letter to the editor380

It’s not about free speech Re Freedom to Burn: I am not the best-qualified person to write about why Muslims might be protesting so angrily…

It’s not about free speech

Re Freedom to Burn:

I am not the best-qualified person to write about why Muslims might be protesting so angrily about recent European editorial cartoons ridiculing their prophet.

But because I’ve searched in vain for a columnist or commentator whose ideas about this controversy reflect my own, I’m taking a stab here at exercising my own personal freedom of speech (or, in this case, my freedom to write).

Yukon News columnist Al Pope believes that the European newspapers that published the offensive cartoons were taking a stand for freedom of speech. While I, like Pope, consider myself to be a strong advocate of free speech, I think he may have neglected to reflect on how deeply the newspapers that published the cartoons actually care about such freedoms.

Imagine that you are a member of the Muslim faith living in Europe (that is, imagine you are part of the group of people that the cartoons were directed against). You know that there is a war going on right now that has killed, and continues to kill, thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children (primarily Muslims like yourself).

You have heard vague estimates of the civilian body count (ranging from 30,000 as reported by George W. Bush in recent months, to well over 100,000 reported by the respected Lancet medical journal much earlier in the war).

But you have no way of knowing just how many completely and utterly innocent people have died in Iraq since March 2003, because finding out what the body count is in the Iraq war doesn’t seem to be a priority of the western media (the same media that has so many heady things to say about free speech).

You can worry about how awful life in Iraq has become as we enter the fourth year of a war that should have been condemned as illegal long ago – but you have no idea just how bad things are because there is virtually no mainstream news coming out of Iraq that tells the story of what is going on there from an Iraqi perspective.

If you happen to have the luxury of high-speed internet, you might have access to a little more information than is offered up by the average mainstream newspaper, but you also know that you have to scour high and low to find only patchy bits and pieces of such information.

From your attempts to find out what is happening to Iraqi civilians, you do know, however, that it is easy to find exact body counts of US and coalition soldiers, accurate accounts of how many soldiers have been physically injured, and at least estimates on the numbers of soldiers returning to their home countries from the war with post traumatic stress disorders.

Similar statistics on the people who can’t leave — the civilians of Iraq — are nowhere to be found.

They’re not to be found in the English print media, and I feel reasonably confident assuming they are not appearing in the non-English media of Denmark, either. So much for free speech.

If I were a Muslim in 2006, I would be wondering how it is that the same newspapers that have chosen not to expose the tragedy going on in Iraq think it’s an editorially intelligent decision to run cartoons that promote religious bigotry and hatred against a group of people that is already being targeted in the Iraq war.

Pope, do you really think such newspapers ran those cartoons because they believe in free speech?

Anne Chilibeck

Haines Junction

Quick question

Re Harper names land claims lawyer to cabinet (The News, February 10):

Would you have given Jim Prentice a full page of coverage if he had voted against homosexual marriage?

I didn’t think so.

Dale Worsfold

Watson Lake