Sunday, February 05, 2006

in answer to a commenter
re: appeasing fanatics

The following is a reprint from Oranckay's blog. Oranckay was kind enough to link to posts by me and Dr. Hodges re: the "blasphemous" cartoon flap. In Oranckay's comment thread, commenter Sonagi says the following:

Freedom of speech and press are not universal values, and no country is an island. Western media have the legal right in most countries to publish derogatory images relating to religion, but that doesn’t mean they should do so. CNN was smart to pixelate Muhammad’s face in the cartoons; it’s not worth angering two billion people.

I now reprint my reply:


The question is whether Westerners can continue to be Western while IN the West. That is, after all, where the problem started: Western newspapers that published those cartoons. The West is quite pluralistic and leaves a lot of wiggle room for a wide variety of religious practices. But the West also has certain core values — among them, freedom of thought and expression. For those cultures that expect to integrate themselves with the West (and the West is already host to millions of Muslims), they had better learn to accept these values, even if it means that their religious ideas must evolve away from 7th-century anachronism. It took Christian culture a very long time to do this, and some would argue that it’s not done evolving. So it goes for much of Islam.

The picture is, of course, complex. Plenty of Muslims don’t give a damn about such cartoons. Plenty of Muslims drink and womanize and otherwise violate basic Muslim precepts. Plenty of Muslims are Muslim in name only — just like many non-practicing Christians. I don’t think “two billion people” have been angered by these cartoons (Islam has about 1.3 billion adherents, by the way, but that number is growing daily).

Another thing to note is that many Muslim nations are members of the UN, and subscribe to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the most global statement of (supposedly) shared values we have. According to Article 19:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Why should Danish cartoonists now be fearing for their lives?

True — it’s impossible to arrive at an “objective” notion of values. But most modern folks agree that barbarism (and yes, we can include the warlike tendencies of modern Western nations, too) should become a thing of the past. I refuse to give in to spineless cultural relativism. If Muslim nations that are UN members are supposed to subscribe to Article 19, then no one who expresses a blasphemous thought should fear for his or her life. Not Theo Van Gogh, not the people at Jyllands-Posten, not anyone.

While I might wish for Koreans to do things differently in Korea, I don’t think it’s my place to impose my beliefs on them. Private grumbling is one thing; active oppression is another. By the same token, I’m not going to tolerate a wild-eyed group of Muslims who think they can dictate — through threats of violence — what our Western papers can and can’t print.

No appeasement. None.


Read the UN declaration here.



Anonymous said...

From the Asia Times:

Cartoons and the clash of 'freedoms'

And an editor's note as well:
A kick in the eyeballs

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks for the links. There's a ton to fisk in both of those articles, but I don't have the time right this moment.

Biggest theme from the first article: more whining about victimization and West-caused poverty. Phooey.

Second article makes some claims about Muslim ideals that don't jive with many Muslims' behavior.

Neither article takes into account how Muslim terrorists in Iraq have had no compunction about using Muslim sacred spaces as bases from which to murder people.


Anonymous said...


I agree and let's not forget that it's quite ok to show beheadings of innocent hostages on public TV, blow up innocent men, women and children, and other attrocities - but I guess those actions are excusable, huh?
Did some of those European newspapers go a little too far to the point they were flaunting their freedom of expression and freedom of the press? Maybe, and I'm reluctant to say that...but even giving it the smallest benefit of the doubt still doesn't excuse or condone the "outrage" parts of the Muslim world are showing over this.
Let them eat beans, I say.