Take a look at the cartoon posted here. Last year this was one of several cartoons printed in Danish newspapers that triggered violent riots in the Muslim world.
The problem for the faithful was twofold. One, in Islamic culture depictions of the prophet Mohmmad is a big no-no. Second, being commentary on the on going problem of the religiously motivated terrorism of Jihadists, they weren't the most flattering depictions of the prophet.
Of course some people will find this cartoon offensive. That is their right. But in a society with freedom of speech, it is also the right of the cartoonist to make such a drawing. However, in North America the cartoons were not republished out of fear of Muslim backlash. When newspapers and TV stations should have shown the cartoons as part of their coverage, and to stand on the principle of free speech, they trembled like cowards. Not long afterward, the United Nations began to consider adding blasphemy as a violation of human rights. This is effectively saying freedom of speech should bow to religious authority, when the fact is freedom of expression means we have the right to blaspheme all we want. And it shouldn't be any other way.
The violent aftermath of the images,' publications, an aftermath that included the burning of churches and the death of people caught in the wake of the enraged mobs, lead several influential writers to sign a manifesto declaring the importance of freedom of speech.
Although a year old, the world hasn't changed much, so I am posting the manifesto here on the Atheist Handbook. Please take the time to read it. Add your own comments if you like or just repost it on your own blog or webpage. I won't comment further on the manifesto because it speaks for itself:
"After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism. We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.
The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.
Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.
We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical intelligence out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatization of its believers. We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical intellect may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.
We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism."
The original 12 signatories to this manifesto were Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Chahla Chafiq, Caroline Fourest, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Irshad Manji, Mehdi Mozaffari, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Antoine Sfeir, Philippe Val and Ibn Warraq.
More information can be found here