It started last year, September to be accurate. A danish newspaper published 12 illustrations depicting the Islamic prophet of Allah: Muhammed.
What might be reaching shores outside of Europe by now is the news of a middle-east almost unanimously boycotting Danish goods, burning the danish flag in the streets and calling home diplomats from my country. Terror threats towards Denmark have been posted on the web.
Why? Because according to the Quran – the Islamic bible – the prophet may not be depicted in any way.
So on one hand we have a secular newspaper in a country with freedom of the press. On the other hand we have nations of Muslims enraged by what would appear to be a clear violation of one of the rules of Islam.
Do we take sides?
No, there’s a grayscale, a golden middle-way.
Voltaire summed it up nicely:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it
I am a fierce believer in freedom of speech, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. But just like the publisher of these paintings of the prophet, I know that it’s possible to offend people by exercising this right—consciously or not. We all approach things from our own unique perspective, and what one writer meant doesn’t always translate to readers. As such, free speech is not directly compatible with “do not draw the prophet” and never will be since any drawing could depict the prophet if we said it did. This is the price of free speach and it’s a price worth paying.
This is not about Islam, or any religion for that matter, it is only about freedom of speech. I respect the right to pick your own religion. I have many Muslim friends whom I respect very much. There is nothing wrong with following Islam.
Today, a french, a norwegian and an icelandic newspaper voiced their support of the danish newspaper by publishing the very same pictures. As the icelandic editor reasoned for the re-publishing of the pictures, freedom of the press cannot be argued.
Your opinion is welcome.