In 2006, I wrote a piece titled ‘Elephant Dung and Mohammed Cartoons.’ In the piece, I discussed two pieces of offensive artwork: First, Chris Ofili’s painting The Holy Virgin Mary which showed Our Blessed Lady covered in elephant dung—offending many millions of Christians. Second, twelve cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, which were printed in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten—offending many millions of Muslims.
In both cases, the creators of the work had every right to create and publish them. You don’t have to like it. I don’t have to like it. In free societies, the rights of free speech, press, and expression are fundamental—and we do not have a right to never be exposed to ideas and expressions we find offensive. If we do not like something, we can choose not to consume it—as I chose not to go to the museum and see Ofili’s offensive work.
In retaliation for one of the most memorable Mohammed cartoons—one which showed the Prophet with a bomb in his turban—a Somali terrorist broke into cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s home (while he was with his 5 year old granddaughter) and attempted to kill him with an axe. Thankfully Westergaard was able to trigger an alarm system and lock himself and his granddaughter in a safe room. Police were eventually forced to shoot the intruder.
Obviously, no matter how offensive Westergaard’s cartoon might have been, it does not even approach a justification for murder. I am struck by something else in this story though: Westergaard survived by locking himself in a room and hoping authorities would come and save him. He apparently had no means of defending himself or his family.
One of the wonderful things about the United States is that our founders recognized that citizens have a fundamental human right to defense through the keeping and bearing of arms. If I am ever subject to a life-threatening attack because I say something offensive in my blog, I will at least have a fighting chance. I do not intend to trust my safety to a reinforced room and hopes that the police will arrive in time. As the old adage says, ‘when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.’