How Far Is Too Far
Cartoons of Prophet Mohammad ignites questions about the limitations of the press
By Laura Lombardi
If any of you have seen the recent cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad then maybe you can see how and why the cartoons have sparked major controversy around the world. Not only are editors being fired, and citizens being insulted, but also there are people being killed because of these images. Which leads to the question of why.
Why did these cartoons bring about so much controversy, and how far is too far in regards to freedom of press.
If you don’t know who Mohammad is, here is a short summary from Wikepedia.com. Mohammad is believed by Muslims to be God’s last prophet, sent to the earth to guide all of mankind with the message of Islam. Known generally as “The Prophet.” His legacy is well respected and until now has sparked little controversy.
So why now? Why all the hatred towards Denmark and France? Well, in September of 2005, collections of twelve cartoons were published, one in which showed the Prophet Mohammad wearing a turbine on his head resembling a bomb.
But did an obscene or even racist artist draw these tasteless cartoons. Many don’t believe that to be the case. Many believe it was just a person expressing their thoughts in a way that many have for years. However, it does set in motion the question of how far one can push the rights of the press.
On CNN.com, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was quoted telling the French Foreign Minister, “The cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad are an attack on our spiritual values. There should be a limit to press freedom.” So what should that limit be? Obviously there needs to be a limit if people are dying everyday from the images and messages behind these cartoons, but how do you limit that.
Everyday there are rude and tasteless cartoons of President Bush circulating the newspapers and Internet, yet they don’t receive half the attention that the Mohammad cartoons are receiving. So is it the religious beliefs of the Islam’s that makes them march yelling, “Death to Denmark, Death to France,” or is it their interpretation of the cartoons as a spiritual community.
Many people have seen these cartoons, and many of them have not found it to be as offensive as some believe it to be, but that is one group of people. There is still a whole world out there that thinks differently, and obviously they are not afraid to express it.
Yet, it is important to note that a writer’s freedoms in accordance with his articles and cartoons will only take him as far as the reader will allow. If a writer or cartoonist displays a piece of work that is offensive to a culture, it is now obvious that the culture will not defend his reasons for doing so.
The Jamaican Gleaner Newspaper wrote a recent article about the press’s freedom in regards to cartoons. Their statement sums up what many individuals are beginning to understand, “any newspaper has the right to print cartoons that are offensive to religion.
But that right should be set against a consideration of the impact the actions will have on the feelings of an aggrieved group. If the social cost of such an action is high, so too must be its social benefit.”
So what will the outcome be? Some people believe this controversy will just fade away, but what if it doesn’t fade away. At this moment, there has been a boycott of Danish goods, and violent protests where many citizens have been killed.
What next? A fight between cultures…a war? Who knows what will come next, but the next time someone decides to publish a compellation of cartoons that may be scene as controversial, you better believe they will think twice before publishing them nationally.