(watch the violence here, as Muslims loudly cheer)
Warren Kinsella has spoken on the cartoon controversy now enraging the Muslim world. He is against publishing the cartoons that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published depicting ohammed.
Naturally, one wonders, why? After all, he was the one trodding out a dinosaur on television mocking Stockwell Day's religious beliefs. Anticipating this argument, Kinsella responds that he was only warning that Day's "religious beliefs had, and would, inform his political beliefs." That may have been Kinsella's intent.
But his actions clearly went beyond this connection. For there was no implied or explicitly stated connection between Day's belief in the earth's age and the way it would inform his policy as Prime Minister. What would Day do -- make it Canada's official position on evolution? The non-existent connection Kinsella makes (or fails to make) is probably why I find Kinsella's position on the cartoons so odd.
Muslims deserve "a modicum of respect for the things they hold closest to their hearts." But somehow Christians who believe in a young earth do not. As long as you are making a political point of national importance ("Canadian voters were therefore entitled...to fully consider the ramifications of faith-based politics"), via Kinsella's logic, it is permissable to insult them. And many were.
Yet, the political cartoons were published to make a point of national importance. Indeed, it may even fulfill the Kinsella criteria of making a political point. The point of the paper publishing the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten? Muslims need to learn what it means to live in a society which values freedom of expression:
[Muslims] demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him. [...]
I agree with Warren Kinsella on a lot of points he makes. Indeed, "You might not find such things hateful or even hurtful, but many others do." Certainly I can understand why some Muslims may find these cartoons hurtful or even insulting. But that is not the issue for most Muslims. The furor is not over the hate involved in them. For if you actually look at them, they aren't mocking Mohammad as much as the fanatics who use Mohammad to justify violence. Muslims are instead upset because these cartoons are idolatry. For it is forbidden to make images of Mohammad. It is idolatry.
For Muslims. Not Christians. Not Atheists. For Muslims. And in a free society like Canada, we tolerate free expression peacefully. When we do disagree on whether something is truly insulting, we go to Court to let the law be the final arbiter. It is like hate emails people get. You don't threaten to kill people or burn embassies just because someone does something that offends your belief system. The only reason people have even considered the idea of censoring these cartoons is because of fear. Fear of violence.
The whole thing is just absurd. What, is Canada going to stop selling wine and beer if Muslims start burning down Canadian embassies because we are selling forbidden food? Of course not. Just as we can eat heathen food without impunity, so should we be able to display things that goes contrary to the belief system of others. It almost begs the point. Would newspaper editors be dragging their heels on publishing these cartoons if there were riots over the fact that Western newspapers began to show women scantily clad without burkhas? The possibilities for offense are endless. In a free society, free expression without fear of violence is the bedrock over our democracy.
At what point do we stop selling our own Western values of freedom for the Muslim worlds' values?
It may surprise some to think that at one point in human history, it was insulting and offensive to the Church to suggest that that the Emperor was ultimately superior over the Pope (Dante). Dante's de Monarchia was banned by the Pope. Ideas suggesting that Divine Kingship came from God rather than the Pope were also censored.
The Boston Globe has opined that they have decided not to publish the cartoons based on "the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance."
I argue by reaching the opposite conclusion based on the same Enlightment grounds: freedom from the religious tyranny of ideas. Listen to Baruch Spinoza very carefully, as deals in his Theologico-Political Treatise with the very same issue of censorship and offense:
For when people try to take it away, and bring to trial, not only the acts which alone are capable of offending, but also the opinions of mankind, they only succeed in surrounding their victims with an appearance of martyrdom, and raise feelings of pity and revenge rather than of terror. (78)
Uprightness and good faith are thus corrupted, flatterers and traitors are encouraged, and sectarians triumph, inasmuch as concessions have been made to their animosity, and they have gained the state sanction for the doctrines of which they are the interpreters. (79)
Hence they arrogate to themselves the state authority and rights, and do not scruple to assert that they have been directly chosen by God, and that their laws are Divine, whereas the laws of the state are human, and should therefore yield obedience to the laws of God - in other words, to their own laws. (80)
Everyone must see that this is not a state of affairs conducive to public welfare. (81)
Wherefore, as we have shown in Chapter XVIII., the safest way for a state is to lay down the rule that religion is comprised solely in the exercise of charity and justice, and that the rights of rulers in sacred, no less than in secular matters, should merely have to do with actions, but that every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.
Further Reading: Jyllands-Posten's justification for printing the cartoons