Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pens and Swords

The whole cartoon thing seems to have become ridiculously serious.

Like most interwebbers, I've seen some of the cartoons and, to be honest, I can't decide for sure whether they were intended to be deliberately offensive and provocative to Muslims. It can be argued that they were intended to be deliberately offensive to terrorists and extremists who use Islam as their justification. Indeed, Alhamedi over at the Religious Policeman has argued that very point. He also notes that the current widespread outrage was generated by the Saudi press some four months after the cartoons originally appeared in a Danish newspaper.

Personally, I suspect that the not subtle subtext the cartoonist wished to convey is that all Muslims are terrorists. That is clearly not true and it's not particulary helpful to insinuate that it is. My feeling is that the cartoonist deliberately sought to provoke protests which could then be used to demonise Muslims. But, as I said, I can't be sure.

I am sure they're not funny.

So, I won't be reproducing any of them here. But I do not think that there should be laws against this sort of thing. It should be borne in mind that, unlike race, religion is a personal choice. Being intentionally insulting to someone because of their skin colour is not acceptable. Challenging someone's beliefs is not the same thing. At all.

All people who believe in a God who cares about human beings are living in a world of make believe.

That is my honestly expressed view and anyone who says I shouldn't express it is, I would argue, totally out of order. It may well be an offensive opinion to some people. I know this but it won't stop me because I genuinely believe it to be true. In the same way, those who say that their God is beyond question offend me, and the knowledge that it does won't stop them either. That is perfectly reasonable.

So what are the limits to free speech? A banner at the protest in London on Friday read "7/7 is on its way". Another called for the beheading of those who insult the prophet. This, most people would agree, exceeds the limits. It may well be a criminal offence to espouse such views.

Be aware, however, that the extremists who took part in those protests knew exactly what they were doing. They most definitely do want to create a clash of civilisations. The central pillar of the strategy is an attempt to deliberately provoke Western society in order to generate a response which can then be represented as a hatred of all Muslims. This response, they hope, will alienate moderate Muslims and leave them with no choice but to support the extremists and their clash of cultures. This is the same strategy used by bin Laden and his supporter. It is the central motive behind the attacks on New York. The aim was to generate Western hatred and suspicion of all Muslims which the extremists can then use to their advantage.

Those who proclaim that the extremists at the protest on Friday represent the views of most Muslims will be playing into their hands. It's not true but if you say it often enough, it might be one day.

Those Muslims who are reacting in an extreme fashion are behaving outrageously. It's almost enough to make me bring out the gimp and make some offensive images myself. But that, as I said, would be just what the extremists want us to do. I for one, have no intention of playing ball.

Tags: , ,

No comments: