Now, I don’t know about you, but as an Irish, well-travelled, gangly, slightly overweight, sceptical amateur comedian who lives with an Englishman, and knows the traditional Scottish greeting is “ho there you, ya wee fanny”; I’ve learned to not take offence too much and not take anything too seriously. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why many people can’t do the same. A prime example and the topic of this article, is the on-going protests that swept through the Islamic world at the release of the certain video “the Innocence of Muslims”.
The extremists and moderates, both famous for being able to take a joke, reacted accordingly, with moderates holding peaceful if tension fraught protests, while the extremists set embassies on fire, and shot several American officials. More than just a case of a dropped cigarette butt and over enthusiastic gun nut then… the cry flew up around the world, as these protests formed, quicker than an X-factor contestant’s fame. The video has been regionally banned in places such as Egypt, Libya, India and Indonesia. Saudi Arabia has become the latest to request it be blocked, and said failing that; they would block access to YouTube altogether. Great move for free speech there, lads. And if this wasn’t enough to send your sense of relativity into spasm, as you wonder why the fuck anyone would be offended at what is honestly an awful dismal failure of an attempt to insult, when there’s starving people in the world, and wars over pre-texts that fell apart to reveal oil was the goal. Oh there’s more. The official Saudi position was echoed on Saturday by the kingdom’s Grand Mufti, its most senior religious authority, who denounced attacks on embassies as un-Islamic but also called on foreign governments to outlaw insults against religions. Now, I condone and approve of their stance on the attacks, and realize that they were carried out by a minority of nutjobs who take things far too literally, but I have to say I am frankly disgusted by their “request” to outlaw insults against religions. I’m maybe missing the point here, but surely the freedom of speech and criticism the Western world predominantly adheres to, includes religions, or lack thereof? We’re allowed point out the flaws and failings of their beliefs, and they are equally allowed to point out the failings and flaws in ours. Its mutual, it’s harmless beyond a possible few hurt feelings, and no one is killed because of some harsh words. And it is important to note, that nothing should be above criticism, as when something becomes infallible, it becomes inevitably corrupted. I may point out, to make my points contextual; a few of the countries known to have complete blanket ban over Youtube (and a variety of other sites) are Afghanistan, China, North Korea and Iran, countries all famous for their “love” of free speech and tolerance. The extreme power of the religious theocracy that dominates these areas of the world is also made clear in yet another stifling of free expression and a desperate attempt to save face by IKEA. IKEA got criticism for airbrushing several female models and even one of their own designers out of the catalogue’s destined Saudi Arabia. They bore the brunt of this criticism in their home market of Sweden, for pandering to the theocratic ruling elite in Saudi Arabia, who stifle the cultural and social equality that the majority of the world’s population enjoys. This would remain their own business, and despite foreign disapproval, we would probably remain uninvolved, except in the global stage Saudi wants to make its values of gender intolerance and denial of free speech part of international law. That’s extreme abuse of their “right” to be offended by something. Banning something completely, calling on others to shun it, and for the minority, killing for the offensive material. That’s not a normal rational reaction to criticism, insults, offense or even jokes, that’s fucking psychotic, and the extremists would be psychotic without their culture of offence, while the moderates would hide behind the demagogues, while they shout for the wholesale suspension of free speech and tolerance in return for their own crackpot “divinely inspired” view on how the world should be. But the both the extremists and the moderates and the fearful who play to their demands, all believe that the disregarding of a fundamental intellectual and social value, in this case free speech and gender equality , is less damaging than a woman with a t-shirt on driving a car. Think about that next time you want to wonder about being offended. Surely you may not agree with what’s being said, or what’s being done but you wouldn’t try and stop others from saying it, because they are allowed express their opinions right? But there are those who would. That’s their values. But they want them to be yours too. Next time, be the ones who are outraged by this abuse of free speech and equality, take a stand, and together, we’ll stop all the irrational idiots and dangerous fanatics of this world, and begin to create a real human race.