by Sigvart Midling-Hansen
Imagine that a major newspaper in your country printed a Nazi Swastika on the entire front page, what would your reaction be?
Would this necessary have to be interpreted as a sign of pro-Nazi attitudes? My answer would have to be no. Would it be revolting? To many I am sure. Would it be good journalism? Maybe not. But would it break the responsibilities that come along with the freedom of speech? Again I would have to say no.
This is a debate I most typically have about the Muhammad caricatures, where many are of the opinion that it was out of line. They call it an obvious expression of hatred and therefore never should have been printed. I, on the other hand, suggest one ought to be careful in making symbols black and white in this way.
Just as we cannot be sure what the Swastika in our imagined case is intended to communicate. We cannot say that the caricatures only allow for an interpretation that is derogative towards the Muslim population as a whole. Even if many among this population claim that it does!
Symbols do not belong to one individual or group, even though they are more meaningful to them. They are still something in principle available to all and as such open to interpretation. To allow others the right to define a symbol as otherwise, is to allow for authoritarianism in your life. In other words, you are granting others the right to define how you are going to view the world.
The caricatures can be interpreted to question the way a religious figure is being used. To me at least, it is crystal clear; this should be allowed for within the right to freedom of expression.