Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On Freedom vs Respect

As the Muslim world continues to protest vehemently over the printing of the cartoon caricatures done in Europe and some other parts of the world, things are appearing to turn for the worse, and there seemed to be no sign of letting up. A brief chronology is as follows (adapted slightly from BBC):

- 30 Sep 2005 Danish paper (Jyllands-Posten) publishes cartoon
- 20 Oct 2005 Muslim complaints to Danish PM
- 10 Jan 2006 Norwegian paper publish cartoon
- 30 Jan 2006 EU office raided by Palestinian gunmen
- 31 Jan 2006 Danish paper apologises
- 1 Feb 2006 Several European nations papers reprint cartoons (France, Germany, Italy, Spain)
- 4 Feb 2006 Violence in various European embassies
- Today Danish PM said that the violent protests has become a world threat

Clash of Cultures?
For countries like Europe and some countries in the West, the freedom and right to do things has become a sacred property. Tarnishing images of religion, leaders and relics is considered a normal thing. Not many violent protests were made when the blasphemy of the cross was done, with Madonna dangling her cross while in promiscuous positions. The disrespectful behaviour has become increasingly a 'normal thing'.

For countries like the Middle East and majority Muslim nations, the respect and reverence they have for their religion has been largely followed. They will have no tolerance for irreverence or disrespect to their religion in ANY way.

For one group, it is freedom of speech. For the other, it is reverence and respect that takes precedence. These two groups' basic values do not coincide, becoming a tussle for superior positioning of one's culture/rights over the other.

If there is ever one phrase to sum up the problems, it would be the phrase 'fighting for cultural supremacy'. The largely Western world still in some ways want to impose their rights over the others. Though they have not been violent (yet!), the decision to reprint the cartoons is an act of mischief. Deaths have occurred. Property has been destroyed. The bridge to peace has been broken again.

For the Muslim world, it would seemed that their only way of being heard is through violence. They might have learnt that the best way to make the West sit up and take notice is none other than violence. They do not have a strong literary impact nor scientific prowess to challenge the West. Moreover, many live in poverty.

The West needs to wake up. The right to practice certain things must done sensitively to others' feelings. The Church needed to be more bold to speak up against blasphemy in any form. We do not need violence to do all that. Use Education and even getting legislation to rein in false forms of 'freedom'. Self-asserted freedom is a bondage to self which does not build community. True freedom is always done within the boundaries of neighbourly love.

For the Muslim world, I guess at this time, the first thing will be to cool down. If Islam stands for peace, it must lead the way to show the world what it means by peace. Otherwise, such violence and radical demonstations can be used to paint the Muslim religion as fundamentally a violent and militarist religion.

We need to pray that there will be hope for peace, and that the situation not degenerate into hatred and more hatred.


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