Opinion: "Let's Try to Get Beyond Caricatures"

February 10, 2006

Source: International Herald Tribune


On February 10, 2006 the International Herald Tribune ran an opinion piece by the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about the worldwide controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Yudhoyono writes, "The international community must work together to put out this fire. A good start would be to stop justifying the cartoons as 'freedom of the press,' which only hardens the Muslim community's response. Another vital step would be to discontinue their reproduction, which only prolongs the outrage... Reprinting the cartoons in order to make a point about free speech is an act of senseless brinkmanship. It is also a disservice to democracy. It sends a conflicting message to the Muslim community: that in a democracy, it is permissible to offend Islam. This message damages efforts to prove that democracy and Islam go together. The average Muslim who prays five times a day needs to be convinced that the democracy he is embracing, and is expected to defend, also protects and respects Islam's sacred symbols. Otherwise, democracy will not be of much interest to him. The cartoon crisis serves as a reminder that all hell may break loose in a world of intolerance and ignorance. The global community needs to cultivate democracies of freedom and tolerance - not democracies of freedom versus tolerance. It is tolerance that protects freedom, harnesses diversity, strengthens peace and delivers progress."