- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Asahi Shimbun

Mocking Muhammad

TOKYO — Freedom of expression is a basic right that shores up democracy. But how far are people allowed to assert that right when it comes into conflict with the dignity of religion? This vexing question is raised afresh by the row between European countries and the Islamic world over caricatures satirizing the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

While we are concerned about the violence, we also fear that, as things stand, the ruckus could isolate Islamic countries and Muslims scattered in many parts of the world. Calm must be restored early so that the conflict will not become a “clash of civilizations.”

In the Islamic world, only a handful of countries allow their people to freely express their views. And partly because they are left behind by Western countries in economic terms, many people in those countries have twisted sentiments.

Under such circumstances, what would happen if some in the Western press offend Muslims with “the prophet’s cartoons” by [invoking] freedom of expression? It is obvious such action would be seized by agitators and used to vent the pent-up frustration of the discontented masses.

Freedom of expression is something very precious. But consideration must also be given to religion, which is the very basis of people’s thoughts. Moderation must be exercised to securely protect such freedoms.

Corriere della Sera

Democracy and elections:

MILAN, Italy — The resounding victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections has raised a problem that was already debated in the 1940s: Whether democracy could kill democracy.

Hamas is not only a terrorist organization, but also an expression of Islamic fundamentalism that refuses the very idea of democracy. But we cannot turn a blind eye on Islam. The problem is too big, and it’s also a new and different problem.

In the Western world, dictatorship was preceded by democratic systems and was installed through an instrument — elections — of the pre-existing democracies. Therefore, it was correct to ask oneself if a democracy must consent to its own suicide.

It’s not true that if there’s an election, then there’s a democracy, or that elections produce democracy. On its own, an election is merely a way to choose the leaders.

Elections are an instrument of democracy if they take place in the context of a system of democratic structures, and if they are managed by parties that profess democratic values.

Bergens Tidende

Islamic cartoon protests

BERGEN, Norway — At the moment, it can seem that caricatures of the prophet Muhammad printed in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten and then Norway’s magazines have ignited a fire that can be hard to put out. …

Many are surprised by the violent reactions in some Muslim countries over what some see as relatively harmless cartoons. But the rage in Muslim countries must be seen as an expression of a deep and lasting frustration over humiliation by the West, life in poverty, and a future that seldom looks bright.

In that situation, the cartoons were seized by extremists and turned into a fighting cause. If these extremist groups were waiting for a symbolic cause, they got it from Jyllands-Posten and the magazines. …

It started as a case about free expression. The right to speak out, even provocatively, stands.

We cannot accept religious extremists answering the printed word, no matter how offensive, by burning embassies.

But even we defenders of free speech must understand that political authorities, in this case [Norway’s] Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, also have other considerations when trying to control a situation that seems out of control.

In that case, dialogue can be more beneficial than protests based on strong and inflexible principles.


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