Saturday, February 18, 2006

Drawings of Prophet Mohammed and giving in to threats

It is impossible to walk through life without ever offending or be offended. Anybody expecting that is sadly deluded.

For reasons now unimportant, small Christian Danish and Norwegian newspapers/magazines printed drawings of Prophet Mohammed and started an outrage. It is important to understand that this stunt only was an unexpected trigger causing many different and complex conflicts and issues to boil over. We must not explain this away by blaming the drawings, there are bigger and more serious causes for the problems we now see.

In retrospect it is interesting to look at the development of the criticism - escalating as the violent outrage has happened. And not to forget the many forms of excuses that has been given to calm down the potent situation.

I am disappointed that threats of violence have allowed many to restrict their actions and speak. To what degree the drawings were disrespectful or not should be totally overshadowed by the violent reaction. No matter the lack of respect, we can and must not give in to religious violence! The modern Christian religion is today civilized not because of its holy scriptures and most dedicated believers, but despite them. More people than we dare to imagine (and thank) were robbed, tortured and killed to achieve the freedom and modern democracy we now have. We have to remind ourselves that no time was darker in Europe than when the churches ruled the Middle age.

I am saddened and frustrated by the anger, but not discouraged. We know that it helps to stand up, to dare go against the fanatics who try to violently impose their rules on others. No matter how hopeless it seems. We know women and dissenters are oppressed in many Muslim countries and we must not invalidate their struggle by giving in to this now. It is not going to be easy to change this, but we know from experience that it is possible and inevitable.

By threatening with violence the protesters have forced us to protect freedom of speech by doing what they protest. Giving in to such threats will only motivate more to do the same. And we will have taken two steps back instead of one ahead.

So, is provocation a sacred act? No, of course not. But humour is an important human ability to demystify and disarm dogmatic and oppressive religious tendencies. Humour is personal therapy, especially for former victims. I, inspired by the words of Voltaire, detest what the violated believers in Mohammed say, but I would give my life to make it possible for them to continue to say it.

"I rarely waste time in reading theological subjects... Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against such unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. If it could be understood it would not answer their purpose. Their security is in their faculty of shedding darkness, like the scuttle-fish, thro' the element in which they move, and making it impenetrable to the eye of a pursuing enemy, and there they will sulk."
[Thomas Jefferson]

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