‘You have to respect’ 2006 version
We’ve been arguing over the Secretary General and his advice to temper free expression with ‘respect for all religious beliefs.’ This advice is not new – as the news item said, he ‘reaffirmed his predecessor’s line on cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.’ Let’s revisit some other people in high places who said the same thing back in 2006. There was Jack Straw:
Speaking after talks with the Sudanese foreign minister, Mr Straw said: “There is freedom of speech, we all respect that. But there is not any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory. I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been insulting, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong. There are taboos in every religion…We have to be very careful about showing the proper respect in this situation.”
There’s a leader-writer at the Guardian:
The Guardian believes uncompromisingly in freedom of expression, but not in any duty to gratuitously offend…To directly associate the founder of one of the world’s three great monotheistic religions with terrorist violence – the unmistakable meaning of the most explicit of these cartoons – is wrong, even if the intention was satirical rather than blasphemous.
There’s the Vatican:
“The right of freedom of thought and of expression, as contained in the Declaration of Human Rights, cannot imply the right to offend the religious feelings of believers,” Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
A student union spokeswoman said Tom Wellingham, the editor of the paper, which won newspaper of the year at last year’s Guardian’s Student Media Awards, had been suspended alongside three other journalists. “The editorial team enjoy the normal freedoms and independence associated with the press in the UK, and are expected to exercise those freedoms with responsibility, due care and judgment,” she said…The students’ union very much regrets any upset caused or disrespect shown by the publication of the controversial cartoon and has taken immediate action by promptly withdrawing all copies of this week’s edition of Gair Rhydd at the earliest moment possible. The students’ union has launched an investigation into how the images came to be published in the paper, which has a potential readership of more than 21,000 students.
There is Franco Frattini:
Europe’s justice commissioner Franco Frattini has confirmed that voluntary rules are to be drawn up after talks with media bosses, journalists and religious leaders. He told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper that there was a “very real problem” in the EU of balancing “two fundamental freedoms, the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion”…Frattini is appealing for the European media to agree to “self-regulate”. “The press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right,” he said.
Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images, as anti-Christian images or any other religious belief. But it is important that we also support the rights of individuals to express their freely held views.
And there is, just as we were told, Kofia Annan:
Annan said he defends free speech, but insisted “it has to come with some sense of responsibility and judgment and limits. There are times when you have to challenge taboos,” he said. “But you don’t fool around with other people’s religions and you have to respect what is sacred to other people.”
I collected all these from the February 2006 page of Notes and Comment, where they’re all discussed with some heat. They make a pretty sickening display.