Friday, February 03, 2006

Muhammad and the limits of free speech

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Muhammad and the limits of free speech: "The history behind the cartoons published in the Danish national newspaper Jyllands-Posten highlights a split within Islam on the pictorial representation of the prophet Muhammad (Anger as papers reprint cartoons of Muhammad, February 2). Wahhabi and other fundamentalist Sunni Muslims forbid such images, just as Protestant Christian fundamentalists disapprove of images of Christ. In the Shia and Sufi Muslim communities, however, such iconography is commonplace.

In this case, publication of the cartoons was in a rightwing newspaper with a history of supporting fascist and nationalist movements, and therein lies part of the problem. Denmark's biggest-selling daily may no longer be associated with such unpleasantness, but the judgment of its editor and staff must still be called into question."
Dr Francis Sedgemore

The "blasphemous" cartoons were reminiscent of the caricatures of Jews published by the Nazi propaganda sheet Der Stürmer, Michael Muhammad Pfaff, of the German Muslim League, told the Guardian. He added that: "Press freedom shouldn't be used to insult people." I couldn't agree more.

However, I don't recall any Muslim outrage at blatantly anti-semitic newspaper articles and television programmes on a par, at the very least, with anything published in Der Stürmer, that have appeared in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and numerous other Arab countries where there is no freedom of the press. Are we to understand, then, that it is acceptable for countries without a free press to insult anyone they please, and that all ethnic groups, in particular Jews, are fair game - apart from the Muslims?
Marian Lebor
Raanana, Israel

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