Sunday, February 19, 2006

Danish Publisher Explains Mohammed Cartoons

LEMMING ROSE of Jyllands Postens has a remarkable article in the Washington Post Sunday, Why I Published Those Cartoons. Denying that his newspaper was engaged in a gratuitous use of press freedom to insult Islam, he declared that, "I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam...The idea wasn't to provoke gratuitously -- and we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter."

The original intended audience of the cartoons, according to Mr. Rose, was not the Muslim world at all, but the societies of Denmark and Europe practicing "self-censorship" over "issues related to Islam." What are these "issues?" Mr. Rose gives a stark example: " Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations."

What he's saying is that out of "respect" or "sensitivity" for the religious feelings of Muslims, so often expressed in non-religious and violent ways, many in Western societies are willing to ignore certain aspects of Islam that we would consider reprehensible in our own societies, to be "tolerant of the intolerant." For example, the hideous treatment of women in Muslim societies, the theocracy that is at the heart of Islam, the claim that "we are the one true religion"; and of course the Muslim-on-Muslim mass murders that Islamist terrorism has wrought on the world. When a taboo on idolatry produces a far more virulent and violent reaction over Danish cartoons than the Bali Bombings, or Zarqawis wedding blood feasts in Jordan, it would seem they could do with a little quiet reflection and criticism from journalists. Not fear and appeasement alone though, are whsat motivate the religious editors of PDI. It is a desire to protect the rights of DOMINANT religions in LOCAL habitats. The members of Roman Catholic upper crust in the Philippines who basically control media and education, are sensitive and respectful and understanding towards the Islamist rage over the cartoons because both are protecting the current practices of religions (Islam and Roman Catholicism) that were imperial theocracies but today must bow to common Democracy, which demotes Religion from the status of wielding state power to that of "mere" form of free speech and expression. I have advanced the theory that what we have here is the "intolerant urging tolerance for other intolerants." One big fish in a small pond stands up for the rights of another big fish in a different pond.

Those here who don't really understand the principle that "freedom of religion IS freedom of exression," -- like the Editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer -- are apparently religious zealots themselves who believe that religious beliefs are basically off-limits for the normally disrespectful, iconoclastic, skeptical or even taunting style of journalism that PDI itself knows and practices oh so well in other social areas. What they really want is a Separation of the Church and Press so that religions can pursue all the things they do to each other such as tax-free parochial politics and missionary conversion.

22 comments:

Without Borders said...

"But the cartoon story is different. Those examples have to do with exercising restraint because of ethical standards and taste; call it editing. By contrast, I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out. The idea wasn't to provoke gratuitously -- and we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter."--- Thanks DJB for posting this one on Mr Rose explanations re cartoons. Now i know why i support his decision.

Without Borders said...

for days, ive been wondering why they published those cartoons. now we know why for the danes and the rest of europe, those cartoons have news value. thanks again DJB.

Rizalist said...

Good comments David! It is such an important issue, am glad you are engaging in it. Lots of people don't even dare write about it. Thanks too.

Without Borders said...

honestly, i really haven't thought about the issue until i read your posts and the exchanges that ensued. right there and then, i realized i stood for press freedom as we in the journalism profession know it. nice blog.

Rizalist said...

We should try to do for our own Press and Civil Society what Jyllands Postens did for Denmark. I honestly believe that this cartoon controversy will bring religions CLOSER in the long run, by forcing them to see how silly they each sound and look to each other! I wish world peace would come with a global belly laugh.

Without Borders said...

that's why i've been telling myself that ultimately this episode is positive as it is forcing us to confront real issues like this one. for long, we in the more "tolerant" world have been in some sort of denial over the issue. "tolerance" here means we no longer kill in the name of God... at the very least. by the way, a significant part of my extended family in mindanao are muslims. we live well, we laugh together during reunions, knowing that the God we say our prayers to have different labels but we never came close to beheading each other.

Rizalist said...

To tolerate intolerance, is about as logical as being sensitive to the desires of rapists. But this truly is a great and unsolved conundrum. What if the Clash of Civilization is inevitable because we really do disagree on certain fundamentals and one side is simply WRONG? I think that all religions must evolve or they will perish in each others arms around their necks.

Without Borders said...

as of now, i still deny the clash of civilization thesis by huntington. remember, in the middle ages we also killed in god's name until john locke told us in his treatise on "tolerance" in the 1500s that is not supposed to be that way. that its not godly to do so. before locke's essay, "christians" thought killing "unbelievers" was right and they cant understand otherwise. i dont know.

Rizalist said...

Dave,
You are familiar with the concept that "All men are created equal"

Do you think there is an equivalent principle that "All religions are created equal" in that same sense as above?

Without Borders said...

as of now, i dont. let me check some sources.

HILLBLOGGER said...

DJB,

Just want to set record straight:
Re: Mr Rose's: "The idea wasn't to provoke gratuitously -- and we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world."

Rose must be honest. While I believe that he did not 'intend to trigger violent demonstrations' ('did not wish' would have been more correct), he must have inwardly suspected as a journalist that the publication of those cartoons could provoke violence. Either that or he was being stupid or extremely naive.

Re: "Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter."

That is more like it. That statement is real and true to the calling of a journalist who wanted to express his right to freedom of expression.

Even for ordinary citizens here, I too am starting to feel that our freedom of expression about Islam is being slowly eroded for fear of violent backlash from ordinary people of Islam faith.

Yesterday's experience in an open market confirmed that. I was with 4 other 'foreign' mothers enjoying shopping at the popular and quite famous Sunday open market in the center of Brussels.

Anne, an English mum who's a recent expat to Belgium said, "I thought this market was more of a traditional Belgian open market - I see it's very Muslim..." One of the mums hushed her even before she could finish speaking, "Sshh... careful, people here understand English."

The group's newcomer's comment was not sinister in itself but because there's that tacit acknowledgement that even that kind remark might draw unecessary backlash, people tend to practise self-censorship here, not out of politeness but out of 'fear'.

Well, instead of dousing water, I spoke up (and not down - I'm a fan of Gabriela Silang), "Didn't you know that there are more fundamental Islamists per square mile in Brussels than in any capital in Europe? You're bound to have lots of Muslim stalls in any open market in Belgium, so be forewarned!"

Claire, another mum said "Not too loud... you might provoke them...!"

I exclaimed: "Rubbish! They've been provoking us more than we've provoked them!".

Because of the obviously creeping dscomfort, we decided on one course of action: leave the open market and instead of enjoying the sights, capped the day with a hot cup of cha in a tea room while speaking in hush-hush tones about the European 'political', 'cultural' and 'religious' situation our tiny group finds itself in.

Rizalist said...

Gabriela Silang in Brussels! Yes! That'll knock some of the starch out of their knickers.

But tell me something - why DO they fear hurting the feelings of these immigrants? Is it because they actually hate them, or are they displacing poorer Belgians from lower paying jobs? Is it political correctness.

I found the Jyllands Postens essay interesting because of the basic claim he makes that I find credible: the publishing of these cartoons were a criticism of Danish political correctness, or whatever it is that you have so intimately painted for us in the market with your friends, that so troubles the European soul.

Rizalist said...

OH OH! btw don't you just love the name "FLEMMING ROSE?"

I mean, what a byline if it were mine...

Essay Most Profound, Most Sublime
By Flemming Rose

Well one thing for sure he'll never hear the end of Prophet Mohammed.

HILLBLOGGER said...

DJB,

You hit Europe's reaction, or reaction in public to be more precise, quite accurately: political correctness.

If you notice, an American in general will have no qualms about stating his opinion, will do so without any hesitation and more often than not, state it bombastically and even confrontationally while his European counterpart would do it with the same efficacity but not in the same radical fashion.

For the Eruopean, it generally boils down to social moeurs and to his general culture - not wanting to seem or sound uncouth.

Unfortunately, people who are radically opposite in behaviour perceive the European's political correctness for weakness and thus underestimate him. Even their friends across the Atlantic with whom they share basically similar social and cultural concepts misunderstand them, all the more so when people who come from diametrically opposite cultures to his - there is bound to be a clash of civilizations.

That being said, when his patience has run dry and the buck must to stop somewhere, a European is perfectly capable of not turning around the bush and will do an American: "You're either with me or against me!"

Abe N. Margallo said...

Hi guys,

DJB addresses Without Borders: "It is such an important issue, am glad you are engaging in it. Lots of people don't even dare write about it."

Well, I too have weighed in on the Mohammad cartoon conroversy here:
Jyllands_Posten: testing the limits of free speech , because I believe the matter is of great significance.

If the link fails, what I have argued in part follows:

The editors of Denmark’s newspaper Jyllands-Posten were deliberately testing the limits of free speech (and as a result being damned for signing their own death warrants) by publishing cartoon images of Prophet Muhammad, the most provocative of which shows Mohammad with a bomb in his turban: the caricature directly links Mohammad and Islam faith to “terrorism” as defined by the West.

xxx

Intellectual liberty occupies the highest rung in the pecking order of the permanencies of humanity. At least, this is what undergirds the conceptual schemes of liberal Western traditions. Accordingly, the mind is free to roam wherever it yearns, whether in secular or religious realms. For, man can believe in anything however bizarre or foolhardy and within that sphere his thoughts are beyond the reach of any law posited by the state (positive law). Not so when the physical manifestation of one’s yearnings encroaches upon the equal yearnings of others, in which case, the law of the state will have to regulate the expression for the greater good.

The Danish editors, within the context thus framed, have all the right to criticize or lampoon anyone, or any beliefs or ideologies for that matter, subject to the laws of their country on libel, protection of national security or possibly of the independence of the judiciary and thereby to curtailment whenever there is “a clear and present danger of the substantive evil that the state has the right to prevent.”

But what happens when the exercise of one’s legal right to express his thoughts creates consequences that go beyond the borders of the state or otherwise impact the conceptual schemes of other traditions or the very way of life of the outsiders or the non-natives in the absence of a global sanctioning authority? May not the aggrieved resort to self-help, which, in the name of self-preservation, could take the form of defensive violent actions, such as war?

Could something in this regard be seen as some kind of moral equivalent to George W. Bush’s dictum to the effect that the 9-11 attack was one against America’s way of life, and out of self-help, America and allies may then punish the perpetrators with or without authority from a world body like the UN? And was the supposed breach of that way of life enough justification for destroying cities, innocent lives and hallowed places of the perpetrators in the same way that the desecration of the Islamic way of life or of the Prophet Mohammad sufficient reason to smash windows or torch buildings and other representations of the desecrators?

What defies simple understanding is that in apparent show of solidarity with Jyllands-Posten and to press the issue further in the direction of advancing the values of modern Western society (i.e., the privileged position of free speech) daily newspapers in France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, and Spain (all colonial powers) have stoked the firestorm through intentional and calculated disregard of the religious sensitivities of their societies’ “outsiders” by republishing the irreverent caricatures on “journalistic grounds” or to point the “hypocrisy” of the Islamic World, all in the face of the ongoing War on Terror or the still fresh embers of the Parish riots. If this is not “clear and present danger” in the global scale, it is no less tantamount to speechifying “Fire!” in a crowded auditorium.

We haven’t seen much of that solidarity in behalf of Cindy Sheehan who was “protesting,” by way of her sacred right to free speech, the war of choice being waged by President Bush in Iraq. Yet I will say here that while the testing of free speech boundaries by Cindy Sheehan has solid fundamental footing, the avenue so chosen ignored the “sensitivities” that is attached to the occasion during which the constitutional right was exercised. I do believe Bush deserves the full respect any president of the United States is entitled to at the now traditional State of the Union address in Capitol Hill. Speak, Cindy did at the House gallery, then she be damned. Now, where are the cold advocates of free speech?

xxx

HILLBLOGGER said...

Abe, pardon my extreme ignorance, but who is Cindy Sheehan?

Rizalist said...

A Warm Welcome Abe Margallo!

You have come at a perfect time and I appreciate your reasoned approach. We are getting down to some of the basics. I am personally struggling with the whole question of the status of Religions in democratic societies.

Let me just restate my main thesis:

Freedom of religion is just a form of freedom of expression. Just as freedom of the press is also just a form of freedom of expression. The latter is human right guaranteed to every citizen that allows one to hold any private opinion or belief and to express it without fear of sanction from society or others. Both within the usual limits of free speech and expression.

Thus, Organized Religions is also just a form of freedom of assembly, and is likewise governed by the laws that apply to the exercise of that freedom.

Religion is in essence a private opinion about Everything. Likewise, journalistic column writing or blogging are expressions of a private opinion. Thus an organized church is much like a newspaper or a broadcasting network.

Based on these principles, I can answer your question:

Abe said: "But what happens when the exercise of one’s legal right to express his thoughts creates consequences that go beyond the borders of the state or otherwise impact the conceptual schemes of other traditions or the very way of life of the outsiders or the non-natives in the absence of a global sanctioning authority? May not the aggrieved resort to self-help, which, in the name of self-preservation, could take the form of defensive violent actions, such as war?"

The answer is clearly Yes, but the response of the aggrieved must be lawful and in proportion to the hurt rendered. Just like any other exercise of free speech.

Freedom of Religion IS Freedom of Expression. The only rights of religion are those that democracy grants it. I know that sounds arrogant, but that is because Democracy demotes Religion to the status of a "mere freedom" by taking away State Power from Churches in the Separation Principle.

But I put to you a question I am trying to answer. Given that there are severe and potentially lethal contradictions among the theologies of the various religions in any society, in what sense must each religion compromise and give up some of its dogma for the sake of peace? Should religions in other words EVOLVE towards a compromise with secularism or ecumenism if you will?

(I think GWB was invoking the rights of national self-defense, not free speech rights when he decided to invade Iraq, and the US Congress and people agreed with him. Evidence is now showing that Saddam was in fact hosting terrorist training grounds and recruitment centers before the invasion. But that's all a different argument that may be the actual subtext to the global cartoon controversy!...)

HILLBLOGGER said...

DJB,

I must admit that your thesis sounds quite solid but you lost me there re GWB.

When you say that GWB was invoking the right of national defence and so invaded Iraq, we must not forget that he blatantly abused that right. Why so? Becaue he invoked that right of self defence against Iraq and the Iraqi population based on willfull distortion of evidences - that Sept 11 was a Saddam through Al Qaeda attack and on the supposed presence of WMDs in Iraq which todate, he has failed to connect to the hated Saddam.

Had Bush invoked the right to hate, I would have have been more lenient with him.

When does a right of national defence give a nation the right to wield it against another nation on the basis of pure hate?

GWB has confused communist dogma "The end justifies the means" with democratic rights.

Rizalist said...

HB,

Like I said that was a different argument, for which we have not laid the predicate. Now rather than get into the past, I ask you, WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN NOW IN IRAQ? What should the American people do about their Second Philippines? (We ARE the First Iraq you know!)

Abe N. Margallo said...

Dean, great theses but here are some digressions:

DJB: The only rights of religion are those that democracy GRANTS it. (Underscoring mine)

ABE: The freedom to believe or not to believe (like the right to let alone) is too basic to the integrity of the individual to require any express “grant” from anyone to have it; and unless you act on it, the freedom is ABSOLUTE for obvious reason (not before modern science can probe into the innermost depths of our thoughts.)

DJB: Religion is in essence a private opinion about Everything. Likewise, journalistic column writing or blogging are expressions of a private opinion. Thus an organized church is much like a newspaper or a broadcasting network.

ABE: I’m sure that faith in my Creator is my highest personal relationship with Him. That relationship is way beyond the organized church to which I belong, my calling or what is beginning to be a fulfilling hobby – blogging.

DJB: But I put to you a question I am trying to answer. Given that there are severe and potentially lethal contradictions among the theologies of the various religions in any society, in what sense must each religion compromise and give up some of its dogma for the sake of peace? Should religions in other words EVOLVE towards a compromise with secularism or ecumenism if you will?

ABE: I agree and a good starting point I guess should be a continuing dialogue and cooperation among the great faiths in matters of social and economic justice, freedom and as you aid peace.

HILLBLOGGER: . . . pardon my extreme ignorance, but who is Cindy Sheehan?

ABE: HB, you didn’t check the link obviously . . . but here’s what I wrote:

So was peace advocate Cindy Sheehan [testing the limits of free speech] who was first roughed up, then arrested and jailed when she wore a t-shirt with the message “2,245 dead. How many more?” while seated in the front row of the House gallery before the start of George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address (“I get hauled out of the People’s House because I was, ‘Protesting’,” she later wrote): Mrs. Sheehan openly holds Bush accountable for those dead heroes, her son, Casey, among them.

HILLBLOGGER: Had Bush invoked the right to hate, I would have been more lenient with him.
When does a right of national defence give a nation the right to wield it against another nation on the basis of pure hate?
GWB has confused communist dogma "The end justifies the means" with democratic rights.

ABE: How come only Saddam is on trial?

HILLBLOGGER said...

Yes, yes, yes! I remember now. Cindy is the mother who has mounted an awareness campaign that Time magazine wrote about.

Abe, indeed, why only Saddam?

Amadeo said...

I celebrate and respect the different theses expressed in this blog entry.

But I would like to comment on a couple of issues raised.

First, I personally can easily discern why there is no global call to action and support for the anti-war causes of a Cindy Sheehan, the American mom who lost a son in the current Iraqi War. Ms. Sheehan has had unhampered rein in the exercise of her rights and freedoms to express herself, restricted only within the confines of other laws. Except for that one mishap during the joint session, with the Capitol police for which the latter promptly recanted and apologized the following day. And BTW, another lady, the wife of a Republican congressman, was also hauled off in the same manner and for the same reason.

Ms. Sheehan has had a field day, with most of mainstream media in full attendance and support, for anything and all that she could possibly dish out, including but not limited to calling the President names and consorting with known dictators of the same hemisphere, and trashing her own country to boot.

Ms. Sheehan has no cause then to raise any ruckus with regard to her rights under the First Amendment, under this democratic regime. But if she does violate other laws in the exercise of her rights, it is a guarantee that the law will step in to restrict her and her entourage.

Thus, I personally cannot find any relevant analogy between this and press freedom issues in the current bloody confrontations occasioned by those irreverent cartoons.

Second, with regard to Saddam, Al-Qaida, Terrorism, and their connections, let me just recount the following:

1. From a SOTU address and other communications by this administration on the war, the WMD issue was only one of several reasons advanced for the conduct of the war. And this is accepted even by its harsh critics. Here’s one such sample: http://www.alternet.org/story/15069/

2. It has not been a claim in the waging of this war that Saddam was directly responsible for 9/11. At best, the claims have been that Saddam was an active sponsor of Al-Qaida and terrorism citing training camps in its northern areas, Jordanian Al-Zahiri getting medical attention in Iraq, even the harboring of the late terrorist Abu Nidal, etc,. And these facts are either self-evident or can be proved. And even a still-unproved claim that the third conspirator in the Oklahoma bombing was an Iraqi officer.


3. Regarding the existence of WMDs, these are the newest developments that may not get sufficient press but nevertheless are out there and can be searched. An Iraqi ex-military in the Saddam close circle is making the rounds claiming that WMDs did exist and were transported to Syria. And more importantly, newly declassified documents translated from over 30,000 documents seized are beginning to paint clear pictures of programs of WMDs. And an even more welcomed development has been a proposed move to be initiated in Congress to allow the still countless documents (I understand less then 10% of these seized documents have been classified, sorted, translated, and declassified.)to be thrown out there in the blogosphere, the “armies of Davids”. Allowing these smart armies to assist in the translation and collation of these voluminous documents.Thus, we may have to withhold any critical judgment on this issue.