Golden Rule behavior demands that we treat others as we would want to be treated given understanding of that individual’s circumstances.
Knowing that the Islamic faith prohibits depictions of its prophet Muhammad, is there ever an acceptable reason to produce and distribute cartoons about and including drawings of Muhammad?
Just after a $10,000 prize was handed out in Garland, Texas yesterday to the best caricature of Muhammad, two Muslim men attempted to shoot their way through the conference. Their assault began just moments after they were believed to have tweeted, “May Allah accept us as mujahideen” and stating their loyalty to the Islamic State. A police officer used his service pistol to kill the assault-rifle-armed attackers before they could inflict substantial harm.
In the immediate hours following the shooting, many media commentators questioned whether conference organizers had brought the attack on themselves. Given this reaction, is it ever acceptable to purposely offend? Following are seven questions worth considering in determining your answer:
- Was the offensive behavior—the caricature and condemnation of Muhammad—solely intended to offend, or was it pursued to achieve a higher purpose?
- If a higher purpose—or at least a serious purpose other than creating offense—was intended, could another method achieve that purpose without the offensive action?
- Do we treat speech that offends Muslims consistently with how we treat speech that offends Christians, Scientologists, Mormons, Jews and others? Consistency is an important cornerstone of the Golden Rule.
- Can the foundation of America’s democracy survive if core tenets of the Bill of Rights are abrogated in order to avoid offense? Is drawing attention to encroachment on freedom of speech and religion a worthy cause, enough to justify drawings of Muhammad?
- In clashes between ideals that are critical to different cultures – offense at insults to Islam on one side and fear of destroying religious and speech freedoms on the other – whose responsibility is it to treat others as we would want to be treated?
- If I have decided that I have the right to harm others whenever I am offended, do I willingly grant equal right to others to harm me if I offend them?
- If you know that your speech or action offends someone, and do it anyway, does that suggest you are responsible for any subsequent violence? For example, if a scantily clad woman walks by a group of Orthodox religious men, does she invite mistreatment as violent as rape and murder because she offended them through her behavior? Would someone in the media ask whether she deserved to be raped if such an event occurred and still be employed?
Your reactions and comments are welcome.