Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In the Name of God and Civil Society

Mankind always finds strange reasons for confrontation and what is even more surprising is the fact that few themes for confrontation are common. What started with a mere cartoon in a Danish newspaper has now taken mammoth proportion in terms of arousing public sentiments and hell lot of debate on Press freedom and religious icons.

Historically we have seen many such debate and protests over few symbolic issues of religious faith. We have had the famous case of Hindu god’s images being depicted on undergarments by American Fashion designer, Sikhs being disallowed to wear turban in French schools. However the debate here is the freedom of expression vrs the religious sentiments over the world and every society undergoing transition has seen such conflicts. Infact yesterday I saw a news report in which M F Hussain the legendary artist was been asked to apologize for depicting Mother India in an offensive manner semi nude way.

Now the question is how fair it is for artists, journalists, writers and media to take such liberty with religious symbols. The Danish newspaper's culture editor, Fleming Rose, says he intended simply to test cartoonists to see if they were self-censoring their work, out of fear of violence from Islamic radicals. He cited a Danish comedian, who said in an interview that he had no problem urinating on the Bible but that he would not dare do the same to the Koran.

"Some Muslims try to impose their religious taboos in the public domain," said Mr. Rose. "In my book, that's not asking for my respect, it's asking for my submission."

Mr. Rose wrote to the Danish Cartoonist Society, inviting cartoonists to depict their interpretation of the Prophet — whose likeness many devout Muslims believe should never be depicted. Some refused on the grounds that the exercise was a provocation, but a dozen complied.

"It wasn't meant to insult or hurt anybody's feelings," Mr. Rose said, drawing a distinction between criticizing religious authority, "which goes all the way back to Voltaire and the tradition of the Enlightenment," and the "far greater offense of denigrating a specific ethnic group."

Well such experiments have resulted in protests and violence all over and it has also led to boycott of Danish goods in Islamic Countries. Rather surprisingly NYT has decided against depiction of these cartoons.

Here’s what the editor had to say “The easy points to make about the continuing crisis are that (a) people are bound to be offended if their religion is publicly mocked, and (b) the proper response is not to go on a rampage and burn down buildings. If Muslim organizations want to stage peaceful marches or organize boycotts of Danish goods, they're certainly within their rights.

The pictures, one of which showed the prophet with a bomb on top of his head in place of a turban, violate a common belief among Muslims that any depiction of Muhammad is sacrilege. The paper that first published them did so as an experiment to see whether political satirists were capable of being as harsh to Islam as they are to other organized religions. If that sounds juvenile, Americans still recognize it as within the speech protected by our First Amendment.

The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation's news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.

Now that’s what I think is responsible journalism, and any artist, public media or even govt. needs to take into account the likely fallouts before coming up with something sacrilegious .


Meha said...

i think the moslems just overreacted on the Danish Newspaper cartoon issue, it shows how those immature people are dangerously reachin their frayed ends of sanity!

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