Muslims worldwide have taken great offense to some cartoons that were run in a Danish newspaper and then reprinted recently in a Norwegian rag. The cartoons apparently depicted Muhammad in various opprobrious positions, one that had him carrying a bomb in his turban. The big kicker in this whole battle is that, for Muslims, it is forbidden to depict their great and wise Prophet in any manner – and apparently, by Allah, none of the rest of us should be allowed to, either. After increasing pressure by Middle Eastern boycotts of Danish products, the Danish newspaper in question apologized for publishing the cartoons. It seems that the Prime Minister of Denmark, while not apologizing for the newspaper itself, made a statement that he personally “never would have depicted Muhammad, Jesus or any other religious character in a way that could offend other people.” This apology has been met well by the Muslim leaders that started the campaign against the cartoons, so perhaps this ongoing row is finally drawing to a close.
I’ve been following this story for awhile now, to great amusement. While I agree that Muslims have a right to be offended by such cartoons, I don’t believe they have the right to dictate to a non-Muslim (or, frankly, another Muslim who has decided to do so) how they can and cannot portray icons of Islam – and I have the same opinion in regards to any other religion. It is called freedom of speech, a freedom that Muslims and Christians don’t seem to be too fond of - to great ends, sometimes. I don’t think the newspaper should have had to make an apology. I don’t think the person who drew the cartoons should have received death threats (Christians and Muslims – they don’t get what they want, they resort to violence. Nice.). And I think all the boycotting and crying by Muslims is a little more than I am willing to bear in my overall tolerance of religions. Get the fuck over it. We’ve all been dissed a thousand times over. Deal with it. Besides, I think the Muslims have a few more important issues they need to be concerning themselves with at the moment.
My husband doesn’t agree with me on this, of course. He doesn’t think anyone has the right to make a cartoon of Jesus or Muhammad or Allah or God or whoever – not if it hurts and offends people. But that is the danger, I think. How quickly will we all lose our freedom of speech if we have to refrain from doing things that might hurt or offend people? People are hurt and offended by things written, drawn, or depicted every day – some of these people may have reason to be offended, but others overreact. We can all start saying this or that offends us, just to get it stricken. How is that a good thing?
Perhaps it is my lack of faith that dictates my icy stance on this matter, but I just don’t feel it. I was raised a Christian, so there is still some small reverence for the images of Christ or God, but I have never been offended by an off-color cartoon or joke depicting Jesus or whoever. I would think anyone who has a strong enough faith, no matter their religion, would be able to withstand such ribaldry in the face of their beliefs. Besides, if a non-Muslim drew a depiction of Muhammad, calling it Muhammad, does that still make it Muhammad? What if I said this dash – was a depiction of Muhammad? Does that make it Muhammad? What if it was a stick figure? A cloud? Does the mere calling it Muhammad make it Muhammad?
In the end, I’m calling it much ado about nothing. But hey, the Muslims got their apology. Good for them. Now shut up about it.
EDIT: The Danish newspaper is still standing behind their right to publish the cartoons, and stating they are NOT apologizing for the cartoons. Vol Abroad has more. The Danish editor continues by saying:
“There is a lot at stake. It would be very naive to think this is only about Jyllands-Posten and 12 cartoons and apologising or not apologising.
“This is about standing for fundamental values that have been the (foundation) for the development of Western democracies over several hundred years, and we are now in a situation where those values are being challenged,” he said.
“I think some of the Muslims who have reacted very strongly to these cartoons are being driven by totalitarian and authoritarian impulses, and the nature of these impulses is that if you give in once they will just put forward new requirements.”
Well there you go. I think this is an important issue, one that shouldn't be brushed aside so lightly.