Attack on Cartoonist is Indefensible 50

It is not pleasant to be deliberately offensive to anybody’s religious views. But the radical Christian right in the USA, and the whole history of the abuse of religous authority in all religions, shows why it is essential to maintain freedom of speech on religious subjects. So the cartoons about Mohammed should not be censored; the same is true of the films “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “The Life of Brian”. Muslim friends of mine who are outraged at the Danish cartoons, do not hesitate to make fun of Hindus and their perceived veneration of cows.

The values of free speech are crucial. To those who say there is no freedom to offend, I would say that is why they persecuted Gallileo,Copernicus – and Ulugbek. The freedom to offend is essential to human progress.

50 thoughts on “Attack on Cartoonist is Indefensible

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  • John

    I agree the attack on the cartoonist is indefensible, but the defence of the freedom to offend on the grounds on ‘freedom of speech’ is questinable.

    Remember when a few years back the New Statesman carried an antisemitic image on its front cover? There was was no ‘freedom of speech’ argument then. The New Statesman, rightly, had to apologise. I think followers of Islam are entitled to the same consideration as followers of Judaism.

  • Carlyle Moulton

    Far more important than “freedom of religion” is “freedom from religion”.

  • Carlyle Moulton

    I think freedom of speech needs to be an absolute and that even holocaust deniers need to be able to spout their evil belifs in public. You can not reserve freedom of speech only for good speech because what is considered good is completely subjective.

    I have come to the conclusion that most Islamic terror attacks including September 11 are morally defensible as being the only way to punish the crimes committed against Arabs and Muslims by the USA, the UK etc…… However this terrorist attack by a fanatical Muslim bigot against a cartoonist is not justifiable. If the attack had succeeded as did the one on Theo Van Gogh, use of the law would be an inadequate response. Sometimes the same logic that makes most Islamic terrorism morally justifiable works in reverse, the only way the West can deter attacks on cartoonists by Muslim bigots is to consider these to be crimes for which all members of the Muslim community are guilty and set up death squads to whack half a dozen or so.

    In fact this attribution of guilt not to an individual who committed a crime but all members of the collectives to which the individual belongs is pretty standard in all justice systems. It is the basis for many of the false convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence. For example a white woman in one of the Southern states of the US raped by a Negro. The important thing is to convict a Negro, there is no necessity that the Negro convicted be the one that performed the actions of the crime and it is legitimate to fabricate evidence against the chosen scapegoat.

  • Arsalan Goldberg

    Craig I’m going to have to disagree with you here, and I think you are being very naive. What happened with the cartoons wasn’t some sort of free debate by bastions of free expression. It wasn’t even close to that. The paper that initiated and propagation it were not known for their free expression, in fact they were well known for their censorship.

    It wasn’t a case of cartoonists happening to draw a picture of Mohummed pbh. That paper commissioned cartoonists to do so, and then when they didn’t get a reaction for the Muslim community, they initiated an international campaign where papers all over the world published them for the sake of publishing them. I do not believe drawing a picture of the Prophet of Islam pbh with a bomb on his head is any kind of debate. The fact that YOUR friends make fun of the Hindu religion says something about your taste in friends and nothing about Muslims being hypocritical. I do debate with my Hindu friends about many things, but there is a clear difference between debate and insults.

    I view that international cartoon campaign in the same way I view the what happened in the 30s when European Newspapers did the same thing about Jews. In both cases the newspapers were demonising, not debating. And they do need to do this dehumanisation for their populations to tolerate the massacres committed by their armies. Whether they are committed by concentration camps in the 1940s or carpet bombing of cities in the 2000s.

    People keep asking why populations in the white world tolerate the actions of their government against the brown world, those cartoons are part of the answer.

    Because message of the cartoons were Muslims want to kill you, so kill them first.

  • tony_opmoc

    Is it O.K. if I slag off people who don’t believe in precognition (accurately foretelling the future) as anti-conspiracy troofer lunes?

    I site as evidence an accurately time stamped recording of the BBC News of the events on 9/11.

    The BBC reported that the 3rd World Trade Centre Building WTC-7 also known as the Salaman Building had collapsed.

    The news report switched to a live feed showing a BBC Reporter with the building clearly seen still standing behind her.

    The building actually collapsed 20 minutes later.

    Now, how exactly did the BBC do this? At first you may think, that the live broadcast wasn’t live – or even if it was – the background behind the reporter was an earlier scene that had been electronically blue-boarded behind her.

    But there is a serious problem with this explanation (the building was actually still standing when the report was made)

    The BBC, must therefore have the ability to accurately predict the future. Therefore anyone who doesn’t believe in precognition must either be an anti-conspiracy troofer lune, or be able to come up with another explanation…

    For example – the BBC were fed the news story before the event had happenned and accidentally reported it 20 minutes too early…

    This of course produces the next question. How did anyone know that the building was going to collapse – before it did – unless of course they deliberately made the future happen, by planning it in advance?

    Here is a short version

    That leads me on to the next point which hopefully brings the subject back on topic. Anyone who actually independently, objectively investigates the events of 9/11 (and there is an enormous amount of material available) is castigated as being a 9/11 Truther as if this is someone with a serious mental illness. Whilst I accept that some people do go mad as a result of their obsession with 9/11, I think that is mainly due to an awareness and realisation of how evil our culture really is, and also the effect of being castigated and ostracised as a lunatic.

    Meanwhile most people believe in fairy stories that maintain their sanity within a comfort zone that they can tolerate.


  • self-hating joo

    Totally agree with Carl Moulton’s post. This racist idiot deserved whatever came to him after those disgusting cartoons of one of history’s most peaceful and greatest human beings. If you shit on the heads of one billion of the world’s most oppressed people then you should await a response.

    Also I am wondering if the CIA/Mossad have had a hand in this. Cui Bono? I wonder if it is another false flag attack to soften public opinion in order to attack Iran.

  • Anonymous

    Iffreedom to offend is essential to human progress. Then why is racisism illegal in west, why is holocoust denial illegal. This is another westerner who served time in a Muslim country who suddenly thinks he knows whats best for Muslim. He thinks he knows better than God.

  • dreoilin

    “It is not pleasant to be deliberately offensive to anybody’s religious views.”

    I’d like to know how far are we’re supposed to take this. Does it include Scientology and followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? What about the Jedi? Do we avoid upsetting them too? What about cults that take all their money from young people and pressure them to cut all their ties with their families? What about the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

    Are we only discussing *certain* religions that have been around a long time? And if so, what gives them the right to expect more respect than any others?

  • Arsalan Goldberg

    When people decide something should happen there are two phases of it happening.

    The first stage is ideological and the second stage is implementation.

    Before the war on terror can be initiated, and once initiated for it to continue the ideological phase is needed.

    So for people to be boiled alive, for cities to be turned in to rubble, for hundreds of thousands to be locked up without charge, propaganda needs to take place, and this propaganda includes those cartoons.

    As I said before, none of this has anything to do with free speech because that paper and the people at the forefront of defending that paper are not known for their free speech what they are known for is their defence of the war on terror.

  • tony_opmoc

    Is it O.K., if I start off my own religion and form a Charitable trust, such that my followers can send me 10% of their income?

    I have had a theory, about life the universe and everything for around the last 40 years, which I actually thought was an original idea at the time, though subsequently found that it was an ancient belief endemic in many early civilisations – but now almost extinct.

    I have come across several people, over the years who have been sucked into cults and willingly go door to door preaching, and also donate 10% of their income to the cult.

    Some of them have even escaped the cult.

    However, despite the fact that I think all religions (except mine of course) are a load of nonsense, the potential for making vast sums of money and becoming powerful and influential is something that I may consider to be attractive.

    Presumably my new religion will be protected by the law, such that people cannot call me a wanker and draw offensive pictures of me.


  • Craig


    if you believed, for example, in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it would indeed be unpleasant of me deliberately to offend you over your belief. But it doesn’t mean that I should be constraoned from doing so.

  • Arsalan Goldberg

    excuse my ignorance, but please enlighten me and inform me about international campaigns to dehumanise


    Jedi and the Flying monster?

    To the best of my knowledge people who believe in Jedi are not banned from where their cloaks or carrying their light savers anywhere in the way Muslim girls and women are banned from wearing Hijab all over Europe. If I am wrong please inform me about the oppression faced by Jedi or worshippers of the flying monster?

    And yes we are only talking about a certain religion, because this dehumanisation is only focused on a certain religion.

    Just as in the 1930s and 40s it was focused on another religion.

  • sahar

    Craig…i thought you were a very intelligent gentlemen. You’ve just gone down in my estimation. You know this has nothing to do with free speech. There is no such thing as free speech.

  • tony_opmoc

    As regards the slagging off of some of the regular contributors to this blog from such people as “eddie” and “angrysoab”, I call for an independent objective analysis of numerous discussions here, compared to standards achieved elsewhere – such as Guido’s blog.

    Whilst Guido’s blog is sometimes highly amusing, the general standard is very much lower than the Beano, and most contributors cannot produce more than about 10 words, amongst which there is an extremely high percentage of words that some may consider to be highly offensive.

    Guido has just published a list of the top 100 readership sources who presumably are also the main contributors

    1. houses of parliament

    2. oxford university

    3. university of cambridge

    4. british broadcasting corporation

    5. conservative central office

    This is pretty conclusive proof, that this country is not only totally fucked, but being run by a bunch of cretins. Most have never actually dared show their face outside of their cloistered enclaves and have no idea what the real world is like. They only dare venture out wearing bullet proof vests and supported by a SWAT team and a BBC camera crew.

    I won’t be voting for any of them.


  • dreoilin

    “If I am wrong please inform me about the oppression faced by Jedi or worshippers of the flying monster?”

    –Arsalan Goldberg

    I didn’t say there was any. [Although many people in the BBC TV studio had a hard time keeping a straight face when a young man identified himself as a Jedi, on a Sunday morning programme.]

    I was asking (in relation to Craig’s statement) how far one is expected to take this ‘pleasantness’, and towards how many beliefs, no matter how baseless or silly. I am an atheist, but I don’t normally insult the beliefs of others. I’m not by nature a rude or aggressive person. I divested myself of Catholicism over 40 years ago, and have no intention of taking it up again. I reserve the right to smile at certain beliefs which seem ridiculous to me — but I confine that smiling to the privacy of my own home.

    I see no reason to inflame anyone, especially at a time when, as you say, efforts are being made to dehumanise one religion. However, if we move on to blasphemy laws, then I have a problem. I think some Irish bloggers are deliberately posting insulting remarks about various religions, simply to see if anyone is actually taken to court under this new law, which came into force yesterday. So don’t be too surprised at what you might read.

  • dreoilin

    “I call for an independent objective analysis of numerous discussions here”

    And who do you suggest should do THAT, Tony? 🙂

  • tony_opmoc

    The intelligence and passion of some of the posters here is self evident. The level of some of the discussions here is as high as anywhere I have seen on the net. Its not a matter of whether or not you agree with what is posted, its about how opinions are expressed. Some of the things posted here make me cry, a bit like seeing a very good movie, except in many cases the discussions are not fictional but sadly true.

    Most websites are 99% trash.


  • Vronsky

    Those making the threats are not far away from having the support of the UN and national legislation. Two journalists in Azerbaijan ended up in court after writing an article mildly critical of Islam.

    “Previously, an Iranian grand ayatollah, Fazel Lankarani, had issued a fatwa calling for the two journalists to be killed. Domestic religious activists responded by starting an intimidation campaign against the journalists. Reportedly, they were allowed to shout death threats in the courtroom. The journalists’ crime was defamation of religion (their own, apparently) and incitement, by the same act, to religious hatred (against themselves, one must conclude). Yet it was the journalists who sat in the dock, not those who menaced them with violence. And, most importantly, the Iranian ayatollah who called for their death was never accused of incitement, neither in Azerbaijan nor in Iran ?” protected as he was by his status as a defender, rather than a defamer, of the faith.”

    Entire piece by Miklos Haraszti well worth a read.

  • writerman

    When my family heard that the Danish cartoonist had rushed into his specially constructed, protective bolthole, leaving his grandaughter aged five, outside, in the arms of an axe-wielding madman; well, my girls wished he’d been axed.

    What kind of a man, saves himself, yet leaves a defenceless child to fend for herself? Doesn’t this tell us something about the kind of man Kurt Vestergaard really is? Is someone like this worth saving? I have my doubts.

    In Denmark the fascist right regards him as a hero for his courageous stand against the entire Muslim world; yet he’s just a cowardly narcissist, and this episode illustrates what motivates him perfectly. It’s symbolic of what he, and his vile cartoon, represents.

    The cartoons were part of a deliberate provocation, designed to insult Muslims and rub their noses in it, and seen from this perspective they worked marvelously, many Muslims were provoked. One can’t see these cartoons in isolation. They are part of cultural war being waged against Muslims, part of larger crusade, which includes, of course, our massive military offensive in Asia and the Middle East.

    It’s no accident, surely, that Denmark, has one of the most rightwing governments in Europe and the most influential neo-fascist party too. The Danish People’s Party, has a programme to the right of the BNP, yet this Danish version of nationalist/fascism, is the crucial, key, party in Denmark. The party with the most influence. The party holding the balance of power. The party all politics revolves around.

    The chief ideologues of the party are openly racist and fascistic, and revel in insulting and ridiculing Muslims and Islam at every opportunity. Their fascist ideology, a form of “national soicialism” is like a spreading cancer in Danish and Scandinavian politics, and a dangerous signpost for the future.

    Muslims in Denmark have become the new Jews, abused in the same way the Nazis invented the Jewish Question and the Jewish Threat.

    The scary question is this, if Fascism can raise its vild head in rich, successful, and “liberal” country like Denmark, where can’t it succeed?

  • Abe Rene

    Dreoilin, regarding Ireland’s new blasphemy law. Are either or both of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and the Muhammad cartoons now illegal in Ireland? Who makes the decision? A state censor?

  • Larry from St. Louis


    Why bring into the discussion the radical Christian right in the U.S.? What do they have to do with this?

    Yes, they’re ridiculous, and I’d much rather live without them, but what do they have to do with restricting free speech through government action or threatening with violence those who offend them?

    When the demonstrated against “The Last Temptation of Christ,” they were meeting speech with speech, and therefore acting completely in line with a liberal democracy.

  • Larry from St. Louis


    Why bring into the discussion the radical Christian right in the U.S.? What do they have to do with this?

    Yes, they’re ridiculous, and I’d much rather live without them, but what do they have to do with restricting free speech through government action or threatening with violence those who offend them?

    When the demonstrated against “The Last Temptation of Christ,” they were meeting speech with speech, and therefore acting completely in line with a liberal democracy.

  • dreoilin

    Abe Rene,

    Here’s an extract that might explain what’s going on. The whole thing is quite daft:

    “The Constitution says that blasphemy is an offence that shall be punishable by law. That law currently resides in the 1961 Defamation Act. Because he was repealing this Act, Ahern said he had to pass a new blasphemy law to avoid leaving “a void”.

    “But this “void” was already there. In 1999, the Supreme Court found that the 1961 law was unenforceable because it did not define blasphemy. In effect, we have never had an enforceable blasphemy law under the 1937 Constitution.

    “After several retreats, Ahern claimed both that he had to propose this law in order to respect the Constitution, and also that he was amending it to “make it virtually impossible to get a successful prosecution”.”

    I’d been paying little attention up to now, as I didn’t think the law would/will ever be used, but some people are absolutely incensed, and are determined to have the law removed.

    You’ll find info at

    [That blasphemy site was down earlier today. The story has ‘gone big’ internationally.]

  • Ed Davies

    Somebody, at January 2, 2010 1:00 PM, wote: “Iffreedom to offend is essential to human progress. Then why is racisism illegal in west, why is holocoust denial illegal.”

    To put it simply: the restrictions are about harm, not offence resulting from the speech.

    As I understand it (and I might well be wrong here), racism and holocaust denial are not illegal in, for example, Britain; it’s speech which is intended to result in actual violence or reasonable fear of actual violence that is illegal, especially that made for racially motivated reasons (amongst other reasons).

    Again, AIUI, holocaust denial is illegal in countries such as Germany. This is a specific rule attempting to avoid repetition of certain unpleasantness which took place somewhat over 60 years ago (WWII, etc) – so there’s a proven record for its necessity.

    The point is that the motivations of these restrictions do not generalise to mean that any speech which might upset somebody should be banned; they are limited to speech for which there is a clearly good reason to think would likely incite actual harm.

    The restrictions’ existence doesn’t justify any violence that might be incited by contravening speech. Similarly, they don’t justify any violence provoked by any speech.

  • Vronsky

    Oh, fabulous! Larry’s back! Tinfoil hats on, everyone! Get out the popcorn! Shit! Where’s angrysoba? You need two tits to make a chest, dontcha?

    “When they demonstrated against “The Last Temptation of Christ,” they were meeting speech with speech, and therefore acting completely in line with a liberal democracy.”

    We’ll need a source for that, Larry me boy. Come back, supply link, after supplying link, fuck off and find another that I will think of on a purely random basis.

    Happy New Year, by the way. I can give you (before you ask) some links that would tend to suggest that there has actually been a change of year, if you want, but it’s all lefty stuff and not likely to believed by a thinking young girl like yourself. Best stay put in sixteen hundred and wotsit or wherever you are.

    Oh, almost forgot – moron, idiot.


  • glenn

    Vronsky: I was about to find a link showing New Year revelers with a big “Happy 2010 !” in the background, to prove to you that we are in a new year. Found a good one but unfortunately elsewhere on the _same_ site we find some dubious ideology, some of it far-right stuff. So clearly the revelers did not really exist.

    Thus any reference to anything on any website, means you automatically buy its entire content. QED. There are no search engines. If I’m looking for a full quote, for instance, I start at the first page of [insert right-wing website here], and keep looking until I find it.

    Therefore, it is not 2010, and I think you are quite mistaken to suggest it is. And I don’t have time to check the date, but I’m sure you are wrong.

  • lwtc247

    V.v. silly of you to say the cartoons were ‘free speech’ Craig. An academic essay or lecture epxressing beliefs of percieved wrong things in religion, inc. Islam yes, that’s free speech. There is intellectual milage in it. Gross provocative hate inspired insults and taunts designed to plunge society into chaos No.

    However the cartoonist wasn’t a Muslim so I don’t see how Mulsims esp in a non-Mulsim society could try and (+supposedly+) kill him, arn’t all offenders entitled to a trial? and I don’t think Islamic law calls for the death of anyone making images of God of the prophet, even though it is clearly wrong. A different punishment against the guy woul be more approporate in my largely ignorant non-Shariah Law pov.

    So much for a ‘secular state where it protects those who attack religion, I don’t buy Danish product anymore. A consumer boycot and lobbying of governments to follow suit is again more appropriate.

    “So the cartoons about Mohammed should not be censored;” – Expalin to me then why I should have these images pop up infront of my eyes AS THEY DID. What about my freedom to have my decision respected NOT to see them esp given my strong desire not to see them.

    “The values of free speech are crucial.” Do you really think there is merit in what this guy did Craig? Arn’t you confusing freedom of speech with licence to insult? I think you are.

    “Muslim friends of mine who are outraged at the Danish cartoons, do not hesitate to make fun of Hindus and their perceived veneration of cows.” There is no valid point there Craig.

    And I disagree when you talk about human progress. What progress? That is a non-religious point of view. It’s my belief that the purpose of life is to worship God, of which there are many ways to do so, and no other purpose. You can’t make ‘progrss’ There is no such thing. I see you as ultimately You are confusing development (debt encapsulation) for the myth of progress.

    But once again, Islam is the real victim as the cloaked haters peek out from beneath their heavy hoods. Iraq war, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan slips from sight.

  • dreoilin

    Someone posed the question online,

    “What happens when one religion, by its very principles, blasphemes in the eyes of another?”

    I haven’t thought of an example yet. Someone better versed in Comparative Religion 101 might have answers.

    I’m going off to watch the film “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” (Channel 4) – the book made a huge impact on me when I first read it. So very sad. Yes, I know it’s New Year. I should be watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, or some other silly caper. 🙂

  • Abe Rene


    Thanks for the background. One wonders just whom Ahern was trying to please in his efforts to “respect” the Irish Constitution. Possibly he might be regretting his “respectful” endeavours by now!

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