Monday, February 13, 2006

Pushing the Freedom Envelope

The recent uproar over the Danish cartoons has left many poking and prodding at what -exactly- freedom means? Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that ran them, contends that the cartoons were a test to see if the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression. "In a democracy, one must from time to time accept criticism, or become a laughingstock" the cultural editor asserted. In theory, particularly as a humorist myself, I somewhat agree. If we were to live in a true democracy, that could be asserted as true. However, one has to ask, do we? Is there such a thing? What does freedom mean to the Muslim world ... particularly those that did not ask for it? In their religion, any image of the prophet is blasphemous. Can we all be lumped into one sum? Can there be a double standard? Do we have one already?

In Brussels, a young Muslim immigrant has posted this around town advertising for his new play about cultural differences:

I suppose if everyone must indeed be willing to be caricatured, then Iran's call to make caricatures of the Holocaust should then be okay. We should be able to accept anything within the guise of dark humor, including the topless Virgin Mary (there have been some compaints from the Catholic Church). And I am left, once again, thinking of my friend Sarah Eva Krancic and the project she worked on at Columbia College in Chicago last year that soon turned into an enemy-of-the-state story similar to Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" (1985). In an -art- exhibit entitled "Axis of Evil," a piece containing mock 37-cent "Patriot Act" stamps showing Bush with a revolver at his head garnered the attention of our secret service. They felt the need to come in, interrogate, and shut it down. Mind you, this was an ART exhibit at an ART institution, where the entire point is expression, yet, our beloved government felt the need to come in and censor. So, if we at the helm of the western freedom fighters can't place paintings of our president in our art colleges, why is it then ok for the Danish to publish cartoons of Mohammed? And what does it further mean to clump all of the "western world" together? (Okay, no more coffee for CM this morning)

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