I’m partial to Websters so I’ll stick with their definition of blasphemy. It goes,”great disrespect shown to God or to something holy
:something said or done that is disrespectful to God or to something holy”.
Now caricature has had its enemies since the first time man realized that satirizing something or someone was in its own way, an insult. It didn’t always have the sting of a slap or a harsh word but it dared to mock something that was of gravity to others if not outright revered.
But a caricature also had at its heart the notion that it was, is and will be ok to take a less than obsessive, somber look at things in the world around us and see its fallacies, foibles and it’s essence as it were. When you make a caricature of an individual who has been in the news or someone who has caught your eye for whatever reasons, it is your humor, sense of cynicism (at times) and your own attempt at making sense of that person and what they stand for. Prominent features are focused on and at times if the person is known for specific things a la Dan Quayle for his spellings or GW for his statements or Manmohan Singh for his silence then certain things in the image are magnified or shrunk to paint the picture the artist or satirist wants to convey. It is their way of not spelling everything out; not crossing all the “t”s and dotting the “i”s. It is simply an expression. It *can* be used to hurt. But then there are those who choose to look only at their point of view and prefer to focus on the negative rather than try to understand that it’s a statement at its core.
And when caricature is deemed as blasphemy, that’s when all hell eventually breaks loose. People worship many Gods. Some visible. Some not. Some tangible. Others ephemeral. But they have their beliefs. And it is MY belief that when believes are pretty much all what people have, then any sort of object which has the ability to inflict even the smallest of dents or nicks in their believes; will face a tremendous backlash.
I don’t doubt that the cartoonists at Charlie Hedbo wanted to and were making a statement they believed in. Why wouldn’t they? They knew they were living under a scanner of those who bitterly opposed what they were saying. They knew the potential and extent of damage that those antagonists could cause but they believed nonetheless. Maybe foolishly but they believed in what they were doing. God only knows few people have had massive successes financially by drawing cartoons. So I guess we’re back to their beliefs. Which ultimately got them killed.
But there are blasphemies of other kinds. Not just against God. There is the blasphemy that’s perpetrated everyday against human life. The blasphemy of rape, of sexual abuse, or deviant behavior towards children.
A charge of religious blasphemy towards a group of individuals who were making statements through their work during a time charged with religious intolerance, political ineptitude and a blatant disregard of human life, seems a very WRONG reason to condemn them to death. Surely the preservers of religious faith ought to believe that their God has a sense of humor at the end of the day?