Saturday, January 17, 2015

Just don't do it

There has been a tremendous amount of discussion regarding free speech and the events in Paris, where journalists were killed as an extremist reaction to cartoons about the Muslim prophet. I thought I would weigh in after some serious deliberations.

We can all agree that freedom of speech is an important right that deserves to be protected, and exercised by everyone. Where I begin to draw the line is when the speech is hateful, disrespectful, or libellous. Depending on where you live, free speech is either unlimited or it can be restricted by law, not to include hate literature, etc.

The kinds of cartoons that Muslims find offensive are those in which their prophet is lampooned. They insist that this is a form of disrespect. I believe that this is the key. We should collectively know better than to do or say something that is considered disrespectful by a group of people. We have the right to do it, but we also have the responsibility to acknowledge and face the consequences of those actions. Does that justify killing someone over a disrespectful act? No. Killing the messenger is the act of an extremist and a coward. But it is a potential consequence of free speech and could have been easily avoided if the cartoons were never published. One could argue that if the cartoons were never published, extremists would have just used another reason to justify killing non-believers. This is true. But we're still missing the point. Is it right to disrespect others just because we can?

I have heard the argument from some Christians that it isn't a big deal and that they wouldn't be offended if their God was lampooned. Again, they're missing the point. It doesn't matter that you don't mind your God being lampooned, what matters is that Muslims consider it an insult. The Pope seems to agree and he represents the Christian faith.

I would have hoped that the Muslim community would gather together and peacefully protest against the cartoons at Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere, to make their feelings clear. But they chose not to exercise their own free speech. That's unfortunate, because there are probably some people unsure or unaware that lampooning the Muslim prophet is a bad thing.

In the meantime, I totally agree with and respect the CBC's decision not to publish these types of cartoons because they feel (as I do) that it is wrong to deliberately disrespect others, especially when you know it is a sensitive issue.

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