Free Speech and Bad Taste
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran paper seeks cartoon revenge
An Iranian paper is holding a contest for cartoons about the Holocaust, to retaliate against the publication of images of the Prophet Muhammad. Hamshahri says it wants to test the boundaries of free speech, echoing the reasons European papers gave for publishing the caricatures.
I'm on board. I haven't seen the cartoons depicting Mohammad published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper but I have no doubt that they were both lame and in bad taste. I don't think they should have been published because they are offensive without any redeeming social value and the publishers knew that publishing them was likely to have had very bad consequences. But it's quite another thing to say that the Danish government should have stopped them from publishing such tasteless crap. And it's still another thing to say that Muslims who were offended by such bigoted junk had a moral right to go on a rampage in protest.
Civilized people understand the difference between harm and offense, between genocide and bad taste.
The Iranian newspaper running this contest is making an appropriate response to the tasteless behavior of its Danish counterpart. It's testing the limits of free speech, which is what the Jyllands-Posten newspaper claimed it was doing and, unsaid, it's also testing a perceived double standard: the idea that you can trash brown people but you can't trash white people and more particularly, that Muslims are fair game but Jews are always sacrosanct.
OK let's test it and see how civilized we are. Let's see if Western countries cut trade ties or break off relations with Muslim countries where these cartoons appear in the media and whether Jews or other white people in these countries take to the streets, burn flags, trash buildings or beat in people's heads to protest. I doubt that that will happen and I'm sure that it shouldn't happen.