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Electronic Elasticity

Friday, February 10, 2006

Freedom of Speech versus Freedom of Religious Expression?

And Some Other Random Stuff:

By the by, it is time for me to insert yet another round of fascinating keywords related to me into my blog, for external searching purposes of course. In summary: I currently work for the Canada Revinue Agency (CRA) in my second coop work term. I am a History student at the university of Ottawa in my third year of studies and I am an avid reader, ardent nerd/gamer, fan/player of volleyball, badminton and squash, and opinionated aspiring polymath (Thanks Robertson davies).
Hello! We all have more interests than we can list in a single comma filled sentence, but I wont prattle on. My main topic of discussion today is the distressing reaction in the Muslim community to the cartoon depictions of the Prophet, which are forbidden traditionally in order to prevent idolatry. I myself am no muslim, and so I wind up learning more about this situation from non-muslim sources, simply because I fail to identify with the muslim ones. Hence, it is natural that I would have a bias for the newspaper side of things, right?


Both sides are acting in an incredibly stupid manner.

Secular Europe is defending "Free Speech" in the worst manner I can conceive of; deliberately antagonizing millions of people and stirring up violence and death. If you KNOW that publishing the cartoons and continuing to talk and write and debate onthe cartoons will cause violence, as we do know, then why, regardless of your RIGHT (read: You dont HAVE to) to do so, would you publish them? Human decency is implicit in secular western democracy, or so we are told. If everyone upheld the general social contract, society would be idyllic. Many notches down from that ideal is where we currently are, but the princple remains. Citizens abide by LAWS and have RIGHTS bacause combined they represent the collective expression of how a society wishes to live. Go read your goddamned Rousseau andMontesquieu (sp?), France! "Spirit of the Laws" and "The Social Contract" came out of French minds.

On the other side, I see evidence of one of the worst aspects of human history: Religious Fundamentalism.
"Freedom of Religion" DOES NOT mean that you are allowed to impose the rules of your religion on any other party. The taboo against depictions of the Prophet does not apply in any fashion to any non-muslim newspaper, dutch or otherwise. I agree that the original cartoons are incredibly bad taste, and that the subsequent re-printings are stupid and arrogant, BUT they do not impinge directly on Freedom of Religion as I understand it.
Even provided that "freedom of Religion" is a western, secualr,"non-muslim" (I disagree) concept, my argument holds, because it is impossible for the Nation of Islam to impose its rules on the West. They are not our laws. If I ever divorce a wife, she gets treated equally (compared to me) under any law system in this country, thanks. Am I wrong to argue that point? Does a paper cartoon showing Muhammed with a bomb in his turban somehow interfere with the Hajj? With the 5(3 if you are Shi'ite) daily prayers? Ramadan? No? Okay. Does it topple some pillars of Islam? I doubt it, they seem sturdy enough. Yeesh.

Clearly very Offensive yes. Obviously very arrogant and stupid on the part of the West. Interfering with muslim religious practices, no.

Something like France's ban on obvious religous articles in public schools runs far closer to that line. Just because the Muslim world forbids it, doesnt mean the West should. We should have some common decency and knowledge of other societies, and avoid offence by that method instead. Muslims in turn should re-evaluate how they express their outrage. Killing people and clashing with police is essentially the antithesis of productive in this case.




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