I haven’t commented before now on the controversy over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed but I think I’ve finally found an article that seems to have the right balance. Maybe I should try to give my opinion myself but this isn’t something that I really feel I have all the background on. For example, according to this
article on the Huffington Post site, the people who held the contest originally are far-right, anti-immigrant types whose aim was to stir up trouble. I haven’t seen this view before or since, so I don’t know if it’s reliable, but it, along with this one
from TomPaine.com. give a more nuanced view of the whole situation. It’s interesting that only a day or two after reading the HuffPo article, there was a story on NPR on how a far right group in France was out “feeding the hungry,” but was only serving soup with pork in it, as a deliberate poke in the eye to both Muslims and Jews. When confronted about it, they would state piously, “But we’re only feeding the hungry.” So Zogby’s contention about the original intent of the contest is certainly plausible.
There are a few points that I would like to make, which have certainly all been made by others, though possibly not all in the same place.
1) Yes, freedom of the press is an important principle, which includes the “right to offend.”
2) As with any freedom, it should be exercised with responsibility.
3) As the author of the TomPaine.com piece points out, the “right to offend” also includes its corollary, the “right to be offended.”
4) Offense is no
excuse for violence, but peaceful protest, boycotts, etc. are all legitimate methods of objecting.
5) Papers which chose not
to print the cartoons certainly had a right to make that decision and should not be accused of cowardice, knuckling under, etc., although I would hope that they would at least point their readers to a website where they could go if they want to judge for themselves. (I recognize that not everyone has web access, but for the moment there’s always the library, assuming you don’t mind ending up on a government list.)