Saturday, February 04, 2006


Speaking of sense of humor…

Cartoon-mania has swept the airwaves. Free speech? Blasphemy? K and I have been discussing it. We argued a bit about free speech. I have been disgusted – yes that is the right word – by the arguments on both sides: the cartoon supporters and the cartoon detractors. Both are a bit incoherent and dogmatic. As if free speech demands the printing and reprinting of the cartoons ad nauseum… and as if blasphemy is a legitmate legal ruling in today's world.

In America
, we have come to a kind of truce. What do most Americans know? That in polite society only Jews make Jewish jokes; only Blacks use the “n” word; only Poles make Polish jokes… and everybody gets to pick on the dominant culture. That’s the way that minorities protect themselves. It wasn’t an easy truce to come to… and it is violated. I see it as a manners issue, not a free speech issue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Democracy in a Cartoon

By Ibn Warraq

A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.

Unless, we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the Free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest. Do not apologize.

This raises another more general problem: the inability of the West to defend itself intellectually and culturally. Be proud, do not apologize. Do we have to go on apologizing for the sins our fathers? Do we still have to apologize, for example, for the British Empire, when, in fact, the British presence in India led to the Indian Renaissance, resulted in famine relief, railways, roads and irrigation schemes, eradication of cholera, the civil service, the establishment of a universal educational system where none existed before, the institution of elected parliamentary democracy and the rule of law? What of the British architecture of Bombay and Calcutta? The British even gave back to the Indians their own past: it was European scholarship, archaeology and research that uncovered the greatness that was India; it was British government that did its best to save and conserve the monuments that were a witness to that past glory. British Imperialism preserved where earlier Islamic Imperialism destroyed thousands of Hindu temples.

The west is the source of the liberating ideas of individual liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom. It is the west that has raised the status of women, fought against slavery, defended freedom of enquiry, expression and conscience. No, the west needs no lectures on the superior virtue of societies who keep their women in subjection, cut off their clitorises, stone them to death for alleged adultery, throw acid on their faces, or deny the human rights of those considered to belong to lower castes.