Opinion: "Mohammad Cartoons Not the Epitome of Free Expression"

February 3, 2006

Source: New America Media


On February 3, 2006 New America Media ran an opinion piece by Rene Ciria-Cruz, an editor at New America Media and Filipinas Magazine. Ciria-Cruz writes, "Why are some Western commentators casting the controversy over the Danish cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad as a challenge to freedom of expression and of the press? They should instead view the controversy as a challenge to journalists to renew their sense of respect for different cultures and religious beliefs... Some publications in Europe have chosen to reprint the cartoons as an act of 'defiance,' forgetting that the use of Islam against its followers, as in the form of sexual humiliation or the desecration of the Koran, was a method used by interrogators in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo -- something deservedly condemned the world over. Are we now to uphold this tactic as the epitome of free expression because it was employed against extremists by a free press?... There are no laws punishing bad taste, but journalists routinely don't write humorous articles or headlines about victims of natural catastrophes. If they do blaspheme, they know it's best to do it to one's own god and leave that of others alone. They know better than to display their wit at the expense of victims of serious crimes. Who in the West criticizes such self-restraint as an erosion of freedom of expression and of the press? So why is the demand for basic decency and respect in the depiction of symbols sacred to millions of people so outrageous to some Western journalists and officials, especially in a world already inflamed by faith-based political tensions?... Certainly, in a free society, no should prescribe the use of legal prosecution against violations of common decency, respect and good taste. But that doesn't mean the media and its professionals should freely disseminate religious and ethnic insults and expect to be defended 'as a matter of principle' when anger from those they offend rains upon their houses."