Ridicule on Freedom of Expression!

Having read Lars Ströman’s article on the right to ridicule a religion,’ published on 28 August in Nerikes Allehanda, I felt comment was necessary.

First, the author takes pride, as I do, in Freedom of Expression granted to all citizens of Sweden. I do really appreciate it and I do defend it. However, the author knows, as much as I do, this freedom is not absolute or context-free. Its conditioned by social, cultural, religious and political parameters. For example, what is published is scrutinised before it goes public. To make sure that the material does not go against the above-mentioned parameters.

Although, most of these parameters are not written in detail, however they are an integral part of the formal education that creates one’s preferences and taste as a citizen and journalist. Journalists have the privilege of communicating with the public and with this come the responsibility of using sound judgement before publishing potentially harmful piece of information. Consequently, self-censorship or self-regulation is not uncommon, among journalists. And not infrequently, freedom of expression is compromised, due to local and international considerations. This leads me to the article.

In the article the author mentioned secular Muslims, who are against any religious influence, are planning to exhibit Lars Vilks drawings. In another section the author drew a parallel between a Muslim fundamentalist and Lars Vilks need to express himself. The message was: both need to express themselves without restraints. I do disagree with the author’s assertion of unregulated freedom of expression. As I previously mentioned freedom of expression is not absolute and context-free. . It’s a delicate balance between granting someone’s freedom of expression and protecting someone else from injurious expressions. In this case, preventing harm comes before granting freedom expression.

Modern-day anti-Semitism

The author, further, argued in his article that Jyllands-Postens caricatures, in 2006, emanated from a bad taste as the cartoons resembled anti-Jewish caricatures in the thirties. And that was Ströman’s only reservation on the Danish caricatures of Prophet Mohammed. This can be inferred that if the Danish cartoons were less reminiscent of the anti-Jewish propaganda in the past decade, they would have been okay. In his line of thinking, publishing anti-Muslim caricatures is permissible as long as the cartoons do not resemble anti-Jewish cartoons in Nazi-Germany. In other words, in the thirties of the last century, it was acceptable then, politically and socially, to draw anti-Jewish cartoons and to ridicule them. But nowadays, and since the Second World War, it is not. In contrast, these days its trendy and allowed to ridicule Muslims and their religious symbols.

In my view, the roundabout dog’ cartoon is not an artistic expression through satirical drawings. Its rather an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim expression disguised as an art form and by extension freedom of expression. In reality, it’s a modern-day anti-Semitism that fills the same function as the anti-Jewish cartoons of the last century. The prophet of Islam is both a religious symbol for Muslims and an ethnic symbol for Arabs as an ethnic group. So ridiculing him is offensive to Muslims and Arabs alike. Hence, one wonders why this should be any different from anti-Jewish caricatures of the past century.

Finally, we, moderate Muslims, are trapped between two extremists: the secularist and fundamentalist Muslims. Moderate Muslims, who promote reasoning and understanding, feel sidelined by the media. As their views regarding issues concerning Swedish Muslims rarely comes to light.

Moreover, let me stress, we moderate Muslims understand the significance of the freedom of expression. We cherish it and are proud of it, however. It is equally important to emphasise that the freedom of expression is often misused by people who want to inflict injurious expressions or defame others whom they see as legitimate targets. Therefore, a compromise is needed between granting freedom of expression to someone and preventing injurious and harmful expressions from someone else. It’s here where the rubber meets the road.

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Mahdi Farah

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Publicerad: 04 sep 2007 09:53


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