An article in yesterday’s Star Tribune stirred my pot a bit and got me thinking about the cartoon degrading the Prophet Mohammed and the ensuing uproar, hand-wringing, and torching of embassies. In the article, the owner of my favorite Middle Eastern deli, Holy Land in NE Minneapolis, takes the issue to heart in much the same way much of the Muslim world did and posted the following in his establishment:
Dear Customer. The Denmark newspaper published a cartoon degrading the Prophet Mohammed. The Denmark government refuses to apologize to the Muslim world for this; therefore Holy Land management decided to join the other business leaders in the world to boycott all products made in Denmark.
In the article, Holy Land owner, Majdi Wadi claims that if some of his patrons (a diverse bunch to be sure) have an issue with his boycott, they should come talk with him. He even says if they can convince him to change his mind he will take the signs down.
I respect freedom of speech,” he continued, “but I think there must be limits. I think there should be an international law to protect beliefs. It is wrong not to respect Jesus. It is wrong not to respect Buddha. And it is wrong to not respect the Prophet Mohammed.
Now I would love to go and speak with Mr. Wadi, but being Minnesotan, there is a pretty good chance that confrontation will never occur. So instead, in typical passive-aggressive (aka “Minnesota nice”) fashion, I will lay out why Holy Land should reverse its policy and why I am now boycotting one of my favorite markets.
- The boycott is asking for something from the wrong people. It wrongly states that “The Denmark newspaper” published these cartoons. It was the Jyllands-Posten. The Danish government is not, nor should it be, under any obligation to apologize for the free speech, its citizens make use of.
- The boycott targets the wrong people. Don’t buy the newspapers and magazines that printed the degrading cartoons. What do the people who make chocolate and cheese have to do with these cartoons other than living in the same country? Only 150,000 (of more than 5 million) Danish people even see the Jyllands-Posten newspaper each day.
- When people start to decide what the limits of free speech are, then we are all in trouble. You cannot protect beliefs with laws against speaking out against such beliefs. What if my belief is that Quentin Tarantino was a prophet? Does that make claims that some of his movies suck ass, blasphemy?
- Living in America means that you may, if you choose, practice freedom of speech and must also be tolerant of others rights to do so. Presumably that is one of the main draws, bringing countless hopeful immigrants to this country each year from places, like Vietnam, China, and yes, even the Middle East – places where it isn’t always acceptable to speak your mind.