Let it be said straightaway. It is stupid for anyone whether in Europe or anywhere in the West, to portray the Prophet Mohammad in a cartoon. Islam which frowns on portrayal of the Prophet in any form gets deeply offended?and what, for God'ssake is served, by hurting any community?
Islam frowns on icons and Muslim invaders down the centuries have been notorious for destroying temples. These invaders were uncultured barbarians but that does not mean that some one in the 21st century must seek to hurt Muslim sentiments. It is ordinary courtesy to be respectful of people of other faiths, no matter how strongly we may differ from them. Pettiness must have no place in journalism. And yet a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo has reportedly reprinted twelve blasphemous drawings dealing with Islam. Is that bravado? Forget Charlie Hebdo. That of all newspapers France Soir should have published the cartoon ascertaining ?the right to caricature God? is crossing all limits. This is no secularism.
What is shameful is that many newspapers in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland and Norway have been insisting that the cartoons should be published on the grounds that ?when extremists extract concessions from democracies on points of principle, either by blackmail or terror, democracies do not have long left?.
The other excuse given is that they must show ?solidarity? with Danish journalists in the cause of defending freedom of expression?. What many do not realise is that side by side with ?freedom of expression? there exists ?moral responsibilities?, that cannot be ignored. Freedom of expression does not bestow on us any right to show disrespect to Christ, for example. But apparently the prevailing sentiment is one of ?Publish and be damned?.
The trouble seems to be that the Danes, for long a mono cultural people do not seem to know how to handle the influx of Muslim labour. As The Guardian put it ?the press is too quick to forget the responsibility that goes with the right to free speech. There is a deep current of anti-immigrant feeling in Denmark'spreviously mono cultural society which is currently expressed as anti-Muslim sentiment. You can legally do it, but you are downright inhuman not to recognise that you have moral responsibilities that should govern your press behaviour as well.?
The paper quoted another reader as saying: ?A responsible newspaper should be sensitive to the wider implications of what it chooses to publish. In this case, given the fear and xenophobia that has gripped many European countries with large Muslim populations and the post 9/11 ?Islamophobia? that reverberates in no many headlines, would publishing the cartoons help to bridge the gap of understanding? Not when one of the cartoons equates Islam with terrorism.?
In India there is an artist who shamelessly portrays Hindu gods in vulgar ways. Should Hindus revolt? One suspects that Hindus are more sophisticated than the European barbarians.
But what is more interesting to note in the Indian media is the overnight clash between the administration and certain sections of the media and the public in the matter of India'salleged nuclear deal with the United States. On the one hand, the scientific community?especially that section dealing with nuclear energy?seems strongly at variance with the administration, which is a new development.
What is shocking is that, with the exception of Indian Express and The Hindu, most newspapers seem reluctant to oppose the Government of India'sstand on its secret deal with Washington. What exactly is the deal? Nobody seems really to know. It is under wraps. Now eight former top Indian Foreign Service officers have raised their voice. Nobody would dare to call them anti-patriotic, or anti-American or anti-Congress. And they include C.B. Muthamma, former Ambassador to Hungary and Netherlands, N. Krishnan former Permanent Representative at the United Nations, A.P. Venkateswaran, former Foreign Secretary, A. Madhavan, former Ambassador to Japan and Germany, Peter Lynn Senai who had worked as India'srepresentative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, C.V. Ranganathan who presented India in China and France, A.M. Khaleeli who was based in Iran and Italy and P.A. Nazareth who served in Egypt and Mexico. Can we dismiss them as irresponsible people? And yet hardly any other newspaper barring The Hindu have published their signed statement.
As these officials put it: ?Given the sharp divergence of opinion on this (US-India) landmark agreement and the strong passion it has generated in the country, the very least that the Government could do before finalising the terms of implementation, is to present a full picture to the Indian public of where we are heading…?. Is that too much to ask?
Then there is the case of The Indian Express which has published a full interview with Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) chairman Anil Kakodkar which needs to be read in full detail.
According to Dr Kakodkar, it would not be in India'sstrategic interest to place the fast breeder reactor programme in the civilian list. Indian Express (February 7) carried an interesting article by C. Raja Mohan giving another point of view. According to him, ?If the DAE could do well under isolation, it should do even better through international cooperation. In an energy-hungry and globalising India, isolation is no great virtue. That should be the message from the political leadership in Delhi to the DAE in Mumbai.?
The Times of India (February 9) pleads the government'scase claiming that ?every deal comes with a certain amount of give and take? and ?a coherent plan for separation of nuclear facilities is a small price to pay for all this?. Nobody is willing to suggest that in order to stop proliferation, the world?the United Nations, specifically?should demand that all weapons of mass destruction should be immediately disposed of by Britain and France. Who is going to attack them? Germany? Whom are they afraid of? The United States? Why isn'tthe United States demanding that Pakistan immediately dismantle all its WMDs? There is no answer. Many honestly believe that the entire issue is one of racism and a determination that no non-White nation can claim equality with the US, UK and France. It is a point worth remembering. If Pakistan can be allowed to have nuclear weapons, if Israel can, why not Iran? Or shouldn'tone talk to racism at all lest it annoy Mr George Bush? Sadly, there is no debate in the Indian press. It seems like a fight between Shri Subramanyan and those who don'tthink like him? What is our media coming to?