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Reader comment on item: Cartoons and Islamic Imperialism
in response to reader comment: Denmark

Submitted by Sidda (United States), Feb 24, 2006 at 17:27

There is no crusade against Islam. I do believe that the president, shortly after 9/11, made some mention about a "crusade" against terrorism. He used the word without realizing how Muslims would take it. Here, we often use the word "crusade" in various ways, i.e., crusade against breast cancer, etc. It doesn't hold the same meaning for us as for you. And after the president was made aware, he was careful not to use that word again. He has said over and over again that this is not a war against Islam.

It is, however, a war against Islamic extremists who have made very clear to us their intentions to kill as many Americans as possible. When bin Laden declared war on every American man, woman, and child in 1998, we did not take it seriously. After 9/11, we have no reason to doubt that they are serious and that they mean every word they say.

Now, to the freedom of speech issue. First of all, the West, like the Muslim world, is not a monolithic entity. Different governments have different laws regarding free speech. In general, we are very liberal with our free speech; but, the U.S. actually has freedom of speech enshrined in its constitution. I don't know about European countries.

We do, however, struggle from time to time to determine what, if any, limits should be placed on free speech. In general, there are no limits placed on speech or expression just because it offends someone else. We will generally tolerate the most outrageous things because we know that if we try to restrict someone else's speech or expression when we don't like it, the next time it might be our turn to be censored because someone doesn't like what we say.

If speech causes physical harm to someone; for example, if someone commits a violent act as a direct result of your incitement, you could possibly be prosecuted. Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater would not be allowed because it could cause physical damage as people would stampede to exit. But, just being offended or outraged is not enough reason to censor speech. We actually have a saying that the remedy for speech you don't like is more speech. So, if you come to live in the West, be prepared to be offended by stuff you don't like. That's just the way it is here.

As to the Erving case, I am not thoroughly familiar with it to make any extensive comment. I will say that some people in America have actually defended his right to deny the Holocaust; such as Christopher Hitchens. I know that in America there are no laws against it. But there is a huge difference between saying something that simply offends someone, and denying a historical fact with mountains of evidence to prove its existence. Not being a European, I can only suppose that since the Holocaust took place on European soil, Europeans are very mindful to never let the conditions rise where something like that could occur again; denying that historical fact (one trip to Auschwitz or the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. is all the proof one would need) is a step in the wrong direction. But again there are differences in free speech laws in America and in Europe.

Here in America, religion is satirized all the time. We do it in art, books, movies, theater, cartoons; Christianity takes the brunt of the insults here. Sometimes its actually quite entertaining; my personal favorite is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Sometimes it is really insulting, though. And when we feel insulted we will protest in a peaceful manner just to let our feelings be known. So, I guess you could say that our attitude is that no particular religion or belief system should be off limits.

While I sometimes feel offended when some aspect of my religion is ridiculed (I'm Catholic), I don't really let it get to me. Here's how I look at it: Jesus was mocked, ridiculed, and rejected in his time. He did not lash out at anyone for it; in fact, when the soldiers came to arrest him one of his apostles cut off a soldier's ear. Jesus admonished the apostle saying, "he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." So, I feel that my faith is strong enough to withstand the ridicule of others; it does not diminish. And isn't what you hold inside what really matters? Not that others draw a cartoon which you, but not they, are prohibited by Islam from drawing?

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