Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cartoon crisis

My head is much clearer today, and I am not too proud to admit that I have changed my mind slightly on the cartoon crisis.

Freedom of speech and thought is imperative. I have friends in China who can't access my blog, or even the BBC website. We must never, under any circumstances, succumb to this way of thinking.

Having read, researched and reflected I now have a better understanding of what is going on here.

I think that the motive behind publishing these cartoons was wrong. We must all be open to criticism and ridicule. We have all been victims of it at various stages in history. These cartoons were published to provoke, not (as I previously stated) as a joke. They were published out of hatred and racism and I cannot condone this.

However, the reaction to them has been completely unjustified. I sympathise with 'ordinary' Muslims whose name is being tarnished in the name of...what? Not in the name of Islam, not in the name of the Q'ran, but in the name of hate.

We live in a complicated world and these are difficult times. These latest riots and demonstrations have shown the two extremes of bigotry and hatred pitched head to head and behaving despicably. There is no excuse, there is no justification.

No-one is doing themselves any favours, the chasm between our cultures is widening at a cataclysmic pace. We need to talk, we need to understand, we need to learn to live together.

No-one is right, no-one is wrong, we need to learn to agree to disagree.

This whole episode has sickened me. There is no defense for senseless provocation, or indeed for retaliating with violence. If it wasn't so despicable I would call it childish, but it has gone beyond that.

I know that these people are not Muslims in the true sense of the word. Sadly there are people who happily throw them all into the same pot and the behavior of the minority tarnishes the image of the majority.

This has brought a lot back for me. I feel more nervous on the tube again, I am frightened by this senseless world. I am terrified that maybe I don't actually have the answers. If there are no answers then what? Where does it all end?

But I will not give up on this human race, the majority are good, honest, decent, loving citizens. There must be strength in numbers. Fundamentalism, from both sides, is stealing the headlines but that does not mean it is stealing our souls.