This week my students were to film short movie projects, they’d done their storyboards, scripts and walked through their single shot films. They were well prepared and excited to produce a piece of work other than the standard written essay. The day before the first group were scheduled to film I was informed by an administrator that a parent had complained as the school had not been blessed by Buddhist monks. Having lived in Thailand for over 10 years I wasn’t surprised by this, at the same time I had no idea what relevance the failure of monks to give their blessing had on our project, but it was immediately clear to me that arguing with such a warped and perverse sense of logic would be futile, so I canceled the project and replaced it with a routine essay “Which is More Important: Freedom of speech and expression or Respecting Individual Beliefs”. Surprised to say the students were less than thrilled by this development, I told them that I had decided to respect the beliefs of an individual, when in truth I just couldn’t entertain the notion of partaking in a pseudo-theological discussion with a native about ghosts, perhaps that’s my failings as a teacher, but I can’t see the point in appealing to common sense where there is so clearly none to be appealed to.
It took a couple of days for the disappointment ebb out of the class and quickly they were asking questions “if we respect their belief not to make our movies shouldn’t they respect our wish to make a movie?” A simple yet brilliant question to which I responded with the nebulous “sometimes you’ve just got to take the high moral ground”.
For the next few days students wrestled with this question, most of them realizing that in all practicality a democratic society is like a drunken clown treading a fine line whilst simultaneously juggling the hand grenade of free speech and the chainsaw of individual liberty.
We looked at the Charlie Hebdo shootings and considered the innocence of the cartoonists in light of their frequent provocation. We considered whether 20 Parisiennes would still be alive today had the law detailed in the European Union Framework Decision for Combating Racism and Xenophobia (2007) had been enforced, which explicitly states:
Publicly inciting to violence or hatred , even by dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.
We questioned why was Charlie Hebdo allowed to repeatedly since 2006 print material inciting racial hatred, one of my students believed that had the cartoons been in any way anti-Semitic then they would have been shut down far sooner if ever printed at all.
We were in the midst of pondering such questions when a new story emerged, 3 young Muslim Americans had been killed and the story was not reported until Twitter uses shamed the media for their non coverage of the story. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan criticized President Obama for his silence on the issue. With the world aware that there had been little media coverage and the president not offering comment one could understand the frustration and anger that must have been developing throughout Muslim communities. President Erdogan stated:
“If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don’t make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you”
As an ally in the fight against ISIS President Obama was woken from his slumber to declare with an instantly forgettable speech, that this was a tragedy that has no place in a civilized society blah, blah, blah.
The fact is the damage had already been done, what with the no mainstream news network covering the story and the President appearing to be too busy shooting hoops, moderate Muslims were quickly finding out just where they are ranked amongst the concerns of the west. If bombing Iraqi and Afghan children into becoming terrorists for since the turn of the centurys wasn’t bad enough, then a triple homicide of three Muslims going unnoticed in America is likely to provide food for though to your more moderate followers of Islam.
I am left thinking whether this is all by design, are we witnessing the unveiling of the true agendaa of western media, a device being used to stir up hatred against Musilms. When you couple this event with the recently released movie ‘American Sniper’. It reminds me of a joke I must have first heard just after 9/11.
The Saudi Ambassador to the UN has just finished giving a speech, and walks out into the lobby where he meets President Bush. They shake hands and as they walk the Saudi says, “You know, I have just one question about what I have seen in America.” President Bush says “Well your Excellency, anything I can do to help you, I will do.” The Saudi whispers “My son watches this show ‘Star Trek’ and in it there are
Russians, and Blacks, and Asians, but never any Arabs. He is very upset. He doesn’t understand why there are never any Arabs in Star Trek.” President Bush laughs and leans toward the Saudi, and whispers back, “It’s because it takes place in the future….”
To think I would ever include Fox News, but Geraldo identifies the doule standards inherent in the media.