Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Danish cartoon affair: is the European identity at stake?

Ferdinando Riccardi is the chief editorialist of a daily publication of Agence Europe, an European news agency. From times to times he writes a column called "A look behinhd the news". I've already used one of his texts here and shown I don't agree too much with him. Last Tuesday, however, he went too far... In a text about the Danish satirical cartoon affair, he claims for respect... but he doesn't show any!

He starts by defining the question: "it is one of whether Europe has the right of applying its laws and practicing here in its territory, its civilisation." Well, first of all I don't necessarily agree with this territorial concept of civilisations; but my real problem concerns the question... is it really what is at stake? I don't think so...

But Riccardi goes on: "what happened afterwards represents an attack against one of the pillars of our civilisation (...) there is no question of making judgements about other civilisations, it is simply one of safeguarding ours." So, Mr Riccardi, the question is of safeguarding our civilisation; at what price? I don't have any doubt about the fact that freedom of expression is a pillar of our civilisation; but is it the only one? Respect for other civilisations and other beliefs isn't also a pillar of our own civilisation? I do think so!

The part that I consider the most outrageous comes, however, after: "I am not going to make a judgement on the behaviour of someone in their own country: a government can apply Sharia law to the letter if this corresponds to its convictions, it is up to them. But those who want to reside here and benefit from our laws, even obtain European citizenship, must respect our civilisation and our law." I was so convinced that the dialogue between civilisations was an integrated part of modernity that I had already forgotten that cultural relativism was still in use... Dialogue implies compromises and it isn't compatible with any kind of fundamentalism, be it religious or cultural. If the price to pay for peace and mutual understanding is to voluntarily abdicate from part of our freedom of expression, I am ready to pay it. Being arrogant is never the best way to enagage in a dialogue.

To be honest, there are two lines in which I totally agree with Ferdinando Riccardi: "In the case in point, the newspaper which first published the incriminated caricatures not only regretted having published them but even apologised for having done so. The matter should have ended there."


Blogger ice breaker said...

Referring to the 2 lines you agree with; I do agree too, so I was wondering the last days why are the reactions on it still so aggressive.

There are 2 explanations, which I could come up with for myself. 1 is that portraiture of Mohammed is forbidden generally. So if you are a faithful Muslim the portraiture as such is already insult enough.

And the second one is – that we are talking here about countries where the freedom of the press is not the same as in my country. Where the state has a high influence on what is in a newspaper and what is not. So for many people in this region it must indeed seem as if the state has officially allowed this caricatures to be published. So an apology from the newspaper is not enough. They are waiting for an excuse from the state and possibly the whole EU.

And as a Serbian friend of mine said: “I do understand from experience that you get extremely frustrated if your country is always portrayed very one sided in all possible media around the world.”

The latent anger of mis-portrayal, misunderstanding and unequal distribution of wealth is not helping to solve a conflict around cartoon with a simple apology.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Marta said...

In my opinion in his recent column Mr Riccardi abuses the notion of the freedom of the speech to cover up for the disrespect and intolerance. In democracy we are all given that great right to express freely our opinions without fears. I totally approve it, no doubt. But I also believe it does not give us rights to offend or to harm others. It’s wisdom to say everything but not too much. And it’s sad to disrespect somebody’s feelings. NO excuse. Apologies may not be enough. We need understanding and tolerance- something we are missing now.

As for the situation in Muslim countries: I have never approved the violence. And so it’s the case right now. However, I am able to understand that emotional reaction which took place. Having many Muslin friends, I think I can value and comprehend that eastern pride, unconditional faith and unlimited devotion to ones God. Of course, those are NOT excuses either….

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Rim said...

As a muslim leaving in a muslim country I don't understand the violence as only due to the cartoons or religious matters. It is true that newspapers in the arab world(and not the muslim) don't have much freedom but people don't read them much neither. The info comes from the TV channels, and here i'm not talking about AlJazeera the most known in the "western world" but about the dozens of religious channels that are funded by Saudi Arabia( the wahabists) and other coutries from the Golf that have enough money(from the oil) to take over the control on arab media.

As for the violence, it's not Denmark or France, it's not the cartoons, it's the Israeli-Arab conflict, the invasion of Irak (people dying everyday for a pseudo western democracy), it's cultural colonialism where their values, culture and Identity seems to always be wrong Vs the European-American ones who are always right.
They react to Abu Ghrib, to Guantanamo, to Afghanistan, etc.

Mutual understanding comes only through dialogue (and not monologues from Mrs Riccardis in one side and Religious "Scholars" in the other...)

1:15 PM  
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1:36 PM  

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