Free speech vs. respect

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 at 07:11 PM

Who wins in the Muhammed cartoon debacle?  No one.

Afghan police shot dead four people protesting on Tuesday against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that have unleashed waves of rage and soul-searching across the Muslim world and Europe.

To be fair, Evangelical Christians would be very offended if newspapers published cartoons that were disrespectful of Jesus Christ.  Hell, I'd probably be offended.  However, I wouldn't begin a riot or burn down an embassy.  Some of our more radical Christians [Pat Robertson?] might, however, incite violent action if something like that happened.

Just like radical Muslims are now inciting riots over the Muhammed cartoons.

Freedom of expression, even if it is offensive to some, is a right in a free society.  I'm not saying the cartoons weren't offensive; they were to followers of Islam.  But they were published in free societies, and those who were so offended that they are fire-bombing embassies in their countries are not respecting the cultures of the European countries where the newspapers published the cartoons.

The EU is supposed to respect the Muslim culture, but these radical Muslims will not respect the culture of the countries in which the cartoons were published?  Protest is one thing; fire bombs are another.  So far nine people have been killed over a few drawings!

The 12 cartoonists whose work touched off the firestorm were reported to be in hiding, frightened, and under police guard.  Iran's best-selling newspaper launched a competition to find the best Holocaust cartoon.

In Iran, locked in a nuclear stand-off with the West, a crowd pelted the Danish embassy with petrol bombs and stones for a second day. Protesters hurled a petrol bomb and broke windows at Norway's mission.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller called his Iranian counterpart "and demanded in clear terms that Iran does all it can to protect the embassy and Danish lives," a spokesman said. Iran has cut trade with Denmark and pulled out its ambassador.

Afghan crowds attacked a base of NATO Norwegian troops with guns and grenades and Afghan police opened fire, bringing the death toll in protests against the cartoons to nine.

After rioters set Danish missions ablaze in Syria and Lebanon at the weekend, the European Union presidency issued a strongly worded warning to 19 countries across the Middle East that they were obliged to protect EU missions.

How bad is it going to get?  Radical Islamists already hate Western society; they will more than likely use this as an excuse to incite more violence.  It may get ugly.

"Disrespecting different religions and the sanctities of different countries is not something that can be accepted," said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Even though that is exactly what these rioters are doing; they're disrespecting Western culture and its freedom of expression.

I think the following quote sends out the right message:

Norwegian press association chief Per Edgar Kokkvold said after receiving death threats: "It is important to defend not only freedom of expression but also the right to offend people, even if offending people is not always a beautiful sight."

My message to radical Islamists?  Get over it.  Go back to your way of life, and don't worry about how Western culture lives its life.

However, it is kind of difficult to send out a message like this when our government is still in the midst of "liberating" Iraq.