February 07, 2006


Everybody is doing the Cartoon post now a days so I decided to chip in with my 2 cents. For a sensible analysis of the Danish Cartoon controversy please read this post in 'Pickled Politics' and the South Asian bloggers reactions in the Global Voices Online.

The main debate has now turned to the issue of defining "freedom of expression". Wikipedia defines: Free speech is not a simple and absolute concept but a liberty that is justified by even deeper values. And wherefrom these values originate? From respecting other human beings and their cultures, other religions. Yes R.E.S.P.E.C.T is an attitude of acknowledging the feelings and interests of another party in a relationship, and of treating as consequential for the self the helping or harming of the other. When the freedom of expression means stereotyping others and ignores others feelings then it hurts others.

We need to know the boundaries and the context of expressing our thoughts. Like I can caricature the numerous Hindu Gods to my Hindu friend and he can bully my Muslim practices because we have a good understanding and I know that it is within us and we are taking it sportingly. But I really should not caricature any emblem or anything personal of other religion if it is in a wider propaganda like a newspaper or in a blog. That would be total disrespect of others personal feelings.

We need to think why the disrespect to Muslims and the disrespect towards the West by some Middle Eastern countries are spreading. Bill Clinton, in a speech recently stated that Muslims are now the new Jews, and deplored the replacing of anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice. Fueled by irrational reactions by the Muslims the world is just going insane. We don't require clash of civilizations rather the understanding of other cultures, religion by establishing friendship and dialogue is the way forward. What is the pre-requisite? RESPECT.

The Danish Government says that the Muslims must understand that the government does not publish newspapers. Some of the European Governments are willing to uphold 'freedom of expression' at the cost of injuring Muslim feelings. That is disrespect. While some of the more civilized & democratic governments like India have laws in place to prevent any such defamation.

And where the law does not provide justice, people have the rights to boycott the products of certain countries. And you know what! It worked. The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten has apologized for causing offence to Muslims. They had to respect the feelings of the Muslims because economically they were losing. But like many other incidents Muslims are responsible for the desecration of Islam's tolerant image. Not the Cartoons here. So why use violence when you have other effective means of showing your feelings?

I don't think that this issue should go further as almost 70% of the Muslims do not know about the cartoons and only a small portion have seen it. But I fear that certain quarters may want to politicize this issue to invoke Muslim sentiments around the world which may trigger more resentment against the Muslims. Is this part of a plot? I don't know but reading what other Muslims around the world are thinking I wonder whether some of the islamophobes do not see the fine prints:

Iraq, UK, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Canada, Pakistan, India, Denmark and many other Muslim blogs.

While some think that the Muslims should not dictate others in abstaining to taboos in Islam as it hampers one's freedom of expression, the lack of respect for other religions and completely ignoring them is not civilized either.

I had a great learning when my wife reminded me that I should not order beef while dining with my Hindu colleague even if he says its OK. She told me that there are other choices available so I should respect his culture.

That is what civilization teaches us, to respect others, not to be engrossed in ourselves only.

For the "Freedom of Speech" supporters:
"It was hard for many in the West to understand why Muslims should be so sensitive to the Holy Prophet being caricatured but he said, it was even harder for Muslims to understand how Westerners can be so insensitive. - Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo"
And for the Muslims who are burning flags and embassies:
"What brings more prejudice against Islam? These caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?" - Jihad Momani, editor of a Jordanian newspaper


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