Very recently, an international incident happened to precisely involves a competition between two equally-important values: free speech and religious freedom. Last year, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of cartoons – twelve in all – about Islam and the Prophet Mohammad that was deemed offensive by the Islamic community at large. To illustrate, one cartoon showed Mohammad with a turban in the shape of a bomb.
The issue generated international controversy. Some newspapers outside Denmark reprinted the cartoons in support of the concept of free speech. Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the newspaper, stated:
The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims.
On the other hand, the Islamic community demonstrated their outrage at the cartoons through worldwide protests and calls of boycotts. They condemned the drawings as a form of hate speech and decried what they consider to be the offensive depiction of the Prophet Mohammad as well as the not-so-subtle link made between Islam and terrorism.
This whole controversy makes a very interesting case for examining the role of the law in settling disputes that involve competing legal concepts reflective of competing values. There is a clear diversity issue at stake, it is not difficult to give credence to the arguments of Muslims all over the world that such depiction of their leader will foment even further inter-religious conflict, will marginalize Muslims and will be a setback for the cause of diversity and pluralism. On the other hand, there is no dispelling the argument as well that free speech is a right that should be cherished and protected. It protects not