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The News Minute | January 8, 2014 | 11.00 am IST (Last updated: January 8, 2.42 pm IST) On Thursday morning, readers of business newspaper Mint woke up to what have now been tagged “offensive” cartoons.  On its frontpage, the business newspaper published some of the cartoons originally published by French satirist magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine’s office was attacked yesterday by gunmen who went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people, including its editor Stephane Charbonnier, who once posed with a cover of the magazine featuring a Jewish man pushing Muhammed in a wheelchair. The magazine has been fire-bombed in the past. And its targets include Jesus, Muhammed, politicians and everyone else under the sun. Read: These are some of the cartoons by journalists at Charlie Hebdo At the time of writing, Mint and NDTV were the only two mainstream Indian publications which have published any of the cartoons published by the magazine. NDTV showed some images on its show The Buck Stops Here. This Washington Post article discusses how some international media look at the idea of hurt religious sentiments and their responsibilities as news providers.  WaPo says that publications around the world are struggling to decide if the cartoons should be re-produced. The newspaper says it has decided to reproduce one cartoon in its editorial. AP has reportedly deleted the photo of Charbonnier posing with some of his cartoons from its archives.  The magazine had apparently offended a group of people who thought the magazine was ridiculing Islam and Prophet Muhammed. According to The Independent, the latest perceived provocation for the attack was a proposed cartoon strip re-telling the story of Muhammed. Others, have called the magazine's cartoons racist, insensitive, and homophobic.  The magazine has used images of Muhammed in the past as well to make a point. This article talks about Charlie’s irreverent humour that did not consider any subject too sacred to escape its satire.  Mint front page In India too there have been instances of violence, although perhaps no killings, in the name of the “right to not be offended” about anything religious. And now, many of them are waiting for their ideological opponents to condemn a BSP Lok Sabha candidate who has offered a reward to the attackers. This attempt to play the who-condemns-first race has got to stop.  The gunmen in Paris were also exercising their non-existent “right to not be offended” when they killed those 12 people. But we need to remember that just because they committed violence in the name of Islam, does not make every follower of Islam complicit in their actions. Tomorrow a person may adopt the living patterns of bees as their philosophy of life and commit violence in their name. Will we hold the bees responsible then? And say honey is poison? The present case is more complex because of the nature of stereotyping of Muslims which according to scholar Edward Said, is rooted in what he calls Orientalism, a tradition of exoticism of "east" that the French began, and others continued.  Many groups and people have exercised their non-existent “right to not be offended”. But social change, course correction, have all happened because of critique and criticism, and some of it has occurred through humour. So we find ourselves running the same circle again: is religion too sacred to use in humour or cartoons? Anyone who enjoys cartoons instinctively understands that cartoons use familiar objects and persons to represent a larger idea; that the literal meaning is not always the real meaning. Political humour is designed to be offensive.  In an interview to The Hindu, Salman Rushdie said in response to a question on people whose religious sentiments were upset:  “That’s their problem. The world is full of things that upset people. But most of us deal with it and move on and don’t try and burn the planet down. "There is no right in the world not to be offended. That right simply doesn’t exist. In a free society, an open society, people have strong opinions, and these opinions very often clash. In a democracy, we have to learn to deal with this. And this is true about novels, it’s true about cartoons, it’s true about all these products. "A question I have often asked is, ‘What would an inoffensive political cartoon look like?’ What would a respectful cartoon look like? The form requires disrespect and so if we are going to have in the world things like cartoons and satire, we just have to accept it as part of the price of freedom.” Perhaps the reason why humour offends so much (apart from the fact that is designed to), is that it raises uncomfortable questions for us to answer. And we need to find ways to answer these questions. And violence certainly, is not the answer. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute
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