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Posts Tagged ‘cartoons’

Keane on South Park, Islam and Hate Speech: A European Perspective

April 26, 2010 9 comments

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Dr. David Keane. Dr. David Keane is a Lecturer in Law, Middlesex University, United Kingdom.  David researches and publishes on issues relating to human rights, minority rights, freedom of expression, racial discrimination and regional human rights systems. A full list of David’s publications can be accessed here. This is David’s response to my previous post South Park: ‘Religious Defamation’, Freedom of Expression & Human Rights

I hadn’t seen South Park in many years, but coincidentally happened to be watching last Wednesday when Episode 200 was shown. I realised that the portrayal of Mohammad dressed in a bear costume (although it turns out not to be him – see here) was going to re-ignite questions of religious defamation and freedom of expression, and wasn’t surprised to see the Guardian, for example, run with the story for the past three days. Liam Thornton’s interesting analysis on this blog has firmly supported freedom of expression and underlines South Park’s irreverent approach as an ‘equal opportunities offender’. As a human rights academic and a firm believer in freedom of expression, and indeed cartoons as an art form, I am always surprised to find myself often arguing against the cartoonists who are behind the series of recent controversies. I sometimes wonder whether it may be related to the fact that every time I read an article about the Danish cartoons or other such incidents, I detect a certain triumph in the portrayal of Muslims as intolerant of freedom of expression. They’re only cartoons! seems to be the central message.

Liam Thornton’s piece makes reference to an article of mine, and I’d like to go back to the central idea I had in writing it in order to explain my position. In much of the analysis on the ‘Danish cartoons’ controversy, there was an implicit understanding that cartoons are for children. How could people be offended by something which is essentially harmless juvenile fun? Yet the history of cartoon satire tells otherwise; cartooning has had a long political history, according to one study beginning as far back as 1360 BC with an unflattering portrait of King Tutankhamen’s father. This noble tradition of political dissidence, or the cartoon as social protest, spread from 17th century Holland, and morphed into the editorial cartoon we have today. Read more…

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