Monday, February 06, 2006

Beyond Offence: But What's Tasteless?

The satirical sting of cartoons seem to be coming in for a bit of grief at the moment.

If you haven't heard about the reaction of certain muslim elements to a few Danish cartoons that have the affront to depict the prophet (with or without bomb shaped turban) , then you haven't been paying attention.

The cartoons in question may not be particularly witty, and they may be offensive to muslims. Offensive enough that some feel it appropriate to express their outrage. This is perfectly acceptable. It is even acceptable to request their withdrawal if you feel they are misleading.

To demand a retraction because something contravenes your set of beliefs is not acceptable, especially when accompanied by threats and a 'bit of bovver' inflicted on Danish embassies. This is simply an attempt to impose your set of beliefs on others.

History suggests this is not a good idea.

Of course, the firebrands in downtown Beirut don't seem to realise the irony of their actions: which simply reinforces the western view of Islam as a religion of rabid crackpots (as might be depicted in, say, some Danish cartoons). The decision of NZ papers to publish the cartoons isn't helpful, but a predictable case of 'stirring the possum'. (wait for the T-shirts).

The *successful* reinforcement of such a simplistic view would be, of course, far more damaging to world peace than one or two torched embassies (not that they're a minor concern: where is law enforcement when you need it?). however, I don't believe that will occur as a result of a few cartoons (any polarisation of opinion over the threat of Islam vs the threat of a few tyrranical opportunists happened a while ago).

It is good to note that a number of muslim clerics are condemning the protests.

It is the tradition and nature of cartoons to be satirical: to depict things that cannot be put into words. A few unflattering caricatures are regrettable, but tough! Live with it.
"I disagree with what you say, but will defend, to the death, your right to say it!"
- attributed to Voltaire.


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