Dialogue and freedom of speech

It appears dialogue is the solution to the tensions caused by the publication last month in our local paper (see previous blog, Muslim controversies). The Swedish prime minister met yesterday with ambassadors from Muslim countries, and it sounds as if it was all very friendly. The confusing thing is how dialogue has changed anything. The Swedish prime minister did not back down. The Muslim ambassadors did not make demands, but there was talk of “prevention of this kind of thing in the future” by dialogue. And the use of freedom of speech to assist integration and not fuel “islamaphobia.”

I suspect that there is still something of a misunderstanding of freedom of speech and dialogue on the part of the Muslim delegation. Freedom of speech will always include the expression of ideas that are offensive to certain groups in the community. Dialogue will not prevent that. Freedom of speech is as much about being willing to accept the criticism of others as it is about being willing to criticise others. And criticism is often received as offensive, even blasphemous, as we Christians have come reluctantly to accept, even if the original intention was not to offend. If Muslims are to be integrated into a western secular democratic context, they will have to accept that they and their prophet will be the subject of offensive, and to them blasphemous, commentary. If they cannot accept this, I am not sure how they can be said to have been integrated. If they expect that dialogue is going to prevent offensive commentary then they are going to be very disappointed.

In the meantime, the article in The Local notes that “Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference have all lodged official protests and demanded punitive action.” It seems that the ambassadors of those nations are not about to carry out the punitive action called for not here in Sweden, for which we can be thankful. We can only hope and pray that no punitive action will be carried out on either Swedes or Christians in the countries that have called for it…

Ordinary Muslims (as opposed to ambassadors) here in Sweden have had other thoughts about responding to the rondelhund controversy, including death threats for the artist who created the artwork which is at the centre of the uproar, as this disturbing article explains…

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One thought on “Dialogue and freedom of speech

  1. It drives me nuts al these “controversies”. When will the media pay attention to elephant dung being slung at a picture of the Virgin Mary or a cross in a jar of urine which has to pass for art. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ Why don’t we see rallies in the streets of outraged Christians and Catholics? Why does the Western world not demand an apology where the majority are Christians but always willing to defend Muslims and Islam. By the way, did you hear about the foot washing basins at the airport in Indianapolis? http://hotair.com/archives/2007/09/19/new-jihad-watch-footbaths-on-the-march/

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