Thursday, February 02, 2006

Buy Danish! - Solidarity With The Editor of France-Soir

Where is the courage of British newspaper editors? It pleased me greatly to see newspapers across Europe show that they stand firm when threats are made to our much cherished freedom of speech. Freedom of speech doesn't mean allowing people to say what you want to hear - it is the right to challenge, to disagree, to say anything, however unpalatable, because we believe the world progresses more when it is free to debate than when it is told what to do.

It is terrible that the disapproval of Muslims has cowed the publishers of France-Soir into sacking their editor. Their headline yesterday was entirely correct - we have the right to caricature God. We have the right to say whatever we want, just as people have the right to ignore it totally. Trying to bully people into submission because you disagree with their opinions is simply wrong. What have the Arab protestors done? They haven't tried to argue why it was wrong to publish the cartoons, they have simply burnt flags, boycotted goods, or recalled their ambassadors. Worse still, gunmen today stormed the EU offices in Gaza. Whereas in the West arguments are won by reason and debate, in the Middle East they believe arguments are won at the barrel of a gun.

To be fair, that is not universal. I am full of admiration for the editor of al-Shihan, who reproduced the cartoons in his newspaper today.

"Muslims of the world be reasonable," wrote editor Jihad Momani.
"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

Some people still don't get it, though. One of the comments on the BBC website says the following:

Freedom of speech has its limits when it concerns others...How would it feel if Jesus Christ was the one insulted instead?
Randa Ahmed Essa, Egypt

That's precisely the point! Jesus Christ and the Christian faith are insulted every day in the Western media. Bloggers refer to the Bible as a collection of fairy stories; the BBC shows the blasphemous production of Richard Dawkins is commissioned to produce a two-part documentary on why the idea of God is total bunkum. And despite it being against what I believe, I defend their right to say it without question. Because I don't have to watch, I don't have to listen, and I can criticise them here or anywhere else I can find a vehicle for my thoughts. As strange as it sounds, blasphemy is a civil right.

There is one excellent way we can show our solidarity with the Danes, and help defeat those who want to attack Western rights to freedom of speech. That is to negate the effects of the Arab boycott of Danish companies by buying Danish produce whenever we can. Bacon, Lurpak, Carlsberg, even Lego - whatever. It's vital we make a stand and show that the West won't be cowed when people attack our liberties.