An anonymous Norweigen, using the alias John Smith, recently asked if the ALS could publicise his request for help. Following the controversy about Danish caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammad, “John Smith” wants to up the ante by introducing more caracatures. His request is below:
1001 caricatures of Mohammad
What should the answer of the freedom loving peoples of the west be ageist the fascist forces in Islam who threatens with violence to stop critical opinions and caricatures of Islam?
If you are one of many who share my beliefs that we have to fight this totalitarian ideology, you now have the possibility to participate. I am writing a book called “1001 caricatures of Mohammad as a defense, for the right to ask the critical questions and make caricatures”. As you understand from the books title, I need contributions in the form of 1001 caricature drawings of Mohammad.
I am writing this book under a fictional name because of the dangers combined with expression critical views of Islam. Any contribution will be protected in the same manner as my self.
Make history; defend the freedom too many take for granted. With a pen you can stand up and fight for the right to be free in the battle of liberty for all the peoples of the world. Send your contribution to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m not so sure about this. I agree with freedom of speech, as one example of the general freedom to do what you like with what you own as long as it’s peaceful and voluntary. I don’t think the government should stop John Smith from publishing his book.
However, I’m not sure about the morality of publishing a book that intends to offend, simply to make the point that it should be legal to offend.
Likewise, I don’t think the government should prevent art works like “piss christ” (a picture of Jesus covered in piss)… but I’m not sure that it is in good taste. According to my moral radar, it’s inappropriate to offend people, unless you’re making another necessary point. The only point of piss christ and mohammad caracatures is “ha ha… I am allowed to offend you”. It would be like calling somebody an asshole simply to prove that you’re allowed to call them an asshole. Legal? Sure. Friendly? No.
On the other hand, there have been death threats and absurd over-reactions by some people regarding the Mohammad caracatures. It would be a shame if this coercion was successful. Perhaps it is appropriate for somebody to repeat the caracature episode simply to show that threats and intimidation will not be tolerated or respected in a free (well… relatively free) society. This is unfair to peaceful Muslims, but perhaps it is necessary.
I am not publishing John Smith’s request because I want people to participate. Personally, I won’t. Instead, I want to use this debate to spark a debate about when it is morally appropriate to be offensive?