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Paris court takes up Muslim cartoon case

Old 02-12-07, 09:38 AM
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Paris court takes up Muslim cartoon case

There were a couple of other threads that were kind of related but none seemed to be recent enough or specific enough to tack this on to so I started a new thread...


http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0209/p06s01-woeu.html
European support for free speech, unequivocal during the 1989 Salman Rushdie affair, has become more muted.
By Robert Marquand | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

PARIS
Newspaper cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, first published in Denmark, electrified Europe last winter angering Muslims and causing an intellectual uproar. It pitted two cherished Western values, freedom of expression and religious tolerance, against each other as the Muslim world grieved over violence in the Middle East and Iraq. But the dispute was never clearly resolved.

Now, with feelings still slightly raw in Europe's neighborhoods, the cartoon case is echoing in a Paris court over a satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, that reprinted the cartoons exactly a year ago. Charlie Hebdo's cover depicted the prophet covering his eyes, next to the line, "Mohammed overwhelmed by extremists," and thinking to himself, "It is hard to be worshiped by idiots."

In the heat of the moment two French Muslim groups filed suit, citing laws forbidding injury caused by religious slander that carry fines and a sentence.

The trial raises larger questions about how far Europe is or should be accommodating values claimed by the Muslim world. But in the current election season here it has turned into a hot platform for French candidates to espouse issues like free speech. Every leading candidate made an appearance, including front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy, who wrote a note saying he'd rather have "an excess of [cartoon] caricatures, than an absence of caricatures."

Lawyers for the Muslims, including a legal aide to French President Jacques Chirac, say Charlie Hebdo ridiculed Islamic clerics, and incited hatred against all Muslims, as part of a "considered plan of provocation."

A ruling in favor of the Muslim groups, though unlikely, would cut deeply against strong French beliefs in free expression and separation of church and state given voice in a letter signed Monday by 50 intellectuals. Yet France is changing. A poll by Catholic weekly Pelerin this week found 79 percent agreeing it is "unacceptable to ridicule a religion publicly."

Indeed, while French intellectuals may have adopted an absolute position against abridgement of free speech Europe's actual approach to the issue has dramatically reversed in the past decade.

Ethnologist Jeanne Favret-Saada of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris and author of a forthcoming book on the Danish cartoons says, "We Europeans have completely changed positions on secular versus religious issues, and on freedom of expression. During the fatwa on [Salman] Rushdie in 1989 [for his book "The Satanic Verses"], there was unanimity on the question of free expression. It was not debated. But today part of the left has taken the view that the Danish paper was racist."

Recent months have brought a series of messy crises over Islamic integration. In September Pope Benedict XVI brought a small firestorm by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who said Muhammed commanded his followers to "spread by the sword the faith." A prominent Berlin opera house canceled a performance that included a scene involving the severed head of Muhammad. In France, a philosophy professor, Robert Redeker, is under police protection after writing that Muhammad is a "pitiless war leader [and] pillager."

Yet if anything, the two traditionally moderate Muslim groups bringing suit, the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, and the Grand Mosque, now feel hard pressed. They are pressured to fight for Muslim interests by their constituency. And they got initial support from Mr. Chirac. But they didn't count on the current media circus in France, sources say, and many feel that their high-profile protestations ironically cast them in the extremist image they want to counter. On Wednesday, the Muslim plaintiffs didn't even attend the trial.

"Most minority groups in France have learned how to deal with the press, the state, the courts, and the government," argues Pierre Haski, former editor of the daily Liberation. "But with the Muslims, this is a new thing."

Many Muslims see the world in only literal terms, argues Dounia Bouzar, a former board member of the French Council of the Muslim Faith. "Muslims have not yet worked on subjective interpretations."

Charlie Hebdo was not the first or the only French media outlet to publish the cartoons. Two TV stations and the national daily newspaper Le Monde ran them. Charlie Hebdo's cartoons appeared after the editor of the daily France Soir was fired for publishing them and as a protest against the "weak" response by the European Union to attacks on Danish embassies in the Muslim states.

The Danish paper Jyllands-Posten first ran cartoons of Muhammed, including one with a bomb in his turban, in September 2005. Editor Flemming Rose said it was a challenge to Europe's growing self-censorship in the wake of filmmaker Theo van Gogh's murder in 2004. But the Muslim community in Europe, and then the world, saw it as a clear example of Islamaphobia.

According to Ms. Favret-Saada, the cartoons were partly motivated by threats from Abu Laban, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who aspired to be the leader of Muslims in Denmark, that any drawings of the prophet were forbidden, including by non-Muslims.

The letter by 50 French intellectuals criticized the left in Europe for failing to stand up for fundamental rights and too easily buying into the Muslim political argument that criticism of Islam is racist. They say too many Islamists are insisting upon extreme or totalitarian positions, while at the same time claiming they are the victims of Islamaphobia in Europe.

On the day of the trial, patrons in the Grand Mosque cafe were scattered about, drinking mint tea and displaying copies of Charlie Hebdo. One writer at the cafe said, "The entire issue is ridiculous freedom of expression shouldn't even be a question," he said, pointing to the main mosque.

Some students visiting from Toulouse, however, said that while freedom of expression was an important right it should not impinge so far that it caused pain to others.
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Old 02-12-07, 12:49 PM
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Some students visiting from Toulouse, however, said that while freedom of expression was an important right it should not impinge so far that it caused pain to others.
These idiots will soon get what they deserve. Soon meaning in a couple of decades.
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Old 02-12-07, 01:40 PM
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Some students visiting from Tolouse, however, said that while freedom of expression was an important right it should not impinge so far that it caused pain to others.
This blatant disrespect for the principles of freedom of expression causes me pain. Arrest those students!
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Old 02-12-07, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
This blatant disrespect for the principles of freedom of expression causes me pain. Arrest those students!
Well said.
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Old 02-12-07, 05:10 PM
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[obligatory_French_bash]Has the court surrndered yet?[/obligatory_French_bash]
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Old 02-12-07, 05:19 PM
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Comfort over freedom works. For awhile.
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Old 02-12-07, 05:33 PM
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In this particular case, let's not confuse freedom of expression with freedom to make a buck.
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Old 02-12-07, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
In this particular case, let's not confuse freedom of expression with freedom to make a buck.

They're mutually exclusive?
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Old 02-12-07, 05:37 PM
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No, but one is often used as an excuse to hide the other.
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Old 02-12-07, 05:43 PM
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So you're saying that if someone is "trying to make a buch", their rights to free speech should be infringed?

I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, its how I read your statement.
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Old 02-12-07, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
In this particular case, let's not confuse freedom of expression with freedom to make a buck.
Here is part of the problem....who will determine if something makes people feel bad about what is said? And if you pass this, you will now need to apply it to everyone, and some of those will not fit together well. Some people like to say bad things about the Jews, and even draw cartoons that are offensive about them. If this passed, I would guess that would still be fine, you just couldn't do it the other way.
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Old 02-12-07, 05:55 PM
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No, I'm saying that in this case, Charlie Hebdo certainly didn't publish that cover and those cartoons, weeks after the fact, because they were fighting for freedom of expression and/or because they wanted to somehow make a point about radical Muslims. I'm arguing that whatever editorial decision was made, was strictly business oriented, i.e. they went from 50,000 copies sold to over 250,000 for that issue. Of course afterwards, they are going to fall back behind the "freedom of expression!" argument, when they get heat.
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Old 02-12-07, 05:57 PM
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Freedom of expression doesn't just apply when you are specfically making a 'statement.' It always applies.
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Old 02-12-07, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Here is part of the problem....who will determine if something makes people feel bad about what is said? And if you pass this, you will now need to apply it to everyone, and some of those will not fit together well. Some people like to say bad things about the Jews, and even draw cartoons that are offensive about them. If this passed, I would guess that would still be fine, you just couldn't do it the other way.
I don't disagree. Note that I'm not arguing against those cartoons being published by the Danish paper in the first place. What I'm arguing is, specifically, Charlie Hebdo's motivations to publish them.
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Old 02-12-07, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
I don't disagree. Note that I'm not arguing against those cartoons being published by the Danish paper in the first place. What I'm arguing is, specifically, Charlie Hebdo's motivations to publish them.

Last time I checked, the publishers of newspapers are trying to make a buck too.
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Old 02-12-07, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Freedom of expression doesn't just apply when you are specfically making a 'statement.' It always applies.
If you are arguing that freedom of expression and/or freedom of speech are absolute rights, I'd say that you are wrong. There are laws and codes of ethics legislating both, and editorial decisions are made by newspapers around the planet every day of the week. Again, what I'm questioning here, are the motivations that led the editors of Charlie Hebdo to publish those cartoons. And, amongst those who have followed that specific issue, I'm not the one who believes that they are now brandishing the sacred icon of freedom of expression strictly because it's convenient.

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Old 02-12-07, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
If you are arguing that freedom of expression and/or freedom of speech are absolute rights, I'd say that you are wrong. There are laws and codes of ethics legislating both, and editorial decisions are made by newspapers around the planet every day of the week. Again, what I'm questioning here, are the motivations that led the editors of Charlie Hebdo to publish those cartoons.

If I say "X Y Z," should it matter, legally, whether I am doing it in a book that I am publishing for profit or on, say, a blog that is available free to all.

Now I don't know what French law is, but there are certainly no laws in the US that makes the kind of distinction you are suggesting (with the exception of "Son of Sam" laws, although that isn't exactly the same thing). Thank goodness.

And as for brandishing sacred icons of freedom, that happens anytime a government attempts to regulate or prosecute a perceived wrongdoer. That's what the legal system is all about. You call it convenience. I call it asserting one's individual rights. One should not have to assert said rights before engaging in the supposed wrongful conduct.

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Old 02-12-07, 06:27 PM
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I thought I would post this piece again, as it's the foundation of the whole controversy. I thought it was an extremely eloquent defense of some of the core liberal Western values:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...702499_pf.html

Why I Published Those Cartoons

By Flemming Rose
Sunday, February 19, 2006; B01



Childish. Irresponsible. Hate speech. A provocation just for the sake of provocation. A PR stunt. Critics of 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten have not minced their words. They say that freedom of expression does not imply an endorsement of insulting people's religious feelings, and besides, they add, the media censor themselves every day. So, please do not teach us a lesson about limitless freedom of speech.

I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn't mean you publish everything. Jyllands-Posten would not publish pornographic images or graphic details of dead bodies; swear words rarely make it into our pages. So we are not fundamentalists in our support for freedom of expression.

But the cartoon story is different.

Those examples have to do with exercising restraint because of ethical standards and taste; call it editing. By contrast, I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out. The idea wasn't to provoke gratuitously -- and we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter.

At the end of September, a Danish standup comedian said in an interview with Jyllands-Posten that he had no problem urinating on the Bible in front of a camera, but he dared not do the same thing with the Koran.

This was the culmination of a series of disturbing instances of self-censorship. Last September, a Danish children's writer had trouble finding an illustrator for a book about the life of Muhammad. Three people turned down the job for fear of consequences. The person who finally accepted insisted on anonymity, which in my book is a form of self-censorship. European translators of a critical book about Islam also did not want their names to appear on the book cover beside the name of the author, a Somalia-born Dutch politician who has herself been in hiding.

Around the same time, the Tate gallery in London withdrew an installation by the avant-garde artist John Latham depicting the Koran, Bible and Talmud torn to pieces. The museum explained that it did not want to stir things up after the London bombings. (A few months earlier, to avoid offending Muslims, a museum in Goteborg, Sweden, had removed a painting with a sexual motif and a quotation from the Koran.)

Finally, at the end of September, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with a group of imams, one of whom called on the prime minister to interfere with the press in order to get more positive coverage of Islam.

So, over two weeks we witnessed a half-dozen cases of self-censorship, pitting freedom of speech against the fear of confronting issues about Islam. This was a legitimate news story to cover, and Jyllands-Posten decided to do it by adopting the well-known journalistic principle: Show, don't tell. I wrote to members of the association of Danish cartoonists asking them "to draw Muhammad as you see him." We certainly did not ask them to make fun of the prophet. Twelve out of 25 active members responded.

We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims.

The cartoons do not in any way demonize or stereotype Muslims. In fact, they differ from one another both in the way they depict the prophet and in whom they target. One cartoon makes fun of Jyllands-Posten, portraying its cultural editors as a bunch of reactionary provocateurs. Another suggests that the children's writer who could not find an illustrator for his book went public just to get cheap publicity. A third puts the head of the anti-immigration Danish People's Party in a lineup, as if she is a suspected criminal.

One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name. The cartoon also plays into the fairy tale about Aladdin and the orange that fell into his turban and made his fortune. This suggests that the bomb comes from the outside world and is not an inherent characteristic of the prophet.

On occasion, Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those.

Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

This is exactly why Karl Popper, in his seminal work "The Open Society and Its Enemies," insisted that one should not be tolerant with the intolerant. Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations.

I acknowledge that some people have been offended by the publication of the cartoons, and Jyllands-Posten has apologized for that. But we cannot apologize for our right to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are paralyzed by worries about every possible insult.

I am offended by things in the paper every day: transcripts of speeches by Osama bin Laden, photos from Abu Ghraib, people insisting that Israel should be erased from the face of the Earth, people saying the Holocaust never happened. But that does not mean that I would refrain from printing them as long as they fell within the limits of the law and of the newspaper's ethical code. That other editors would make different choices is the essence of pluralism.

As a former correspondent in the Soviet Union, I am sensitive about calls for censorship on the grounds of insult. This is a popular trick of totalitarian movements: Label any critique or call for debate as an insult and punish the offenders. That is what happened to human rights activists and writers such as Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, Boris Pasternak. The regime accused them of anti-Soviet propaganda, just as some Muslims are labeling 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper anti-Islamic.

The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants.

Since the Sept. 30 publication of the cartoons, we have had a constructive debate in Denmark and Europe about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect for immigrants and people's beliefs. Never before have so many Danish Muslims participated in a public dialogue -- in town hall meetings, letters to editors, opinion columns and debates on radio and TV. We have had no anti-Muslim riots, no Muslims fleeing the country and no Muslims committing violence. The radical imams who misinformed their counterparts in the Middle East about the situation for Muslims in Denmark have been marginalized. They no longer speak for the Muslim community in Denmark because moderate Muslims have had the courage to speak out against them.

In January, Jyllands-Posten ran three full pages of interviews and photos of moderate Muslims saying no to being represented by the imams. They insist that their faith is compatible with a modern secular democracy. A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People's Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between "them" and "us," but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.

This is the sort of debate that Jyllands-Posten had hoped to generate when it chose to test the limits of self-censorship by calling on cartoonists to challenge a Muslim taboo. Did we achieve our purpose? Yes and no. Some of the spirited defenses of our freedom of expression have been inspiring. But tragic demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not what we anticipated, much less desired. Moreover, the newspaper has received 104 registered threats, 10 people have been arrested, cartoonists have been forced into hiding because of threats against their lives and Jyllands-Posten's headquarters have been evacuated several times due to bomb threats. This is hardly a climate for easing self-censorship.

Still, I think the cartoons now have a place in two separate narratives, one in Europe and one in the Middle East. In the words of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the integration of Muslims into European societies has been sped up by 300 years due to the cartoons; perhaps we do not need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe. The narrative in the Middle East is more complex, but that has very little to do with the cartoons.

[email protected]


Flemming Rose is the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten.


2006 The Washington Post Company
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Old 02-12-07, 06:27 PM
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Well then, I would assume you are against hate crime laws.

And once again, I have no problem with the original publishing of these cartoons by the Danish paper. BUt that won't stop me from questionning the motivations of the editors of Charlie Hebdo.

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Old 02-12-07, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
Well then, I would assume you are against hate crime laws.

And once again, I have no problem with the original publishing of these cartoons by the Danish paper. BUt that won't stop me from questionning the motivations of the editors of Charlie Hebdo.

I am absolutely opposed to them, but that isn't what I consider speech or expression. If someone assaults someone to rob them as opposed to someone assaults someone because of race, I don't think the penalty should be any different - motive is irrelavent.

The question isn't whether you question the motivations. The question is do you have a legal problem with what is going on here?
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Old 02-12-07, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
The question isn't whether you question the motivations. The question is do you have a legal problem with what is going on here?
No, but I sure have an ethical problem.
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Old 02-12-07, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
No, but I sure have an ethical problem.
You can say that again.
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Old 02-12-07, 07:03 PM
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Is the UK's plan of deporting radical Muslim clerics as much a free speech violation as banning offensive cartoons is?
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Old 02-12-07, 11:59 PM
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No it isn't. The cartoons aren't urging people to commit violence against anyone. Something that the clerics are doing. It's the same as the "yelling "fire" in a crowded theater".
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Old 02-13-07, 12:59 AM
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Yet there are people arguing that these cartoons are inflammatory and intended to provoke violence.

Violence is encouraged in many ways - video games, music, movies, etc.

It was claimed that Lee Malvo - sidekick of the DC sniper - had seen the Matrix movie a hundred times and was thus obsessed with violence. Thankfully that argument did not hold up and the point is that the creators behind such things should not be assigned blame for the violent act that someone else carried out.

There is a lot of violent rhetoric in the extreme circles of many religions but ultimately the guilt falls on those who choose to act on it.

If these clerics had colluded with terrorists, that'd be a different story.
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