muslim cartoon protests – a wider view
NPR’s On The Media radio show made an interesting point that sheds a little more light on the reaction to these cartoons in Muslim countries, which goes something like this:
Since the Press in Muslim countries is generally not a free press, and the government controls or approves the content of anything released by the media, the people in these countries assumed that the cartoons were approved by the Danish, Norwegian and French governments – the countries in which they were published. Hence the attacks on government institutions such as embassies, and the protests in front of government institutions such as the Parliament buildings in London.
Looking at it another way, these protests could be seen, indirectly, as demands for government control of the media in countries where it is not controlled. I’m sure you can see why this interpretation did not occur to me originally – a free press is a fundamental pillar of a free society, and the idea that the government could or should approve its output is not a viable one. We’ve been there and done that, centuries ago, and learned the lessons from other attempts at government control.
Religion is not the primary reason, it’s mostly about politics. You can draw a graph, by country, showing a direct correlation between press freedom and the political freedoms of the society – freedom to criticise the government, freedom to change the government (democratically, not violently), freedom to live your life the way you choose.
I may not be 100% happy with the links between government and religion in Ireland, but they seem to me to reflect the attitude of the people in general – and the links are eroding, as global and secular considerations play a more prominent role in Irish life. In other words, the people are driving the government – not the church – and that is what democracy is, in its basic form. (That’s not the whole story of course, with big business and corruption still much in evidence.)