Park51 and the pastor: A right to offend?

Published on Pambazuka, by Sokari Ekine, Sept. 16, 2010.

… Egyptian blogger, Mona Eltahawy  discusses Park51 and the Gainesville church in the context of the right to offend. Her thesis is that if you believe you should be free to publish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, write derogatory slogans on the New York sidewalk outside Park51 or burn the Qur’an, then you should also believe in the right of others to offend, whether that be building an Islamic community centre near Ground Zero or a mosque anywhere in small town USA. You cannot have it both ways – which is what extremists on both sides of the fence seem to be demanding.  

‘When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in 2005 that led to huge and at times deadly demonstrations across several Muslim-majority countries the following year, I defended the newspaper’s right to offend.
The freedom guaranteeing publication of those cartoons is the same as that which guarantees Park51’s right to build right there, two blocks from Ground Zero, and the same as that which guarantees the right of a Gainesville, Fla., pastor and his congregation to burn copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of 9/11.

‘The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of expression, whether they offend people or not. Hurt feelings cannot be the basis of public policy. And that’s why I did not call on Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville not to burn the Qur’an when he threatened to do so’ … (full text).

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