Sunday, February 05, 2006

Freedom of Speech vs. Religion

Unless you have been living under a rock or are totally oblivious to the international world, you would have heard about the current issue affecting Denmark and the Islamic Community. A newspaper in Denmark requested their artists to draw caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to see if there would be self-censorship. These caricatures have been reprinted by a few news and press organizations throughout Europe. The caricatures depicted the Prophet and one caricature even had him depicted with a bomb for a turban. These drawing drew the resentment and anger of many Muslims for a couple reasons.
1. Under Shariat Law it is blasphemous and sacrireligious to depict the Prophet, other prophets or Allah.
2. The drawings showed the Prophet to conform to stereotypes of modern Islamic fundamentalists.

Now, the press organizations or at least the ones who believe themselves to be standing up for free speech say that it is their right to engage in political and religious commentary. The Muslims argue that their religious laws and sentiments should be respected. Both make strong points but lets try to break it down. Freedom of Speech is not absolute neither here in the United States nor in Europe. For example, here it is illegal to yell fire in a theater or similar place. This debate isn't based on legal limits of free speech but on "moral" or "ethical" limits. Is it right to poke fun at a faith that has over a billion adherents?

My answer is that there is a level of respect that should be given to all faiths but its a level that the people of the faith themselves portray. Meaning this, there is no doubt that many many Muslims are peace loving, God loving and human loving people but what can explain the sheer number of violent acts and intolerance that occur in the world from the Islamic Community. This is what the people of the world see. We see the acts of terrorism, suicide bombers, intolerance to Hindus and Jews, desire to convert the world to Islam and so on. The problem is that the rest of the world cannot curb radical Islam, Islam must curb Islam. There are a lot of religious apologetics in the world. Christians like to portray themselves as loving all humanity but their history shows otherwise. They supported slavery for hundreds of years and spent over a millennium killing other religions such as pagans and Muslims. Hindus have professed to be an enlightened and spiritual people but they have oppressed their own kind for thousands of years using the evil of the caste system, yet some people say that its not the true spirit of Hinduism. Well, thats not entirely true. The religion allows for it and in some places supports it. Much like Islam supports killing of infidels and non-believers. These are elements that can only be fixed but must be done by the religion and its own adherents.

The Danes by printing these drawing showed they too only focused on this part of Islam, the part that the terrorists and fundamentalists portray. Furthermore, the past few days have gotten worse because the radicals and fundamentalists have helped to prove this point again. They have killed and attacked innocents in Lebanon and Syria and many other Islamic nations. A few peace loving clerics and muslims have tried to oppose them but without much success. If the Islamic community wishes to be respected and given the tolerance they desire, they must do the same to others, respect does not come at the end of a sword, bullet or explosion of a bomb but it comes with mutual respect. It is akin to this, when we see two sportsman play against each other and one beats the other, we can respect them but if a sportsman plays a child or nonsportsman and beats them they don't gain any respect. When Islamic terrorists attack innocents and cities they don't gain respect but gain anger and resentment. Just my two cents. let me know what you think.

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