Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If You Ignore Them, Maybe They'll Go Away...

In the wake of the Danish cartoon saga, the best-selling newspaper in Iran has launched a contest for cartoons making fun of the Holocaust. Ostensibly, the contest is intended to test the limits of free speech in the West. In the words of the paper's publisher, "We do not want to make fun of anyone with this competition, we just want to raise a question to find an answer which is very important for us. We are not even after a historical discussion on the Holocaust. The West believes that the Holocaust is true and we suppose that if it is true, aren't we entitled to draw caricatures about it?" The head of Cartoon House, a website cooperating with the newspaper in the contest, added in response to protests by Jewish organizations and Western governments, ""It is surprising that they allow disrespect toward different religions with insulting pictures and there is no reaction to them in the West, but when people question the Holocaust, they adopt such a stance toward it."

The real question is: Why must anybody respond to this idiocy at all? Under any definition of free speech or freedom of the press, there is nothing inherently wrong with criticizing, or even mocking, the Holocaust or publishing cartoons that do so. [Please note that I think the ban on Holocaust denial in many European countries is a really bad idea, if only because an idiotic idea that the authorities need to ban is much more believable than an idiotic idea that can be exposed to the public.] Not that Iran has any level of free speech or freedom of the press. If these cartoonists dared insult Islam or the Iranian regime, you can be sure that they wouldn't be lauded by the Iranian president. Furthermore, what effect will protesting the contest have? It will provide grist for the mill on the Arab street, giving credence to the argument that the West has a double standard when it comes to Islam and Muslims. Also, protesting the cartoons will only call more attention to them and get them more publicity.

So, everyone should simply ignore this pathetic and moronic attempt by Iran to make a point about free speech. The more attention given to it, the worse it will become.

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