An ostentatiously philosophical look at the Mohammed riots


First thing, you’ve got the right to free press. This means that yes, the political cartoons are protected under the 1st amendment. (I don’t know what the Danish constiution says, but the fact that the Danish government is backing them leads me to believe they have something similar).

An addendum to “First thing”: if you live in an Islamic state (Islam is a religion and a theocratic form of government), then you wouldn’t have this right to print the cartoons. All the other arguments don’t follow, but you can argue like Thoreau and Dr. King that you can’t be a good citizen under a bad government, and theocracies are bad governments. And so, you should still have the right to run the cartoon even if your government doesn’t explicitly allow you to because freedom of speech/press is something universal that everyone should be able to appreciate (ie: Kant’s categorical imperatives).

Second thing, you’ve got the right to freedom of religion. “Congress shall make no law establishing or prohibiting the free practice thereof.” I’m pretty sure that’s what it says. Again, I don’t know Danish law, and I guess you could argue part of the problem is looking at things through a “Western lense.” That, I say, is retarded. It is absurd to be expected to devalue my own culture in an effort to superimpose someone else’s culture into my arguments.

And so, while Muslims have the right to practice their religion any way they choose, that right does not extend to having their religious beliefs imposed on other people. Christians can’t tell everyone to stay home on the sabath just because they believe it should be a day of rest. That’s a choice everyone needs to be free to choose. For a long time I thought the first amendment said something like “freedom to choose religion.” Anywho.

Just because Muslims themselves don’t want to depict Muhammed doesn’t mean that other people can’t. John Stuart Mill would call that kind of restriction an “infringement on someone else’s liberty”–and if you remember, everyone has unlimited liberty insofar as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s liberty.

Now, Taylor, you say that journalists have this ethical dilemna because we know that these cartoons will cause riots. This is wrong. Just because you know leaving the Hope Diamond on your dresser after you go to bed while your sketchy uncle is it town will mean that the thing gets stolen doesn’t redeem the act of stealing.

Furthermore, it is not reasonable to expect that running a political cartoon will lead to rioting. Reasonable people don’t burn down buildings because of a cartoon. A cartoon. I’m sorry but this religious fanatacism has got to stop. Only by demonstrating how crazy certain followers of Islam are will there start to be negative consequences. Can you imagine what would happen if in America people rioted every time Bugs Bunny cracked a joke at the Bible?

It is unfortunate, to say the least, that embassies have been burned and lives have been lost because of the free press. But those people did not die in vain. Free press is a fundamental tenet of society. It’s the “fourth branch” of government, and without it, I don’t know that you can have a successful Republic. And as my arguments pointed out, freedom of religion does not extend to telling people who don’t follow your religion what to do. Freedom of press does not “trump” freedom of religion in this instance. Freedom of religion is limited, and rioting because you don’t get your way isn’t covered under its terms.

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