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YUSUF KANLI > Religion, provocation, fanaticism

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In a free society, people have the right to express views even when they are offensive and wrong. It is the individual exercise of freedom of expression for a writer, painter, cartoonist, film maker or whoever to produce an intellectual product to his liking. Others may appreciate and give that intellectual product a standing ovation, others may not approve of it, and others may even consider it disgusting.

Under the Nov. 4, 1976, European Court of Human Rights verdict in the Richard Handyside against the British government it was stressed in all clarity that freedom of thought firstly, constitutes the backbone of a democratic society; secondly, is a must for the progress and development of every man; thirdly as a concept cannot be applicable only to ideas or information that are applauded by the majority or by the state but equally to such ideas that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population; and finally is a requirement of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness, without which there can be no democratic society.

Of course in democratic societies there ought not to be taboos. Discussion on any issue must be possible and people must be mature enough to accept that people might have different evaluations, perceptions and even attachments on certain matters. Some people may hug others and thus enrage the entire society; some may sketch some oddities depicting a religious leader and trigger global storms and sometimes an idiot may just want to test the limits of patience in “other people,” against whom he might have an exhausting relationship with. Obviously, a politician must consider “morality” and the “feelings of the others” while hugging a terrorist who has blood still dipping from his hands and a cartoonist or film maker must understand that with full respect to their freedom of expression, that freedom does not give them the right to maliciously condemn religions, prophets or holy books. Values must be listened to. Of course, freedom of expression should exist everywhere, but people’s values should also be respected. There is a need then, in that framework, for a fine tuning, not of the concept of freedom of expression, but rather in the way it is applied.

On the other hand, people have the right to dislike an intellectual product and to demonstrate against it to show their disapproval. However, the right to demonstration does not give one the freedom to stage acts of brute force, nor does the right to free expression give one the liberty to commit blasphemy.

Irrespective of how adamantly we refuse to acknowledge it, over the past few years a buildup based on cultural and religious differences of all sorts has been under way. With the Iraq war, the Afghan operation, the standoff between Iran and the much of the world, of course the events of 9/11 in America and many deadly bombings across some of the world’s major cities along with a growing sectarian divide in the Middle East, a by-product of the so-called Arab Spring, have unfortunately not made the world a safer place.

Ignorant of the widening divide the “democracy nourishing” campaign created, yes in response to the heinous murder of the American ambassador in Benghazi an American secretary of state might say “We brought them democracy, look what they have done.”

What happened in Benghazi or in Cairo and anywhere else in protest of a blasphemous film can in no way be considered the exercise of the democratic right to protest. But, so too is the committing of blasphemous acts, be it cartoons, a film or what so ever, not implicit in the right to express one’s self freely.

September/14/2012

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READER COMMENTS

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Setta Free Artsakh

9/14/2012 7:36:16 PM

Koksuz: I was referring to the US where the First Amendment reigns unfettered. The French have also passed laws criminalizing Genocide denial which would never be tolerated in the US. British libel laws state that you can sue someone who writes a book that embarrasses you even if the writer told the truth. In the US, in order for someone to sue for libel, they have to prove the writer lied about them. Europe and England are not the USA.

Harry Foundalis

9/14/2012 4:52:43 PM

“[N]or does the right to free expression give one the liberty to commit blasphemy.” Why, Mr. Kanli? Blasphemy is *subjective*. Your blasphemy is my music in my ears, and vice versa. Who gives you the right to punish me for what *you* consider blasphemous? As a matter of fact, in my religion every article with exactly 3,614 characters (including spaces) is blasphemous. See what you did now? You produced just such an article! You insulted me and my religion!

Sandra Jacoel

9/14/2012 3:39:33 PM

A rational person who has been the target of an insult no matter how hurtful or misguided or inflammatory,should have a right to respond in kind, in other words make a film disparaging the filmmaker,or sue for defamation. But to go out on a rampage and murder innocent people in American embassy's because the filmmaker is an American citizen is such a horrendous crime. Is it any wonder that such films are made.?Fuel to the fire?, Maybe, but the fire was already burning.

Köksüz Kosmopolit

9/14/2012 3:39:16 PM

Setta, you are wrong that there was no Christian violence over The Last Temptation of Christ. A group of Roman Catholics firebombed a Paris cinema while the film was being shown. They did not succeed in killing anybody, but they did burn many people, some of them very badly. The Archbishop of Paris at the time complained that, whatever about the "right to free speech", nobody had the right to hurt the feelings of Roman Catholics. Sultanic PMs, archbishops; they're really not very different.

US Observer

9/14/2012 2:55:48 PM

Blasphemy is actually a right in the U.S. Seems the columist really does not understand Free Speech either. Words that the religious would use to express themselves: Caring, compassionate, honest, kind, forgiving. Do any of these words describe what we see? Here is words I would use to describe Islam: Intolerant, angry, aggressive, mean, unforgiving. The religion is being led by murdering savages, what is the non Muslim world left to think?

Murun Buchstansangur

9/14/2012 1:12:59 PM

If shouting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great) is exercising one's freedom of speech then so to is shouting 'God is not great'. Vilifying individuals or groups of people goes beyond the limits of free speech but questioning and criticizing religion is not just OK, its absolutely necessary. Appeasement of religious fanatics is wholly wrong.

Nikos T.

9/14/2012 9:20:18 AM

Christians should protest and maybe kill all those blasphemous responsible for the last temptation of Christ, the Scorsese movie... Welcome to the dark side of the Arab spring.

Tevfik Alp

9/14/2012 5:09:52 AM

Freedom of speech, revenge, vendetta, malice, resentment and abhorance.. How do you separate each from eachother and how do you show tolerance to every one of them? Especially, in recent years, many Islamic groups have been campaigning aggressively to get recognized in western nations even if they have to resort to terrorism. The best example is: try to get an international flight from anywhere to anywhere and see what you will be going through.

Sandra Jacoel

9/14/2012 4:22:41 AM

But Mr. Kanli, who sets the moral benchmark for what is blasphemous? I haven't seen this video myself, but have been disgusted by what I have read is in it's content. In my opinion I would consider this youTube video blasphemous and inflammatory but I wouldn't consider the personal opinions of Fasil Say to be blasphemous as I think he has the right to believe (or not to believe as in this case) what he wants. Yet, some deemed his "tweets" worthy of prosecution.

Setta Free Artsakh

9/14/2012 3:53:27 AM

Blasphemy is not only protected speech, it's the bulwark of the 1st Amendment. The right to criticize, defame, mock, and insult the religious beliefs of one's own people as well others is the most fundamental right of the US Constitution. The Last Temptation of Christ was a film that deeply hurt and insulted Christians. The Churches were outraged as were the overwhelming majority of Christians. There were peaceful demonstrations outside theatres,TV debates and articles. No violence. None.
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