February 13, 2006 at 6:51 pm 4 comments

There’s been some interesting debate amongst the LUMS instructors over the caricatures of the Prophet (sws). Here’s some emails…

“I agree that freedom of expression is indeed a fundamental right of any
human being or society. However, limitations have quite often been used in
many laws and constitutions of democratic societies to uphold restrictions
on hate speech and obscenity. In French law, public speech or writings
that incite racial or religious hatred, for example neo-nazi ideas, are
prohibited on the same basis. Similarly, Article 5 of the German
Grundgestez (“basic Law”) includes some restrictions on free speech, for
example personal insults or hate speech (Volksverhetzung). The Irish
Constitution categorizes “blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter” as
that which cannot be granted the right of free expression. In fact, on
July 18, 2003 Dorota Nieznalska was sentenced to six months in Poland for
publishing an art work that showed a penis on a cross, which was
considered to be an insult to religious sentiments. Similarly, On January
5, 2005 another man was sentenced to a fine of about 5000 euros for
insulting Pope John Paul II. The European Convention on Human Rights
(November 4, 1950) sums up many of these restrictions on freedom of
expression:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and
responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions,
restrictions or penalties as areprescribed by law and are necessary in a
democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial
integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for
the protection of health or moralsfor the protection of the reputation or
the rights of others,for preventing the disclosure of information received
in confidence, or for maintaining the authorityand impartiality of the
judiciary. [Emphasis mine]

How exactly should the Muslims and their governments protest against the
publication of these cartoons is a separate question. The fact that some
Muslims resorted to arson is indeed wrong. But, it would be unfortunate if
that made the world forget the most important thing about free society:
that all humans have certain inalienable rights; but, they also have some
basic responsibilities. It is on the basis of this principle that we
regard calling a black man a nigger or a Jew a kike as indecency rather
than free speech as such, for all human experience has shown that, whether
we wish to criticize an idea or justify it, the all-important battle of
ideas can never truly be won without superior morality. The question,
therefore, is Couldn’t the same ideas be expressed as effectively in a
decent way? Academic critiques on Islam and vociferous criticisms against
the Muslims by many renowned scholars (as Bernard Lewis for example, who
is still widely read in Pakistan) have shown us that they can be. However,
without responsibility, freedom can quite easily become what it was never
meant to be: indecency and oppression.

It must also be emphasised time and again that quite often it is we who
choose the shackles of slavery ourselves by the choices we make. It is
here that “Freedom is Slavery” (in Orwell’s words). Who is stopping the
Muslim world from making a strong statement economically? What is it that
we truly and really need from the West? Technology? Maybe. Maybe not. But,
at least, let’s stop buying European products that are not our dire needs.
It became quite obvious after the Bajour bombing how much spine we have as
a people. Economic sense. Maybe. At least, that’s some kind of twisted
justification. But, do we or do we not have any dignity? Can’t we even
abandon the purchase of a few European luxuries to defend our Prophet’s
sacred honour (sws)? Maybe I am just overreacting, but I don’t think I saw
even half the emotion on this one that LUMS demonstrated in the wake of
the earthquake.

Asif Iftikhar
Lecturer, Islamic Studies”

Miguel replied to this (he’s an instructor with the social sciences department and originally from portugal, though he’s settled in Pk now).

“As a “European” and a Muslim let me elucidate some points:
First of all, as we are supposedly all inteligent and well-read people (we do attend a university) I’m pleased to see that very few people at LUMS buy the “Clash of Civilisations” theory (where do the Mediterraneans like me fit?). But it is as erroneous as to generalise about Arabs and Muslims as it is talking about a unified “West” or even a generalised “Europeans”. There is a stark difference between Southern, Northern and Eastern Europe. Just because some countries have strong economic (and in the near future legislative) ties, does not mean we are “one”.

Secondly, the vast majority of “Europeans” are against these cartoons, for the simple fact that they would not like their own beliefs to be ridiculed. Also, they know when newspapers are reprinting stories for the sake of “freedom of expression”, or for the sake of making a quick buck.

Thirdly, all the newspapers that printed the cartoons are private companies that have very little to do with the governments ruling these countries. And although stopping consuming their commodities is a very good way to get the message through (hit them where it hurts), it will not directly affect these newspapers.

What is interesting is that during the Iraq invasion discontent Muslims all over the world had the possibility of having a bigger impact by boycoting American companies (many which contributed monetarily for the present administration’s re-election campaign) and did nothing.

You see, it’s always easier to burn a few flags than to stop drinking Coca-Cola ($1 million contributions) or Pepsi ($2 million), eating McDonald’s ($0.8 million), using Windows ($0.7 million), Dell computers ($0.4 million), putting Chevron/Texaco ($2.4 million), or Exxon/Mobil/Esso ($2.8 million) in your car, or smoking Phillip Morris ($6.9 million).

By the way Asif, you’re not overreacting, but asking the “burger-batchas” not to consume…”

and finally:

“Thank you for your comments, Miguel. Since I completely agree that it is
not fair to make sweeping generalizations about any people, I apologize
for any statement that you might have seen as critical of all Europeans.
That was certainly not my intent. While suggesting a boycott of some
“European luxuries” I used the word “European” synecdochically and assumed
that it would be taken as such in the given context. Nevertheless, I
apologize if this point was not clear in my message. Furthermore, it would
be great if Muslims could make an impact on the concerned companies
directly. But, if that is not possible, I don’t see why it would be
against any democratic or civil norms to make our displeasure known to the
governments that “harbour” such miscreants as misuse the idea of freedom
to insult our Prophet (sws). The statement we’d be making through an
economic boycott would still be much more civil than “Either you are with
us or against us” rubric to illegally invade an independent country or
bombing on remote parts of an allied country to hunt down an elusive
phantom terrorist.”

Best,
Asif

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Two die in Pakistan cartoon clash

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. FRZ  |  February 14, 2006 at 10:23 am

    i have certain views on this topic too. its on my blog.

    Faraz

    Reply
  • 2. Anonymous  |  February 14, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    Nida, thought of you when watching the news…hope you and all in the @family in Lahore are safe…take care…love,

    aunty rose (Pierre’s mum)

    Reply
  • 3. Nic  |  February 14, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Hey Needa,

    How’s it going? Lots to catch up on. However on a serious note, is what you’ve posted here meant to represent what you personally feel about this whole thing? Or did you just post it because you thought the exchange was interesting? I’d love to know your thoughts on this one.

    Reply
  • 4. Kurt  |  February 14, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Well I like it, its a positive dialogue, which is what is truly needed now.

    They are right, it is not easy to just STOP consuming western products, but it is the ONLY way an individual can vote with their dollar.

    I think the whole counter debate of free speech is honestly ignorant to the real issues. It is not about ones freedom to speak as much as it is ones responsibility to maintain order.

    Keep the positive dialogue going!

    Reply

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