In citing Free Speech, Jyllands-Posten had crossed the bounds of sensitivity to and respect for other peoples faith or religion. The issue should not be solely taken in the confines of the Danish system. Religion is universal and is held sacred by the believers. A bomb on Mohammads head is blasphemous. Given that a number of extremists and fundamentalists have used the teachings of Islam as shield of their terrorist acts, it would be most unfair to say that all Muslims behave and believe as they do.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference refused to heed the clamor for death for the cartoonist even if Muslims felt that the cartoon was an insult to Muhammad. Those who thought the cartoons are non-issue as far as discrimination of Muslims is concerned is totally disgusting. Does making fun of all religious icons and symbolisms, exempting no one, a legal and moral excuse? Of course it does not. Doing it to all makes it all the more wrong. To the Muslims, Muhammad is revered. He is infallible.
To treat him like a cartoon character to elicit fun or humor is not acceptable, it is contemptible. The Danish governments response to the request for redress by certain Muslim sectors was passive. The courts of law where the prime minister, thru letter, referred them to were likewise evasive. Citing the wide scope of Freedom of Expression in Denmark, they refused to sanction Jyllands-Posten. The courts found no criminal act in the cartoons, for as long as the interpretation of Free Speech included public interest and respect for human rights.
The courts were unilaterally in favor of the journalists and cartoonists. What justice left out and disregarded is the Muslim minoritys interest in particular and the Muslims human right to their religious beliefs, in general. The reaction or non-reaction of the Danish people and government in the controversy is uncharacteristic of a nation that has been ranked by the Reporters Without Borders as Top in Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2005. There should be a certain degree of self-restraint in any freedom. It should seek to create, not to destroy.
A subject like Religion must be treated with respect and tolerance. It should not be open to debates, opinions and critiques. World reaction to the controversy was predictable. The Muslim countries would be indignant. Denmark would suffer the backlash. Egypt helped diffused the situation in the Middle East. America looked the other way by accusing Syria and Iran of organizing protests and of buying Danish goods after a Muslim boycott. Judging by these reactions, the cartoon controversy was just the tip of the iceberg.
Deep-seated political emotions are in the issue. The Muslim terrorists politically-motivated acts became religious issues in the cartoon controversy. That the terrorists were Muslims, Islam and Muhammad became the targets of caricaturing. Free Speech has taken a new form. It goes without limit, and anything and everything is fair game. What holds true for Denmark is made to be accepted by the Muslim minority in Denmark and the Muslim majority in the world. Religious figures, beliefs and practices must be left alone.
They must not be used as side or main issues in any controversy. The only way to handle differences in religious beliefs is tolerance and respect. One must not be ridiculed and persecuted for his religious convictions. We must learn from the lessons of history. Terrorism must be dealt with a different but civilized option.
Jyllands-Posten Muhhammad Cartoons Controvery, Wikipedia (20 February 2007), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jylalnds_posten_cartoon_controversy, date accessed: 23. Februrary 2007.