SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Right to Speak, Write, ...and Draw Are Under Attack in an International Effort to End Freedom of Expression in the West

How many millions of times have Muslims infringed on the rights of Christians and other non-Muslims over the centuries? How many times contemporary non-Muslims are having their rights trampled at the present moment? In this light, is it the present effort to squash criticism of Islam and free expression hypocritical or disingenuous? The answer is neither. As fervently as we in the West believe in freedom of expression, Muslims believe that right to be evil. As fervently as we believe that parody and satire are appropriate criticism in politics and religion, Muslims will kill to squash any criticism of Islam or the Prophet Mohammed.

In Thou Shalt Not Draw, Robert Spencer explains the controversy created last September when Danish author Kare Bluitgen was set to publish a book on the Muslim prophet Mohammad. He approached three illustrators who rejected his offer out of fear for their lives. This fear was an obvious stifling of free speech to which The president of the Danish Writers Union objected, prompting the Jyllands-Posten,Denmark's largest newspaper, to approach cartoonists for depictions of the concept. Of the forty cartoonists approached, twelve replied---a shot heard 'round the world.

The first to comment was Danish Imam Raed Hlayel:

Danish Imam Raed Hlayhel was the first to react. “This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims,” he fumed. “Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world. We demand an apology!” Jyllands-Posten refused. Editor-in-chief Carsten Juste refused: “We live in a democracy. That’s why we can use all the journalistic methods we want to. Satire is accepted in this country, and you can make caricatures. Religion shouldn’t set any barriers on that sort of expression. This doesn’t mean that we wish to insult any Muslims.” Cultural editor Flemming Rose concurred: “Religious feelings,” he observed, “cannot demand special treatment in a secular society. In a democracy one must from time to time accept criticism or becoming a laughingstock.”


Worthless? Humiliation? Insult? Apology? It appears that Islam and the West don't and can't mix. Although the Editor in Chief, Carsten Juste explained Danish culture and the use of Satire regardless of political or religious affiliation, the imam and other Muslims around the world were not satisfied and have created a full-blown international crisis from one end of the Muslim world to the other and even to the UN High Commission for Human Rights.

The UN was happy to take the case. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, wrote to the OIC: “I understand your attitude to the images that appeared in the newspaper. I find alarming any behaviors that disregard the beliefs of others. This kind of thing is unacceptable.” She announced that investigations for racism and “Islamophobia” would commence forthwith.
 
While solicitous of Muslim belief, Arbour did not seem concerned about the beliefs of the Danes. Yet Jyllands-Posten had well articulated its position as founded upon core principles of the Western world: “We must quietly point out here that the drawings illustrated an article on the self-censorship which rules large parts of the Western world.  Our right to say, write, photograph and draw what we want to within the framework of the law exists and must endure — unconditionally!” Juste added: “If we apologize, we go against the freedom of speech that generations before us have struggled to win.”


Spencer ends his essay with the generic assertion that "freedom is being imperiled" as an international crisis grows over the "cause celebre." One might add that although neither hypocritical nor disingenuous as Muslims, the pressure to stifle and squash free speech and other traditional freedoms and liberties is no less real and thousands and thousands of examples can be cited throughout history and are documented in contemporary news stories throughout the world. The West must take a stand now while we still can.

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