ACT MP Heather Roy has an interesting piece in her latest “Heather Roy’s Diary” on how the Muhammed cartoon furore was sparked and some local reactions.
In September last year Denmark’s biggest-selling daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, printed twelve cartoons of the prophet Muhammed in various poses. The newspaper’s stated issue was self censorship; a Danish author had written a children’s book on the life of Muhammed but was unable to find an illustrator.
Most Muslims believe it is offensive to depict the Prophet and the artists feared retribution from Muslim zealots. The fact that the artists were imposing censorship on themselves because of fear, worried the Jyllands-Posten who asked 40 Danish arists to submit a likeness. Only twelve responded and those were the cartoons that were published. They were of variable quality and some were offensive.
Given that most Westerners have never heard of Jyllands-Posten and very few speak Danish the matter would have been quickly forgotten had it not been for an hystrical reaction in Muslim countries. The Danish embassy was burned down in Lebanon and in Afghanistan a British Army contingent had to go to the aid of a beseiged Nordic Unit. As usual there have been anti-American riots although the USA is not involved.
Closer to home, Heather Roy finds our great leaders reaction disturbing.
As a result the cartoons have been big news and many papers including The Dominion Post and The Press have reproduced them.
Helen Cark’s response has been to say that she believes in “free speech but……” Readers may recall Helen Clark’s vitriolic attacks on the Exclusive Bretheren at election time when she declared them a “weird cult”. Labour Minister David Parker likened them to the Taliban. Quite why it is OK to make very disparaging comments about a small group of law abiding, tax paying citizens who may have different religious beliefs to most New Zealanders but not about a huge religion when there might be trade implications is not clear.
While the Prime Minister preaches tolerance she practices selective tolerance. The controversy surrounding the cartoons is an issue of “Freedom of Speech” but to have real freedom of speech there must be no conditions beyond the bounds of the law – equality before the law. Information should be readily available so that each of us can form our own opinions.
But to have real freedom of speech there must be no conditions beyond the bounds of the law.