Free Speech Comes With Responsibility

A few days ago I posted the original cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed (sorry if I spelled that wrong - there are different spellings of His name all over the place and I don't know which one is more correct) here with some thoughts on the news of the day. Since that time, and out of respect for other people's thoughts, I will be removing the offending cartoon picture from the post over this weekend. Two observations here:

1. Free speech is a right afforded to us all. It comes with the understanding that the right is practiced with a modicum of responsibility. In the beginning of this larger-than-life controversy, several European papers printed the cartoon as a show of solidarity for the right of the cartoonist to draw the cartoon, and the original newspaper for publishing it. However, as free-thinking "westerners" we also have the right to expect respect from those with whom we come in contact.

Logic then dictates a certain amount of personal censorship to one's "free speech", because we do in fact consider ourselves to be respectful of others' beliefs and rights. A personified image of Mohammed is forbidden in the Muslin religion, and is seen to be highly offensive, as is obvious from the world news of late. Therefore, in reality, one DOES have the right to speak freely, or in this case, draw freely, but one must also temper that right with the possible ramifications of that free speech.

2. It is obvious that not EVERYONE in the world believes all people have the right to free speech.

While I think one must weigh the consequences of one's free speech, I cannot even come close to condoning the violent reaction of those whom this picture offends. Calling for the violent overthrow of official buildings and residences in other countries, or calling for the death of the individual who has offended, is hardly the way to go about seeking a solution to this situation.

If you expect the rest of the world to value your beliefs and give you the respect you think you are entitled to, you must also give that respect in return to others. While there are different religions in this world, and different countries, languages, cultures, etc., we all must live in some sort of cursory harmony with each other in order to not blow the whole damn planet up in the end.

The problem with that last paragraph comes into play in this instance because the offended culture SEEMS to value human life much less than other cultures on earth. This is obvious from the amount of suicide bombings, car bombings, etc, that happen each and every day in areas where there is a predominance of the Muslim faith. Followers believe that if they die in some act perceived to be taken with courage and redemption for some wrong done, they will immediately be admitted to some paradise and have 20 virgins as a harem forever. The bottom line SEEMS to be this: if we don't like something, the best way to handle it is to blow something up, and take as many innocent individuals with you as possible. Perhaps the number of dead bystanders has something to do with the numbers of little virgins you are guaranteed on the other side of life.

Since the world has become much more of a "one-world, one community", there have been problems like this that impact us all. Not everyone thinks like us, not everyone holds the same values as us. Are we right? Do we have the right to think we make the rules? Are they right? Who knows. And that question isn't really ever going to be answered satisfactorily anyway, so why bother with it? The real questions to be asking are these? How can this new world community live in peace? How can we all at least show a little common respect to ALL? How can EVERYONE simply learn to accept that there are differences in those beliefs, and learn the get past them to a level playing field of commonly accepted practices for a minimum level of respect for all people? Somehow, somewhere, there HAS to be some common denominator that came be met, some point of common life principles, to allow this mutual respect to begin to grow. It's obvious we don't know where that is right now.

So, did the cartoonist have a RIGHT to draw and have published those cartoons? Yes he did.

SHOULD he have published them? Probably not, if he had the knowledge of the level of their offensiveness.

Should those that did publish them apologize for doing so? Perhaps, but not because of the threat of violence, but because of the need to show a little respect for other cultures and beliefs.

Wow, another "soapbox" post... well, there it is then.

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