Muslims obliged by demonstrations and calls to kill him, one exceptionally fanatical and brutal organization calling itself “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”, offered $100,000 for his killing and an additional $50,000 if he were “slaughtered like lamb” in the process. The unrepentant Vilks, is now in hiding and under Police protection.
In the meantime, Western media have taken on the banner of “Freedom of Expression” and are jumping to Vilks’ defense. Reporters Without Borders are defending the same “Freedom”; the Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, while offering his apologies to “anyone who was offended” also rose to Vilks’ defense as a matter of “Freedom of Expression”.
Muslim-hating blogs are having a heyday condemning the violent Muslims and their violent faith while supporting Vilks and reproducing his drawings.
It really makes no sense for Muslims to get so worked up about something as stupid and bigoted as Vilks’ drawings. Just because someone produces a picture of a bearded, turbaned man and decides to call it a picture of the Prophet Mohammed, is not reason enough for Muslims to get so excited. Muslims could easily have defanged this beast by saying “Well, this does look like someone wearing a turban, he could be from any faith at all, but there is no way this is the face of the prophet Mohammed. Keep your picture, we hope you enjoy your little jokes at our expense but we refuse to take your bait”.
Vilks would have been devastated, people would have laughed at him and that would have been the end of the story.
Such a reaction from mainstream Muslims would also have not worked in favor of the Muslim fanatics who are just itching to destroy all the hard work most Muslims are doing, to help people understand that Islam is a faith that is as peaceful or as violent as Judaism and Christianity and all other faiths.
Western media and leaders are not completely free from fault either.
Swedish paper Nerikes Allehanda, published the pictures after many others refused to publicize Vilks’ work. Lars Ströman, the editor of the newspaper then wrote an editorial in late August 2007, defending Vilks’ and everybody else’s right to publish the drawings because “Freedom of Expression” is such a revered principle in the West. Ströman decried the self-censorship exercised by so many in Swedish media and went on to suggest that restrictions on works like the roundabout dog, may then cause restrictions on expressions by Muslims.
I find it fascinating how the media and the political leaders in the West jump to the defense of people who cause injuries to Islam and the sensitivities of Muslims, by proclaiming the sanctity of “Freedom of Expression” and “Democracy” without ever considering the ridiculous position they place themselves in.
The reality is that there is no “Freedom of Expression” in Europe in fact, the Thought-Police is so strict in most (33 of 44) countries of Europe that people have been jailed just for questioning the 1945 Holocaust that was primarily against Jews. Most European countries punish people for freely expressing themselves in unauthorized manners.
Demonstrating with a Swastika…jail
Questioning the reality of the Holocaust…jail
Denying the reality of the Holocaust…jail
Insulting someone’s religion…jail
The same countries that so quietly gave up their Jews to the Nazis for extermination, now pretend to be so energetic about protecting Jews…and pretense is all that it is. As long as Jewish groups wield influence in some countries, they will remain safe, but the minute some anti-Semitic group takes control of a country, the Jews had better watch out.
By the same token, Muslims are being readily bashed in the Enlightened West because Muslims have not yet unified enough to take a stand and tell their local law-makers that such hate-mongering against Islam and Muslims must not be supported. Indeed, these free hits against Islam and Muslims will come to a quick stop as soon as Muslims can also wield enough political influence in their various countries, to insist upon it.
Ströman also decried “self-censorship”…what nonsense! Is there any artist or news medium that does not exercise “self-censorship” on a daily basis?
They don’t publish pictures of dead people or rape victims or mutilated children; graphic pictures of the Abu Ghraib tortures were also missing from every newspaper.
I doubt if the notorious Mr. Vilks would create “art works” showing Jews eating children, or even a sex scene involving the Swedish Queen, for use as “roundabout dogs”.
Mr. Ströman himself would probably not start shouting obscenities in his church.
Not being a reader of his paper, I am still fairly certain that Mr. Ströman does not promote child-pornography on the front pages of his newspaper.
This is not “self-censorship”; it is simply exercising good judgment andsome compassion for the sensitivities of the other as a human being.
While publishing offensive pictures may satisfy somebody’s base senses and may display the flag for “Freedom of Expression”, civilized people all over the world would agree that such pointless exercises are not worth the pain and disenfranchisement that is caused to those who feel attacked by such portrayals.
As for repercussions that may also restrict expression by Muslims, Mr. Ströman can rest easy; most Muslims would be delighted to have the same access to expression and freedom as everybody else currently enjoys.
Lars Vilks may be needing public attention badly enough to venture into the realms of poor taste and blasphemy, but there is nothing forcing Nerikes Allehanda or others in the media, to publish and thus promote the same.
No comments yet.