February 04, 2006

Mohammed and the Flag

from - RSA

I've been reading a bit lately about the controversy over the Mohammed cartoons. Slate.com has a rundown of what Arab journalists are saying, along with a pointer to the cartoons (which apparently haven't appeared in any mainstream American print medium.)

I don't have anything in particular to add to the discussion of this case, but a related thought occurred to me: Suppose that, between Moslems who let this pass with a roll of the eyes and a comment of "Ignorant infidels!" (apologies if my light tone is offensive) and Moslems who set fire to the Danish embassy in Syria, there is a group who says, "The cartoonist and his publisher should be jailed." It's not hard to imagine such a view, given how often we read about journalists being jailed in the Middle East for expressing their opinions.

Now switch gears: Think of politicians and political commentators in the U.S., mainly on the right, who push for a Constitutional amendment banning flag burning. They're saying, "The person who burns a U.S. flag should be jailed." I don't think it's possible for a reasonable person to say, at the same time, that the "middle-of-the-road" Moslem group I've hypothesized above is being unreasonable, and that a flag burning amendment is in the spirit of American democracy. It just doesn't work. Satire/mockery/degradation of a symbol (whether religious or secular) is either a matter of free speech or it is not. One can't pick and choose which symbols deserve special treatment.

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Posted by RSA at February 4, 2006 07:46 PM
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