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February 06, 2006

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Wonderful.

I do think there is some line, somewhere that shouldn't be crossed (often), but only because you can only take mockery so far into the realm of pure insult without losing the message.

But people who cross that line still have freedom of speech, and no topic should be taboo. If you disagree, you should retaliate verbally.

I don't care what the cartoons showed or who they offended. I don't care if they crossed a line, or whether there is or should be such a line. All I care about is that freedom of speech be protected. Freedom of speech means nothing if it doesn't protect offensive speech that crosses someone's line.

Since I suspect I wasn't as clear as I like:

Clarification: If you disagree with the insult/mockery, you should retaliate verbally.

Additional clarification: The line I specify is a hypothetical point where an insult with a legitimate point loses the appearance of having that point. You're completely free to go beyond it, but I typically consider it unwise or useless.

Is that photo legit? I saw a claim that a similar photo was a hoax. See https://dadahead.blogspot.com/2006/02/this-guy-is-my-hero-too-good-to-be.html

I think the “Behead those who say Islam is violent” picture you linked has been photoshopped. Look at the link I provided and you will see the same guy, same picture but it says “Behead those who insult islam”.

I think the picture I published is legit, although I would be happy to print a retraction if you can show me it’s not.

Excellent post, and good links to other interesting opinion pieces. Thanks!

Skeptico - while I enjoy and generally agree with your blogs, I think the tone you took in this one leaves you in danger of neglecting your own advice.

At bhttps://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2006/01/people_ignore_f.html you wrote:
"there is a general lesson here for critical thinkers: we should try to be aware of our own biases when being presented with political (and other) information, and should try to evaluate information honestly, even if it challenges our political views (whatever they may be). This is hard, of course. I try to do this but like everyone else I know that I engage in some of the rationalization activities described above at least some of the time."

You appear to have have a strong personal dislike of religious belief in general, and while you're totally entitled to your view I feel that your emotional response to this subject means that you are not crediting the muslim protesters with an equal right to express the opposite opinion. You find it offensive that they threaten to slay those who offend their beliefs - fair enough, so do I. However, you do not recognise that they experience an equal if not greater degree of offence when Western commentators appear to equate their religion directly with terrorism, which is an unjustified generalisation betraying a lack of understanding of the actual teachings of Islam. Portraying the prophet with a bomb in his turban is every bit as offensive as threatening to kill those who do not agree with you: in my view both the cartoonist and the protesters are equally guilty of stretching their freedom of speech to spread unreasonable generalisations which could constitute incitement to violence.

Mulsims should not have their right to protest curtailed, just because you (and I) utterly reject their "fairy tale" beliefs - or at least if they do, then so should those who gratuitously publish these cartoons knowing full well that they cause widespread offence. I understand you want to confront and defeat religion, but surely the way to do it is by patient and calm assertion of your point of view, not just by the repeated publishing of crude and insulting cartoons. That approach is every bit as bad as fundamentalists refusing to engage properly with skeptics merely because they are unbelievers - and surely you don't want to reduce yourself to that level?

Apologies - the previous post was mine, but I forgot to fill in my details before hitting "Post". It is not my intention to make anonymous comments!

Bruce:

Re: Portraying the prophet with a bomb in his turban is every bit as offensive as threatening to kill those who do not agree with you:

I couldn’t disagree more. Killing someone (or even threatening to do so) is nothing like showing an offensive cartoon.

Re: Mulsims should not have their right to protest curtailed

Never said it should be. I was protesting the West’s kow towing to the Muslims’ protest.

The "protests" have progressed far beyond protest. As far as I know, no people have been killed by the muslim mobs, but a significant amount of property damage was done, and I think I heard that there were some injuries among the police.

If a child murdered it's parents because it had just learned that Santa Claus is a fairy tale, we'd probably think the behaviour just a tad out of proportion to the crime if not slightly deranged. Apologists wouldn't be queuing up (apart from the usual suspects) to claim the punishment of the parents was just. I fail to see any difference between that hypothetical situation and the madness currently engulfing the Islamic world and its attendant apologists.
It seems plainly obvious to me from the film footage of the protests in the Middle-East, shown on Italian TV (where I live), BBC and EuroNews, that most of what is going on is/has been pretty much orchestrated. These are some of the most restrictive societies and brutal regimes where most, if not all, of the news outlets are government owned or sponsored. The governments for the most part say what protests can and cannot take place. Most of these people do not have access to the internet and, of the few that do, their on-line activities aren't unrestricted or protected by any privacy laws etc. We aren't talking about enlightened societies here. We are talking about soceties where people are ruled by inhumane, medieval governments and inhumane, medieval laws that have their basis in superstition and belief in male supremacy. It really doesn't matter how it's dressed up, all religion (whether theological or political) tends toward the tyrannical and oppressive. The current behaviour in the name of Islam is yet another abomination in the history of mankind that proves the point.

"...they experience an equal if not greater degree of offence when Western commentators appear to equate their religion directly with terrorism, which is an unjustified generalisation..."

I'm a Canadian and we're largely a peace-loving people. But if a tiny group of Canadians started a worldwide campaign of terrorism, I'd understand it if the world's media called Canadians terrorists. Of course they don't mean every single Canadian. While I'd be frustrated at the characterization, I'd understand it. And instead of getting mad at the world's media, I'd be standing up loud and clear against my terrorist countrymen.

Look at how the American media treats the French. According to them, every French person is a coward and stinks and is arrogant. Do they torch NBC studios when Jay Leno makes another one of his ignorant jokes?

Skeptico:
You say "Killing someone (or even threatening to do so) is nothing like showing an offensive cartoon." Agreed, of course it isn't - but I was not equating the two. The point is that there are two different examples of freedom of speech used in an unacceptable way here. Publishing the cartoons initially was permissable (albeit a bit crass) - repeatedly republishing them despite the obvious offence they cause is an unreasonable abuse of free speech. Protesting against the cartoons is permissable - using the protest as a platform for incitement to violence is not. The fact that one abuse is motivated by misguided religion and the other by overzealous rationalism is immaterial to the fact that both are inapproriate.

A possible standard of comparison (perhaps contraversial but maybe worth exploring) - It seems that these cartoons make Muslims feel much the same way as an African American might feel if somebody in the media repeatedly used the N word to describe them. While one could plead freedom of speech to defend such actions, no reasonable person would condone such gratuitously insulting behaviour, especially when it is done repeatedly.

I take your point that you never advocated restricting their right to protest - sorry if I misrepresented you.

GRW: You say " ... I'd understand it if the world's media called Canadians terrorists. Of course they don't mean every single Canadian. While I'd be frustrated at the characterization, I'd understand it." Of course - but you would be less understanding if the world press caricaturing your nation resulted in misguided individuals making racially-motivated assaults on your friends and family, not to mention misguided politicians using popular misconceptions to justify continuing military occupation of Canada. This is the reality of what is happening to many muslims, who are no more a suicide bomber than you or I.

Incidentally, I entirely agree that Islam needs to be more outspoken and unambiguous in its condemnation of their extremist minority.

[FYI, I am white and from a British Christian background. I am not arguing from a position of 'vested interest']

Good blog - thanks for the chance to debate these important issues. Long live freedom of speech and rational thinking!

Bruce

Ophelia's stirring defense of free speech would be more convincing to me if she weren't so dismissive of complaints about the violation of free speech by laws against Holocaust denial in Austria. (You know how much I despise Holocaust denial; but, as I aways say, freedom of speech doesn't mean much if it doesn't protect offensive speech.) After all, her own justification (that Holocaust denial is dangerous) could also be applied to extreme anti-religious speech, which could fire up bigotry against Muslims or whoever.

Or am I missing something?

Bruce Walton

Re: You say "Killing someone (or even threatening to do so) is nothing like showing an offensive cartoon." Agreed, of course it isn't - but I was not equating the two.

Yes you were. You said:

Portraying the prophet with a bomb in his turban is every bit as offensive as threatening to kill those who do not agree with you

You are exactly equating the two. I don’t know how “every bit as offensive” cannot be equating the two.

Re: Publishing the cartoons initially was permissable (albeit a bit crass) - repeatedly republishing them despite the obvious offence they cause is an unreasonable abuse of free speech.

Why? Why is “repeatedly republishing them” an abuse. What is the definition that means this is abuse, exactly?

Re: A possible standard of comparison (perhaps contraversial but maybe worth exploring) - It seems that these cartoons make Muslims feel much the same way as an African American might feel if somebody in the media repeatedly used the N word to describe them.

Oh TOTAL false analogy. Read my post – I SPECIFICALLY explained why this is not racism. Lame lame lame. Lame lazy comparison to racism. Especially lame since I already covered this. It’s not racially motivated. Try thinking before you robotically go into “this is racism” mode.

Orac:

I agree. Although the deniers are totally wrong, I disagree with the laws that prevent Holocaust denial free speech.

Edited to add:

Ophelia’s comments (and mine) were not so much about free speech per se, but about why religion should not be the one thing that should be immune from criticism (or more specifically, should be first in line for criticism).

"repeatedly republishing them despite the obvious offence they cause is an unreasonable abuse of free speech"

I see where you're coming from on this one, but there wouldn't have been this solidarity from papers across the world if there hadn't been such a threat from the original publishing. The repeated republishing was just a stand against them, saying you can't tell us not to make fun of your religion (especially when proponents of your religion are going around bombing and beheading innocent people).

I don't like the invasion of Iraq, either, but let's remember that it came AFTER the hijacking of the planes.

Aside from the main topic here, but George Deutsch, the twit at NASA, has been forced to resign. Turns out that his resume listed a degree that he, surprise surprise, didn't have.

GRW:
"there wouldn't have been this solidarity from papers across the world if there hadn't been such a threat from the original publishing."
Yes, I understand why journalists are very sensitive to threats directed at their colleagues - and rightly so, nobody condones physical violence or the threat of it. This explains (although in my view it does not excuse) the repeated republishing.

"The repeated republishing was just a stand against them, saying you can't tell us not to make fun of your religion (especially when proponents of your religion are going around bombing and beheading innocent people)."
Here is where I disagree - the cartoons go a lot further than just poking fun. Take the one with the bomb in the turban: it takes a symbol (The Prophet) which stands for ALL of Islam not just the lunatic fringe; uses it in a way which is considered insulting in the context of that culture (showing an image of the Prophet); and then implies that all of Islam supports terrorism by juxtaposing that image with a bomb. Islam as a whole is not responsible for suicide bombers any more than Christianity as a whole is responsible for the guff spouted by creationists, although I would agree that moderates in both groups could and should do more to distance themselves from these extreme views.

"I don't like the invasion of Iraq, either, but let's remember that it came AFTER the hijacking of the planes." True - but let's also remember that neither Saddam's brutal regime nor the population of Iraq which it repressed had any connection with the actions of the hijackers. Correlation does not imply causality.

Skeptico:

"Yes you were. You said: ... [quote snipped] ... You are exactly equating the two"
Granted my original post was poorly phrased - I should have been more precise. My second post makes my point more clearly, I think - the threats of violence by the protesters and the repeated republishing of the cartoons are alike in the sense that they are both inappropriate uses of the right to freedom of speech, but as you say they are not identical to each other and one cannot lump together the perpetrators of one with the perpetrators of the other.

"Why is 'repeatedly republishing them' an abuse. What is the definition that means this is abuse, exactly?"

Fair question - let me explain. The content of the cartoons themselves are not a rational and considered criticism of Islam, for reasons I explain in my post above to GRW - they are in fact crude and innacurate caricature of Islam. Repeating such unfair generalisations without qualification is offensive - NOT because it questions people's religious belief (which in itself is perfectly fair), but because it takes millions of law-abiding people and lumps them all together and alleges that they are supporters of terrorism. if you made such an accusation against one individual, you would probably be slandering them - so why should it be OK to repeat a similar slander against millions of individuals?

"Oh TOTAL false analogy. Read my post – I SPECIFICALLY explained why this is not racism. ... [rhetorical hyperbole snipped] "

I do not say that it is equivalent to racism, and I did not draw the comparison lazily or robotically. I agree with your original blog that making fun of a belief is not the same as making fun of people because their percieved ethnic origin, and that is not the equation I made - you misunderstand.
Let me be more explicit: my objection to the cartoons is not based on the fact that they mock a faith - my objection is that they allege that an *entire culture* are collectively responsible for appalling acts of murder. This is akin to use of a racist insult because attacks a great many people in an unwarranted and personal way, and furthermore it does so in a way which (sadly) incites some to assault and otherwise discriminate against them.

Does that make more sense to you?

Bruce

Bruce Walton mealy-mouths:

Take the one with the bomb in the turban: it takes a symbol (The Prophet) which stands for ALL of Islam not just the lunatic fringe; uses it in a way which is considered insulting in the context of that culture (showing an image of the Prophet); and then implies that all of Islam supports terrorism by juxtaposing that image with a bomb. Islam as a whole is not responsible for suicide bombers [1] any more than Christianity as a whole is responsible for the guff spouted by creationists, although I would agree that moderates in both groups could and should do more to distance themselves from these extreme views. [2]

[1] Where are rallies against the bombings, beheadings, misogyny and other crimes committed in the name of Islam?  Where are the mass burnings of Hamas and Hezbolla symbols?  Where outside the West are there any groups like "Muslims for Choice"?

[2] Where are these moderate, tolerant, freedom-loving Muslims, and where have they applied legal penalties against the extremists even remotely similar to the penalties levied against Christian worshippers in Saudi Arabia?

Bruce:

That makes more sense – thanks.

You raise some interesting questions. I’m going to write another post on this, probably this weekend.

I just saw a short video on-line today that had Jesus Christ singing "I Will Survive" and prancing around the city before being hit by a bus. (if I still had the link, I'd print it here, but I don't). It was silly and fun. But can you imagine if that were Mohammad? No doubt that video is offensive to many Christians, but you don't see them out rioting, fire-bombing or threatening physical violence.

Engineer-post:
"Where are rallies against the bombings, beheadings, misogyny and other crimes committed in the name of Islam?"

1. Mysogyny is not a crime as such - it is a social attitude. Of course I do not condone sexual discrimination practiced in many countries around the world (not all of them muslim). This is a deep-seated cultural issue, and while I agree that it is partly rooted in a misplaced obedience to religious doctrines originating in the distant past it cannot be seen as an exclusively religious issue. After all, it is only in recent decades that western societies have begun to address the deep-rooted societal problems of discrimination which exist to some degree all over the world.

2. Beheadings - I assume you refer to terrorist murders which have taken place recently in Iraq, rather than Capital Punishment as practiced by some muslim states (a separate issue). These acts have of course been widely condemned throughout the muslim world, so on that front your criticism is invalid.

3. Bombings - Murder is not condoned by conventional Islam any more than it is by conventional Christianity. The use of 'Jihad' to incite people to carry out these awful acts is just as offensive to most muslims as it is to everyone else. We have had recent experience of this right here in Britan, where the suicide bombers who struck in London on 7 July evoked many demonstrations of condemnation for the bombers and sympathy for the victims from Britain's muslim community - and I'm sure the same was true for American muslims after 9/11.

You would have made your point more convincingly had you alluded directly to the demonstrations of support which have taken place in the Middle East for some terrorist atrocities. I condemn such expressions, as do many others from all cultures - I believe that these are also an inappropriate use of freedom of speech as they are very distressing for the victims of such atrocities and may encourage other similar acts. However if one supports unqualified freedom of speech, one would have little choice but to accept such expressions.

"Where are the mass burnings of Hamas and Hezbolla symbols?"

If you lived in a tramatised society like Palestine or Lebanon which was riddled with violent criminal groups, you wouldn't go around burning their symbols in public - at least not if you planned to go on living tomorrow.

[Your comments connote an extremely interesting debate which could be had about Hamas suddenly holding political power in Palestine - which is off-topic here.]

"Where are these moderate, tolerant, freedom-loving Muslims"

They are all over the place in Britain, for a start. You seem to imply that they don't exist in countries with a muslim majority. Of course it is quite right to say that precepts of human rights and democracy are not folllowed in most muslim countries to the same they are in the West, and I definitely agree that those countries would be much better places to live if they allowed more free speech and more voting, and less repression. However, muslim countries do not have a copyright on repressive regimes - how about China for a start? I would not condone gratuitous insults against Chinese people just because I disagree with the repressive practices of the Chinese government, nor would I assume that all the people of China endorse such practices just because they don't often risk their lives by making loud protests.

"the penalties levied against Christian worshippers in Saudi Arabia?"

I'm afraid I am not aware of the details of Saudi law on this point, but I'm willing to learn. If you could refer me to a source where I can find out more, I would then be happy to comment.

BTW, I have just the one mouth, and it's not at all mealy.
"mealy-mouthed adj. Unwilling to state facts or opinions simply and directly." (Houghton Mifflin dictionary)
I am stating things as directly as I know how. If you have a specific fact you consider me to have distorted or concealed, please post details rather than vague insults.

Skeptico:

Thanks, I look forward to reading your post.

As you say,there is an important issue here, and I acknowledge that there are going to be differing views on it. I think it is important to apply skeptical rationalism to many of the consquences of religious belief - but I'm sure that it can be done in a more valid and constructive way than cartoons like these.

GRW:
"can you imagine if that were Mohammad? No doubt that video is offensive to many Christians, but you don't see them out rioting, fire-bombing or threatening physical violence."
Violent protest is never justified. But one cannot assume that a few hundred violent protesters claiming to represent a worldwide culture numbering tens of millions are necessarily representative.

The video doesn't sound like it implied that Jesus was engaged in acts of mass murder - so the implied analogy to the cartoons is not very close. Also, Christian culture doesn't have a taboo on depicting Christ in the same way that Islam does with The Prophet.

You do make the good point that there is a cultural difference between Western and Islamic cultures in how anger is expressed. This one of the dissonances which makes if very hard for voices of reason (on both sides) to be heard above the background noise.

Sorry - the last post was me. Forgot to put in my name again!

Where are these moderate, tolerant, freedom-loving Muslims?
They are all over the place in Britain, for a start.

You mean, in the country where:

  1. 37 percent of the Muslims say the British Jewish community is a legitimate target.
  2. 30% don't think Israel has a right to exist.
  3. 7% think suicide bombings are justified IN BRITAIN.
  4. Some Muslim clerics in Britain would not inform police if they learned of a terrorist plot against Britain, a position supported by 5% of Muslims surveyed (that's over 50,000 individuals).
The characterization of Muslims as a fifth column is at least partially accurate.
I'm afraid I am not aware of the details of Saudi law on this point, but I'm willing to learn.
Start here.

Engineer-Poet:
Thank you for posting some facts (in so far as opinion surveys are fact).

"30% don't think Israel has a right to exist."
This is a political opinion which people are entitled to hold in a free society. A person could quite legitimately hold this view without in any way condoning violence as a method of getting there. I personally do not agree that Isreal has no right to exits (I think it has every right to exist, within the 1967 boundaries) but I don't see why you consider this to be evidence of support for suicide bombing.

"7% think suicide bombings are justified IN BRITAIN."
That means that 93% are opposed to suicide bombing in Britain. This is a pretty substantial majority. The best way to persuade the 7% who disagree is by reasoned argument. The cartoons (which is what we're talking about in this blog) do not constitute reasoned argument.

"Some Muslim clerics in Britain would not inform police if they learned of a terrorist plot against Britain, a position supported by 5% of Muslims surveyed"
Again, that means that 95% do not agree. There is no doubt that there are a small number of extremist muslim clerics in Britain who are actively supporting terrorism, and happily (if somewhat belatedly) the authorities are now taking action to deal with them.

Finally, the one figure in this survey which makes me sit up and think:
"37 percent of the Muslims say the British Jewish community is a legitimate target."
A frightening statistic, on the face of it. However, it does beg the question "A legitimate target for what?". It doesn't seem to be a legitimate target for terrorist attacks, since according to the same article only "One in six of all Muslims questioned thinks suicide bombings can sometimes be justified in Israel". That implies that the 37% mentioned above may not actually mean that they want to see attacks on Britsh Jews. Perhaps they mean a legitimate target for protest? I don't know as the article does not make this clear.

BTW, I do not deny at all thay there is a lot of unpleasant anti-semitism around in the Arab world. But this fact does not justify our culture applying crude stereotypes to Isalm. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, you know.

RE Saudi Christians: I have heard of Yahoo, smart guy. Can't you do any better than that?

that means that 95% do not agree.
Where's the opprobrium of the 95% aimed at the 5% for their violent tendencies?  (The problem is that the violent are more theologically correct than the 95%, and the 95% know it.  There is also Muslim solidarity.
I have heard of Yahoo, smart guy. Can't you do any better than that?
When the first page of search results has hits on EXACTLY THE THINGS YOU WERE ASKING ABOUT, starting with "Saudi Christian convert arrested and jailed", I wonder if you have a reading comprehension problem.

" Christian culture doesn't have a taboo on depicting Christ in the same way that Islam does with The Prophet."

Right, but those are just the rules if you're in the club! Christians have other rules that I don't feel the need to follow and they don't feel the need to enforce on those who aren't Christians. Get the difference?

"this fact does not justify our culture applying crude stereotypes to Isalm."

Surely you're familiar with the art of political cartooning. They can be pretty savage towards all groups and individuals. That's their purpose -- to show, by sometimes crude means, the hypocrisies people or groups represent. Isn't one of the bigger problems of that cartoon not that it showed Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, but that he was depicted at all? What if the cartoonist had drawn him with a tear running down his cheek, representing that's he's upset with where many Muslims are taking his religion in his name? It would be less offensive, but just the fact the artist depicted him would in and of itself be offensive. But I go back to the rules of the club. Those rules of not depicting him are for those in the club.

Someone else asked if the video I mentioned showed Jesus as being a murderer. No, just a prancing fool. But as it happens, I went to a comedy club last night and saw Paul Provenza, the director of The Aristocrats. He obliterated Christians. When he asked if any Christians were in the audience, a couple of tables raised their hands. His immediate direct quote was, "Go f*** yourselves, turn the other cheek, then go f*** yourselves again. I have to listen to your bulls*** 24/7, now it's your turn to listen to me." And these Christians actually laughed and applauded. In a full house of about 300, no one walked out. You've got to admit that's a whole lot cruder than a cartoon.

There has to be a lot of cognitive dissonance happening in the "Islamic World" these days. After all, how else could the rioters feel that the memory of Mohammed could be more insulted by a Danish cartoon than by thousands of people rioting, destroying and murdering in his name?

In all fairness, the Muslims do not have a monopoly on this sort of religious mania. Christians and Jews have reacted with violence - even with war - in response to similar degrees of "insult" to their religion. Of course, this all happened hundreds or even thousands of years ago, before global communications, nuclear weapons, nerve gas or even chemical explosives.

To be sure, the Muslims out spraying spittle, shaking their Korans in rage and burning Danish flags are a small minority. But most of them wouldn't even be on the streets if they did not have at least the tacit approval of the repressive regimes they live in (Iran, Iraq - still repressive, but under new management, Lebanon - repressive when it can get organized, etc.).

And the outcry by the Imams and other Muslim leaders has been underwhelming. For every religious or secular Muslim leader who speaks out against the violence, ten or twenty Western diplomats, politicians and newspaper editors have prostrated themselves in apology to the rioters.

This is clearly a collision between religious fanaticism and freedom. Muslims are free - in the West, at least - to practice their religion as they see fit. They are not free to tell me that I have to follow their silly rules.

I won't be wearing a Burkha, covering my face or "showing respect" to their Prophet. Likewise, I won't be keeping Kosher, going to church on Sunday or observing any other religious practices - unless I choose to do so. In the West - and the "Islamic World" had best start getting used to this idea - freedom of religion includes the freedom to follow no religious practices whatsoever.


Prometheus

"Where's the opprobrium of the 95% aimed at the 5% for their violent tendencies?"
I entirely agree that the muslim majority must strive to be more vocal and unequivocal in their condemnation of the extremist minority - I have said so several times before in this thread. However, I guess that part of the problem may be that the media get better copy from covering extreme, violent protests than moderate, peaceful ones ...

"The problem is that the violent are more theologically correct than the 95%, and the 95% know it."
I don't claim to know enough about muslim theology to comment directly. However, this is not the impression I've got - I have often heard muslims say that clerics who (for instance) claim that the Koran justifies suicide bombings are wilfully distorting it. Maybe you have more detailed knowledge of the ins and outs of this?

"There is also Muslim solidarity."
It is true that the current geopolitical climate is encouraging people to group together into camps - 'If you're not for me you're against me' kind of thing. I wouldn't encourage this, as I think it raises the temperature and increases the danger of violence. However, it is not only muslims who do this - it is human nature. Groups in the West behave in exactly the same way.

"Saudi Christian convert arrested and jailed"
Freedom, of speech must also entail freedom of religion (any faith or none, as one chooses). I absolutely do not condone abuses of freedom of speech in any country, musilim or otherwise. However, bad things done is Saudi Arabia do not justify bad things being done elsewhere. I repeat, and eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

"I wonder if you have a reading comprehension problem."
I wonder if you have a problem with your addiction to unnecessary sarcasm ...

"Right, but those are just the rules if you're in the club! ... Get the difference?"
Yes, I do get it, and generally I would agree that if you're not 'in the club' then you're not bound by the rules. However, my point about the 'bomb in the turban' cartoon is that it makes an accusation which it is unfair to make collectively against an entire culture, and in that context the fact that the Prophet was portrayed added considerably to the impact.

"Isn't one of the bigger problems of that cartoon not that it showed Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, but that he was depicted at all?"
Not as far as I'm concerned, it's not. That cartoon is in a different league to (for example) the other one Skeptico showed, which is making a point about oppression of women. There's a difference between making a political point and calling people murderers.

I cannot speak for what others found offensive about which cartoons, and I do not condone pussyfooting around people's beliefs for the sake of it. However, what I personally found unacceptable about the bomb cartoon was the allegation of universal support for violence, which strikes me as slanderous and provocative to an unjustifiable and unnecessary degree.

Skeptico replies to Bruce Walton

I said I would write another full post on this subject, but (as you can see) I never got round to it. At this stage, rather than write a full post I thought I would just write a brief comment belatedly replying to your main points. Here goes:

Re: The content of the cartoons themselves are not a rational and considered criticism of Islam

Agreed, but then cartoons don't have to be a rational and considered criticism of whatever they are lampooning. They are just cartoons. Cartoons can use hyperbole to make a point. In fact, if you look at many political cartoons in the West, that’s exactly what they do. It’s only because this is about precious Islam that this is even raised as a criticism of the cartoons.

Re: my objection is that they allege that an *entire culture* are collectively responsible for appalling acts of murder. This is akin to use of a racist insult because attacks a great many people in an unwarranted and personal way

I don’t agree it’s a racist-like insult. A racist insult is to say that all the people in a particular race are inferior just because they are of that race. It doesn’t matter if a person is the smartest and best educated possible; if they are of this race they are considered by the racist to be inferior. And no matter how dumb the person of the other race is, the racist will always think that person is superior. The racist judges you by something you have no control over (your race), irrespective of your actual qualities. Making fun of Islam is making fun of a thing - a belief - and a belief you chose to accept or not.

Furthermore, while it is true that not all Muslims are terrorists, it is true that the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims. So in my view a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb for a turban is making a valid if polemical point. That’s rough for Muslims who abhor terrorism, but I do believe that is their problem, not mine.

Re: I think it is important to apply skeptical rationalism to many of the consquences of religious belief - but I'm sure that it can be done in a more valid and constructive way than cartoons like these.

Like what? All I have seen in the month since my last post has been Muslims demanding abject surrender to their demands that we place their precious religion above criticism. I refuse to do that. I quoted Ayaan Hirsi Ali in my other post, saying “The cartoons should be displayed everywhere”. I think she is right. If everybody had published them and if the authorities had not been so quick to agree that the cartoons were “wrong”, we would have made it clear we will not be terrorized into agreeing to their every demand. Instead we have emboldened them. Try discussing with Muslims now in a valid and constructive way, how we may make fun of their religion. See how accommodating they are now they know they can always get what they want through threats of violence. They’ll never agree – either we curb our right to mock their religion or we just go ahead and do it until they realize we won’t stop. I’d like to know how else we can resolve this without agreeing never to mock Islam.

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