Mohammed Cartoon Controversy And The Freedom Of Expression
By Megan Smollins
One question on the Islam’s mind is whether Western countries would be okay with their religious beliefs being mocked at. "Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?" Hamshahri wrote referring to the Prophet Mohammed cartoons. Hamshahri is a leader who has never hid his contempt for Israelis. Last year he said that Israel should be "wiped out" and the Holocaust was a "myth."
Iranian newspapers have since been holding contests for the best Holocaust cartoon to see how the west reacts. Whoever has the best cartoons will be put into the Newspaper as a protest against the countries that published the photos of Mohammed.
I began thinking about how people in our society would react to something like this happening when it comes to our religion or our cultural values. I came to the realization that in a way the Islam countries do have a point, the western countries have protested against actions that went against their religion, even if they were artistic expressions. While the West has never gone to these extreme measures, they have been offended about events that have taken place.
For example, on October 3, 1993 Sinead O’Connor was the musical guest on the show “Saturday Night Live”. She sang a rendition of the Bob Marley song “War” that was a controversial song about how war is an appropriate response for victims of racial injustice, child abuse and other types of cruelty.
At the end of the song she pulled out an 8X10 picture of the Pope and yelled, “Fight the real enemy” as she ripped the picture up. This caused outrage by the public and calls came pouring into NBC demanding to know how they could let such hate be broadcast on their network. Celebrities began speaking out against O’Connor with Frank Sinatra saying he wanted to “punch” Sinead “right in the mouth.”
The Federal Communications Commission fined NBC with a $2.5 million fine due to the inappropriate nature of the act. When Sinead went on to sing two weeks later at Madison Square Garden she got booed off stage. How is this act different than the Mohammed cartoon controversy? Isn’t the Pope as an esteemed figure in the Catholic religion as Mohammed is in the Islamic religion? While this is nowhere near to the same degree, it did cause controversy and it did make headline news for a period of time.
Sinead O’Connor CDs were burnt along with her picture. People demanded an apology from NBC and demanded that they be fined for their programming. While we may be thinking that the Islamic people are making too big of a deal over a cartoon, didn’t we make a big deal over a picture being ripped?