As if the French Charlie Hebdo cartoon fiasco two years back was not enough. In April, Far-right Danish politician Paludan’s announcement of a Quran-burning “tour” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan sparked riots across Sweden. Even this Saturday, he went ahead and burnt a copy of the holy book in front of Turkey’s embassy in Sweden.
By the way, the gentleman had police protection whilst he was indulging in such a rotten act. On expected lines, worldwide condemnation from Islamic countries has followed but only a whimper from the rest of the world.
Let’s have a look at the Swedish Prime Minister’s statement: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy. But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act. I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today.”
Just the right words to say but reeking of hypocrisy without a shadow of doubt. Man, the pre-planned act happened right under your watch. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know when the much touted ‘freedom of expression’has been abused. With utterings like this, it is not empathy but your impotency which gets displayed.
I can understand political compulsions and national security imperatives. But falling to such abysmal levels of racist behaviour, display far more about the character of society you represent and not about the ones you are trying to target. In a parochial interpretation of the written word, failing to recognize what is ethical and what is too ‘obviously wrong’. Yes, it is lawful but very awful. And if it is, you don’t hide behind the letter, you act in accordance with the spirit.
Closer home, we had another “freedom of expression” rabbit pulled out after two decades by the BBC in a bid to target the head of our executive. The mindset is understandable but the intent and timing is still being debated since hectic parleys are on towards closing a big trade deal between the two countries.
Incidentally, some older domestic UK audiences often refer to the BBC as “the Beeb”. Another nickname, now less commonly used, is “Auntie”, said to originate from the old-fashioned “Auntie knows best” attitude, or the idea of aunties and uncles who are present in the background of one’s life. Someone who does not know how to mind his or her own business.
Here again, an interesting response has come from the recently elected British Prime Minister who also very subtly washed his hands off. He said “The UK government’s position on this has been clear and long-standing and hasn’t changed, ………. I am not sure I agree at all with the characterization that the honourable gentleman has put forward to.”As if the BBC can do whatever it wants without keeping British national interests in mind. Impotency raises its head once again.
Each nation has its imperfections and a chequered past. But we have the so-called potty custodians of selective human-rights who love calling the kettle black. I can understand the attitudes and the motives behind such pinpricks which come to the fore at regular intervals. However, what confounds me at times is the kind of domestic reactions in the impacted nations. Borders on masochism in fact.
The resultant emotive ‘hue and cry’ and exposure of the fault-lines is what the protagonists were seeking. Any credence more than required actually tantamount to playing in their hand. We all know, censorship in the digital age actually works out to be counter-productive. Effigy burnings, violent protests and online signature campaigns are a waste of time and energy. The solution lies in dead-batting and hurting where it hurts.
I sometimes happen to go out into the fields for a morning walk. It is not unusual for me to come across street dogs, some of which also bark from a distance. I ignore them and go my way. After 10-15 steps they realize the futility of exciting a response from me and go back to their resting joint. Of course, I do carry a stick with me as a precautionary measure just in case a super-excited canine comes too close for comfort.
This arrangement works out just fine. I don’t try to control their bark as I am confident of my response in case they cross a red-line. In a worst case scenario of a rabid dog becoming immensely dangerous, the end-game is also well defined.
Not surprising, the BBC has been banned in both Russia and China, the former following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the latter for having “violated regulations that news bulletins should be ‘truthful, fair and impartial”. Earlier in 2009, Iran also declared BBC Persian TV as an illegal entity citing “the BBC’s history of creating chaos in Iran, and its efforts to set the various strata of Iranian society against each other”. All these countries acted in their national interest. What stops us I wonder from banning these propaganda machines?
You see every mongrel has a right to express himself. Bark you may, but the bottom line is:
You can’t insult me without my consent.
High time we stop giving our consent.
First published at seekmediation.com on24/01/23
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