This week my normally liberal stance on things has been rather tested. First by the furore over some cartoons published in the Danish Newspaper, Jyllands-Posten and then by the trial of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett (nice French name that – so much for the indigenous people of the British Isles).
Of course I wouldn’t have banned those cartoons, but they were horrible. Well, not all of them, but a few were pretty nasty and the fact they appeared in series, as The Mohammed Series makes it clear to me that their sole intention was to shock people in general and insult Muslims in particular. The fact the cartoons depicted the Prophet Mohammed is of dubious relevance – nobody deserves their religion mocked in such a vicious manner.
At the same time, I have the strong suspicion that most of the people burning flags and issuing death-threats didn’t even see the thing, but what do we learn from this?
You have a big group of people who already feel persecuted. In some countries, they have been subject to violence en masse for reasons which could appear to be related to their faith. In other countries, they are subject to suspicion, increased police interest and various forms of abuse because of the supposed association between Al Queda and the Muslim faith.
So what’s about the worst thing a media organisation can do; criticise the culture and governments of Muslim countries? Criticise Muslim community leaders? Criticise faith schools and other forms of segregation? Discuss social problems faced by Muslim communities? No; all this stuff happens all the time. What is about the worst thing you can do to a person who feels isolated and hated, verging on paranoia?
Well, you take the piss out of them. Like that.
So whilst I’m disturbed by the ferocity of the reaction to a set of cartoons – which are at the end of the day, well, a set of cartoons - this was a big mistake.
As for Nick Griffin et. al., my logical mind says that he and the BNP should be allowed to say whatever they like, so long as nobody is subjected to it and so long as they don’t incite a criminal offence. But their words disturb me very much. That people can grow up in my country and say such things makes me ashamed to be British. However, that people can talk such utter cock and not fear violence or summary imprisonment is, perhaps, something we can be proud of.