Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mixed Messages

Compare this:
First week of Feb, 2006:
European news-media harps on Freedom of Expression.
Contention: Prophet Muhammad's cartoons.

Third week of Feb, 2006:
European news-media has mixed reactions.
Contention: Historian, David Irving jailed for denying the Holocaust

The leitmotiv is 'Freedom of Expression'. Europeans seem to hold it like the holy Grail. High, Hallowed and Holy. They go about bruising emotions as they use the trite theme. It is repeated often enough. Last year, a rightwing European newspaper commissioned cartoonists to lampoon Prophet Muhammad. The nutty caricaturists drew the prophet in bad mood. Bombs on head. That Kind of stuff. Twelve poorly etched lines hurt a billion and five hundred million believers. No matter. Freedom of Expression. Invoke Voltaire. Throw it at their face. Media has the final say, everyone was unanimous. Paper after paper re-published the tacky toons. Still crushing beliefs. Across Europe. An Italian minister had the cartoons printed on his Tee and wore them to office. He got the axe, next day. Freedom of expession, the war-cry roared.

The same Freedom of Expression fizzes out in a fortnight. David Irving is a noted historian. His detractors call him a charlatan amongst other names. Despite himself the man is a holocaust revisionist. He does not believe that 6 million jewry were summarily executed by the Nazis in WW-II. Austria -- this week -- send him to prison for three years for voicing his diametric opinions more than a decade ago. European news-sheets shamelessly defend the decision. Many chose to be luke-warm. My fav, The Guardian included. Anything against the holy cow is dangerous. David's extreme views are a threat to the European fabric. How dare he? Freedom of expression, one asks them? Selective usage, the eerie silence suggets.

What mixed messages we send out. We may publish cartoons which any sensible person knows are grossly offensive to followers of a major faith and do so under cover of 'freedom of speech' yet we send a man to prison for claiming the Holocaust never happened when we have more than adequate proof that it did. Does he not have the right to 'free speech'? Is it the western world's lack of understanding of Islam. Or perhaps a deep-rooted racial bais. Or double-standards. Or simply their gulit-ridden consciences. The answers haunt!

True, Holocaust is religiously cronicled but we can't shut voices trying to dispel such a notion. If we believe in the God given freedom of expression, why use it scrupulously?

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. This line was used by hundreds of newspapers when the cartoons were re-appearing like bugs all over the enlightened European continent. Though attributed to Voltaire -- who never said it -- the expression was first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in his work The Friends of Voltaire (1906), as a summation of Voltaire's beliefs on freedom of thought and expression.

Voltaire must be turning in his grave!
A little unjust, Voltaire. Ain't it? Both the mis-quote and theatrics!

Sameer Bhat

9 comments:

Jenny123, California said...

Jailing him is a shame. He is a cheat but that doesnt mean we can silence him like thaat.

harry, Texas said...

Europeans have a different history and culture of free speech than we do in this country. In Germany, for example, the "Auschwitz lie" law makes it a crime to "defame the memory of the dead." In Britain, libel law requires the defendant to prove that he or she did not libel the plaintiff — unlike U.S. law, which puts the onus on the plaintiff — and the British recently debated the merits of banning religious hate speech. In France, it is illegal to challenge the existence of the "crimes against humanity" as they were defined by the military tribunal at Nuremberg; another law, on the books until just a few weeks ago, required that France's colonial history (which was not always "humane") had to be taught in a "positive" light.

Alec said...

Good arguement, samy. Austria's treatment of Irving as a political dissident should offend both the people who defend the rights of political cartoonists to express their opinion of Islamic terrorists and the civil libertarians who leaped to the defense of University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill when he exercised his right to call the victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns." Why doesn't it? Why aren't freedom lovers everywhere offended by Irving's court conviction?

Gisis Khajawi said...

Freedom is a principle that must be applied indiscriminately.

Nessy said...

Call David Irving the devil if you like; the principle of free speech gives you the right to do so. But we must give the devil his due. Let Irving go, for our own safety's sake.

Dr Anil K Jha said...

Europe is still living in dark ages it seems. These are undoubtedly double-standards.

ken said...

I think you are making a fairly relevant point here. It is shameless that Europe has shameless laws -- even in the 21st cent -- that can put you behind bars for voicing your opinion and still we cry freedom of expresion.

Tanzila said...

amen! U have put it across so very poignantly put!

mehak said...

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