An extremely important point 2.01.2006

Germans print Muhammad caricatures
But the German Welt daily put one of the drawings showing the prophet's turban transformed into a bomb on its front page on Wednesday. It said the picture was "harmless" and expressed regret that the Danish Jyllands-Posten daily had apologized for causing offense.

"Democracy is the institutionalized form of freedom of expression," the paper said in a front-page commentary. "There is no right to protection from satire in the West; there is a right to blasphemy."
This is an extremely important point.

If a people are truly free, blasphemy (that is, defamation of God, where defamation means publishing a false statement that negatively portrays God) must be a fundamental right. To say in a democracy that blasphemy is not a fundamental right is to say that there is an absolute religious standard of Truth which can be imposed upon a people--that is, it's to say that one particular interpretation of God is True, and the rest are not.

Now that is not to say blasphemy is acceptable. Crosses sitting in a bucket of urine or images of the Madonna covered in elephant shit are not socially acceptable representations. But such blasphemy should be dealt with through social rejection: through good people turning up their noses and speaking out against such blasphemous images.

But such images must not be made illegal.

There is an impulse, both in the Muslim world and in the Western world, to outlaw blasphemy. After all, it's easy for us to have our buttons pushed and for us to say "that's so outrageous it should be legally banned." But the difference between shunning from proper social circles and being made illegal is that in the latter, illegality is backed by the threat of force and the threat of death. (A person resisting arrest can be subdued through force--and if he resists strongly enough, that force can become deadly.)

Death for creating repugnant images is not an acceptable thing for a democracy, especially when one person's blasphamy is another person's art.

posted by William Woody at 9:48 AM

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