It turns out that Marge Simpson was right. Cartoons do cause violence. But even Marge couldn’t foresee the chaos of the past few weeks: Embassies burning down, riots in the street, withdrawal of ambassadors – a level of madness not even Itchy and Scratchy could inspire.
There has been a great deal made of the furor surrounding the publication of cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad in various European magazines, some of which has occurred in these pages. I have decided to exercise my right of free speech and join this debate.
To start with, Muslims revere the prophet Muhammad. His name has been acclaimed from the pages of great philosophers and sanctified by the blood of warriors on the battlefield. He is not, however, my prophet. I am a fairly typical Western male. Muhammad, therefore, means little to me. Sure, he may have been a nice guy, had a few good ideas but neither he, nor his ideas have much effect in my day-to-day life.
On the other hand, freedom of speech is something that has an important part to play in my life. It has been crucial in the development of the values and beliefs that shape my society. It has been acclaimed from the pages of great philosophers and sanctified by the blood of warriors on the battlefield.
Uh-oh. Here we go again. Thunk! That’s the sound of a penny dropping ladies and gentlemen, at least from my perspective. What we have here is an example of cultural miscommunication. Freedom of speech is as enshrined into Western society as the sacredness of Muhammad is in Islamic society. Just because one group culture holds a set of values dear, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the other will hold the same view. In fact, to assume so is falling foul of the same naivet