07 February, 2006
Publish and Perish
Joe Duffy hosted a great old rant on the subject of cartoons about Mohammad yesterday on RTE Radio One. However I came across a similar rant from the US Senate some time ago:
“I do not blame people for being outraged and angered, and they should be angered at us, unless we do something to change this. If this continues and if this goes unrectified, where will it end? They will say, "This is free speech." Well, if you want free speech, you want to draw dirty pictures, you want to do anything you want, that is your business, but not with taxpayers' money.” That was Senator Alfonse d’Amato speaking about the artist Andres Serrano’s work entitled “Piss Christ” back in 1989. Incidentally ‘Serrano’ draws a blank today from the search engine on the US National Endowment of the Arts website today.
Closer to home, no doubt Frank Duff and the League of Decency would have got annoyed by such things in their day. Burning down embassies brings things to another level, but feelings run high when you feel that your country or religion is under attack, as Jim Tunney pointed out after the Burning of the British Embassy in Dublin subsequent to Bloody Sunday back in 1972. I can only imagine that the militants now attacking Danish embassies are venting their rage against the occupation of Iraq, and the civilian deaths that have occurred.
We should be careful not to be smug about democratic freedoms here, or elsewhere in Europe. It’s not that long ago when women had to wear the mantilla in order to receive communion in the Catholic Church. I don’t think the Mohammad cartoons should have been published, simply out of respect for a religion that sees it as blasphemous to depict a likeness of the prophet. Interesting to see that the Jyllands-Posten had previously declined to publish some Jesus cartoons as they might have offended some readers. In the end it comes down to respect. You might not agree with someone’s views, but perhaps respect is needed in order to engage with an opposing view. Cooling down the argument can lead to dialogue and informed debate.
Oh, and the illustration: It is an extract from the 4th prize winner's entry in the Kids Council Arts Competition run by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. It’s a drawing by Abdul Hadi of the Muslim National School, Roebuck Road, Clonskeagh, Dublin 14.