An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Friday, February 10, 2006


I've held off of this for a while but really, the Blasphemy versus Freedom of speech rift that has opened over the Allah cartoons has started to rankle with me and I cannot stay silent.

It was apparent long before these cartoons were published that the two sides of this particular argument held different things dear and that at some point these differences could be used to provoke just such a row as this current one. Governments and to some extent the peoples of the west tend to value freedom of speech, "democracy" (as defined by elected western governments), and an objectively bizarre and subjectively selective set of "freedoms". Islamic governments and a great many followers of Allah. in the far and middle east, as well as within western societies, revere Allah and a set of restrictions surrounding him, adhere to basic tenets based on their religious beliefs and have a less reverential attitude to the kind of freedoms that the west holds dear. Western societies tend to have a firm dissociation of church and state written into their constitutions whether they observe them or not - the UK for example has laws that outlaw and punish blasphemy against the Xtian church. It was thus clear that these differences could easily be blown into a major row without very much effort.

And so, as the western good book would have it, it came to pass. Under the cloak of promoting the freedom of speech value, someone abused the underlying respect that both sides had been exercising in order to attack Islamic values, and thus the Islamic world head on. They did not use Bin Laden to represent the part of Islamic militancy that they wished to disparage - they used, knowing the Islamic taboo on the representation of Muhammad, Muhammad himself. It was as if, instead of representing Ian Paisley to disparage the protestant fanatics in Northern Ireland someone had chosen to portray Christ in the role of a hate mongering supporter of terrorism. Up until this point the two sides could agree to differ so long as they respected each others' values but once the respect was ditched retrenchment was inevitable. Inevitable and sad.

It is not possible, in a world where both sets of views are firmly held, to jettison this respect without bringing these views into direct opposition and it is hard to see how the intention here was anything as noble as to begin an ultimately barren debate about this inherent opposition of tenets. Oh no - I feel the hand and mind of an agent provocateur. Possibly the hand of an Islamophobe. And the fact that there is clearly nothing to be gained form such action other than mutual hatred makes me suspect a premeditated attempt to polarise the worlds of Islam and Judaeo/Christian peoples. A genuinely wicked hand is behind this and it surprised me above all else that this came from Denmark a country that I had always assumed was fairly reasonable and respectful. My reading since this whole mess erupted however has led me to doubt my previous judgement - there have clearly been some rumblings of this kind of intolerance for some years - rumblings I had not heard or had not attended to previously. Mea culpa.

I find it hard to imagine what constructive value can emerge from this intellectual maelstorm and even harder to imagine whether, let alone how, we can move the balance back to the way it was. Polarisation has largely been achieved - and we shall all pay the piper on this new tune.


  1. I was reading abit about the cartoons,
    I wonder where one can see them?

    your photo, it is you?
    I think I've seen this face in a movie on television. annette

  2. methinks you have hit the nail on the head, bro :(

    we still have the netherlands to hold up as a society to aspire to emulating, now that denmark, or at least parts of it, have shown their true colors s-)

    hmm... not that that country is squeaky clean, either, but i do admire a lot of what they have done re. sex and drugs