Danish cartoons and individual responsibility

Below is a text I posted at Orkut, also in reaction to Siki's comment...

Pictures of God are rare as well within Christianity
I would like to give my comments with regard to the topic of the Danish cartoons.

I agree with those who say that it doesn't make sense to organise big demonstrations at the other side of the world against some drawings that were made in a small magazine in a small country in Europe, and the threats with violence, as a revenge, are ridiculous. It's logical that Muslims in Denmark and Europe as a whole are angry, but Muslims from other parts of the world shouldn't have made such a fuss of it, I think. They honour the Danish journalists too much by paying so much attention to them.

On the other hand I don't agree with those who say that the journalists made those drawings as a noble act to defend the freedom of speech. I think they shouldn't have published these drawings. I don't say that state censorship should be introduced to stop the publication of such cartoons. When you use state censorship against these practices, the cure is worse than the disease. Of course complete freedom of speech should always be maintained. Everybody should be allowed to say everything he or she likes, but the question is if everything that can be said, should really be said. In my opinion this is a matter of individual responsibility. Every individual is responsible for his or her own actions. What we do and say leads to certain consequences and we are responsible for that. The Danish journalists made drawings which are offensive to the Islam as a whole. Drawings of the Prophet should never be made, and certainly not in such a disrespectfyul way. Why would they do that? Why can't they leave the Islamic religion in peace? Why should the followers of a certain faith be attacked with insults unnecessarily?

People should think well before they do such things. For most Europeans this kind of satire will be considered as innocent, but for most Muslims it won't be like that. Actions like this contribute to increased polarisation, because big groups inside and outside of Europe feel seriously offended and when they become very angry, this leads again to more agression and hate at the other side as well. I think these developments are bad for everybody, so it's something which shouldn't be stimulated.The reason not to do it is not out of fear for revenge from the Islamic world, threats to cut of heads, coming from the other side of the world should not change our behaviour in the west, that's our own business. The only reason should be that we consider it bad to attack / insult a different culture / religion unnecessarily. It's very well possible that some forms of behaviour in the western culture are offensive to Muslims and that doesn't mean we should stop with that kind of behaviour, it's only because these cartoons are deliberately meant as an attack to the Islam that I think they are bad. And if these cartoons where meant to criticize certain aspects of the Islam, if it was meant to start a constructive but critical intercultural or interreligious dialogue I would also approve of it, but these cartoons don't contain any critical reflections, they are either meant to insult or as a joke, but not as a serious form of criticism.

The outcry of Muslim is all around the world because Islam condemns such act. On the other hand I think Christianity never condemned painting and such things thats why there are painting of Michael Angelo and Di Vinchi painting God and prophet jesus.

Islam only ligtimisee the geomatrical shaps as a form of art. There are many mosques and forts and palaces built by Muslims in Europe especially Spain and Portugal. You can see the difference there between the mosque and church in their arts.
It does exist in Judaism and Christianity as well, that it's forbidden to make images, especially of God. Levinas would agree with this idea. We humans are so limited and biased in our views, when we think of what religious figures would be like we always make mistakes in that, especially with regard to God.

Humans are prejudiced, they make their own inventions. So we should do that as little as possible.

The idea from the reformed church that we should stop making all these expensive statues to raise the glamour of the church, and instead that the church should do what is really its mission: to help the poor, is a similar idea.
al Qaeda has been painting Mohammed as a terrorist for years, and it has never led to protests of this sort.

Is it so surprising that there are people who believe Islam is contemptible? Should they be prohibited from expressing that? Clearly the demonstrators calling for executions think so, proving that the "insult" to Islam isn't so much an insult as an accurate assessment, at least of the most vocal Muslims.
No, the cartoons were not drawn just to make a point about free speech. But that doesn't mean they are simply there to insult muslims. In fact, I found most of them very good in their genre: they criticise aspects of Islam. What was criticised was fundamentalism, terrorism (smoking suicide bombers arriving in heaven to hear that they've run out of virgins), and misogynism. I think these are legitimate criticisms, esp. as there are plenty of similar cartoons aimed at Christian fundamentalists (or even bog-standard Christianity), (American) neo-cons, neo-pagans, vegetarians and even against left-wing liberals. Frankly, I am shocked by the uproar at these comparatively innocent cartoons. None of the ones I've seen are about 'geitenneukers' or Muhammad sleeping with girls, cartoons that were published in Holland before this. Those would be the purely offensive type of cartoons that could be condemned, not these.
Btw can I just be pedantic and point out that biblical figures were painted very often? The Christian God is not portrayed very often, but this God has different aspects: out of the holy trinity, Christ and the Holy Ghost (often visualised as a ray of light or a dove) are often portrayed.
Although many muslim streams discourage pictures of people and animals, there are other cultures within Islam that do portray even the prophet (and other humans), esp. further east (India). There's a very rich manuscript tradition, for example. Sorry for this, I know I'm a nerd.
Ok, you are right, and images of Jesus are everywhere of course.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ has some interesting posts about images of Muhammad.
One more combined comment:

To anonymous:
- When Al Qaeda paints the Prophet as a terrorist and when there is no protest, this still doesn't mean that others, especially outsiders should do that as well. As I said before, in my opinion such expressions should not be prohibited, I just think that people who do things like this should think better about it themselves.

To Letty:
- I don't think that the cartoons are a form of legitimized criticism towards some aspects of the Islam. They could be in theory, but the problem is in practice that it is seen as criticism / an attack / insult towards the Islam as a whole.
Simplistic generalisations in which the Islam as a whole is considered as barbarian, backwards, violent and terroristic are made much too often in my view. These cartoons are not suitable to stop the hateful generalisations and to show more precise nuances in a constructive critical dialogue.

The uproar is completely out of proportion, I agree, but on the other hand I can imagine that many Muslims feel insulted by this and that is why the journalists shouldn't have made the cartoons in my opinion.

- My comment with regard to images of christian figures was made too fast. Still there exist christian traditions as well where people are reluctant to make images of religious figures, especially God.

And when in the past some paintings have been made about Mohammed, this doesn't mean that the Islam in general wouldn't be against this idea.

As a religious idea I find it good to warn believers that the images they make of religious figures can very easily be mistaken. The idea that God is infinite and that humans are just finite and limited, and so that humans should not claim to know and understand everything (and so to be able to dra it correctly) is appealing to me.

To put some aspects of the Islam into question and to start an intercultural interrelious debate between the Islam, other religions and atheists is very good, but not in this way.
Of course I agree with you that the Danish paper did not simply set out to criticise aspects of Islam: I suspect (though cannot prove) that they knew the comments were inflammatory, just like Theo van Gogh knew very well that he said inflammatory things. Moreover, the Danish newspaper in question is quite right-wing, and has hypocritically refused cartoons on Jesus in the past. To set out deliberately to offend people is certainly in bad taste. Also, this is not a way to initiate a dialogue between people and promote tolerance I agree with you completely there, too. And I honestly hope that humans can live together peacefully. (The remark about painting images of humans was an aside, I just got side-tracked to a site with beautiful Islam paintings!)

However, I do think that when the response to offensive cartoons/literature/film is burning embassies, putting fatwas on novelists, or stabbing directors, fundamentalist muslims are confirming the very cliches that are bandied around about them.
That aside, there are of course many moderate muslims who protested actions the extreme reactions. Imams told people to calm down; Lebanon has apologised to the Danish government. What I find FAR MORE dangerous than the -frankly quite mild- cartoons, is that these moderate muslims do not get a voice in the media. That is really worrying me, and I do think this is something western media need to address, if only to avoid radicalisation of muslim youth (if they need a reason!).

I do think it is dangerous for governments to speak out on what is and what is not suitable to print, and that the Danish government was right in refusing to do this. Let readers try and control 'morality' by letters and (cancelled subscriptions), or even peaceful demonstrations, but not governments.
That comes too close to censorship. Threatening with violence to ensure papers' self-censorship is damnable too.

As you said: "Simplistic generalisations in which the Islam as a whole is considered as barbarian, backwards, violent and terroristic are made much too often in my view. These cartoons are not suitable to stop the hateful generalisations and to show more precise nuances in a constructive critical dialogue." No, but neither does an extremely violent reaction to them. Of course, this violent reaction could perhaps also be fuelled by a general unhappiness about western perceptions of muslims, but that doesn't make it right (just more understandable).

Sorry if I sounded pissed off in my first post. I really do think we need dialogue and respect between all parties (personally, I also think we need to be able to ridicule people's beliefs occasionally, but not singling out only one religion, however I also fully realise that this is because I am a heathen unbeliever who can therefore not be personally offended: a luxurious position).
To summarise:
No, I do not think cartoons that ridicule (aspects of) religion should be forbidden, or reacted to with violence (even if they insult your beliefs). I also think that most of the Danish cartoons were quite mild, and that there is nevertheless also a place for critical cartoons (or films, or opinion pieces).

Yes, I do think muslims are portrayed and treated unfairly in many cases, and this is bad. Muslims should not always be singled out: this is unfair. I do believe that muslims are often seen as an easy target, and made into a very scary 'other'.
Recently, we have read the results of a survey on discrimination, and muslims definitely had fewer opportunities on the job market. Moderate muslims are not given much attention or space in the media.
I also get the impression that it is now almost fashionable in the Netherlands to badmouth muslims (kutmarokkanen). All this worries me greatly, and I completely concur that we should all be careful (non-muslim or muslim) how we portray and treat each other.

However, I do think it is permissable to criticise religion, and I thought that the cartoon that shows the smoking suicide bombers being denied their 'just' reward (women as property!) fits this perfectly. Even the cartoon with the bomb in Muhammad's turban makes a valid point about violence in the name of religion. They could have been made by any moderate muslim.
Thanks a lot for your new comments Letty. (and it's good that you reacted to my comments about religous pictures because my comments were silly ;))

I think I agree with everything except that the cartoons were lightly offensive.

I especially agree that it's worrying that moderate Muslims are so little heard in the media.

It's true as well that Islamic extremists / terrorists have acted the past time exactly according to the negative reputation they already had, which makes their reputation still more negative. But the sad thing is that the reputation of moderate and peaceful Muslims gets worse, unjustly, as well.
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