Freedom means freedom and nothing less

Muslims would have been offended at any depiction of Muhammad.

Friday’s editorial “Spilled blood and spilled ink” could have made a bold stand for free speech. Instead, the editorial board bowed to political correctness and devoted much time to criticism of the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, that published the “offensive” cartoons as it did to criticism of the mobs rioting in an orgy of rage. The actions are nowhere near morally equivalent.

If Muslims had written letters to Jyllands-Posten or staged a peaceful demonstration, we could weigh the issue. This is what American Christians did when a crucifix was submerged in urine for a tax-funded art exhibit: They peacefully protested. As it stands, we have bloodthirsty mobs torching embassies, chanting “Death to Denmark,” with signs reading “Behead those who mock our prophet!” Anything less than complete support for free press is unacceptible.

The editorial board claims “freedom of press exists within the boundaries of respect.” It doesn’t. In Muslim countries bound by Islamic law, perhaps, but not in free nations. The cartoons might be in poor taste, but that does not place them outside the “boundaries” of freedom of press. If we draw boundaries around anything considered offensive, we get nothing but sanitized pap. Freedom means freedom. Nothing less.

The editorial board claims “freedom of press exists within the boundaries of… not perpetuating stereotypes.” A stereotype is a conception of a group that is untrue or unjust. Jyllands-Posten published cartoons that mocked some Muslims’ propensity for violence by associating Muhammad with bombs. Muslims responsed with arson, death threats and mayhem. I’m trying, but I really can’t see what the “stereotype” was. Debating whether the cartoons were in poor taste, or overly offensive, is a moot point. Even if Muhammad’s turban had not been drawn to resemble a bomb, the cartoons would still be judged offensive by Muslims. Islam prohibits any depiction of Muhammad, to preclude idolatry. This is their belief and they are entitled to it. These protests show they are prepared to demand that the entire world abide by their restrictions. If we sympathize with these mobs, or direct our criticism at the newspaper, we are capitulating to the proposition that Islam has the right to dictate to non-Muslim nations that its precepts be followed. This is as un-American a stance as can be taken.

Nick Switala is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]