Opinion: "Cartoon Conflicts"

February 6, 2006

Source: The Guardian


On February 6, 2006 The Guardian ran an opinion piece by Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Swiss Muslim scholar, on the controversy surrounding cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan comments, "It is critical we find a way out of this infernal circle and demand from those stoking this fire that they stop their polemics at once and create a space for serious, open, indepth debate and peaceful dialogue. This is not the predicted clash of civilisations. This affair does not symbolise the confrontation between the principles of Enlightenment and those of religion. Absolutely not. What is at stake at the heart of this sad story is whether or not the duelling sides have the capacity to be free, rational (whether believers or atheists) and, at the same time, reasonable... This is not a matter of additional laws restraining the scope of free speech; it is simply one of calling upon everybody's conscience to exercise that right with an eye on the rights of others. It is more about nurturing a sense of civic responsibility than about imposing legislation: Muslim citizens are not asking for more censorship but for more respect. One cannot impose mutual respect by means of legislation; rather one teaches it in the name of a free, responsible and reasonable common citizenship... We are in dire need of mutual trust... If people who cherish freedom, who know the importance of mutual respect and are aware of the imperative necessity to establish a constructive and critical debate, if these people are not ready to speak out, to be more committed and visible, then we can expect sad, painful tomorrows. The choice is ours."