The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Wrong to Claim Freedom of Speech


Mick Hall • 7 March 2006

In a recent Blanket article which centered on the anti Islamic cartoons published in the Autumn of last year by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, David Adam's wrote the following: "Whether we like it or not, most people do associate today's Islam with terrorism and brutality, and that is something that Islam has brought upon itself."

Whilst not wishing to belittle Davids work as for me he is one of the better writers to emerge out of the NI 'troubles' and is a man of principle, on the aforementioned I cannot but disagree with him as I believe what he writes is untrue. Whilst I would concede that it is just possible that these days a majority of people in the West may well [mistakenly IMO] equate Islam with terrorism and brutality, in the wider world they simply do not do so. Few people beyond the Europe and the USA see Islam as the violent nihilistic religion which is portrayed in our Newspapers and on our TV screens on a regular basis, but see Islam in much the same way as Christianity is looked upon within Europe.

This misunderstanding of the Islamic faith is one of the main reasons why I opposed the re-publication of the cartoons both in the Blanket and elsewhere and believe that to have published them in the first place was a deliberate act of provocation on the part of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. What other intent could they have had in the current anti Islamic climate that prevails in the West post 9/11. It is for me impossible to conclude otherwise, as the cartoons were not originally published because they were informative or funny, nor are they satire. They simply reinforce the existing prejudice of that papers mainly right wing readership and sadly it seems much of Danish society as a whole.

David also claims that Muslims have not in the past felt it necessary to protest when detrimental images of Muhammad have been published. Whilst this is not strictly true and not wishing to get into an argument over theology and the prohibition of images of God and his messengers within the islamic faith, he misses the real point. We live in different times post 9/11. People who live in some of the nations where the main faith is Islam are under unrelenting attack from the USA and some of its political acolytes. Thus understandably their Co-Religionists in other lands have sympathy for there fellow believers who find themselves under this onslaught. Believing for example the invasion of Iraq or the continued persecution of the Palestinian people have a relevance to their own lives.

As an example of how the world has changed post 9/11 as far as tolerance for the Islamic faith is concerned, consider this. In 1981 a Turkish Muslim, Mehmet Ali Agca shot and almost killed Pope John Paul 11, yet at the time the fact he was a Muslim was never an issue within the media or to the general public in the West. Does any reader feel the lack of interest shown in Mehmet Ali Agca's faith would be repeated today after such an event. To ignore this fact about the change in western attitudes towards those who belong to the islamic faith; and publish provocative images like the cartoons in question, is like handing the likes of bin Laden and his Al Qaeda associates around the globe, a container full of hand held surface-to-air missiles.

David also claims the people of the Islamic nations are themselves responsible for the image we in the west have of them. In truth I find this accusation outrageous. Although these days it is par for the course for we live in a world in which the powerful portray life's victims as the perpetrators of both their own misfortune and the evils which flow from it. Occupiers become according to some in the western media the oppressed, whilst those who resist oppression become the oppressors. No where is this nonsense more portrayed in the media than over the conflicts in the middle east, especially within the occupied west Bank and the hemmed in miniscule piece of land called the Gaza strip. Plus of course in poor, desperate and illegally occupied Iraq.

With freedom of speech comes responsibility, for make no mistake it was not middle class Intellectuals who live in the west who suffered and died due to the street protests the Whabbis were able to stir up over the cartoons. It was ordinary Muslims who died or were injured during the disturbances that took place in the streets and alleyways of the cities of Pakistan, the Middle East and the far East.

To claim this is an issue of Freedom of speech is in my opinion just plain wrong for not only were the cartoons published, they have been republished in countless other newspapers across the globe, including in parts of the Middle East. They have been shown on TV throughout much of the world and posted all over the internet. There have also been countless demonstrations throughout the world, some in favor some against the cartoons.

The fact that Muslims have had the temerity to object to the publication of these cartoons is what seems to have angered many in the west, what are those who claim to be for open society saying, Muslims have no right to defend their religion via public protest. Yes placards demanding violent acts were displayed and blood curdling slogans shouted on some of the anti cartoon demo's. But perhaps we should get this into proportion, do we have such short memories that we on the left have forgotten we regularly called for Maggie Thatcher to be strung up, let alone forgotten what we suggested should happen to Bush, Blair, Clinton, Reagan and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Nor a good few of us in the 1960s demanded on our streets that the US armed forces be bombed and blasted out of Vietnam by the Vietcong.

We should also not forget that there are approximately 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, which is about 22 per cent of the worlds population. Thus the numbers of Muslims who protested against the cartoons and more importantly those amongst them who demanded a restriction on the right to freedom of speech, were a tiny minority of that number. Indeed the overwhelming majority of Muslims like the majority in all the main faiths wish to have more freedoms, not less and to suggest otherwise displays a total lack of understanding about what makes the majority of our Islamic brothers and sisters tick.

To conclude, as far as I am aware no one connected with these cartoons in the West has had a Fatwa worthy of the name placed upon them, or has had to be placed under police protection. But even if they had, the world is full of political cranks, both in the west and beyond. To suggest that it is only the Islamic world that such people inhabit is silly; and to do so can only further demonize those who believe in the Islamic faith. Which in itself, whether intentional or not, in the long run would be a far greater crime than any those two-bit killers, fanatics and lunatics who inhabit Mr bin Laden's world may commit, For by doing so we will be helping to turn the Islamic world into bin Laden's and those who think like him willing accomplices, which is perhaps what some in the West really wish.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

12 March 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Profile: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Anthony McIntyre

The Right to Offend
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Spool of Threads
Marc Kerr

Wrong to Claim Freedom of Speech
Mick Hall

Anti-Racism Network Urges Website Not to Publish Racist-Cartoons
ARN Press Release

Fires of Hate
Anthony McIntyre

All is Far From Lost After Riots
David Adams

Who's A Nazi?
Dr John Coulter

'Screamingly Funny in its Absurdity'
Liam O Ruairc

The Letters page has been updated:

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Prophet

Christ Collage

An Eye for An Eye

Glad to See Someone is Not Afraid

There Are No Sides to Peace

Silence is Not Golden; It is Complicity
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

5 March 2006

MI5 and Omagh — The Bomb to End All Bombs?
John Hanley

MANIFESTO: Together Facing the New Totalitarianism

Freedom of Speech
Anthony McIntyre

The Parameters of Free Speech
David Adams

MI5 and the Stasi Syndrome
Dr John Coulter

Misrepresentation of the Republican Position Must Be Addressed
Francis Mackey

The Progressive Road
Mick Hall

Imperialism and National Revolution
How the Trotskyists got it wrong

Robert Clough

Nick Laird's Utterly Monkey
Seaghán Ó Murchú

No Dangerous Liaisons
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters page has been updated:

Remembering the Hunger Strikes

Sunday Times Responds

Rights and Responsibilities

The Whys

Images of the Dublin Riots
Carol Russell



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