Offending the Religious

NBC aired “The Book of Daniel” against the objections of Christian conservatives. Poorly written, appealing to few people, too controversial for advertisers, the “Book of Daniel” was dropped.

European newspapers have published cartoons depicting Mohamed with a bomb for a turban. Muslims rioted, kidnapped Europeans, burned effigies.

Both freedom of speech examples. Both examples of offense to religion. The reactions are quite different, but not the spark.

While Reporters Without Borders defended the media’s “right to make fun,” many newspapers argued free speech was not an excuse for gratuitous insults.

“Newspapers are not obliged to republish offensive material merely because it is controversial,” wrote Britain’s Guardian.

“The provocation became a violation of a people’s values, not a defense of one’s own important values,” said Finland’s Hufvudstadsbladet. “Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy, but that should not be taken as an obligation to needlessly blaspheme others’ basic values,” said Ilta-Sanomat.

Protest calls multiplied at Friday prayers from Muslims, for some of whom the physical portrayal of the prophet is strictly forbidden. Imams said free speech was not the issue.

“They are not doing it to exercise their freedom, they are doing it to provoke people and create havoc,” said Abdulkadir Orire, leader of the Nigerian Muslim group Jama’atu Nasril Islam. “Freedom of expression is going beyond the limit.”

In Senegal, Imam Assane Cisse of the Cheikh Ibrahim Niass brotherhood said the cartoon had “nothing to do with freedom of expression,” but simply showed a lack of respect.

I’m glad to see that some people are starting to realize that because you can say anything you want, doesn’t mean you should.