Thursday, March 22, 2007

Editor cleared in Muhammad cartoons case

Philippe Val, the editor of satirical French weekly, Charlie Hebdo, was this afternoon cleared of charges of insulting Muslims, following his decision last year to publish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. These were the same cartoons that had previously caused uproar across the Muslim world.

The court ruled that Val was innocent of making
"public insults against a group of people because they belong to a religion". The tribunal explained:

"the drawing, taken on its own, could be interpreted as shocking for followers of this religion (Islam)." However, it had to be seen in the wider context of the magazine examining the issue of religious fundamentalism. Therefore, even if the cartoon "is shocking or hurtful to Muslims, there was no deliberate intention to offend them."

Perhaps this farcical episode can now be put to rest. The original cartoons weren't particularly well drawn nor do I think all that humorous. Though that's not to say they couldn't have been, or that humour can't be derived from religion. Much of it is inherently and unintentionly humorous in my experience. I question, however, whether the tribunal is being entirely genuine in saying Charlie Hebdo did not mean to offend in reprinting them. It may be that the satirical magazine sought to cause uproar by their republication, perhaps that's what satirical magazines do. Nonetheless, if it was done for gratuitous reasons then we need not cheer along. However, that the paper had a right to print them at all is beyond dispute. The story made waves across Europe for days on end and any paper reporting that news surely had a duty to properly inform its readers. Or at the very least point them in the direction of somewhere that would.


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