Thursday, March 02, 2006

Danish cartoons controversy

Hello everyone... The culture editor of the Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten writes why he published those cartoons. {For the uninitiated, here is the background to the whole controversy}

Childish. Irresponsible. Hate speech. A provocation just for the sake of provocation. A PR stunt. Critics of 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad I decided to publish in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten have not minced their words. They say that freedom of expression does not imply an endorsement of insulting people's religious feelings, and besides, they add, the media censor themselves every day. So, please do not teach us a lesson about limitless freedom of speech.

I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn't mean you publish everything. Jyllands-Posten would not publish pornographic images or graphic details of dead bodies; swear words rarely make it into our pages. So we are not fundamentalists in our support for freedom of expression.

Read more.....

In his column, he justifies his right to publish the cartoons. He says, "Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy."

{with reference to the comments} Atlas asked me that there is nothing wrong with the justification. Well, the argument doesn't hold true all the time. The cartoonists drew a caricature of Prophet Mohammad which according to Islam is blasphemous. Any form of depiction of Prophet Mohammad is prohibited since it would promote idol worship and Islam doesn't approve idol worship. Atlas, how will majority of hindu community feel if pics of Lord Ganesha or Lord Krishna is used as toilet covers {its a real instance?} Well, it may not really make much of a difference to the non-hindu population. but well, of course majority of the Hindu population will be offended and will protest coz their religious sentiments would be hurt. See, there are always jokes made about religions. However, it's an invisible line which if you cross, then expect angry reactions. See, everyone needn't have the same kind of tolerance level. However if a large number of people's sentiments been hurt, then you have done something wrong. Well as I said earlier, the whole world needn't see each other through the Westerner's glasses....


The first thing that stuck me when I was reading his justification was the fundamental difference in the way the West and the East viewed relegion. I think the West fails to realise the enormity of the situation. They are quite baffled by the entire controversy and regard the whole fallback of the cartoon incident as "they-have-no-work-so-they-will-protest" kind of of an attitude.

But it is high time that they see the world with a different outlook. It's high time they see the world from an ordinary Easterner's point of view. For the simple reason, RELEGION HERE FORMS THE BASIS OF A PERSON'S IDENTITY. No one takes it kindly if there is a threat to a person's identity. When you attack the crux of the beliefs a person has had all his/her life, how do you expect them to understand your point of view of freedom of speech? Things don't work this way Boss. It doesn't. (I had posted something a similar incident few days ago.

I totally understand the freedom of expression argument. However your freedom of expression doesn't give you the right to hurt someone. If there have been protests all over the world, there has been something fundamentally wrong that you have conveyed through the cartoons to have elicited such a violent reaction. Of course, I am not justifying the violent reactions. Everyone has a right to prtest. However if you want your case to be legitimately heard, then you should make sure that your protest is non-violent.

However, when I read incidents like these {link via kiruba} I somehow get a feeling that the West hasn't made an attempt to understand the psyche of the majority of the people for whom Relegion is more than just faith. Mind you, I am not justifying the violent act. I am just delving deep into the reasons that might have prompted them to do something so henious. The westerners might just dismiss it off as a cyclic barbaric reaction of islamic community. but I think, they should atleast now try to understand the way RELEGION is percieved in this part of the land.

The bottomline is when you say that you respect other relegions, you can divorce it by saying that I don't have to follow other relegions' tabboos. You don't have to follow, perfectly fine. But you also don't have to act, comment on it in such a way that it becomes a like an insult to their beliefs, something they really hold very dear.

8 comments:

reiya said...

live and let live, thats wot i say. why does everyone meddle into others affairs? when there are things like environmental issues, violence, hunger, etc., ppl prefer to pay attention to silly things that have absolutely no impact on the improvement of our world. do things, help people, try to broaden people's outlook. just flinging insults at each other doesn't work out. words are nothing unless followed by action. words have to have a positive impact on people to actually change things for the better. its time we opened our eyes to our real problems and forgot religious or secular differences or wotever and came together to help our world.

ATLAS said...

" But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy."---I think the editor has a point here..also remember the cartoons were'nt a mockery of any religion but an expression in itself of what the cartoonists thought about other religions.I,for one,have seen numerous comical references on our affection to our beloved elephant headed god which the west finds amusing.I think the protests are fundamentally a fallout of the happenings in Islamic Countries in the past 2 years.
...BTW..its RELIGION and not Relegion!(no wonder newspapers have so many typos!;))....
Nice thought provoking post...keep it up.

manan said...

Very well written, I agree completely with what you say.

The guy admits he won't publish pornography. And why so? Because that would hurt someone's sensibilities. Anyone can equally claim his very argument for publishing pornography in public - that to require that he temper his freedom of speech (to publish graphic images) is asking for submission.

He should realize that people's sensibilities are different across the world.

The only thing I have to add is that he doesn't realize the worst consequences of his mistake - first, its given an excuse to some fundamentalist sections to use this to further incite hatred and mistrust of the West.

Second, it is exactly this sort of misuse of freedom of expression that causes the limitation of freedom of expression at a later date. Simple question, sir, are the cartoons published in your newspaper censored more or less carefully after you committed this stupid act?

Pravin said...

moti hati ran hallya ran dukkar

Vidya said...

My first instinct is to not agree with you. However, i will sleep on it before I comment.

Interesting read though - because this is not a point of view I often hear.

Vidya said...

Thought this was interesting and relevant...
http://egyptiansandmonkey.blogspot.com/2006/02/boycott-egypt.html

Shobha said...

Reiya: I know reiya....There are so many other pressing issues....che...waste of time...

Atlas: i answered to your query in the post itself, check it out...

Manan: Thanks ya...
The guy admits he won't publish pornography. And why so? Because that would hurt someone's sensibilities. Anyone can equally claim his very argument for publishing pornography in public - that to require that he temper his freedom of speech (to publish graphic images) is asking for submission.

You said it...

Pravin: Same to you :p

Vidya: What is your say? Would like to know...will check the link soon.

Vidya said...

Hey Shobsiie: I did sleep on it and I get what you are trying to say but I think we both might be marginally on either side of that invisible line.

I don't see the big deal with the cartoons. I don't inderstand it and that is because of the way in which I have been brought up. Like you said, if someone was to make toilet paper with hindu Gods on it, I wouldn't buy it but I wouldn't protest against it either. It is the same as when people by religious symbolism to decorate their houses. I won't endorse it but at the same time i won't do it myself.

There is freedom of speech and expression. When Salman Rushdie published "The Satanic Verses", a lot of Islamic fundamentalists were upset by that too.

Yes Religion is more than a way of life in many parts of the world however when religion starts condemning something as being hurtful (Sania Mirza wearing a skirt for example) to all followers of the religion, I wonder if it truly is.

You are right, the west should probably refrain from publishing things that are going to be hurtful to a large number of individuals. I think the problem lies in the fact that you cannot ask people who do not take religion seriously to start doing so, and similarly you can not ask those that do not take religion seriously to start believing...