Thursday, March 09, 2006

Religious Insensitivity vs. Freedom of the Press

[Warning: The linked cartoon WILL be found offensive to many, as it was to me.]

You know, I am young enough to still remember my college daze, and the honest belief that so many of my friends bought into of intellectual superiority to anyone older than age 29. But as delusional as we all were at one point or another, I don't think I ever encountered anyone as brazenly stupid as this. (Okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration — I knew quite a few brazenly stupid folks when I was in college.)

The latest edition of The Sheaf, the 94-year-old student newspaper of the Canadian University of Saskatchewan, contained a cartoon that seemingly conflicted with the paper's stand on religious sensitivity. Just last month, the paper's staff made an almost unanimous decision to not publish the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that have caused so much controversy in Europe and around the world in the last few months. The stated reasoning behind their decision was apparently two-fold: respect for the Muslim community, and because publishing the cartoons would not gain the paper anything.

First of all, I have no problem at all with that decision. I have not posted on this subject to date, simply because I have very mixed feelings about the entire issue. I do believe in freedom of the press, although that freedom absolutely must come with a large degree of responsibility that is rarely demonstrated by most of the mainstream media. I believe that the media should have every right to publish such cartoons, even though they are offensive to so many. However, just because you have the right to do something does not necessarily mean that it is right to do it. There is a difference between being politically correct — attempting to never offend anyone — and being sensitive of potentially offensive racial and religious issues. On the other hand, no matter how offensive the cartoons were to the Muslim people, I cannot see any way that the riots, threats, killings and property damage inflicted as protest and retaliation can be acceptable.

What makes the Saskatchewan paper's circumstance stand out, however, is not simply their stance on the Muhammad cartoons. Only a week or two after the decision was made to forego publishing those cartoons out of "religious sensitivity," the same staff published this cartoon [Warning: offensive material] portraying Jesus... well, servicing a "capitalist pig." Respect for one religion (Islam) and disdain for another (Christianity) seems to be a common failing in the diversity and politically correctness of the liberal mindset.

The reason this particular cartoon was published? According to the cartoonist himself, it was again two-fold: first, the cartoon (in his opinion) is just pure funny; second, Christians need to be taught a lesson about how Muslims feel about the Muhammad cartoons. [Emphases added by Songbird.]
My question now is this: how is this blasphemous, deviant, offensive, or worthy of such attacks? Unless you view the actions portrayed in the comic as representative of characters of ill repute, then I see no problem with the joke. And if you see homosexuality, the attempts to adhere to a kosher diet, or being an eager-to-please corporate intern as fiendishly negative, then it seems an open mind and a light heart is the next thing we should all try and look for in our classes. After all, people, I'm sure Jesus had a sense of humour.

Now on that point: did Muhammad the Prophet have a sense of humor? I bet he did. The difference between these two comics (you know the other one) is that the other one was dumb. Yes, that's blunt, but it had no punch line, it had no style, and it was just plain hateful. Bombs are bad, that's pretty straightforward. ...

Further with the comparisons here. One of the points of the recent “Capitalist Pig” comic was this: How many of you thought “Why are those people getting so worked up over that comic? It's only a comic, we Christians wouldn't have done that, no way.” ...

Sometimes we need something to point out to us how others might feel. Racism is a skill we unfortunately learn everywhere, but empathy is harder to come by.
Biggest problem I see with that last argument is this: I have not seen a single report of murdered artists, threatened editors or politicians, demolished property or other riotous activity as a result of this cartoon. A lot of anger and protest, yes. The same can be said for recent cartoons that were equally offensive to Jews. But our reactions have not been violent or destructive. And, luckily for the former Sheaf editor, Canada hasn't yet adopted this type of penalty for such offense.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Muslim reactions over the Muhammad cartoons, and the violence has not been limited to a few extremist individuals.

Almost makes you want to go to France and torch a bunch of cars, doesn't it? Actually, no it doesn't. It just makes me want to weep.

Hat-tip: Pat at Brainster's Blog


Blogger tomax7 said...

Read some of the "support the Sheaf blog" stuff,

So all this rambling about "freedom of speech", "it's our right", "prove a point" doesn't seem to fit the crime.

I guess I should have asked this question at the outset of this blog:

What is this cartoon doing in a University Student newspaper, let alone the Comic section, and not Editorial section of the paper if they wanted to prove our freedom of speech?

Maybe they don't take themselves serious either?

3/10/2006 12:24 AM  

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