So, these cartoons. I went off on one the other day and don’t intend to repeat myself, but here’s how I see the issues falling:
Why did the newspapers re-print the cartoons? Was it in response to something specific, or was it just to piss people off? If the latter, then they deserve to be criticised. If the former, why hasn’t that been revealed?
The rights and wrongs of the re-print, though, seem to have become all mixed up with freedom of speech. Somebody on television phrased his point nicely: “freedom of speech, yes, but not for religion”. The Vatican weighed in with the same thought:
The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion
I see that as dangerous nonsense. You can’t give religion special treatment for no reason, and the violent reactions to cartoons (even though it’s by a militant minority) show why this shouldn’t be the case – some people just do not act reasonably when their unjustifiable beliefs are involved.
I also find it rather strange that no UK newspapers have printed the cartoons. It would be entirely reasonable of them to do so, since people will want to know what all the fuss is about. Every blog in the world is linking to the (now locked down) Wikipedia entries, after all. The intent wouldn’t be to offend, but to inform, so there shouldn’t be a problem – surely that’s what freedom of speech means? Just because some people would decide to be offended shouldn’t matter.
Speaking of which, one blog (can’t remember which, now) pointed towards the increasingly creepy redefinitions of ‘respect’ and ‘offense’. I’ve avoided using the word ‘respect’ for the past couple of years or so because I think its definition is too fuzzy. I know people who think that ‘respecting’ other people’s opinions means you shouldn’t argue with them. I simply don’t know what ‘respect’ means, so I use other words instead. As for ‘offence’, it’s like Stephen Fry said:
So you’re offended. So fucking what?
Pickled Politics points to the reactions of non-crazy Muslim bloggers. Pharyngula makes some very good points, and says what I’d like to say, only better. Butterflies and Wheels is similarly clear. And I think the final word should go to Skuds, who points out that the cartoons weren’t even all that funny.