Events from the Danish Muhammed cartoons have now dragged on for weeks. Embassies have been burnt down, people have been killed, and demonstrations commenced in several countries. The Danish and Norwegian stand is «we’re protecting free speech». The Danish Jyllands-Posten happily printed cartoons of the one person you just don’t do that with – Muhammed. But when the same editor that allowed those drawings in print said he would allow similar drawing about the Holocaust, he was sent away on «vacation» by the paper’s editor. Free speech when it provokes the Arab World, not free speech when it provokes Israel and the US.
This has gone on for weeks now, and it finally looks like the situation is calming down a bit. The Muslim World still would like an apology though. The Norwegian and Danish editors have still not done that. True, they’ve made semi-apologies. «We apologize that you were hurt by the drawings», not «we apologize that we printed the drawings». The latter is an apology, the first is not.
To illustrate I’ll pick an example. A guy punches another guy in the face. «I’m sorry you were hurt by me punching you in the face». Sound like an apology?
The West tries to hide behind the «free press» and «free speech» argument. Usually a strong argument, but not in this case. First of all this isn’t «speech», it is drawings made with one purpose; to piss off muslims in Denmark. Several of the drawins look like bin Laden, and one has a bomb stuck on his head. The pictures are clearly trying to link Muhammed and Islam with terrorism. No wonder muslims across the world are annoyed to put it very mildly. I’m annoyed, and I’m an atheist.
Secondly, free speech doesn’t mean you have to make statements of pictures that is sure to enrage people. Free speech is a right, not a duty. The drawings don’t bring any constructive criticism or debate to the table. They don’t broaden the perspective in any way. Free speech is supposed to encourage debate and dialogue. The windows of debate and dialogue in western newspapers and media is very narrow as it is. True we have free speech in theory, but self-sensorship prevents a lot of ideas and opinions of ever entering the public discussion domain. The recent «crisis» about Iran is an excellent example.
Violence should of course not happen, only the extremists on both sides want that. The overwhelming majority wants dialogue. And the muslims want an apology. As the editors of the two papers aren’t willing to do it – perhaps the prime ministers or foreign ministers of Norway and Denmark should. Set aside the fact that they themselves didn’t do it, and can’t therefore technically make an apology for something they didn’t do. Be the bigger person, and make an apology. It would make over a billion muslims happy – or at least less pissed off at the west. That’s not something you can do every day, especially not from small countries such as Denmark and Norway. I suggest you do it. The editors are too small to admit mistakes, so the socalled leaders should step up. Be the bigger person. Be a leader.