The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Muslim News Interviews The Blanket

Elham Buaras, Muslim News Home Affairs, puts the questions to Carrie Twomey, Editor of the Blanket

The Muslim News would like a statement from The Blanket regarding the decision to republish the 12 infamous set cartoons of the Muslim prophet. Below are some points (some sent to us from our readers) we would like you to answer.

Q: One of the cartoons depicts the prophet as terrorist; in translation this would mean that all those who believe in the prophet are in fact terrorists, linking all Muslims with terrorism, would you classify this as a forum of religious hatred that can only serve to accelerate growing Islamophobia?

A: In whose translation? The cartoonist responsible rejects such an interpretation. If you are referring to the cartoon in which his head is shaped like a bomb, could it not also be a comment some forms of Islam are a mind-bomb, i.e., it is the thinking behind it that leads to violence? Could it also not be a comment that the ideology of Islam is about to explode, given that the bomb was placed in the head, where thinking occurs? Could it also be that someone else has lit the fuse? Is the meaning of the cartoon itself not open to debate? Who has decided what its true meaning is and decreed that no one else is allowed to determine the meaning for themselves? How can anyone come to a conclusion about what exactly the cartoon is saying without seeing it?

No, I would not classify the cartoon as a form of religious hatred. I would classify it as a comment on current events. I do not believe that that cartoon can only serve to accelerate growing Islamophobia. In fact, I believe the censorship of the cartoons and the violent protests against them, and the fear that has created, have served to accelerate Islamophobia, far, far more so than any of the cartoons could have done.

Q: The cartoons have and continue to cause a lot of distress, why did you decide to wait 3/4 weeks to re-open what is viewed by many to be controversial views?

A: First of all, whether views are controversial or not does not matter to us, in that we do not and will not shy away from views simply because they are controversial. We decided to publish the cartoons over the course of 12 weeks (one cartoon a week) in response to the Manifesto Against Totalitarianism. Publishing the Manifesto alone would have been like a pebble in the ocean in terms of an act of solidarity; the manifesto had 12 signatories for a reason - not because 12 people were the only ones who would put their names to it but because of the 12 cartoons and the reaction to it. So to publish the manifesto and follow it up profiling each of the signatories along with a cartoon was a way to do a little more to support the manifesto, and put the context of the debate (about totalitarianism) to the forefront. As The Blanket is a free speech website, to publish the manifesto and the profiles and not publish the cartoons would have been cowardly. We also did not want to just dump all the cartoons at once, hence putting them in the context of the debate by featuring one at a time
alongside the profiles.

 

Q: What's your response to accusations that the cartoons were not republished as a demonstration of solidarity with those who believe in freedom of expression but an attempt to gain notoriety through the tested method of provocation.

A: Nonsense. Given that the cartoons are already widely available on the web, and that we are not publishing them just to publish them but are including them as part of a wider debate - and not publishing them all at once - it was not anticipated that The Blanket carrying them would be such an issue. Type in 'Danish cartoons' on any search engine and you will find them on any number of websites. Why The Blanket publishing them, in the manner we are, would be any different from the other websites was not considered.


As for people reducing what The Blanket is doing to a quest for notoriety, that is a nonsense as well, and just diverts from the substance of the debate and makes it about personalities, which ignores and trivialises what are issues of importance:  freedom of speech, human rights, totalitarianism, manners of protest, violence and its use; you would have to ask why someone would come away from what we have published with the conclusion, 'oh, it's just a publicity stunt'. That just dismisses what are vital issues to quite a lot of people.

The Blanket was started as a response to censorship, and its reason for being, as articulated from the start, is as a commitment to free speech.

"The Blanket project exists as a commitment to freedom of speech.
Its purpose is to facilitate analysis, debate and discussion,
to resist censorship, and to create the space for a diversity of views.
Our differences will never defeat us so long as we have the courage to air them."

We take that seriously, and over the last five years have kept The Blanket open to all comers, and not without some trouble doing so. We've had our homes picketed, our lives threatened, our home raided, our character vilified; anyone who thinks we aren't serious about our belief in freedom of speech hasn't been paying attention.


Q: Do you believe in absolute unchecked and uncensored forms of expression?

A: As an aspiration yes. In practice we know there are boundaries. There are enough people seeking to tighten the boundaries. Our position is to push against them. We search for ways to allow free expression, not means to curb it. We believe we have been consistent in our approach over the years and our publication of these cartoons in the context of the debate is in that consistency.

 

Q: At what point does The Blanket draw a line between satire and bigotry?

 

A: How can you? Is not satire a form of humour? Where does one person's humour end and another's begin? If something is bigoted, or in bad taste, would that not be obvious to all? So why be afraid to put it on display for what it is? Are we to believe that bigots and bigotry do not exist? Are we to corset the bigots so we do not recognise them when they are in our midst?

 

The Blanket considers all belief systems, of whatever type, to be open to question, censure, criticism and ridicule within the parameters of the legal constraints alluded to above.


Q: Would The Blanket consider publishing any cartoon that reinforces other controversial stereotypes such as anti-Semitic or racist cartoons?

A: We would consider anything submitted. We have carried cartoons in the past that were likened to the 'Punch' cartoons, and were complained about; we are currently carrying two images of Jesus Christ that could be considered offensive by someone, somewhere; we would not publish wily-nily, but would publish most anything in the context of the debate. It can be, and has been, argued that much of the written material we have carried regarding Palestine, for example, is anti-Semitic (although we would disagree), or at the very least, anti-Israeli; we carry articles that can be called anti-American, some of them vehemently so; we've carried articles slamming the Catholic church, and articles written by people hostile towards Irish Republicanism, including former loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces. The very fact that one of the main writers for The Blanket is a former IRA prisoner, convicted of murder, some people would – and do – consider to be beyond the pale. The image of the Blanketmen we use in our masthead offends some people, puts them off. Should we disavow who we are, what our beliefs are and where they came from to please them? Offence is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? Should we not air views that are disliked? Is it not better to know what people are thinking, and to expose views for what they are? Should they be hidden away to fester, lulling people into thinking that they do not exist? Are we only to carry those views that we agree with, expressed in a manner in which we approve? Is that the job of all media? We don't think so. We are not afraid to be contradicted, or to be wrong, and shown to be wrong. We are also unafraid to be right.

 

Q: Does The Blanket see its responsibility in promoting tolerance, or does it value being seen showing solidarity to those who endorse absolute freedom?


A: We don't see it as being an either/or proposition. We promote governance of ideas, of opinions, of different points of views, and part of that is supporting those who are doing the same. These cartoons are being published on The Blanket as part of a push against intolerance.



 

 

 


Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



 

 

There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa



Index: Current Articles



26 March 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Profile: Taslima Nasrin
Anthony McIntyre

For Freedom of Expression
Taslima Nasrin

Muslim News Interviews The Blanket

Who Fears to Speak
Richard O'Rawe

Fundamentals
Dr John Coulter

Cartoons and Caricatures: An anarchist take on the cartoon row
Jack White

Taslima Nasreen (2000)
Anthony McIntyre

Who Said
John Kennedy

The Key
John Kennedy

Getting Away With Murder
Mick Hall

Will the Real Army Council Please Stand Up
Geoffrey Cooling

Upcoming New York Events
Cathleen O'Brien

The Letters page has been updated:

Controversy over the publication of cartoons

Stereotypes Must Be Challenged Openly

 

Message for Dr. Coulter

 

Excellent Work

 

Swift Satire Poetry Competition

Freedom of Speech index


19 March 2006

Profile: Irshad Manji
Anthony McIntyre

How Muslims are Caricaturing Ourselves
Irshad Manji

The Clash of the Uncivilized
Imam Zaid Shakir

Misunderstandings Abound
Mick Hall

A Vital Question Not Easily Washed Away
Malachi O'Doherty

Zen and the Heart of Blasphemy
Liam Clarke

Gerry Peacemaker
John Kennedy

Surrendered
John Kennedy

Closer to Home
Anthony McIntyre

Drawing a Line Under the Past
David Adams

It's Our Easter, Too, You Know
Dr John Coulter

'The Way Ireland Ought to Be'
Michael Gilliespie

Former Hunger Striker leads 1981 Commemoration March in St. Pat's Day Parade
Deirdre Fennessy

Corn Beef & Lunatics
Fred A. Wilcox

The Letters page has been updated:

New Convert

Cartoons

About the Possible Posting of the Muslim Cartoons

Well Done

A Muslim's Response

Straight Talk vs Orthodoxy

Freedom of Speech index

 

 

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