Now that the story about cartoons viewed as denigrating to Islam has exploded, it’s time for me to add fuel to the fire. Muslims in the mideast are demanding an apology from the Danish government for this. It is absurd, however, that the governemnt should have to apologise. To do so would be equivalent to being forced to submit to one specific religion, which is anathema to the concept of freedom of religion, and would inappropriately chill both free speech and freedom of the press. The fact that images of Mohammed are banned in Islam is irrelevant because the newspaper that published these cartoons is not obliged to uphold Islamic principles, either lawfully or morally, because it is not located in a nonsecular Muslim nation and the cartoons were not, I do not think, produced by Muslims themselves (even if they were, they have every right to violate their own religion’s principles). Therefore for Muslims to request an apology from the Danish government is like trying to impose one religion’s views on a completely different society (one that nominally respects free speech). Whether or not the images were mocking, insulting, provocative, questioning, etc is completely irrelevant. What matters is that the Muslim world cannot force its values on Western societies. The newspaper had every right to publish these cartoons, for any reason it saw fit, and while Muslims are entitled to protest, and boycott the newspaper, they are not entitled to extend the reach of their anger by asking for an official apology. For the Danish government to cave in would be terrible; it would essentially be saying, ‘Yes, we’ll do as you want. Our newspapers will not violate your religious principles again.’ This is critical: apologising would be sending the message that our free speech rights are subordinate to the values of a society that does not respect those rights, and would empower more extreme elements of the Muslim world (not necessarily terrorists). Kudos to the European newspapers that reprinted those images, for standing up to unacceptable demands from the Muslim world.
Organized religion (all religions) only represent threats to a free society, whether from within or without.