Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Italian cartoon and worrying links

This is the cartoon that the magazine, Studi Cattolici, published this week and then cravenly apologised for. I posted about this on Sunday, the 16th.

The figure on the left is Dante saying, "That one split in half from head to tail, is it Mohamad?" "Yes", replies Virgil, "because he has split society in two. And that one with slumped shoulders is Italian policy towards Islam."

Here is a word-for-word translation. "That one there divided in half from the head to the buttocks, isn't it Mohamad?" "Yes, he is divided because he has brought division (divisiveness) to society." "Whereas that one with the slumped arms (ie hopeless, not knowing what to do) is Italian policy (or politics) with regard to Islam."

It should be noted, in the spirit of cross-cultural precision, that Mohamad is not depicted.

On the Italian Opus Dei site, the organisation urges its members, some of whom work for the offending magazine, to apologise for the offense given, however involuntary it may have been. It laments the fact that such a thing should have occurred "at this time, in a Catholic magazine". It draws the link between this cartoon and the more famous Danish 12 and notes how both have raised the issue of "freedom of expression and its compatability with the respect due to religious beliefs".

If you find the general purview of that last phrase worrying, you are right. The next paragraph moves on to The Da Vinci Code, as rank a piece of silliness ever to earn someone untold millions, but now, it is implied, to be brought into a debate on freedom of expression. "The problem [is], in a phrase, how to make compatable freedom of expression, the free market and respect for [religious] belief."

I humbly submit that in the hierarchy of rights in a free society the ranking should be as in the sentence above: first, freedom of expression; second, the free market; third, respect for religious belief. Because that's how a free society remains free.

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