And then 12 people are shot in cold blood, most of them cartoonists at the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Shot in the name of religion. Shot for offending the faith of others.
Were they right to print those cartoons? Possibly not, for they must have known that showing images of Mohammed would offend and anger muslims. I come from a Christian background with deeply held beliefs. I was taught in my schooldays (longer ago than I care to calculate!) that Islam does not show human or animal images, anything with a soul, and certainly no images of Mohammed. Personally, I would never intentionally (and the editors clearly intended to print these cartoons) do something to offend someone of another faith, or none. I might question, even interrogate, and I might challenge them, but I would never aim to offend.
But being offensive is a consequence of the right to free speech. I don’t like it, but it happens. I know there are television programmes I don’t watch, films I don’t see, because I am confident I’ll be offended by their content or language. It is my choice. The ‘off’ button is too little used, for if no-one watched or bought or paid for such content it would not be created or broadcast.
Yet the truth is I would rather live in a world that offends than a world that stifles, or kills. Living in the UK I have a free press (it has its problems, and it will wield its ‘free speech’ mantra to include a lot of salacious reporting, but it is for the most part free to express what it wishes); many countries do not offer this, and their citizens are the worse for it. In Zambia, for example, it was known that the main newspapers were heavily biased to the ruling government’s propaganda. How does that help the people make a balanced judgement on their leaders and the world around them?
I was struck yesterday by a cartoon of a balaclavaed gunman with a smoking gun standing over a dead body, pencil and paper on the ground. The caption read: He drew first. He drew first – what a child would whine when accosted by a teacher for doing something wrong. He’s saying it’s not his fault, he has no responsibility for his actions, it was the other person’s fault for drawing a picture in the first place. It shows the childish, reactionary thinking of extremists and fanaticals. In truth, they haven’t grown up. They are stuck in their infantile thinking, which somehow equates retaliation with justice.
Turn the other cheek. Words are more powerful than guns.
Thank you for giving me the freedom to write what I choose, when I choose and how I choose in my blog posts, and I wish the same freedom to all others worldwide.