I think, therefore I am, said the philosopher. Fine. But I think, therefore I speak? No way.
Nobody has an absolute right to freedom. Civilisation is the story of humans sacrificing freedom so as to live together in harmony. We do not need Hobbes to tell us that absolute freedom is for newborn savages. All else is compromise.
Should a right-wing Danish newspaper have carried the derisive images of Muhammad? No. Should other newspapers have repeated them and the BBC teasingly “flashed” them to prove its free-speech virility? No. Should governments apologise for them or ban them from repeating the offence? No, but that is not the issue.
Aha, now we’re getting somewhere. As I suspected, the newspapers that originally printed the cartoons are right-wing. Why am I not surprised that right-wing papers will cheerfully fan the flames of racism?
Despite Britons’ robust attitude to religion, no newspaper would let a cartoonist depict Jesus Christ dropping cluster bombs, or lampoon the Holocaust.
To imply that some great issue of censorship is raised by the Danish cartoons is nonsense. They were offensive and inflammatory. The best policy would have been to apologise and shut up. For Danish journalists to demand “Europe-wide solidarity” in the cause of free speech and to deride those who are offended as “fundamentalists … who have a problem with the entire western world” comes close to racial provocation.
Many people seem surprised that a multicultural crunch should have come over religion rather than race. Most incoming migrants from the Muslim world are in search of work and security. They have accepted racial discrimination and cultural subordination as the price of admission. Most Europeans, however surreptitiously, regard that subordination as reasonable.
What Muslims did not expect was that admission also required them to tolerate the ridicule of their faith and guilt by association with its wildest and most violent followers in the Middle East.
Recent British legislation shows that a censor is waiting round every corner. This past week must have sent his hopes soaring because of the idiot antics of a few continental journalists.
The best defence of free speech can only be to curb its excess and respect its courtesy.
[tags] “Mohammed cartoons” [/tags]