Sunday, February 05, 2006

Europeans stand up for freedom of speech

And now the Danish embassy in Beirut is burning.

As we all know a bunch of cartoons offensive to Muslims (and first published in September 2005 in Denmark) are now being reprinted by other European media. Muslims are demanding apologies and censorship while European governments defend their citizens right to free speech and the US government sympathizes with the Muslim religious sentiment.

Does the freedom of speech include the right to criticize religions? Yes it does and this right will be used by a free society with varying degree of good taste. There will be people offended. Still this should not stop us from using this right lest we stall the progress of spiritual life in our culture. Presently in the US it seems we are hostages of fundamentalist judeo-christianity, as it is the ruling party, but still I can pick up a paper filled with anti-christian "blasphemy". Criticism of religious beliefs must be allowed but must be coupled with respect for people professing those beliefs. Europeans are way ahead of US - ahead in liberating themselves from archaic religions and progressing toward a renewal of their spirituality.

What about the respect for religious persons who are offended? Do we sympathize with their indignation and suffering? Yes. But the offense is their problem as it stems from their own psychological conditioning that often translates offense into harm. It works like this:

Someone offends me (objective), I am hurt(subjective), I suffer(subjective), I may be harmed(subjective) - then I claim objective harm. But the fault is within my own psyche and I should seek help or stay away from certain type of libertine offenders.

Yes. I am in some sense blaming the victim and it is right to do so. But people with susceptible psychological setup (like religious believers) should realize that in a free society and in a free world they should become hardened against free-thinkers. Or stay in their parish rather than try to propagate their mentality across the world.


Anonymous said...

Freedom to poke fun, freedom to expose, freedom to insult, freedom is many things. Freedom is a gift, one that most of the islamic peoples have no concept of or experience with. Does freedom require sensitivity? No. Do extremists have room in their hearts for other view points? No. Not yet. We can use our gift of freedom to make the world a better place, or to continue to insite further problems. Thin skinned people will object to nearly everything that isn't exactly as they think it should be. Too bad they have bombs and guns. It's unfortunate that sometimes we use this gift of freedom of expression to create discord, rather than bridge the gap between these two divergent cultures. Many in the Islamic world are lightyears behind us in understanding freedom, in having a knowledge of the world, in basic concepts of women as being worthy and equal, etc etc. I believe in freedom of expression, it's just too bad we can't use it in a productive way more often.

Tomasz said...

kj, thanks for your thoughts.

Can we, Western civ, use our gifts of freedom in more productive ways, to make the world better? Probably yes - in many situations. But quite often thier use will be directed by our own needs - like a free discussion of religion to help understand our spiritual problems.