Free speech

What kind of issue is this for a blog? Exactly. But with the recent furore over the Jyllands-Posten cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed reaching an insane pitch at the moment, I felt it worth commenting on. Though I live on the other side of the world at the moment, and most Japanese probably won’t have heard of this, it is still a serious matter (as evinced by the street protests, death threats, forced resignations and arrests of media figures, attacks on embassies, Palestinian gunmen storming the EU Commision offices in Gaza, etc).

Having seen the cartoons, I can say as someone with no religious beliefs that they are puerile, unfunny and offensive. Does does justify the protests we have seen? Not one bit. If anything, the threats of violence against governments and people associated in any way with the cartoons ought to galvanise people into supporting freedom of speech at all costs. If your beliefs are offended (as undoubtedly they would be by the cartoons) you have the right to be offended, and the right to complain about said offence, but not the right to issue death threats, go looking to gun down citizens of European countries who published the pictures as “legitimate targets” or any of the actions we have seen that shame Muslims, theists of all types, and the entire human race.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
– Voltaire (attributed)

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens has written on “the case for mocking religion”. Brilliant stuff.


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