February 4, 2006

YHBT. YHL. HTH. HAND.

The cartoons were part of a debate on artistic self-censorship in the face of fears of violence from Muslims. They were designed to provoke a reaction. Imagining it from a Muslim point of view, we might say they were trolling Muslims. A troll wants you to respond. Some Muslims have done so in spades, proving exactly the point that the original Danish newspaper article was making.

Just as with the Jerry Springer the Opera uproar, the test of the tolerance practised by a group of believers is how they respond to someone attempting to troll them. The right way to deal with trolls is to ignore them: they hate that. The wrong thing to do is respond with cries of “help! help! I’m being oppressed!”, or with threats of violence. I’m glad to see some British Muslims have realised that such threats are counter-productive, and that a moderate Muslim group has formed in Denmark to try to calm things down.

As for the rest, we must not have a society where people (or at least, people above the age of 5) who think they have an invisible friend are able to stop certain kinds of speech merely by saying that they’re offended on that friend’s behalf. We do not extend such protection to any other opinion a person might hold. We should not extend it to religion, whether the religion is Christianity or Islam or anything else. Jack Straw’s weasel words are frankly vile (although perhaps not surprising from the government which attempted to quash freedom of speech itself with the Religious Hatred bill).

A few links: The Times has a sensible editorial on the whole business. jnala, commenting on ladysiyphus‘s LJ, writes against self-censorship. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the controversy.