Friday, August 18, 2006

Hate Cartoons and Double-standards

An international cartoon exhibition on the hollocaust is being conducted at a museum in Tehran, Iran. Republika reported that the event is to get even at "the West" for the Muhammad cartoons on the Danish daily Jyland-Posten, or at least to challenge the double standard applied to free speech when dealing with religious issues.

Earlier this year (shortly after the Muhammad cartoons), Saskia Sassen wrote that in a time of war, "free speech" is a contested issue. Indeed, this condition has made us brought in to "a new frontier-zone."
Frontier-zones are spaces of imbrication. They are not lines where civilisations clash. They are areas of hybridity. What liberal democracies are experiencing is the limits of their closure and of the presumption that the world should like the way they look.
So what are the boundaries of "free speech" and "hate speech"? Even in the U.S., these boundaries have been defined only recently, and "through struggle." Still, double standards apply. Masoud Shojai, head of the Iranian Cartoonist Association said, "They can write whatever they please about our Prophet (Muhammad, PBUH). But when one person questioned about the Hollocaust, they are fined, even imprisoned." Republika reported that David Irving, an English historian, and Frederick Toben, an Australian hostorian, have had to stay in the cells for being skeptical about the hollocaust.

Many discussions about this issue, such as shown here, just proves that a particular issue may be a laughing matter for one person (a "light" issue), while at the same time it's hurtful (a "serious" issue) for another person.

For me, intentionally hurting anyone's feelings and beliefs (not just in terms of religion, but also race, gender, etc) is a mean act. In this case, I consider the anti-Islam, anti-Semit, anti-gay, white supremacists, and other fundamentalists mean. But imposing a double standard to cover one's own fundamentalism, that's hypocricy, and it may well be meaner.

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  1. Good point Muli but there is an extra "double standard" to consider in the Indonesian context.

    While Kompas cartoonist Tommy Thomdean is a finalist in the running for Iran's $12,000 first prize for the world's "best" anti-Jewish-Holocaust cartoon, Rakyat Merdeka's online editor, Teguh Santosa, faces 5-years jail for publishing the cartoons of Islam's Prophet to explain to readers why Muslims were rioting in Indonesia against them (and killing themselves elsewhere in protests) -- six months after their previously unnoticed first publication in a Danish newspaper.

    More details at "Beyond Wallacia"

  2. Aduh, kesannya kok childish banget ya, bales-balesan kayak gitu. Justru sekarang ini, dimana anti-islam lg hangat2nya, adalah saat yg tepat bw menunjukkan bhw moslem bisa bersikap dewasa dlm menghdpi kecaman-tudingan dunia barat. Dg ikutan menghina, secara gak sadar moslem justru 'mengikuti' standard barat (i.e. semangat merendahkan org lain, merasa diri paling bener, etc). Just my 2 cent.

  3. Hi Geoffrey,
    That is a good point as well. Certainly the "double standard" is not only on the part of "the West". I'm actually interested to see where this Iranian cartoon competition is going. Does this mean that they are now "open" to free speech, as in "it's ok to insult me, as long as I can insult you in return, and we all do it peacefully"? Or is it all leading to more violence among the competing interests? Hopefully not the latter. But to understanding that we each have our unique "soft spots" and it's best not to mess with them.

    Hi Noname,
    I agree with you. I wish all the insulting would just stop. It is childish. But I can understand the committee's aim to point out double-standards in the issue, be in on the part of "the West", or others.