Iran Defends Holocaust Cartoon Competition As Expression Of Free Speech

250px-flag_of_iransvgOne of the most impressive characteristics of religious extremists is the ability to hold facially contrary positions without any sense of contradiction or hypocrisy. Saudi Arabia decries any limitations on Muslims worshipping in other countries while banning churches and public worship of non-Muslims in its own country. Iran is particularly prone to such contradictions like executing homosexuals while denying that there are any homosexuals in Iran or objecting to the treatment of protesters in the West while jailing, beating and killing protesters in Iran. This week Iran offered another such example. In refusing to censor a Holocaust-themed cartoon festival, Iran (which has ordered the killing of authors and cartoonists for insulting Islam) insisted that it had to stand with free speech and would not think of interfering with an author or cartoonist in expressing their views. The same week, Iran has called for the arrest and punishment of models who allow themselves to be photographed without religious scarves.  Likewise, it previously ordered the flogging of a model for a public kiss.

While governments should not censor such competitions and should protect free speech, Iran could condemn the competition. Thus, it is not that Iran is wrong in refusing to shutdown the competition. Rather, it is the towering hypocrisy of a nation that is one of the brutal suppressors of free speech in the world embracing free speech without a hint of self-awareness.

As Israel and the United States condemn Iran for allowing a Holocaust-themed cartoon festival to go on display in Tehran, the Iranian regime says it won’t censor what it says is free speech. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, “Don’t consider Iran a monolith. The Iranian government does not support, nor does it organize, any cartoon festival of the nature that you’re talking about. When you stop your own organizations from doing things, then you can ask others to do likewise.” Really, tell that to Salman Rushdie who Iran is still trying to murder for simply writing a book considered offensive to Muhammad.

Zarif added “Why does the United States have the Ku Klux Klan? Is the government of the United States responsible for the fact that there are racially hateful organizations in the United States?” Of course, that would a valid point if, like the United States, Iran allowed free speech. If that were the case, Iran would be on good ground in saying that it will not censor speech for any group, even hateful or divisive groups. But of course it not only suppresses free speech but kills people who express certain thoughts.

This year is the second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest to be held in Tehran. The competition was created as a juvenile response to the printing in 2005 by Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, of a series of cartoons that mocked Muslim prophet, igniting protests across the world. The Iranian organizers are trying to show that in the West people cannot satirize the Holocaust but can satirize Muhammad. The premise is of course false in the United States. However, in Europe, countries like France, England, and Germany are rapidly rolling back on free speech. It is possible in these countries that mocking the Holocaust would be treated as hate speech, something that many civil libertarians (including myself) have decried over the years. However, while there are plenty of countries that can reasonably point to that contradiction of free speech principles, Iran is not one of them.

63 thoughts on “Iran Defends Holocaust Cartoon Competition As Expression Of Free Speech”

  1. PR says:
    “Should a distinction be made between the government and the people?”
    PR, that is the key question to ask. That is the point that defines the whole problem. We must make a distinction between the government and the people. That is actually where the laws against communal punishment come in. A theocratic government, or an extremist government is not its people, it is not the fact of its people in most cases, it is simply the people in power. President Trump may not represent Americans in many ways yet he will be the main authority.
    That is why I refer to Saudi Arabia or the house of Saud to mean the people in power. Most Saudis are not going around enforcing the immoral laws of their country. Not many Americans go around raining bombs across the globe. And most Iranians, even as they yell death to America, take pains to tell you that they mean the American government, not its people, whom they like (as they know that it is the American government, not its people, who are actively working against them.)
    9/11 made the American people pay fro the actions of their government, and the many Gaza bombing by Israel makes the population pay for Hamas, meanwhile, most Gazans are fine living alongside Israel in separate by peaceful and separate countries (more than Israelis who do actually).
    If we allow that Isis is the authority in the areas it controls, shouldn’t we distinguish between its murderous aims and the formerly mostly secular people it has taken hostage?

    And just as we must separate the government and its people, we must separate the Quran and Muslims. Why? Because we must separate the Bible from Christians, a Prophet from what his followers do, and more importantly, God from what humanity does. Otherwise, it is akin to blaming you for the immorality of your children but not crediting you for the good they do.

    The fact that the government punishes the people for doing the opposite of what the government wants them to do is a reflection of the fact that the population and the government have different aims. If the Iranians themselves are working to bring more democracy, more transparency and more freedoms into the country, all of which is fought by its government, then we must see the fact that one is certainly not the other.
    As for Turkey, yes, Erdogan was reelected to power on the basis of fear and false flag operations. His reelection reminds me greatly of Bush’s, based on fear and demonization of the other, along with threat level coloring. Yet we elected and reelected Bush, and now we are the country polled as the biggest danger to the world. Internationally, people know better than to blame Americans, they know to point the finger directly at our goverment(s). Even in places of war such as Afghanistan, when they speak of Americans, they speak of the face of America to them, soldiers and drone, not of its people.

    PR says:
    ‘t seems to me that this religious in-fighting has to do with people choosing not to subordinate private religious preferences to the secular running of government. Religious doctrine should not put itself above the constitution; yet, that is what is happening. Is that because Islam encourages theocracies?

    Do you mean Christian and Jewish churches? Governments here are secular. Churches cannot punish members with anything that holds the force of law. They are supposed to be subordinate to the Constitution. Are there problems? Yes.”

    In fact, people choose not to subordinate private religious preferences to the secular runnign of the government as long as the government is running. SHia vs sunni was not a problem in Iraq until the secular government was taken out. Sectarianism was not really a problem in Syria until it imploded. Sectarianism is not a problem in Iran as long as the government, though religious, is effective. Politcal and ethnic and religious sectarianism is dividing Israel right now in spite of the “secular” government.
    And right here, Ted Cruz ran his campaign on the basis of biblical primacy, Christianity is openly calling for political primacy, yet you don’t hear muslims, Jews or Hindus demand a religious authority.
    So just like every group will coalesce across ethnic and religious constitutions when the social order breaks down here, so it is everywhere else across religions or locales.

    As for if Islam encourages theocracy, many european and south american countries have a religiously based constitution, or call themselves Catholic or Christian, yet that question is not asked of them.
    Isn’t Israel a theocracy by all standards?
    What about the Vatican?
    What about England with a Queen and the Church?
    When our elected leaders ask for bible guided constitution, do we assume the bible encourages theocracy?
    Islam is as vague of an entity as democracy. Even vaguer. It means submission to God. Other than what, what makes up the nuts and bolts of that entity?
    Who builds it, chooses the parts and the image?
    For 1500 years, it’s been the Quran, the sunna (prophetic example, which explains the quran but does not counter it) and the istijhad, the consensus or scholarly interpretations based on rigorous scholarship and moral integrity (which cannot counter the quran or sunnah). So when ISIS/ Dominionists/Right wing israelis brings an interpretation that challenge the established consensus of Muslims/Christians/Jewish orthodoxy, and most Muslims/Christians/Judaic scholars counter that narrative, why do we side with them that their interpretation is the valid one?
    In fact, most Muslims do not live under a theocracy. Actually, most majority muslim nations are not theocracies, rather they are under some form of democracy or another (including Syria, Turkey, Indonesia and Nigeria.)
    The islamic consensus is that muslims must subordinate themselves to the laws of the country in which they live, and for 1500 years that has been the case. It is rare we hear any Muslim society across the globe, and there is no country without a muslim population where muslims are challenging that consensus.
    We have two Muslim congressmen serving right now, who have no issues obeying our laws. We also have thousands of Muslims in the army forces, as elected officials and public officials, police officers and judges applying the law as it is meant to be. So that has never been an issue until the fake rage against shariah law started. And shariah law, as I stated in the above post, is exactly as you said about christian and jewish churches :”Governments here are secular. Churches cannot punish members with anything that holds the force of law. They are supposed to be subordinate to the Constitution. Are there problems? Yes.”

  2. When I wrote, “Are there problems? Yes.” I meant to also write about the problems of a few churches, synagogues, and mosques have had with dealing with child abuse. Those few and far between religious institutions did not always follow appropriate protocol and report abuse by clergy/teachers to the authorities.

    Guess that’s what getting tired will get me–poor writing and proofreading!

  3. po,
    “Iran is a very stable country, to call it extremist (or as Isaac does, a toilet) is pretty off. What makes Iran extremist? Yes, indeed, human rights violations are more prevalent there than they are in the US for example, but does that qualify it as extremist?”

    Should a distinction be made between the government and the people? The government is extreme–punishing men and women for making a harmless music video (the Happiness song), treatment of government protestors, how they treat homosexuals, adulterers, etc. I know Iranian-Americans and they are most certainly NOT extreme. The Turkish-American I know is also NOT extreme. Yes, Erdogan rolled back decades of progress; to what degree, however, is that change supported by the people? I know there are journalists and others protesting him, but what is the attitude of the majority of the population? I hear most Russians support Putin, for example. Yes, Syria did seem to be fairly secular and stable til we started mucking it up.

    “Are the shia and sunnis sectarian violence due to religious primacy of sectarian/political fight for primacy?”

    It seems to me that this religious in-fighting has to do with people choosing not to subordinate private religious preferences to the secular running of government. Religious doctrine should not put itself above the constitution; yet, that is what is happening. Is that because Islam encourages theocracies?

    “Regarding sharia, why do we talk about sharia law without talking about Biblical law of judaic law, which are also present in any Christian and jewish community in every single country where they are found, including the US?”

    Do you mean Christian and Jewish churches? Governments here are secular. Churches cannot punish members with anything that holds the force of law. They are supposed to be subordinate to the Constitution. Are there problems? Yes.

    “Religious marriage at the church or mosque is shariah law. So is marital counseling by the pastor or the imam.”

    Marriage and counseling are held strictly within the confines of the church. They are not intermixed with the laws of the country such that they affect people not of those religions, or, supersede the Constitution. The country could recognize a marriage that the church does not, for instance. You are arguing using an example of Sharia law that is not of concern. People do not want religious laws superseding the Constitution. People do not want anyone caned (Muslim or non-Muslim) because they drank alcohol or were adulterers–both punishments supported by sharia in places like Iran.

    “What I mean is that if their problems are similar or better than other non-muslim countries, isn’t focusing on their islamic nature an effective evidence of bias?”

    If the country has intertwined religion and government and has justified the abuse using Islam, then how could there be bias? It would be an example of an extremist interpretation of Islam.

    I am getting tired, so I will end it here for now.

  4. Steve,
    “The thought does occur to me, nevertheless, that criticizing (your term was “disagreeing with”) the conduct of other cultures is implicit to the violence associated with an industrial economy and its need for empire building to survive.”

    Huh? There is a distinction between my concerns and what the government and media pound. I agree that in order for the military-industrial-big government complex to survive it needs to pit people against people, country against country. It is still legitimate for me to disagree with FGM, human trafficking (here and abroad), forced marriages, and everything else I noted of concern in other cultures. It would be like me recognizing that there are areas of my parenting that could use improvement and working to improve myself but still having concerns about and disagreeing with some of the parenting tactics of people I know and discussing those issues when appropriate.

    “Perhaps rather than disagreeing with or criticizing foreign cultures we should turn our criticism inward and deal with our perhaps insurmountable domestic problems?”

    We should indeed focus on our domestic problems. I dislike that we get ourselves involved inappropriately in the affairs of other countries. That being said, that is at a government level. People can support and educate other people so that their cultures move away from destructive practices.

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