Germany asks if Islam impedes on freedom of speech

October 6, 2009

GERMANY/A decision by the German publisher Droste not to print a murder mystery about an honour killing because it contained passages insulting Islam has raised questions in Germany about religion impeding on freedom of speech.

Droste publishers said they would have published the book, entitled “To Whom Honour is Due”, had author Gabriele Brinkmann softened the tone in some sections In one, for example, an angry character tells another to dispose of a Koran using a crude phrase we would not reproduce here. “The author was not prepared to change the derogatory passages, which would have  been a condition for the publication,” Droste said in a statement on its website.

(Photo: The Merkez Mosque in Duisburg, Aug 21, 2009, Reuters/Ina Fassbender)

Little did they realise what a stir this decision would cause in Germany, which is sensitive to any compromise on freedom of speech and where security fears over Islamists have blocked several artistic ventures in recent years. “For me, it is about the principle. That is why I went public about this. I won’t hurry to be obedient and carry out self censorship,” Brinkmann told German media.  “Justified fear or cowardice?” asked the headline in the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

Droste insists it is not worried about releasing books dealing with controversial themes, but refuse to publish books which insult peoples’ faith — whether Islam, Christianity or other religions. But Brinkmann points out that her book was a work of fiction, and it was clear that the opinions expressed by fictive characters were neither her own nor those of the publishers.

Furthermore, it is questionable if the company would have similary toned down any insults of Christianity, a religion that is regularly parodied and demonised in popular culture. Why not? Perhaps because insults against Christianity probably wouldn’t have carried the same security risks. Monty Python’s comedy The Life of Brian and Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code both provoked outrage among sections of the Christian community, but not death threats or violence.

Publisher Felix Droste himself admitted that he was concerned about a security risk that could arise to the company if it published the book, in light of the riots that broke out in several Islamic countries after cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper sparked outrage among Muslims.

How real is the risk?  Should artists, producers and publishers seek to anticipate any risk by avoiding any criticism or parody of Islam?  And regardless of security, to what extent should a society respect the religious sensitivities of one group if they begin to impede on its basic freedom of speech of all others?

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17 comments

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I wrote the first book ever in Islamic history on:

“The Humor of Islam…you’ll die laughing.” Amazon.com

The title is a twist on an Islamic Sharia law that forbids laughing too much…which made me laugh too much.

I used actual ancient texts, I didn’t make them funny, they’ve always been funny…hence the sharia laughing law.

I did have a small battle with CAIR, which I won…didn’t make the news. Had lots of threats but I’m not ruled by fear.

I ended up self publishing. I hardly make a buck on the book, I donate to the Wounded Warriors. It was enough for me to have written the first book ever on, The Humor of Islam.

The only problem, no support. Kinda hard to complain, then do nothing.

aka…Az

This is for all those friends who are not of Islamic faith: Please always distinguish between Islam, Sharia and the Koran on the one hand and Islam’s holy personalities like the prophet Mohammad. Non-Muslims may criticize Islamic teachings all day long and it will spark no violence anywhere in the Muslim world. At most, you might get a rebuttal. But never make fun of the Holy Prophet, his family and companions or other persons whom Muslims deem holy. This will invariably inflame Muslims and may ignite bloody protests. I hope the non-Muslim world, especially Europe gets it.

Posted by Gumnaam | Report as abusive

“it is questionable if the company would have similary toned down any insults of Christianity, a religion that is regularly parodied and demonised in popular culture. Why not?”

If you(christians) yourself make fun of your religion(and you yourself publish it), who should put a censorship?

Funny!!!

Posted by A Muslim | Report as abusive

The post by Az created a riot of laugh… It reminded me about a movie which was built around the story of a deadly joke… The writer of the joke died as soon as he wrote it… But the joke went on to become the greatest killer in the war as one of the warring sides read it and died laughing… I hope the joke gets through.

Posted by FaQ Frequent | Report as abusive

Gumnaam, many people think your prophet Mohammed was of questionable character, and believe that you are mistaken to have such a high opinion of him. We have the right to point this out, whether by criticism or by ridicule.

If Muslims decide to protest bloodily about this, that is their decision. They are not children, and are responsible for their own actions. However, if they break the laws of the country in which they live, they will be punished for it. I hope you get that.

Gumnaam,
Since my other post has been censored I’ll have another go.
I don’t give a toss for your holy prophet and will keep saying it. So become inflamed if you like.

Mohammed was a man no more no less.

Posted by jbloggs | Report as abusive

It’s ridiculous not to publish. I suspect most Muslims wouldn’t kick up a fuss, anyway, since it’s clearly a character saying it. And why are you coyly avoiding what the phrase was? It makes it seem worse that it was. You could at the least have hinted that it was one character telling another where to put a copy of the Koran. Leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. Other publications have managed that much, with a few dots. My version is even less likely to be taken as offensive by the oversensitive. I’m really fed up with this self-censorship.

[...] Germany. The extreme Muslims MUST BE STOPPED. Islamic threat hangs over Germany’s national vote Germany asks if Islam impedes on freedom of speech I was eating breakfast and was watching the news when I also heard that Germany has set their [...]

Some readers are sending in comments that are either vulgar statements or gratuitous provocations or simply off target in this discussion, and they’re then accusing us of censorship for not posting them. This comments page is not a soap box open to anyone who just wants to vent about an issue. We like strong opinions, but we won’t let these ranters turn this into a mud-slinging contest.

[...] Germany. The extreme Muslims MUST BE STOPPED. Islamic threat hangs over Germany’s national vote Germany asks if Islam impedes on freedom of speech I was eating breakfast and was watching the news when I also heard that Germany has set their [...]

Tom.

Those “vulgar” comments were to prove a point.

This article discusses the fact that publishers are now afraid to publish comments that critisise or insult Islam. And that Islam may be impeding on freedom of speech of secular media.

As Reuter’s policy of censorship shows, this issue seems to apply to journalism as well. You are refusing to publish comments, simply because they might insult or offend Islam.

And I simply note that when journalism censors itself, it seems a bit ironic. And hammers home the point of this article.

I won’t bother to repeat the comment I hoped to get published. Because it seems unlikely it will be allowed on this forum.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

See the topic is freedom of speech and Islam. Yes, Islam impedes on freedom of speech. Why speech only, Islam does not even allow a person to think towards peace as a whole some objective of life.

Second, there is nothing wrong in publishing something which is a right statement. Germany is not Iran and people (not only Germans) but the world has the right to read/ listen to the views of a person, well researched, documented and use his own common sense for judgment.
The curbs on freedom of speech which are stating facts is severely detrimental to interest of democratic common person, entitled to right of good governance, to know what can happen due to rigidity in religion and what government should do in order to stop the same from happening in Germany/ elsewhere.

Any sane person who can think without bias say that the foundation of the religion and the activities of followers of the religion is barbaric, macabre at a macro level. At an individual level, the statement doesn’t stand. And yes, the stand of German publisher is an endorsement that world needs to bear the idiosyncrasies and barbarism of the torch bearers of the religion.

Posted by Virus Called Commonsense | Report as abusive

As a German I am utterly disgusted by this show of cowardice.Europe should grow a backbone and stand up for our traditions, values and culture and that includes our right to question, riducle and punish behaviour that is unfit in our societies.

Posted by Maharaj | Report as abusive

There is nothing wrong with being able to state fact.

Jesus is believed to be the messiah. But there is no actual evidence that proves he was actually the son of god. And people should be free to say so.

It’s called freedom of speech.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive

There is nothing wrong with being able to state fact.

Mohammed is believed to be a prophet. But there is no actual evidence that he was really god’s messenger, or that the Koran isn’t a book of lies. And people should be free to say so.

It’s called freedom of speech. And attempts to prevent it sometimes reveal double standards.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive

There is nothing wrong with being able to state belief.

I do not believe Mohammed was a prophet, or that he was really god’s messenger. I believe that the Koran is a book of lies, and has not been proven true. And that Islam is responsible for the brutal killing of countless innocent men, women and children in this year alone.

And people should be free to say these things. It’s called freedom of speech.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive

Islamic law impedes on freedom of speech. Islam’s earliest followers assassinated people who spoke out against Muhammad and his new religion. Abu Afak, Abdullah bin Ubai, Ka’b bin Ashraf, Asma bint Marwan, and even a blind man’s slave-mother were all murdered for speaking out against Islam and its prophet. And all of these murders were sanctioned by the prophet himself.

As science continues to find more fossils, concreting the truth behind the theory of evolution, religion will begin to fade away against the masses of evidence.

Islam doesn’t even believe we came from Monkeys, yet 99% of scientists agree on the fact, and the other 1% are religious.

As we find even more fossils, the religious ‘fossils’ will fall by the wayside where they belong. Maybe not within our lifetime, but within the next 100 years or so.

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive

Islam’s greatest strength is its intense paranoia, which is reflected in Gumnaan’s comments.
They’re quite simply scared of thinking about their religion at all, because doing so would show it to be the fraud it was.
Wake up dude. Mohammad was a clever shyster who borrowed bits of Christianity, Judaism and Arabic pantheism to create a virulent religion that would spread like wirefire during a period when there was no larger force to stop it. As soon as the West tried to confront it, it was stopped and driven back — starting with Charles Martell, all the way into the 20th century.
Since then, Muslims have only been able to make progress by the West giving them technology, money and license. They can settle in Europe without assimilating, but are too scared of our freedom to let anyone teach Christianity in their allegedly holy lands.
Islam is like Stalin — utterly paranoid and vicious, concerned with nothing except self-preservation and expansion.
It’s the responsibility of everybody who values freedom to resist this false religion from a false profit, serving a false god.
Who are you Gumnaan, or anyone else in the umma, to say we can’t cricize Mohammed?

Posted by David_NYC | Report as abusive

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