Well, I'm sure everybody has heard by now about the cartoons of Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper that has caused Muslims to freak around the world. Normally, I'm not one to wade into these sorts of issues, and I know that others who are probably much more knowledgeable than me have already blogged about it here and here. However, I think this is getting out of hand, and as a librarian - who by definition should stand up for the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press - I feel I must have my say.
First of all, I know that the outrageous actions (i.e. burning of buildings) of a few Muslims do not represent the majority. But for those few I have these words: Get a sense of humour people!!! No one should take themselves or their religion that seriously. I understand that Muhammad is sacred and that it is against Muslim law to depict him at all, much less depict him as the cartoons did. However, if we want to continue to live in a free and democratic society, we must open ourselves to criticism, including any religious beliefs we might hold. And I'm not just talking about Muslims. Christians and Hindus and other religions must also be willing have open discussion about their religions take place. Sometimes, these discussions may be in questionable taste, sometimes people will get offended. But political correctness should never take precedence over freedom of speech. We must not let ourselves be intimidated. If we start tip-toeing around because we're afraid that we might OFFEND some psychopath who will subsequently blow us up, then what are we left with? Where do we draw the line? The truth is, we will always be offending someone.
Having said that, it is perfectly okay to be offended. But instead of trying to shut down discussion and dialogue through intimidation, a better thing to do would be to provide more information. Provide an alternate viewpoint, explain why these images offend you, draw a cartoon of Jesus, anything, but keep the dialogue going. Trying to stifle opposition through violence is totally wrong.
A University Professor (I believe he is from St. Mary's University in Newfoundland, but I can't really remember for sure) had the cartoons up on his office door. The university made him take them down. This to me says that the university was intimidated by the actions taken by some Muslims and simply caved in because they wanted to avoid the issue. I understand their caution, but I personally think they were being chicken shits. A University should set an example to us all as an open forum for the discussion of ideas: ALL ideas no matter who it offends or how politically incorrect it is. If we refuse to examine something because it is going to be a little uncomfortable, then maybe we should just give up. Let a dictator take over, we'll all move back into caves and cease thinking critically at all. Seriously that is how discouraged this whole thing has made me.
Personally, I support that Danish newspaper, and every other newspaper and blogger who have continued to publish those cartoons in the face of such violent opposition.
To those Muslims out there who thought it would be a good idea to burn down an embassy, and to all nuts, regardless of faith, who take their religion too seriously:
You're offended by something I say? Fine. Be offended. Tell me all about it. Tell the whole world about it. But don't try and tell me what I can and can't say.