Exercising Our Freedom Wisely

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - March 08, 2006
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Like most Americans, I watched with fascination and horror the explosion of rage in the Muslim world over a set of cartoons. Most of you know the basic facts by now. A newspaper in Denmark solicited and printed editorial cartoons depicting the Prophet, all in the name of freedom of speech and a free press. Muslims took issue, and a number took their umbrage to the point of violence.

In Islam it is sacrilegious and disrespectful to depict the Prophet, much less lampoon him as a terrorist. In the West, any attempt to muzzle the news media is considered an assault on democracy itself.

Is there room for compromise?

Of course there is. Most reasonable people know this. Violence is not the answer, but neither is brazen disregard for another person’s culture and beliefs.

The reality is this: Censorship exists in news organizations and everywhere in this free society. And most of it is self-imposed. We do not deny or make fun of the Holocaust. We do not say the “N” word or promote stereotypes of minorities. Most networks are hypersensitive about anything that might be construed as disrespectful of Christianity.

Here in Hawaii, most of the mainstream media consider it taboo to caricature Hawaiian deities and religious beliefs. Of course we can satirize or lampoon Pele if we want to - after all, it’s protected free speech. It’s our right to publish or broadcast opinions that are offensive to some, or to many. No one can tell us we can’t do it, but when we cross the line we should be prepared for the consequences.

Most of us tread carefully. As we should. It’s a matter of respect.

I believe our freedoms are precious, which is why I think they should be exercised wisely. And I believe the Islamic world should respect our democracies. But tit for tat.

We need to respect them as well. Those who believe there is only one right way - those who try to force their values on others - are part of the problem.

No matter which side they are on.

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