Mahmood Mamdani recently gave a talk at the University of Johannesburg, touching on the topics of free speech and bigotry in our contemporary world. He took the example of Mohammed cartoons to make this point. It is a well argued and seemingly persuasive thesis which you can read here at Kafila.
I found that I had some fundamental differences with it and decided to write them out here. Please do read him before you read my response.
A well argued and persuasively written statement; unfortunately, I find myself un-persuaded.
The first disagreement. The blasphemy/bigotry distinction can be a useful academic device to understand particular situations, but is a dangerous and reactionary position in its political implications, specially when applied on the “world historical stage”. If I am outside a certain religious tradition, am I not allowed to debunk, attack, vilify and lampoon that tradition? I consider the entire human heritage as mine and for me every criticism, and more, on any human tradition is, to use that fashionable term, an “internal” attack. I have as much a right to denigrate Manu’s misogyny as I have the right to lampoon Mohammed.