Saturday, February 04, 2006

Freedom of Expression - a Case of Abuse?

The publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper which has caused a genuine outrage on a widescale in the Islamic world puts infront of us a set of very interesting questions. One of it is certainly whether in this case the boundaries of freedom of expression were transgressed or not? It might be a suprise for some, but we think they were.

The arguments for that can be located in the nature and purpose of this cartoon campaign as it is presently taking grounds all around Europe. The cartoons are objectively (extremely) offensive to the believers of Islam. They depict their prophet in a very violent way, clearly alluding to the (Islamic) terrorism. As it can be extracted from their appearance their (sole?) objective is to redicule and to insult the religious feelings and believes of those whose religion in fact prohibits depicting their god and their prophet.

But, if it stayed just with this and a set of cartoons being published just in one obscure newspaper of one of the Western Christian states, this would not be such a problem, because of its minimal scale and effect. And yet, what we face now is a concerted action on behalf of the European leading newspapers who are re-publishing these worthless cartoons in the name of freedom of expression.

This is in our view, politically, constitutionally and above all moraly gone way to far. The message that is namely being sent is that insulting religious feelings is completely ok, it is actually something which has to be shown solidarity to all around Europe.

Those who are taking part in this concerted enterprise are apparently not aware that they are deeply insulting also their fellow citizens in their homelands who are believers of Islam. This is not just a message, a provocation sent to those "obscure" peoples in the Middle East. And even if it was, it would not be permitted.

Europe and all these big newspaper publishers are forgetting the golden rule which dictates that we should not do to the other what we expect the other should not do to us. I am sure that nobody would stay calmly watching the cartoons of Jesus Christ being depicted in an utmost offensive way. The same is true if Jewish religious symbols would be tarnished - and this has been a long standing practice especially in Europe, which had well known terrible consequences and yet the practice is still not completely eradicated.

Religious believes are the most deeply seated convictions of a humankind. They can not be rationally proved since they belong to the world of metaphysics. However, they inform our rational leading of every day life activities - and they help us make sens of the world and of our very self. There is no possible rational discourse about religions, all we can do, when and if we disagree, is to show tolerance.

The concerted action of the European newspapers proudly publishing deeply offensive cartoons to one set of population, which is even a minority in Europe and therefore deserves a special protection, is denial of the very principle of tolerance and of the golden rule. But the same is true for the violent reactions of the populace of the Muslim world.

Standing on the opposite banks of the river and throwing stones at each other will not take us in a better future. Which can be only a common one, however.


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