Update 25/3/10: I should have begun this article by stating the well known fact that many Muslims believe it a sin to visually represent Muhammed. According to the wikipedia entry Depictions of Muhammed:
The Qur’an does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental traditions) which have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating the visual depictions of figures under any circumstances. Most contemporary Sunni Muslims believe that visual depictions of the prophets generally should be prohibited, and they are particularly averse to visual representations of Muhammad. The key concern is that the use of images can encourage idolatry, where the image becomes more important than what it represents. In Islamic art, some visual depictions only show Muhammad with his face veiled, or symbolically represent him as a flame; other images, notably from Persia of the Ilkhanate, and those made under the Ottomans, show him fully.
Article: “95,000 descendants of Mohammed to sue over blasphemous cartoons”
These folks have no understanding of the importance of free speech.
“NEARLY 95,000 descendants of Mohammed are going to sue 10 newspapers for publishing “blasphemous” cartoons of the prophet.”
The Sunday Times said that although the cartoons were published by Danish newspapers, Mr Yamani plans to pursue legal action in England, where libel laws are weighted towards the plaintiff.
English lawyers expect that he will argue that the cartoons were published in Britain via the internet and are a direct slur on his clients, who live in the Middle East, north Africa and even Australia (emphasis added).
Disappointing to see lawyers are acting for some Australians in this attempted class action. But I’m well aware that many Australians don’t rate free speech as being particularly important and most Australians do not pause to think about individual rights such as the right to free speech very often if at all.
I would guess these 95,000 Muslims see this suit as a path to achieving justice (from their perspective) as opposed to actually seeking financial compensation for their hurt feelings.
On the off chance that a Muslim person is reading this article. I hope you agree that I should not be forced by the state to follow any of your religious traditions. You do not have the right to be protected from being offended. I find many things offensive. eg/ Religious advertisements, 99% of pop music, posters of politician’s ugly mugs at election time and a hundred other things. I have no right to use the law to put a stop to these things.
Defamation means the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual or group etc a negative image. The original intent was to protect individuals/groups from false statements. In a similar way to fraud, a defamatory statement can effectively amount to an act of physical force, by influencing people to make decisions or form opinions they otherwise wouldn’t have in the absence of the false information. Suing someone for defamation originally meant that the defendant had to prove the claim was true or reasonable and the plaintiff had to demonstrate both malice on the part of the alleged defamer and financial loss (if seeking damages).
Or according to the Wikipedia entry on English defamation law:
“English law allows actions for libel to be brought in the High Court for any published statements which are alleged to defame a named or identifiable individual (or individuals) in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of him, her or them. Allowable defences are justification (i.e. the truth of the statement), fair comment (i.e. whether the statement was a view that a reasonable person could have held), and privilege (i.e. whether the statements were made in Parliament or in court, or whether they were fair reports of allegations in the public interest). An offer of amends is a barrier to litigation. A defamatory statement is presumed to be false, unless the defendant can prove its truth. Furthermore, to collect compensatory damages, a public official or public figure must prove actual malice (knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth). A private individual must only prove negligence (not exercising due care) to collect compensatory damages. In order to collect punitive damages, all individuals must prove actual malice.”
It is a fact, that many terrorists and suicide bombers around the world are motivated by the Islamic religion and Islamic texts. eg/ Terrorists such as the Bali bombers openly shout that they are doing the work of Allah. It is also a fact that the prophet Mohammed as a person, was a ruthless military leader. So I don’t see how the cartoons could properly be considered defamatory. It’s also worth noting that we are talking about newspaper cartoons here! This means it is obvious that comedy/satire is the intent.
What the letter of the law (current English defamation law) has to say I wouldn’t have a clue, but it will be interesting to see the outcome of the case.