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Another response to the publishing of cartoons about Muslims

Comment by Karen Armstrong, a leading British commentator on religious affairs and author of Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet

Each side needs to appreciate the other's point of view. I think it was criminally irresponsible to publish these cartoons. They have been an absolute gift to the extremists - it shows that the West is incurably Islamophobic. It sends a very bad message.

But, more seriously, it is letting ourselves down. We trumpet abroad about what a compassionate culture we are. But these cartoons depicting Muhammad as a terrorist are utterly inaccurate, feeding into an Islamophobia that has been a noxious element in Western culture since the time of the Crusades. It can only inflame matters at this very crucial juncture of our mutual history.

On the other hand, in a secular Europe, freedom of speech has developed as one of our sacred values. We fought hard for it, but we have to remember it carries responsibilities. For example, do we have a right to say whatever we want even if it is false and dangerous?

More importantly, however, freedom is as sacred a value for us as the Prophet is to Muslims.

We are seeing here a clash of two different notions of what is sacred and this is part of the modernising process.

Modernisation and secularisation has this bumpy ride where people at different levels of modernisation are clashing. In other parts of the world where modernisation is not yet complete it is not regarded as a crucial as other sacred realities.

And now we are all living in this multicultural society cheek-by-jowl with one another, not even within a single country but we are linked to one another in our global village. We have to learn to live side by side better than this.

SOURCE: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4676632.stm#armstrong
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