Today I write of three separate yet related events:
1. Last week the Age reported a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that during Ramadan bikinis can’t be worn at the public swimming pool in Dandenong (an outer Melbourne suburb) .
3. Also last week the Washington Post withdrew from publication a cartoon (pictured) [3a]. Apparently in the newspaper’s view it’s anti-Muslim and thus inflammatory. Titled ‘Where’s Muhammad?’, it’s a take on ‘Where’s Wally?’ [3b]. In the latter, Wally’s there for the finding. But Muhammad’s not in the former; so only the title can be anti-Muslim. (How, I can’t fathom.)
These three events have nothing to do with racism and/or racial discrimination – but everything to do with freedom of action and expression in Western democracies. If people are offended by bikinis during Ramadan they’re free not to attend the pool. If people are offended by what someone says , they shouldn’t listen. And if people are offended by a cartoon title, they shouldn’t read it. The hard-won freedoms of non-violent action and expression are, right now, under threat in Western democracies worldwide. Small cracks don’t repair themselves; and they’re easy to repair. But left unrepaired they become big cracks that are harder to repair. And unrepaired big cracks can cause mighty and ancient edifices to tumble. Perish the thought.