Friday, February 17, 2006

the danish cartoons-did you hear anyone laugh?

I have been talking and more importantly, thinking about the Danish cartoon row incessantly since the last two days, while participating in a workshop on journalism, being conducted by Ursula Owen and Judith Vidal-Hall, editors of the London-based journal ‘Index on Censorship’. Here are some things which I still havn’t been able to understand about the debate-

- why were the cartoons printed in about 20 newspapers, atleast four months after being published for the first time, in a Danish newspaper on the 30th of September,2005?

- they were printed, as the Danish newspaper said, to test the limits of freedom of expression. Would the paper have published similar insulting lampoons on blacks, gays and feminists or would it choose to become ‘politically correct’ then?

- why did the Danish Prime Minister refuse to meet or talk to the Danish muslims who had protested against the original publication and wanted to discuss it with him? He has repeatedly referred to the problem as one between ‘one paper and some muslims’. Is it because he just couldn’t imagine that the controversy could snowball into something so huge? Or is it because he thought that Palestinian suicide bombers (which I’m sure are all the people he identifies as ‘muslims’) were too busy strapping bombs onto themselves to read and understand a cartoon published in an alien tongue in a foreign land?

- The protests against the cartoons have been violent. Personally speaking, I wish it hadn’t been so. And yet , I wonder why we did not get to know about the cartoons and the peaceful protests, as soon as they happened . Is it because peaceful protests aren’t ‘newsworthy’? Why did we get to know of them as soon as they turned violent? Is violence ‘newsworthy’? And is violence the only way then, for protestors to make their presence felt?

- Isn’t the West’s proclamation of ‘multiculturalism’ only a sham if they can’t take the religious sentiments of other communities seriously?

- And lastly, I recognize the fact that a democracy supports the right to criticize but is criticism against something one doesn’t understand justified? What did the cartoonist know about Prophet Muhammad or about Islam to make such a comment? Did he have adequate knowledge and authority to take a moral call on a man, who has changed the way a significant portion of the world think and live?

These are only some of the questions posed by a controversy which will probably have significant political ramifications in the years to come. Answers to them are admittedly, not very easy to find. But it’s important for us, nevertheless, to ask such questions.

Because only the right questions………….. can lead us to the right answer.


ujjaini said...

you are absolutely right about the west's multiculti thing being a sham. and i thought secularism meant an areligious point of view and not conveniently insulting certain groups to assert the fact that an establishment does not have any religious affiliation. this point was made by swapan dasgupta in the ndtv prog about the cartoons

Raps said...

Rimi: yes, I agree that asking right questions are absolutely important. The questions you are grappling with are also my questions. It looks like another juvenile western attempt at religion. I hope peace triumphs.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the public and the private spheres should be kept separate. I might have my views and I have every right to have them but I should not express them in a way so as to provoke anger or cause sadness. I might be an athesit but I would not go and tell someone who believes in religion and feels strongly about it that he is stupid. A certain amount of self-restraint and a basic concern for others' feelings would have sorted several things out.

Rimi said...

@raps--er, don't you mean Finta? MY post (with my questions) are two posts down. but if you do mean me, then thank you.

@bhoot--while i completely agree with you in this, i can't help but do you know when to stop with the 'self-restraint' and 'concern for others'? twisted, these words can also aid withholding vital information from the public (to prevent spread of panic and fear and negative reactions, and that's just one example)

Anonymous said...

@rimi: I am sorry I didn't get you. Maybe we can discuss this in person since it's long-drawn and complicated.

Faiz said...

It is not easy to dissociate yourself and present a perspective which does not preach, especially on an issue such as this .. but I think you have managed it extremely well. Brilliant analysis.

Soumik said...

if you think a cartoon hurts your religious sentiment, your protests hurt my atheist sentiments too. and criticisms must come form all corners and all sorts of people, because only then will they be based on all possible perceptions of the problem. if you have to understand prophet muhammad before criticising him, then i'm sorry, but soon you will satrt excluding everyone but muslims, then shiyas will exclude shunnis, each person will exclude the other. who are you to say you understand someone better than the other. and as long as you believe that questions and answers can be 'right' and 'wrong' ... ahem!

zish said...

thank you everyone for ur's good to see that ppl who are not in the course are interested as well...

and soumik- i do think that the cartoon hurts religious sentiments and that ppl have the right to protest against it. if you think that their protests hurts your atheistic sentiments, then all i can say is that you have the right to protest,even though you will be protestg against protests..( quite convulated,eh?)

also,how can you criticize something you dont know much about? if someone has just vaguely heard of, say, aristotle's poetics , how can you expect him to comment on it? u cant. he may have something to say on it even though he doesnt know much abt it, but that wont be criticism..he'll only be shooting off his mouth..

Braveheart said...

I sincerely appreciate your comments on this issue. Western propaganda against the muslims in the past few years has done so much damage that even otherwise sensible people across the globe effortlessly put the blames on them, regardless of the matter in focus.

In my personal opinion, it was an atrociously disgusting act which must have been condemned at all costs, by everyone - muslims and non-muslims alike.

-- Akshaya