Ibn Warraq on the Caricatures

Ibn Warraq, a Muslim dissident who is well known in the skeptic movement (I've heard him speak and read much of his work), has an article in Der Spiegel about the caricatures (thanks to Sandefur for pointing me to it). I'll quote a long passage from the article below the fold:

The cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten raise the most important question of our times: freedom of expression. Are we in the west going to cave into pressure from societies with a medieval mindset, or are we going to defend our most precious freedom -- freedom of expression, a freedom for which thousands of people sacrificed their lives?

A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.

Unless, we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the Free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest. Do not apologize...

Freedom of expression is our western heritage and we must defend it or it will die from totalitarian attacks. It is also much needed in the Islamic world. By defending our values, we are teaching the Islamic world a valuable lesson, we are helping them by submitting their cherished traditions to Enlightenment values.

Hear, hear.

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Massimo made a good point today.
http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2006/02/thats-difference.html

"Were the cartoons in question insensitive? Indeed, and on purpose. That's the whole point of satire, or have we not learned anything from Jonathan Swift and Voltaire? One may or may not agree with the content and form of the cartoons, or with the message they send, or even with the timing of their publication (then again, when is it ever a good time to offend religious fundamentalists?). But any call for the firing of newspaper editors, or the banning of similar initiatives in the future, is contrary to the very core of Western civilization. Well, again, of post-Enlightenment Western civilization. Before the time of Voltaire, Rousseau and co. we were doing exactly the same thing: the Catholic Church was burning at the stakes people who dared question the Church's interpretation of the Bible. In the New World, the Puritans had just crossed the Atlantic to escape religious intolerance, and promptly passed laws to ban whatever didn't meet their narrow view of what God wanted (including, of all things, Christmas!)."

I have to say that I disagree with the "freedom of expression is the fundamental issue here" idea. Something more fundamental -- that is freedom of conscience -- is the issue that underlies all these incidents of cultural alienation that occur between the West on one side, and the Middle East and Central Asia on the other. That freedom, in my view, is far more important than the freedom of expression, because it deals with what I am allowed to think, rather than what I am allowed to say.

One could reply that the two are interrelated to the point that you can't really have one without the other, and I wouldn't dispute the point. The really pernicious aspect of the controversy is to me, though, that the anti-cartoon set is really saying that the purveyors of the satire should not only be censored, but punished as well. That position takes the clash to an entirely different level.

Tolerance is improvident where it presents a threat to what the otherwise complaisant heart holds sacrosanct, especially in view of the fact that blasphemy is protected speech in one culture, and a capital crime in the other. We're talking about one tribe's attempts to export its authoritarian sensibilities to another. That's the real core of the threat. Thankfully, the exporter in this case is largely impotent in military terms.

By Doctor_Gonzo (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

In the New World, the Puritans had just crossed the Atlantic to escape religious intolerance, and promptly passed laws to ban whatever didn't meet their narrow view of what God wanted (including, of all things, Christmas!).

It is even better than that... The Puritans left England and first went to the Netherlands, to join Dutch protestants (Kalvinists). But even there, the society was too "unpuritan" for their taste, so they had to leave for America... or so it is told.

a Muslim dissident

ed, with all due respect, warraq is as much a muslim dissident as dawkins is a christian dissident. after all, he wrote a book titled why i am not a muslim.

Here's something from CNN:
"An Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the same principles of freedom of ..."

By Mark Paris (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

An Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the same principles of freedom of

I'd rather them do that then burn embassies. It's stupid, rude and much more offensive then the Danish caricatures, but doesn't kill anybody.

BTW, for all the shouting the Muslim fanatics do about Europeans being killed in return for the cartoons, until know all the people who died in the affair are the protesters, shot by their Muslim police. Can it get even more grotesque?

An Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust...

*Yawn*

Well, since the Grand Puba (or whatever) of Iran is a vocal Holocaust denier I really don't see how a few cartoons is going to be any more of a test.

Their certainly won't be riotous protests, death threats or fatwas.

I personally hope the media ignores these pathetic and childish attempts to one up the Danish cartoons.