Saturday, February 11, 2006

FRACAS OVER CARTOONS: A CASE OF OVER-REACTION, OR A CLASH OF IDEALS?

The recent publications of anti-Islamic caricatures targeting the Prophet, published by a Danish daily, Jyllands-Posten, has incensed and enraged the Islamic community. The resulting fiasco began to snowball into a political crisis, as Muslim leaders from leading Muslim countries came forth and voiced their displeasure with what has been deemed as “blasphemy” against the Prophet Muhammad.

The re-publication of the caricatures by other European newspapers have further stoked the flames of infamy, with protests reported from many Islamic countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

While the debate rages on, the issue of these supposedly harmless caricatures have caused widespread protests, with many Islamic fundamentalists baying for the blood of those responsible for this supposedly "blasphemous" insult.

A LIBERAL EUROPEAN CONTINENT

The resulting fracas can best be described as a clash between old world- ultra-fundamentalist views of Islamic nations versus liberal, democratic doctrines prevalent in European countries.

In many European countries, freedom of speech is guaranteed and upheld by the respective governments, placing particular emphasis of secularity of state governments and a distinct Separation of Church and State.

The European Continent was not always as liberal as it is today. In medieval Europe, there was much rivalry between Kings and representations of the Catholic Church. In many cases, Kings required the blessings and approval of the Church before they could rule their respective kingdoms. Charlemagne (742-814), son of King Pippin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, had to be crowned by Pope Leo III before he could reinitiate his reign as King of the Franks. The British Monarchy has traditionally required the auspices of the Church of England, with elaborate ceremonies held for each ruling monarch that has ever ruled England and her respective colonies.

Under the rule of theocracy, old Europe was pretty much a continent of superstition. Laws prohibiting blasphemy against the Church and its doctrines was common place; a charge for blasphemy could spell a death sentence preceded by torture, and even during the Renaissance period from the 13th to 15th century, one could be charged even for the harmless act of being a vegetarian.

Separation of Church and State first surfaced in 1905 as legitimate law in France, and heralded the beginnings of a more liberal and less theocratic Europe. In many countries, such as Sweden and England, freedom of religion and speech was guaranteed, despite official religions being subscribed. As such, religion took a back seat, and with the increasing secularity of European nations, laws pertaining to theocracy, such as blasphemy, had been annexed, and the resulting prevalent attitudes have become such that mocking religions, in written, spoken or any other forms, are considered expressions of the freedom of speech guaranteed by law.

THE ISLAMIC WORLD: OLD WORLD VALUES

One man’s honey, another man’s poison. Indeed, what is viewed as largely a legitimate expression of free speech may be taken more seriously in strictly, fundamentalist Islamic nations. In countries such as Pakistan, one could be sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

Anti-religious satire has traditionally not gone well with Muslim leaders. Salmon Rushdie had to suffer the ignominy of a religious fatwah, or death sentence, after his infamous book, “The Satanic Verses” was published in 1988. The fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who deemed the book so blasphemous that he offered a US$3 million bounty on his head. Even though the Ayatollah is now six feet under, the fatwa still hangs over his head.

There is a prevailing sense of indignation amongst those in the Muslim community that the cartoon caricatures published by the Danish newspaper is an outrage against Islam, and a ploy by the West to undermine Islam as a religion. What is really misunderstood is that most newspapers have a high autonomy of freedom granted and guaranteed by law: Political leaders of all shapes and sizes are equally juicy targets, and satires mocking Christianity as well as other religions are not uncommon in western journalistic circles.

Given the well-documented feuds between old Catholic Europe and Islam in the form of the Crusades, the caricatures may well be misinterpreted by Muslims as a direct confrontation and re-confirmation of yet another Europe-Islam rivalry.

Such an archaic, old-world point of view is not only misleading, it also suggests that Europe is still very much influenced by the Catholic Church. While many European nations still adopt some form of national religion, religious beliefs amongst Europeans have plummeted in recent decades, and the Catholic Church does not wield an ironhand over Europe as it did in the times of the Inquisitions.

Rather than a old-Europe vs the Islamic World contest, this is largely a clash of ideals: The right to the freedom of speech vs Religious fundamentalism.


CURTAIL OF WESTERN MEDIA?

Given the unnecessary furore raised over yet another minor issue, the question is, should religious sensitivities be given priority over freedom of speech?

Obviously, this is a question that most European governments will have to grapple with. It will be a crying shame, however, if Danish and other European journalists will have to be subjected to censorship on such frivolous grounds.

Europe's increasing secularism is testimony to what has been done right: Separation of Church and State, and freedom of the press. With freedom comes progress, and liberation from religious oppression.

Western media must never be held at ransom by fundamentalist louts, who, in the name of religion, seek to prevent others from voicing out their opinions.

47 Comments:

At 6:29 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger daftpig said...

i think to characterize the islamic community as having "old world values" vs. the liberal attitudes of europeans as more forward-thinking and thus relevant (as opposed to being "old world"), is not paying enough attention to what exactly went on with regards to the separation of religion and state amongst national communities.

it would be more accurate to see that christianity, that other monotheistic religion, is the one that has been severely discredited in the western world. that christianitiy's moral power and truth value is spent in the communities that it used to have power in does not mean that islam's moral power and truth value is spent in the islamic world.

taking your position would basically be identifying WWI and WWII as literally speaking, "wars in which the world was at war". the "world" that is most often represented in the media is not the "world" that is in reality.

from my point of view, pushing the idea that the islamic community's outrage over the cartoons is the result of their point of view being "old world" is to make an unknowing semantic leap.

 
At 10:14 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

Indeed.

What I was trying to highlight was the fact that there are many in the Muslim community who deem Europe as a catalyst of Christian fundamentalism and bigotry, that this cartoons fracas was actually the work of a Vatican-backed Europe.

What you have said is a reiteration of the point I have made: Its not Crusade-style confrontation, rather it is a crash of liberal values vs fundamentalist, theocratic ideals.

 
At 4:28 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger daftpig said...

well, the problem with that problematization is that liberal values are theocratic, hence your binary oppositionistic assertion at the end of your piece -- that the violent objections to the cartoons by the islamic community constituted a "fundamentalist" position, one from which the liberal western media must be defended against.

one can obtain defense by stating one's beliefs of why the cartoons were published. but the illiberality of western media in this context is signified by its adroit insensitivity to the Other by publishing the cartoons a second time.

 
At 7:09 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

Kwan:

From the annals of the great Oxford dictionary:

theocracy

/thiokrsi/

• noun (pl. theocracies) a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

Clearly, liberal views are not theocratic in nature, contrary to your statement.

I shall reiterate my views here: Yes, their objection to the cartoons is due largely to their obstinate, fundamentalist, religious stance.

As for the issue of sensitivity, while I agree that the timing wasn't quite right, still, its a matter of freedom of the press, and the Danish govt did the right thing by reinforcing their position in not persecuting the newspaper involved.

By the way, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Danish Constitution.

 
At 4:00 AM, February 16, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

once again its some young idealistic guys writing here saying speech freedom dun equate irresponsible speech lol dunno where u draw the line as i hv said once u allowed tht thts it ppl "abuse" it whatever started out as a gd intention will always become........

 
At 2:56 PM, February 16, 2006, Blogger daftpig said...

beast:

do check your definition against the history of catholicism vis-a-vis the history and philosophy of science and the history of ideas.

the sanction given to liberal thinking is given by catholicism, as it is with logic and modernism.

 
At 3:00 PM, February 16, 2006, Blogger daftpig said...

i quote:

"As for the issue of sensitivity, while I agree that the timing wasn't quite right, still, its a matter of freedom of the press, and the Danish govt did the right thing by reinforcing their position in not persecuting the newspaper involved.

By the way, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Danish Constitution."

yes, by the constitution it is certainly permissible -- i dont have a problem with that.

but since you've stated the above, could you not clarify why you positioned your argument as defense for the liberal western media against the "fundamentalist louts" and could not have stated the above a clear position right from the start?

you're shifting goalposts.

 
At 5:14 PM, February 16, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

Liberalism and Science has never required the sanction of the church.

Remember, Galileo was put under house arrest by the Catholic Church for merely exerting that the Earth and the planets revolve around the sun.

Even today, the Catholic Church refuses to recognize the science of Evolution, so there you go.

To me, the Catholic Church is an old, archaic organization that has no place in the modern world.

 
At 5:17 PM, February 16, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

I do not think I have shifted any goalposts here.

If you have read my writings, what I did was explain the reasons behind islamic riots, and why fundamentalist ideas cannot be used as an excuse to impede on the freedom of the press.

Yes, I agree, it was a bad timing on the newspaper's part, nonetheless the newspaper is entitled to that right.

I have not shifted goalposts. Kindly point out anything you may wish to clarify.

Regards
Beast

 
At 5:24 PM, February 16, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

To Wolong:

Just because Singapore has no freedom of speech, doesn't mean others do not have that right.

I think its a shame we are not entitled to that right, even if it means nasty things are going to be said.

Denmark has a tradition of secular freedom which dates back to as far back as 1849, and it testifies to the amount of autonomy they have.

Personally, I think freedom of speech is a good thing, and the protests merely highlight the stupidity of these rioters.

What they should be rioting is the abuse of IRaqis by American troops, high unemployment rates amongst the lower-income groups in the middle east, etc. Instead, all they cry hue over is some stupid cartoon.

I have come across cariacatures making fun of jesus too, and I don't see widespread protests either.

Religion, like politicians, are free-for-alls in western media.

 
At 5:30 PM, February 16, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

Wolong:

I do rather have a nation which practises freedom of speech, than a nation who seeks to arrest anyone who does not hold his tongue.

Sure, there will be those who go overboard, but surely, the others have the same right to abuse him back.

The only people who benefit from the curtail of free press and speech are people with political and financial clout. The rest of us becomes subjugated by such unspeakable nonsense.

 
At 2:43 AM, February 17, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

To wolong:

Let us get down to fundamentals. Is this an open, or is this a closed society?

Is it a society where men can preach ideas - novel, unorthodox, heresies, to established churches and established governments - where there is a constant contest for men's hearts and minds on the basis of what is right, of what is just, of what is in the national interests, or is it a closed society where the mass media - the newspapers, the journals, publications, TV, radio - either bound by sound or by sight, or both sound and sight, men's minds are fed with a constant drone of sycophantic support for a particular orthodox political philosophy?

I am talking of the principle of the open society, the open debate, ideas, not intimidation, persuasion not coercion...

 
At 10:49 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

lol nvr knew uncle's words so provocative lol young blood la r always like this cant keep cool hot tempered lol

 
At 10:50 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

how at82 u hvnt commented whether i on any1 payroll if i am whose payroll? care 2 comment? lol

 
At 10:52 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

ok lor others hv the rite lor c wads happening there u wan a repeat of tht here rite ? icic

 
At 10:54 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

who arresting who? what u toking? u mean francis seow? orr he dun deserved to be arrested ic u his supporter lol

 
At 10:55 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

has chiam low t k jbj chee been arrested? the most bankrupt la u all dunno chiam sue PAP b4 n win or u all know but tiam tiam arrrrrr lol so dun ever say PAP scored 100% success rate in defamation cases ok

 
At 10:58 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

oiiii what ideas u wana preach? be precise ok if nt subject to "abuse" again once again its young guns nvr seen e world nvr c chn hacking malays n vice versa dun say uncle using yesterday ghosts 2 haunt u what makes u so sure it will nt happen again?

 
At 11:02 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

who hv we intimidated? if they feel so they still stand for elections? chiam can still win 5 times? since when there's no open debate? it's only when ppl lose then they say this say tht dun bother 2 verify abt it @ 1st but given any chance use it 2 whack PAP best eg budget call it election budget eelction so what this a eelction budget @ least with PAP u get to enjoy goodies u think with another party they can giv u all these wait long long dun bankrupt spore gd liao

 
At 11:04 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

i can only say ppl up here r gd @ arguments when u ask them roll up sleeves and get things done.........

 
At 11:05 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous edycwac said...

no open debate? y 1 time harshest critics of PAP r nw PAP men? even opp r concerned of cos there r some who say they r......

 
At 11:09 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

at82 admit u r opp supporter what u scared of? i admit i PAP man scared what? lol given a chance u will vote against george yeo rite let me tell u we r nvr threatened by voters like u cos end of the day ppl like us n we will still win. many ministers including george yeo hv said they will remain in their wards y we heard nothing from opp yet? scare what? we dare to tell them whom we fielding y they scare? lol

 
At 11:11 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous ozzajdi said...

2 all opp supporters go n support all the opp candidates u wan we r nvr afraid contest in all 84 seats we will win hands down!!! name me any other party tht can run spore name me any other party tht can deliver tht kind of budget without dipping into the reserves name me doubt u hv a name lol

 
At 11:14 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous snnmkfme said...

make it 1 mega alliance get WP and SDP be part of SDA (doubt they will lol) n put up the strongest fight even if they do we r nt afraid n still win sporeans know PAP track record and will back it solidly!! no doubt abt tht

 
At 11:16 PM, February 18, 2006, Anonymous mhhctv said...

at82 n beast if u wan put urself up as a candidate sell ur ideas to sporeans c whether they endorse anot lol doubt they will

 
At 12:08 AM, February 19, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

Lolz. What is this? pappy bootlickers thumping their chests already eh?

Seriously, a PAP victory is a foregone conclusion. But I will vote for the opposition anyway. There must be a counterforce in parliament, otherwise the incumbent rulers will have a whale of the lives for five years before the next GE.

 
At 1:13 AM, February 19, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi wolong!

For your info I am just quoting from someone in my last comment.

That person is none other than our MM Lee!

If u are free u might like to check out his speech in the M'sian Parliament on 18 Dec 1964, just a few months after a racial riot on 21 july 1964! ;)

 
At 1:43 AM, February 19, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi wolong:

I dun even know who u are how can I make a judgement on whether u are on whose payroll?!? Does it matter anyway?

As for francis seow? i think this quote is the best ans to ur qn.

"If it is not totalitarian to arrest a man and detain him, when you cannot charge him with any offence against any written law - if that is not what we have always cried out against in Fascist states - then what is it?… If we are to survive as a free democracy, then we must be prepared, in principle, to concede to our enemies - even those who do not subscribe to our views - as much constitutional rights as you concede yourself." - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, Sept 21, 1955

I am opp supporter? Well it is on this blog that I said I fully support the casinos and the health policy changes that the PAP govt had implemented! I dun remember any oppo support the casinos!

As for arguements well, if u are not convince u can always counter me with better reasoning and evidences! U dun even know me hw u know I not gd at getting things done? Likewise I also dunno how gd u are getting things done too, cos i dunno who are u.

Anyway, I have said ppl in a democracy everyone one has the rite to vote whoever they wan for watever reason they have.

If U are PAP supoporter I say good for u! If u are that confident I say even better! But pls likewise respect that other ppl's choices might not be the same as your!

"If we say that we believe in democracy, if we say that the fabric of a democratic society is one which allows for the free play of idea...then, in the name of all the gods, give that free play a chance to work within the constitutional framework." - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Oct 4, 1956

Cheers!

 
At 10:46 PM, February 19, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

arrrrr finally some1 dare to admit he pro opp how abt at82 dun dare ar? its nt tht u dun dare side me it cos.......

 
At 10:49 PM, February 19, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

lol some young boi wana educate me on history where were they when spore face a crisis ? where were they when british troops pull out? where were they when racial riots starts in 64 all these they nvr witnessed but........

 
At 10:51 PM, February 19, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

well supporting 1 or 2 PAP policy doesnt mean u pro PAP my advice is "step out of ur well" and c the real world. u r only seeing 1/3 of the electorate ie pro opp y opp cant go beyond tht they know best!!

 
At 7:47 PM, February 20, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

Wolong:

My intention here is not to educate you on history; rather, it is an effort to show readers here the terrible consequences of a conservative culture.

As for being there in times of riots and so on, yes, I wasn't even born yet, but that doesn't mean I do not deserve to make observations. I am a Singaporean, and having lived here for 26 years, I am definitely qualified to comment.

 
At 2:06 AM, February 21, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi wolong:

R u saying that I am educating u on history? How would I dare since you said you have lived thru those times?

It is on the record that MM Lee had supported free speech AFTER racial riots, opposed detention without trial when communist threat is a REAL danger.

What I am doing is just quoting what our MM Lee advocated when he was MAKING history during those stormy times~

By the way I din say I Pro-PAP either :) Anyway why can't 1 selectively support or oppose specific policies?

Anyway for ur info I am very happy wif this year budget even though we ran into deficit.

Hence I dun think it is useful to label ppl pro-opp just becos he/she dislike some of the policies that the govt had implemented :)

Cheers & have a nice day!

 
At 7:58 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

jus fyi even though we hv a budget deficit we dun hv to dip into our reserves name me how many countries can do tht? ur beloved WP can do tth? lol they dun bankrupt spore gd lo read e papers HK unveiled their budget what hv u got 2 say?

 
At 7:59 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

wahhhh u happy with budget 2006 but opp say its there 2 sweeten the ground leh u dun agree meh? lol

 
At 8:01 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

lky has explained fully when he changed stance u better plough thru ur thick records of history books again or r u selectively quoting him? lol who else is selectively quoting him? u know? lol

 
At 8:02 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

at82 v v angri with me liao he need 2 drink some soup 2 cool down drink tht pot brewed by PAP nt WP cos .........

 
At 8:05 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

well beast hope we do nt c a repeat of 64/69 riots.

 
At 8:07 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

beast u r the 1 who say i a pap bootlicker rite? y shld i be 1 since i a pap man? y r u responding to a bootlicker then? y dun use harsher terms like pap dog? dun dare ar? lol

 
At 8:09 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

hopefully we dun c malay men going ard n say he wana rape a chn ger n vice versa (hopefully tht victim is nt a family member of beast or at82) if nt by then they will know how correct i m

 
At 10:04 PM, February 23, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi wolong:

Actually I agree that our govt is trying to sweeten the ground and I FULLY 100% support our govt in doing so.

I dunno about u, but i personally believe that it is the duty of the govt to improve the lives of its citizens.

By providing some help to our less well off fellow citizens in this budget, our govt is doing its duty and I am not complaining.

As for if a govt form by WP can pull off the same thing is irrevelant because they never had a chance to do so anyway.

Well as for selectively quoting our MM Lee... Yeah for sure I know he change his stances on all these things once Singapore is independent. :)

Anyway the purpose of quoting MM Lee is bcos I feel that it is these speeches that I quoted that had the strongest resonance with me. I sincerely feel that what I had quoted is what Singapore as a nation shd do aspire to be. It is pretty disappointing to me that it did not turn out this way.

I am not angry wolong, I am willing to engage in rational discussion with anyone so long there isn't any personal attacks. Labelling me as WP supporter just because i disagree with some of PAP's policies is really unneccesarry. Why dun u label me a PAP supporter when I come out to fully support changes in health and labour policies and the casinos? Isn't these some of the core policies of PAP for the foreseeable future?

BTW I would drink the soup brewed by anyone so long as i agree with the Ingredients.

Cheers and have a nice day!

 
At 3:07 AM, February 24, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

so which pot of soup wld u drink? dun be so vague can? say la what u scare of? ppl call u names ? lol

 
At 3:09 AM, February 24, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

ppl who hv nt lived thru the times but who r only capable of plouging thru thick volumes of historical records r.........

 
At 3:10 AM, February 24, 2006, Anonymous wolong said...

wonder how pro pap r u only ur vote will tell lol

 
At 1:18 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

hi wolong:

Din u say voting is secert, remember? So how can I tell u? lolz

Anyway I am out of Spore for the moment it is very unlikely that i can vote. So how i wanted to vote is really immaterial.

It also wasn't my fault that i born into the current era, thus i can onli read thru history books for info. But hey i think i am much better inform than most of my peers, dun u agree? lolz

Cheers and have a nice day!

 
At 7:30 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger BEAST said...

Wolong:

Ok, so you are a PAP man, good luck to you, I say.

I called you a Pappie bootlicker because the election dates are not even announced, and you are there sprouting pro-PAP stuff already.

As for racial riots, I don't think racial riots is the definite by-product of free speech.

If you really do research on racial riots in America, the enimity between blacks and whites have been simmering for more than a century. It takes more than just mere talk to invoke a racial riot.

 
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