On Monday, the Badger Herald Editorial Board crossed a line they were already dangerously close to. It was bad seeing a Herald redrawing of what it called the "most offensive" of the Danish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed with a bomb for a turban, but to now see an actual blown-up reprint has gone too far. Among the arguments the editors made justifying their reprint were "free speech," "news-worthiness," and a desire not to be "gatekeepers" guided by "prude censorship." They simply don't get it.
Cartoonists may have a legal right to free expression. The problem exists in a newspaper not taking the responsibility to discriminate between what has a utility in its publication, and what serves no purpose but to provoke. Muslims are legitimate in expressing their desire for papers to refrain from reprinting the article and demanding an apology. Despite the fact that the media claims the cartoons are "the impetus of riots that have caused numerous deaths" and have "reduced symbols of global peace to charred ruins," only 13 people died as a result and 12 were unarmed protestors killed by law enforcement. The seven damaged embassies weren't occupied, and the demonstrations, boycotts, and petitioning were examples of a community's peaceful freedom to express their opinion when blatant examples of racism and bigotry are thrown in their faces.
The Badger Herald ignored a plea from the Madison Muslim community explicitly expressing their frustration with the Herald's previous articles/drawings before they reprinted this cartoon. If they wanted to print a newsworthy story, they would write about why people are upset, what motivated the cartoon, and what the actual impacts of it are instead of blindly forging ahead under a banner of upholding free speech. We are not asking for a ban on a Nazi march in Skokie or a KKK rally in downtown Madison. We are pleading with our campus newspapers to not put on the hood, to not wear the swastika. We are pleading with them to not twist symbols from what they are into icons and ideals of the free press.
Mogahed hypocrite on free speech
I am both shocked and appalled at Ms. Mogahed's (Letter to the Editor, Feb. 14) blatant disregard for one of the core values and rights upon which this society is founded; a society in which Ms. Mogahed can vote, can travel beyond the confines of her home unescorted by a male, can own property and can demand an apology for an offensive cartoon. Yes the cartoon of Muhammad published by the Badger Herald two days ago is offensive, and yes the original Danish publisher of the cartoon is arguably making a statement tinged with racism. However, it seems that Ms. Mogahed in her response either did not read the article published along with the cartoon in the Badger Herald, or ironically only believes in the exchange of ideas through free speech when it suites her intentions.
Any institutional publication will try to court its readers. As such, they publish articles and cartoons that they believe will capture the minds of their readers through fascination, disbelief, relevance to current issues, and even outrage. The fact that a Danish newspaper, confused as to its own policies, has sold out to political pressure does not make the action right, nor does it give any valid reason for political censorship.
In a PC age when the federal government is courting the religious right, the foundation of our democratic society is being continually bombarded by those who wish to take away right after right and sensor [sic] the way we are taught and even the way we think. It is important to uphold those fundamental rights and practices we deem necessary for a free and democratic nation. The right to free speech and freedom of the press is paramount to a democratic society and I would defend anyone's right to dissenting views or to ignorantly spew forth "hate speech," even if by making use of this right, someone advocates destruction of it. The beautiful part of free speech is that if it is offensive, you can ignore it, or turn the page.
Free speech not the issue
I was deeply dismayed that you printed one of the cartoons from Jyllands-Posten. Moreover, I was incredulous to find that the editorial staff portrayed themselves as crusaders for free speech. Freedom of speech is not the issue here. The issue is that the Danish newspaper decided to print these cartoons knowing they would be hurtful to the already harassed and beleaguered Muslim population in Denmark (and that by reprinting the cartoons the Badger Herald joins them in this).
The context is important here. Like many European countries these days, Denmark has been passing increasingly xenophobic and anti-Muslim legislation, not to mention informal harassment by the public. The cartoons were just another way to attack this population. By claiming that their freedom of speech is being threatened, the Danish newspaper makes itself appear the victim. In fact, by printing the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten committed a wrong. By reprinting the cartoons, the Badger Herald perpetuates that wrong.
You wrote "we feel the American readership — and, more precisely, that of Madison, Wis. — is sufficiently mature to handle these images." Just read some of the posted comments (which are truly hateful) and tell me if you still believe it. Your editorial insincerely suggests that it is providing real information, as if these images were not already available on the web for those who wanted to see them. By printing them, rather than just talking about them, you implicitly endorse them.
Shame on you for your irresponsible and mean-spirited editorial decision.
UW graduate student
Herald makes right call
The defense of Free Speech and the ability of a free society to satirize any and everything, no matter how sacred, is fundamental to the liberty of all. If making light of religion is not allowed, then to what extent ought making light of politics be allowed?
Free speech has limits, no doubt, but it is primarily to the extent of incitement and obscenity, as the Supreme Court decided and laid out the standard in the paradigm Brandenburg case.
Unreasonable reactions to satirization of sacred figures is not justifiable grounds to censor or self-censor. Indeed, it is the very reason why offensive speech receives a presumption of protection — offense is, by definition, relative to the individual. What offends you necessarily does not offend everyone.
The cartoons are not obscene, nor were they published for the purpose of inciting violence. Instead, these cartoons have been used merely to advance a movement seeking the destruction of the ability of individuals to freely mock that which they deem worthy of satirization — indeed, the destruction of liberty itself. If anyone truly harbor doubts as to the veracity of the hatred of all things related to freedom, the riots in relation to these cartoons ought to shine light where there once may have been darkness.
Kudos for your courage. May your bravery in the face of political correctness and fear of reprisals be remembered for its justness in the annals of American history. Needless to say, I am extremely proud.
Badger Herald Associate Editorial Page Editor, 2004-05
Cartoon slanderous to Muslims
Peace be with you,
This is the greeting of 1.3 billion people in the world, who dont [sic] speak it with there [sic] toungue [sic] but with their heart. You have brought ignorence [sic] and placed it to print, in hopes of attention you definetly [sic] have underestimated.
Muslims all around the world have protested, and demonstrated there [sic] clear miscontent [sic] for the "ammusing" [sic] cartoons the Denmark newspaper has published. And with that in mind your newspaper had the audasity [sic] to reprint them, that is disturbing to not only me, but to many who will soon write to you about this issue.
It is so disturbing because your intention to belittle and slander and misguide and miscommunicate and misjudge muslims [sic] is clear. We have no hate to offer to the world, except the hate of injustice. You have clearly unjustly rideculed [sic] our religion, our beloved prophet, and us. Whatever feelings you have towards islam [sic] and its current politics needs to be subsided for you to educate yourselves and do your responsibility as informed citizens. Your ignorence [sic] is not ammusing [sic] its [sic] disgusting.
I demand a formal appology [sic] from the "The Badger Herald"
Thank you for your time.
Muslim Student Association of Milwaukee
Think of target, not cartoonist
I'm writing in response to the Herald's publication of the incredibly racist, anti-Islamic cartoon. I would like to take issue with a few key phrases in the article. First, the editorial board argues that not censuring controversial expressions such as this cartoon are "newsworthy and the key to helping many form intelligent opinions about the international riots and ever-increasing destabilization of a volatile region of the world." This assertion does not take into account the effects of such a cartoon heaped upon the long list of violence and injustice propagated by the US and its European allies throughout the Muslim world. The British medical journal Lancet estimated that over 100,000 Iraqis had been killed after only 18 months of occupation. Not only does the civilian death toll continue to rise, but the country's infrastructure lies in ruin as does that of the already war torn nation of Afghanistan. Furthermore, Washington's claims of bringing democracy to the Middle East are even further exposed to be a sham by its threats to not recognize the democratically elected members of Hamas to the recently held Palestinian legislative elections.
The kind of expression embodied in this cartoon does not contribute anything positive to the so-called 'marketplace of ideas,' unless racism and hatred are considered positive. Also, this marketplace isn't as absolute as the editors would have you believe as we are not free to slander someone, print libelous statements, or to create a hostile environment (i.e. sexual harassment) to name a few. If people have a right to learn in a non-hostile environment and this speech is allowed it's protecting the rights of the artist over the target (I'm sure this cartoon's sentiment, if verbalized in a discussion on campus, would not be tolerated). Ultimately, this cartoon only legitimizes further attacks on Arabs and Muslims around the world and fuels the US witch-hunt at home when such racist expressions can be written off as humor and free speech. I firmly believe that there would be students on campus who would march in the streets to a Nazi parade or a KKK rally in Madison to put a stop to the ideas and actions they espouse. We shouldn't applaud the so-called bravery of the papers who published this cartoon; we must stand in solidarity with the targets.
Chancellor should take action
Dear Mr. John Wiley,
Pertaining cartoon in Badger Herald that dictating [sic] the Prophet Muhammad, I as a Muslim think that this is a mock [sic] to my religion and to University of Wisconsin-Madison. This is because it shows that students in UW-Madison is [sic] ignorant about religious and racial issues. I was in student government and was part of Plan 2008. I saw that how lack of diversity issue [sic] are handled by your admistration [sic] and it was sad to see how ignorance of UW Students [sic] on diversity issue.
I believe that you should confront this matter personally with Badger Herald and ask them to apologize to all Muslim [sic] in UW and also Muslim community. I hope you will consider this issue seriously and take action immediately.
Thank you and best wishes,
Khairul Nizam Arifin
Director of Asian Development
Showing image adds little to debate
Dear members of the Badger Herald Editorial Board,
Well said. Thank you for informing us about this debate. You could have sent the same message, and the sufficiently mature people of Madison would have perceived the full message without having to print the pictures. Most people all over the world have already seen these pictures, and I wonder what added value printing this picture had brought to your article. You might need to stop for a minute and think if you should be followers or inventors, constructive or destructive in our actions. it [sic] is very disappointing to see how shallow the Badger Herald had become to show the freedom of speech, when its board could have done it in a better way showing more respect and dignity to everyone in this campus.