Posted by: Hugh Griffiths | February 6, 2006

Keep it in perspective – criminal threats or caricature ‘toons

What a weekend with the Muslim protests and riots continuing in Europe in response to cartoons published and republished in various newspapers!

Thankfully the UK press have shown welcome restraint to avoid exacerbating the extreme reactions shown by some Islamic groups. They have rightly been praised for their willingness to slightly curtail their freedom of expression so that further excuse for violence is avoided.

At the weekend there was an interesting set of extracts from press editorials given at Times Online, including the following from one of the overseas papers which chose to republish some of the cartoons. It provides a sharp perspective on some of the deeper issues affecting Islam.

Al-Shihan, Jordan

(The newspaper published three of the cartoons before the editor was fired and copies were pulled from shops)

“Muslims of the world, be reasonable… 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?”

I’m sure we are seeing only the part of Islam that occupies the extreme end of their religion when we see some of the violent and hate-filled messages that have been shown. However, it is terrible to see placards spewing out messages of murder on our own streets. For example, one report from a protest in London on Friday included the following:

Abu Jihad, 43, who was born in Pakistan, added that the cartoonist and the editors of the papers should be killed.

“It is very clear: Anyone who insults the Prophet must be beheaded. Remember van Gogh?” he said, referring to the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh who was murdered in 2004 for his controversial film about Islam.

“Whoever did it, bless him. Islam is peace but you see there will only be peace when Islam is implemented across the world. In the Prophet’s time anyone who insulted the Prophet was beheaded. The same should happen now.”

I think the foreign secretary Jack Straw helpfully distinguished between allowing freedom of speech and uneccessary provocation. However, surely society must not tolerate such gratuitous threats of violence and murder? After all, what do you think we should be more concerned about – a few insulting cartoons or the violent threat of murder and bloodshed?

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