Samstag, 1. Januar 2011

And Finally a Reminder - the War Lingers On

The closing days of 2010 carried a stark reminder of why it is, we spent so much time and money on fighting radical Islamism. Apparently five suspected terrorists planned to attack the editorial rooms of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in a Mumbai-style terrorist attack. In 2005 Jyllands-Posten published the famous Mohammed caricatures. There have been other attacks in the past and when the caricature was first published Muslim scholars attacked Denmark for allowing the caricature to be published in the first place and advocated a ban of Danish products. This planned attack and the upheaval in the past demonstrate what we should never forget: Terrorists fight the West for what it is, not for what it does. Our societies are being defined by freedom of the press and freedom of opinion. This is not about the act of publishing the caricature itself, it is about being free to do so without any sort of intervention, divinely, stately or otherwise. Just as the controversy around the Satanic Verses authored by Salman Rushdie is not about the integrity of Islam as a religion but about the freedom to write on any topic you please. The Indian intellectual Shashi Tharoor once pointed out that Salman Rushdie might have to blame himself, since he did not use his freedom of opinion in a responsible or reasonable fashion. I couldn't disagree more. The point, again, is not that I do think that Salman Rushdie did exercise his rights responsibly (he did). The point is that even if he did not, he would not have to blame anyone else than the people—i.e. the former Iranian revolutionary leader Khomenei—issuing the fatwa calling for his assassination. Freedom of opinion is a principle and as such it is absolute and entails the right to use it in terms that some might consider irresponsibly, as a matter of fact, this is what makes it so important and worthy of defense. Would it depend on its being used reasonably or responsibly it would necessitate someone who judges on its responsible use and that is just another way of introducing censorship. What would freedom of opinion be worth  anyway would it not entail the right to provoke?

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