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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Heather Roy on 'Those' Cartoons

ACT MP Heather Roy has an interesting piece in her latest "Heather Roy's Diary" on how the Muhammed cartoon furore was sparked and some local reactions.

In September last year Denmark’s biggest-selling daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, printed twelve cartoons of the prophet Muhammed in various poses. The newspaper’s stated issue was self censorship; a Danish author had written a children’s book on the life of Muhammed but was unable to find an illustrator.

Most Muslims believe it is offensive to depict the Prophet and the artists feared retribution from Muslim zealots. The fact that the artists were imposing censorship on themselves because of fear, worried the Jyllands-Posten who asked 40 Danish arists to submit a likeness. Only twelve responded and those were the cartoons that were published. They were of variable quality and some were offensive.

Given that most Westerners have never heard of Jyllands-Posten and very few speak Danish the matter would have been quickly forgotten had it not been for an hystrical reaction in Muslim countries. The Danish embassy was burned down in Lebanon and in Afghanistan a British Army contingent had to go to the aid of a beseiged Nordic Unit. As usual there have been anti-American riots although the USA is not involved.

Closer to home, Heather Roy finds our great leaders reaction disturbing.

As a result the cartoons have been big news and many papers including The Dominion Post and The Press have reproduced them.

Helen Cark’s response has been to say that she believes in “free speech but……” Readers may recall Helen Clark’s vitriolic attacks on the Exclusive Bretheren at election time when she declared them a “weird cult”. Labour Minister David Parker likened them to the Taliban. Quite why it is OK to make very disparaging comments about a small group of law abiding, tax paying citizens who may have different religious beliefs to most New Zealanders but not about a huge religion when there might be trade implications is not clear.

While the Prime Minister preaches tolerance she practices selective tolerance. The controversy surrounding the cartoons is an issue of “Freedom of Speech” but to have real freedom of speech there must be no conditions beyond the bounds of the law – equality before the law. Information should be readily available so that each of us can form our own opinions.

But to have real freedom of speech there must be no conditions beyond the bounds of the law.


Blogger PaedsRN said...

Hi. Just to let you know, New Zeal has been added to a list of NZ blog links at



7:44 PM  
Blogger Rebel Heart said...

doesn't make sense, badly worded sentence

10:39 PM  
Blogger Libertyscott said...

Even the bounds of the law are a problem - you surely wouldn't maintain a prohibition on Cigar Aficianado magazine?

3:19 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

I thought that might get a bite Scott. In my view the only legal restraint on free speech, should be defamation, incitement to voilence etc.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Muslim protests weren’t over Mohammed being labeled as a terrorist. They were protesting because a picture of Mohammed was drawn. They were angry because they were told to be angry at things like that throughout their lives. They have a medieval mentality that puts blind obedience ahead of logic and ethics. Many Muslims think the Koran is right because the Koran says the Koran is right. They get offended without having strong enough reasons to be offended. The reason they gave for finding the comics offensive was that it encourages “idol worship”. I somehow doubt the comic images will be worshiped.

Recent history has shown that many Muslims can’t bring justice without creating bigger injustices. The 11/9 attacks, London bombings, Bali bombings, suicide bombings in Israel and the Madrid bombings had political motives but killed mostly innocent civilians. Now Iran has punished an entire country with trade embargos for an action committed by a small handful of people from the news media.

This mentality is also shown by Muslims in NZ. In 2004, Craccum had a cover with a photo of a woman in a purdah showing some leg (shock horror!). Some Muslim thought that putting graffiti on the wall of the General Library somehow punished the editors of Craccum.

Not only do Muslims find it difficult to direct justice, they have trouble coming up with the appropriate magnitude of a response. In Britain there were placards that said “Behead those who insult Islam”. In the civilised world, people who respond to insults with murder are deemed psychopaths and are locked up in psychiatric wards for treatment and to keep the general public safe. When civilised people are insulted, they either inform the insulter why they find their action/statement insulting or they ignore and forgive them.

Muslims should be trying to fix their own broken societies rather bullying Westerners into submission. Ending torture and introducing democracy, press freedom and human rights would be a good start. Qatar is quickly heading in that direction and it would be great if the rest of the Islamic world went that way too.

Many people have been saying slogans like ‘free speech shouldn’t apply to things that insult a certain religion’. Most of these people are cowards who are focusing on criticising the lesser evil because it doesn’t threaten to kill them like many Muslims do. Others are saying it to ward off trade embargos on NZ products. The comics may have been mildly unethical but the Muslim reaction to them has been abhorrent.

4:56 PM  

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