Editorial - The Freedom To Insult?

In a dark dark world there was a dark dark country. In the dark dark country there was a dark dark newspaper. In the dark dark offices of the dark dark newspaper, the dark dark Editor had a dark dark idea.

He decided to set up a dark dark competition to make some dark dark caricatures of the Prophet of Islam. His dark dark intentions being to test whether Muslims would be able to accept this dark dark vision.

Enough of the fairy tale! The Muslim reaction was anger. Understandably so. Yes some Muslims went too far with their protest by rioting, threatening, kidnapping and hijacking! However, the thing most non-Muslims did not understand was why the reaction was two months down the line.

Was it politically motivated? Was it extremists jumping onto a bandwagon? Was it terrorists trying to cause a reaction? Was it Muslims trying to silence their critics?

It was actually because the diplomatic approach had been rejected. The Danish Prime Minister refused to even meet ambassadors of Muslim countries (who wanted to discuss these caricatures as well as other worrying trends they had noticed in a smearing campaign against Muslims and Islam), let alone take any action.

Secondly, something else happened. Other European newspapers had seen the ruckus, and decided to chip in. They decided to republish the caricatures, knowing full well that it was deeply offensive to every single Muslim in the whole world. The insult was not bound to any particular state. The reaction that followed was not bound to any country either.

In the ensuing carnage there were massive protests, both peaceful and not. People died. Embassies were burnt. Countries were sanctioned. And cookies were renamed. Come again? Cookies renamed? Yes, just like in the good old US of A French Fries were renamed Freedom Fries, in Iran, Danish cookies were renamed... wait for it... 'Rose of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) cookies'. Apparently they were too delicious to boycott.

Freedom of speech?

The paper cried freedom of speech. And that it had every right to print the caricatures. It was later revealed that the same paper had (rightly) refused to print caricatures insulting Christians. As a response an Iranian paper decided to have its own competition. To take the mickey out of the holocaust.

When the Editor of the Danish paper said he had no qualms to reprint such caricatures, he was suddenly placed on leave due to the unbearable strain on him. Or was it because he had taken freedom of speech too far planning to mock the holocaust?

Where is freedom of speech?

The people who have defended the newspapers who printed or reprinted the cartoons seem to be on the freedom of speech mantra. It is implied that Muslims want to limit freedom of speech, and subvert society. It is suggested Muslims have no problem about insulting others, but are touchy when it comes to commenting on Muslims.

What should be made public is that Islam is against the ridicule of any religion just for the sake of it. We are asked not to insult other religions as it will result with Islam and Muslims being insulted. What is also forgotten by such people is that the freedom of speech is already limited here.

Recently, a person was fined 50 quid for using the 'f' word. No, not 'freedom', but the other one. That is not the only way in which freedom of speech is already curtailed:

  • Official Secrets Act. Secret service officer was imprisoned for publicising unsavoury activities done in the name of the British people.
  • Race relations laws which prevent speech and actions of a certain type.
  • New anti-terror legislation which prevents any utterances which may be deemed to 'glorify terrorism'.
  • EU blasphemy laws in regards to Christianity.
  • Nick Griffin / Abu Hamza trials in regards to their hate filled speeches
  • To deny the holocaust is illegal in certain countries and you can be jailed. British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years under Austrian law for denying the existence of the holocaust.

What happened to freedom of speech there?

What should be done?

Everyone should be given an equal footing. Everyone is protected apart from Religious groups- or should I say Muslims and Islam. In a fair society religions should all be covered in laws which do not allow ridicule.

Fair comments, and constructive criticisms as a part of a larger debate should be allowed, but extreme ridicule just to cause offence should be banned. After all even freedom of speech would not allow someone to run through a packed cinema or theatre shouting 'fire!'. Unless there was really a fire.

Note: For further information on this subject please read 'A call to prevent a clash of civilisations' by Prof. Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri. Available on The Revival website.