February 8th, 2006

Paul Spiegel on the cartoon conflict

In the opinion of Paul Spiegel, President of the Central Council of Jews, “the recent violent demonstrations that have already occasioned a number of deaths are awful proof that political and inter-religious dialogue between the cultures has failed in the last few years.”

"Rather than patronizing sermons about Western principles on the freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, greater sensitivity to the religious feelings of the Moslem community would be appropriate“, insisted Spiegel.

“Not everything that enjoys legal protection as an opinion is morally and ethically acceptable. One can hardly rate freedom of opinion highly enough, but it does nonetheless have limits wherever human dignity – and that includes the dignity of Moslems and their religion – is violated“, argued the President of the Central Council.

“There is no question that the violent protests are completely unjustifiable, but it would be playing all too easily into the hands of those Islamic fundamentalists who clearly have in interest in an escalation of conflict if Moslems in general were to be blamed for the situation. There is no such thing as collective responsibility!

“By the same token Western civilization should take care not to renounce its own basic values and traditions of liberty thoughtlessly on account of these violent demonstrators. There is no contradiction between, on the one hand, self-assurance which foregoes arrogance and, on the other, aiding the process of transforming and modernizing one of the oldest religions in history. In fact, these may well be two sides to the same coin.

“However, Islamic societies are also called upon to contribute in their own way to defusing the current situation. If an Iranian newspaper responds to the conflict by announcing an international competition for Holocaust cartoons, this will certainly not help to pacify heated emotions, but will fan the flames of conflict unbearably.

Chancellor Merkel is right to call for calm and de-escalation. We can avoid a clash of civilizations and the number of innocent victims need not grow if we can find a way at last to enter respectful dialogue in a spirit of partnership”, Paul Spiegel summed up confidently.

Berlin
, 7 February 2006