Muslim Matters: What About Thy Hallowed Freedom of Speech?
Before I get too far and people wrongfully accuse me, I wish to be clear that I am indeed very much in favor of free speech and very thankful that I do not have to be afraid of what I say in this country. This though does not detract from what many people feel is an abuse of this great privilege of ours in America and elsewhere.
there were those in the non-Muslim world who defiantly proclaimed their right to depict the Prophet in any way they wished – insulting or not – as guaranteed by the freedom of speech. Again, to be fair though, a large number of other non-Muslim Westerners disagreed with this position as voiced to me by one airplane seat-mate of mine who was visiting the US from Denmark. She reported to me that on the contrary, a number of surveys in her country had shown a majority of Danes were unhappy with their government’s position and felt there was very much a difference between freedom of speech and respecting someone else’s feelings.
You are free to say or publish whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt her feelings. How generous.
I was thus quite surprised two months ago to read about how a number of outraged Catholics in Austria succeeded in having a sacrilegious painting of the Last Supper removed from Vienna’s Roman Catholic St. Stephan’s Cathedral museum.
Why was that surprising?
Instead of invoking the almighty right of freedom of speech though, something amazing happened - the museum respectfully took down the painting at its Cardinal’s request just over a week after the ‘Religion, Flesh and Power’ exhibition had opened.
The concept of freedom of speech (and thus freedom from punishment) applies to the state -- not the Roman Catholic St. Stephan's Cathedral museum. Had the Austrian government stepped in and removed the paintings or jailed the artist, then the author would have had a point. This silly artist can continue to show his/her work elsewhere in the country and you won't see Christians all across the globe calling for his/her head and murdering over a 100 people in the process.
You know, just a small difference.
although it appears to me to be a double standard, I am very pleased to see that freedom of speech was not abused to keep such a piece of trash masquerading as art in the Cathedral museum. I also hope this will lead to further discussion and reflection in the Western world regarding a delineation between freedom of speech and “reverence for the sacred” so that we may truly become a global civilization that respects all of its members.
Awww, isn't that cute. I would have called for a big group hug but then I remembered that Muslims don't like to come in contact with, by nature dirty, infidels. So, out of "respect", I'll refrain.