freedom of speech

East meets West / downtown Beirut

5 years ago, a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. Few months later a wave of rage and anger blew up in the Islamic world, from Indonesia to Lebanon.  People were killed under the riots. Danish Embassies were burnt down. People got scared. The story went out of proportion. And it took some time before authorities dampened the wave, and before the Danish government took action. Some countries demanded a pardon. Others banned all Danish products from their shops. Business relations deteriorated between the islamic world and the Danish Kingdom.

Now 5 years have passed. The story is not forgotten. The editor of the Danish newspaper has just published a book relating the entire sequence of event. He doesn’t regret his decision and stands 100% by it.

My question is: What is the purpose of freedom of Speech? Are we aloud to disrespect others? Are we supposed to make fun of others? some argue that yes and that we cannot be killed because of what we think or say. I have lived in both Europe and the Middle East. I see that Europe have gone through centuries of evolution, which the Middle East haven’t yet. People are still blown up in Lebanon for belonging to the wrong party. Many things are acceptable in Europe but are definitely not in the Middle East.

That is why culture clashes happen and why we have riots and why the Danes do not understand how something so violent and so savage could happen because of a cartoon. We are talking of two nations, two cultures, two stage of evolutions, that cannot be further from each other.

I understand that we cannot ban people from drawing, talking, criticizing. But in doing so, consequences are bound to happen. And we need to learn from that.

This topic hides many social problems, cultural misunderstandings, arrogance, ignorance, but mainly it reflects the FEAR in each one of us, Fear of the other, of what might happen to us if we reach out to the other.

Again, the world will be better one, when people do not belong to one identity but to several…

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