The Mid-Atlantic Blog

February 04, 2006

The Inevitable Cartoon Post

I've been avoiding writing on the cartoon scandal , because I'm still not sure what I think about it. A couple of things jumped out at me today, though.

First, this article covering the demonstrations in London. The key paragraph for me is as follows

A crowd of several hundred demonstrated outside the Danish Embassy in Knightsbridge, with protesters repeatedly shouting: "UK you must pray, 7/7 is on its way."

Now, I don't care how offended you are, that's out of line. It's a minority opinion in the Moslem community, there is no doubt. But so is the group that feels so offended that they want to alter our free speech rights. And I thought that this type of threat was a crime these days. Why the police didn't get involved...

Second, there is Matthew Parris today. While I am a regular churchgoer, and he's an atheist, I have much sympathy for his argument. My faith isn't threatened by the laughter of others. I may well be (and sometimes am) offended by the mockery of Christianity, but there is no way that I'd in any way legislate to stop others being able to offend me. Market pressure on them, maybe, but force never.

Third, a general point. We in the west should be brooking no nonsense from those states that fail to provide proper freedom of religion within their own borders, but yet presume to criticise. In fact, we should use this as a chance to raise the treatment of Jews, Christians and others. A picture may be offensive: a ban on conversion is more so. And there are, and have been, Moslem countries where religious freedom is more or less available.

Fourth, as to the cartoons themselves, I find them pretty much without merit. They're not terribly funny, and send no point other than tweaking the sensitivity of the faithful follower of Islam who might encounter them. So, I'd rather these cartoons hadn't been the focus of the argument.

Finally, I come back to Matthew Parris' point. Religions, even on "liberal" interpretations of them, always involve a negation of other views. For example, I believe in the incarnation. I believe in the resurrection. If you don't, we disagree on very fundamental issues indeed: issues on which I certainly believe the whole of creation hang. Too often we've pretended these disagreements didn't exist, rather than accepting them, and moving past them. The latter is a far safer course - and can engender a serious conversation which can deal with tensions like those raised by these cartoons more effectively than the mushy approach that we have today.

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