Muhammad Cartoons

I see that the row over the Muhammad cartoons have intensified since yesterday…

It is a good example of what happens when there is extremism at both sides of an issue, when there is a lack of discriminating wisdom and compassion, lack of ordinary human maturity.

Some of the things that seems to be at play…

Those publishing the cartoons do it in the name of “freedom of speech”, which in itself is a noble cause. But they don’t seem to take into account the responsibility that goes with any form of freedom. This is mainly a responsibility of applying discriminating wisdom and compassion, and for weighing the importance of the content with the possible harm it can cause. It is a responsibility for applying skillful means.

In this case, the content of that speech (the cartoons) seem irrelevant and somewhat inane – nothing of importance is said. At the same time, it clearly violates the rules of a major world religion and deeply offends and hurts large numbers of people. So there is a disjunct between the importance of the content (zero) and the harm caused by it (major). This is hardly why the principle of freedom of speech was adopted.

And behind all this, there also seems to be a deep lack of knowledge of – and sensitivity to – other cultures.

Many of those reacting against it show a similar lack of discriminating wisdom and compassion, and lack of understanding of where the “freedom of speech” people are coming from (or maybe they understand it all too well – that it is only meant to provoke and hurt?).

It is a good – and unfortunate – example of a situation where there is blind reactiveness at both sides.

Shadows are strongly at work both ways. For westerners, it comes up as the “primitive”, “intolerant”, “authoritarian” and “oppressive” Muslim fundamentalists. For many Muslims, it is the “disrespectful” and “blasphemous” western culture. The westerners don’t see how they are equally intolerant and oppressive in the very act of publishing these cartoons. And the Muslims don’t see how their own reactions in many cases are as disrespectful and blasphemous (especially when threatening violence).

And with all this comes the typical dehumanization of the opponent, and all that can lead to.

As a footnote, it is interesting to see that some of the angry muslims – having had one of their symbols defamed, retaliate by burning the Norwegian flag. Although that is just like shooting an arrow through empty space for most Norwegians, as few would be much offended by it. At blue, it seems that symbols are taken very seriously and substantial, but at orange and green they are mostly seen as what they are, just symbols, nothing important in themselves.

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