I'm somewhat disturbed that two high profile (well, high profile in NZ) newspapers, and the two main television stations in NZ have decided that the wisest course of action in response to the Muslim outrage at the publication of the cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed with a bomb was to publish them themselves.
In fact, this is what the Dominion Post had to say about it:
Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst said the publication was a test of Islamic tolerance. The Press ran two of the caricatures, including the one considered most blasphemous, of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.
It reminds me of the time I saw Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, with a Brown Snake. He commented that the snake is one of the most deadly in the world, but that it take quite a lot to provoke it. In fact, he said, I'm going to show you just how much you need to provoke it, at which point he started jabbing it with a stick. Inevitably, the snake lashed out. Not, I must point out, that I am comparing the Muslim world with a Brown Snake, oh God no. But rather to observe that you aggravate anything enough, no matter how docile or edgy it is, eventually it is going to lash out. As it is patently clear to all that the cartoons have provoked a large amount of anger around the world then what exactly was the point of that test? Putting out the fire with gasoline, anybody? Dicks.
I feel distressed that my countrymen and women have decided that the best way forward would be to print these. Hell, I'm distressed that the Danes, French, Germans, Spanish etc did it in the first place.
Humour is an integral part of my world. As a Christian, I'm used to aspects of my faith being mocked. But I'm relaxed enough in my faith to laugh at it and to admire the skill required. Hell, I'm sure (maybe I'm projecting a little here), that God laughs along at the genius that is Eddie Izzard when he takes us down the twisted road that is his mind and tells the story of Noah in a speedboat. Humour will always be a tricky business. One person's joke is often another person's offence. One of the strengths of any movement, be it anything from football to religion, is for its followers to have the ability to recognise the absurdity in it, and yet still believe. However, there need to be boundaries.
Tze Ming Mok at Public Address writes:
"Women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, are not going to laugh at your jokes when they're unfairly at our expense. Does the fault lie with our sense of humour, or your sense of humour? Ah, postmodernism."
As thoughts in process, I realise that there is an inconsistency between the above and my statement that we need to be able to laugh at ourselves. Is it only funny if the humour is generated from within the movement? Somehow I think not. I'm still trying to work out when that is ok, and why it is seen as more acceptable for Christians to be mocked, and how they are more willing to be mocked, than, say, the Muslim world. But as I write I realise that to mock some aspects of the Christian faith would, in my opinion, be totally unacceptable.
I'm a big believer in the right to free speech. But I'm also a believer in being responsible with that right. The continued publication of such cartoons, in my opinion, crosses those boundaries.
I appreciate that these thoughts are somewhat confused, and probably the consequence of being a Guardian reading Oxford based liberal, so sorry about that. But the publication of these cartoons does make me angry and very sad.
Mok has some additional thoughts on the matter at Public Address.