Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Few Thoughts: French Trial Over Muhammad Cartoons

Just wanted to bring this to some people's attention. The New York Times has this article, fairly succinct in bringing the rest of us up to date on what the charges are, and how the trial might go.

The Paris Mosque and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France contend that the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and its director, Philippe Val, are guilty of slander, an offense that carries a possible six-month sentence and a fine of up to 22,500 euros, or about $29,000.

“If we can no longer laugh at the terrorists, what weapon is left for the citizen?” Mr. Val said at the hearing, according to The Associated Press.

“These drawings are about ideas, not men, about ideas defended by men who commit violent acts.”...

The issue of whether revisions to the 1901 law separating church and state might be needed has become a topic of discussion in the presidential campaign.

In recent decisions, French courts have largely ruled against religious groups that contended that their faiths had been insulted.

Please note the last paragraph in the quote, which is also the last paragraph of the article. It sums up faith, at least to me, that the trial will end with the law of the land in France being upheld: that there is a distinct separation between church and state.

Personally, as a westerner, I think that the arguement boils down to this: modern western thought provides a separation between church and state and a freedom of speech that allows for satirical content of just about anything. In fact, many societies would agree that the very basis of a free society is the ability to satirize just about anything as need be. Keeps a level playing field. In a non-secular society, you have very religious people who feel that respect for God, their God usually, sadly, trumps all, and that forms the basis for their law and customs. And I, personally, don't think that you'll ever bridge the two.

Now, being able to publish cartoons that might offend the deeply religious may not the most prudent thing to do, as the riots about the danish cartoons show, but it is odd how the international religious press went off more against the publishers for a lapse in judgement then against the rioters. Funny, I would have thought that actual physical violence should have garnered a greater backlash from the world's community. But with religion in the mix, its a whole different kettle of fish. You have people who bent over backward to accomodate the rioters on the idea that offensive cartoons are so dangerous as the validate violence, violence that even ended in death. Is that right? My western approach is to say no, the rioters are the guilty, and the Danish publishers broke no laws. But a muslim who feels so strongly about the rules against depicting the prophet regardless of message would very clearly disagree with me and probably feel quite justified in the correctness of his position.

I while he and might agree on a great many things, I doubt that we would ever come to terms on this issue no matter how long we talked. As I doubt that the western courts will reach a decision that will placate or satisfy both sides in France.

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