the mohamed caricatures

There is a suit currently being fought in french courts concerning the now famous caricatures of the prophet mohamed that were published in the danish paper Jyllands-Posten a year ago. The french satirical new paper Charlie Hebdo had reproduced the caricatures and is now being sued by the french union of islamic organisation for defamation of a religious group. (latest english language news story; the Figaro story).

There are many interesting points about this incident. The most telling is however the tone of the Figaro story, which does not take the proceeding seriously at all and throughout the piece portrays the entire day in court as one gigantic joke. This seems to be the most thoughtful attitude that could be taken in the situation, for taking the matter seriously and actually debating religiously motivated censure would be democratically irresponsible.

Many french politicians (including Nicolas Sarcozy) have weighed in already and more are to come, all fully supporting the newspaper. It is clear that a point has been reached beyond which french, and probably european, catering to immigrants’ desires is no longer willing to go. Multiculturalism must be based upon people not taking offence at what others say and do. Turning the tables around and requiring that no one offend anyone else is obviously impossible.

There is a similar discussion going on at crooked timber concerning women-only day care-like institutions in belgium. The question was raised whether or not such government institutions that ban fathers (presumably to cater to religious minorities’ dislike of mixing men and women among other things) should be allowed. Here i would take the ‘opposite’ viewpoint and claim that there is no problem, as long as alternate co-ed institutions also exist: liberal societies need not attempt to ‘convert’ everyone to progressive standards and should be as flexible as possible. However, they still should not give in to pressure to in turn force everyone to abide by a minority’s (or a majority’s) religious or cultural peculiarities.

UPDATE: there is now a great Jesus & Mo comic about this issue.

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2 Comments to “the mohamed caricatures”

  1. A good rule to follow is to not mock anyone’s faith or the icons of their religion. Wanting to kill someone for not following that rule is over-the-top to say the least. It is becoming an increasingly confusing politically correct world. Books should be written explaining what we can and can’t say to women, blacks, Muslims, etc. It would save us a whole lot of trouble.

  2. i think the political correctness is the problem: people shouldn’t require us to read books about their culture in order to interact with them; rather, people need to all have a bit of a tough skin and simply smile as when a foreigner makes a social blunder in a distant land. If we all have to learn what to say and do with respect to every person of every culture we might meet on the street, then we will never finish reading the books and actually make it onto that street!

    I agree that we shouldn’t go about insulting one another, and the said caricatures were obviously taken as such – but they didn’t _have_ to be taken as such especially since they were obviously not _meant_ as such. But in the end it wouldn’t hurt to all be a bit more careful – and less susceptible.

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