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Saturday Cartoons

The cartoonist who drew this image, held as one of the most controversial in 2006, was attacked in his home in Denmark recently.

One of the cartoonists of the famous Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons was attacked recently, alongside his granddaughter, inside his home in Denmark. The man, 73, was attacked with an axe by a Somali man (whose name has been withheld in accordance to Danish law) who apparently “has close relations to the Somali terror organization Al Shabab and leaders of Al Qaeda in East Africa”.

The Commentator has always been supportive of the publishers of the cartoons as far as their right to free speech was concerned. Indeed, the Commentator ran the cartoons in their entirety in 2006 and was one of the only western media outlets to do so. Thousands of editorials were printed all over the country, but no one had the balls to contextualize them by re-printing the comics. Indeed, the Commentator found this depressing, and in that issue’s editorial, publisher Bryan Roberts wrote:

“Yes, we believe in allowing others their own beliefs and opinions. Yes, we believe that the press has the right, if not the duty, to disseminate the ideas that are present in the culture – in words, in pictures, and in editorial cartoons. This right is what enables our society to truly respect all perspectives and religions in that it allows everyone – absolutely everyone – their outlet of expression. It is a right for which we absolutely cannot afford to stop fighting.”

In this instance, the attacker was not successful in his task (he was instead shot by police). What is unfortunate about the entire ordeal, though, is the life the cartoonist has had to lead in the years since the publication of his cartoons.

“Immediately after the attack, Mr. Westergaard was taken by the police to a safe house in an undisclosed location, resuming the life in the shadows that he adopted for the first three years after the fury over the cartoons erupted, when, according to an interview he gave the Canadian newspaper The National Post in October, he “lived in 10 different safe houses and drove 10 different cars.”

For a man to have changed location and gone through such lengths to maintain his own personal safety for freely expressing his opinion is absolutely insane. This is not meant as a commentary on the actual cartoons or the original Jyllands Posten editorial – what they contain is not relevant. And that’s precisely the point.

Freedom of speech – no matter how controversial, no matter how “wrong”, no matter how extreme – should ever be silenced. If that individual has an opinion, they should be allowed to freely express it. Either everything is off limits, or nothing is. The Commentator enjoys a relatively comfortable spot as far as free speech goes. Sure, we may say some things that get Eugenians all riled up from time-to-time, and they have broken into our office and stolen everything before. But we’ve never experienced what this man has in his lifetime.

As far as free speech goes, it is still a very current and constant battle.

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