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Painting pictures Feb 03

There’s an excellent leader in today’s theguardian about them thar cartoons. While I value freedom of speech and right to cause offence, I agree with the article that this doesn’t include an obligation to cause offence – so there’s no chance of me putting the images online here in solidarity.

People who are offended by these cartoons are well within their rights to protest: that’s as much of a freedom as to print them in the first place. Boycotting Danish products – while a bit extreme – is a perfectly valid way of getting a point across. Storming embassies and kidnapping civilians isn’t.

My understanding (although I’m not a theologian so I stand to be corrected) is that the original reason for banning images of the Prophet was to prevent idolatry. I can’t help wondering if certain people’s responses are just that.

4 Responses

  1. I was getting round to making a similar point. If no-one knows what Mohammed looks like then, logically, the sin of connecting a specific image to Mohammed is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, speaking as a theologian :), I would contend that the protesters are guilty of idolatry as much as the protesters.

    A more observant response would be to say “I do not recognise that image as Mohammed”.

  2. I agree with previous comments. A twelve year old could think of dismissive ways of dealing with these cartoons, which are, in the main, badly drawn and not very funny. Which beggars the question, why the fuss?

  3. 3

    I have to admit that I found the Guardian’s leader quite irritating.

    First off, there are a couple of questions that they are avoiding – specifically, why did the Jyllands Posten publish the cartoons in the first place and why, given that they were published in September, did it take until the middle of January for the outrage to get going.

    The answers are both important and relevant.

    The cartoons were published after the paper heard from a Danish author who couldn’t find anyone willing to illustrate his book about Muhammed. One cartoonist turned the author down citing the murder of Theo Van Gogh and another cited an attack on a non-Muslim university professor who had read out sections of the Koran to his students.

    The Newspaper decided to treat this as an issue of self-censorship and called for images of Muhammed. Twelve cartoonists responded, four of the cartoons are critical of Islam, three criticised Jyllands Posted, one addressed the issue of cartoonists being afraid to draw Muhammed and the rest made no point at all.

    As to why there was such a long delay between the publication and the outrage. In January, a group of Danish Muslim leaders and imams travelled to the Arab world to “explain” how offensive the cartoons were. The 43 page document they took with them containd fifteen cartoons – including three deliberatly and vert amateurish ones that had not been either published or seen previously.

    And then the outrage began.

    What I found really annoying about the Guardian’s take on all this was their view that “It is one thing to assert the right to publish an image of the prophet. As long as that is not illegal – and not even the government’s amended religious hatred bill makes it so – then that right undoubtedly exists. But it is another thing to put that right to the test, especially when to do so inevitably causes offence to many Muslims and, even more so, when there is currently such a powerful need to craft a more inclusive public culture which can embrace them and their faith.”

    This is cherry picking when faced with the difficult issues that do arise when people exercise their right to express views that the rest of us may not want to hear.

    Freedom of speech is fundamental to liberal democracy. We aren’t doing anyone any favours by curtailing it to suit whichever minority happens to shout the loudest.

  1. […] My own view is that this episode highlights everything that is wrong with the collective mindset of Islam. As I commented on Will’s blog yesterday, who is committing the greater sin? The non-Muslim cartoonist who is reliant entirely on their imagination when picturing Mohammed? Or the Muslim who sees Mohammed in a jumble of lines and colours? Surely the devout response is to not recognise these cartoons as having anything to say? […]