Freedom of Expression in a Global Village

El Vaquero Staff Writer<

Millions of Muslims around the world voiced their displeasure in rallies against newspapers that have printed the cartoons of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam. From a Muslim’s point of view, these cartoons are not only offensive, but are “unforgivable insults” that should be punished with death.

Those rallies are accompanied with death threats, attacks on European embassies and the torture and persecution of non-Moslems in Islamic countries. According to the CNN article “Gunmen shut Eu Gaza office over cartoons,” printed on Feb. 2, protesters at a demonstration in Britain carried signs such as “Butcher Those Who Mock Islam” and “Europe Take Some Lessons From 9/11.”

As seen from Western democracies where freedom of expression is cherished, such a reaction over some drawings does not seem reasonable. Muslims strongly believe the statement made by the Vatican that includes “The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, cannot include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful-this principle obviously applies to any religion.”

This brings the question of rights and authorities back to one’s mind. How are the “religious feelings of the faithful” more important than another’s life who has been given the right to live and express himself freely? If, indeed, a person’s religion is of such great importance and that statement really “applies to all religions,” why are Baha’is, Jews and Christians being persecuted in Islamic countries?

A conclusion drawn from all the violence and unrest is the nauseating effect of people’s excessive fervor for religion?and how it could turn them to such?terrible wickedness and hatred.?

As objections and threats of reprisal are heard around the Islamic world, the Vatican joins Muslim countries like Turkey in “condemning the cartoons of the prophet,” reports Gareth Jones, a Reuter journalist.

This condemnation does not only defend the right of the “faithful” but takes away the freedom of expression from the writers and journalists whose reason of being is to educate and inform the nations of the world. It also gives individuals the right to make statements such as, “We should have killed all those who offend the prophet and instead here we are, protesting peacefully,” in a rally in Britain, reports the international site Spiegel.

According to CNN, the editorial director of France Soir, Jacques Lefranc was fired after he ran the cartoons under the headline, “Yes, one has the right to cartoon God.” The publisher of France Soir, Raymond Lakah explained that Lefranc has been fired to show “a strong sign of respect to the intimate convictions and beliefs of each individual.”

Meanwhile, despite press apologies, Iran’s president Ahmadinejad said, “The caricatures show the impudence and rudeness of western newspapers,” reported Spiegel. As one assumes, he too is insulted by the cartoons of the prophet of Islam, but has he not also insulted nations by wiping their countries away from the map of the world?

In other Islamic countries, religious leaders offer millions of dollars for beheading the cartoonists. It is a wonder that there are many poor Muslim people in the world, while so much money is suddenly available for abhorrent violent actions against the writer of a silly cartoon.

Certainly, not all Muslims around the world agree with the current situation and they may understand that perhaps the misinterpretation of the cartoons led many to the rallies organized by Muslim leaders. In fact, many Muslims in Europe insisted that the cartoons have been misinterpreted by their leaders.

“The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity,” explains Flemming Rose, editor of Jylland-Posten, the Danish newspaper which published the cartoons in January, “[Because] we are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are a part of our society, not strangers.”

The Jyllands-Posten didn’t intend to insult and disrespect Islam. But respecting one’s authorities does not mean accepting his demands and orders. Flemming adds, “When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs-But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.”

However, the religious insult must have been way too heavy for some individuals to bear and a few souls must be sent away to the underworld to calm the anguish.

Consequently, freedom of expression has been damned in the Middle East and the global village is going down at a rapid rate in the Western world. However, whatever the consequences may be, one must not forget that freedom of all kind among which is the freedom of expression should be given to all humanity. One has the right to live freely, choose freely, act freely and express himself freely.