By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
Before the curtain falls on the "Innocence of Muslims," French magazine Charlie Hebdo has come up with cartoons suspected of defiling the Islamic faith.
The French authorities were fast to act this time, heightening security all across the country and French installations overseas, including closure of 20 foreign embassies and schools.
Closing embassies and schools is definitely a big issue, resulting in a lot of inconveniences.
So, some would contest, instead of closing embassies and schools, why not close the publisher and charge its chief editor, which would more likely appease the boiling sentiments of the Muslims?
Moreover, this should be a deserving punishment for an irresponsible publisher while serving as a stern warning to other potential troublemakers.
The French government did not do this. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was enraged, but all that he could do was verbally censuring the magazine publisher.
That, did not take Charlie Hebdo off the bookstands across France.
Similarly, Egyptian American Sam Bacile sent the Islamic world fuming with his "Innocence of Muslims." 26 people have so far been indirectly killed, including a US ambassador.
Given the film's destructiveness, could the US government ban the video and order YouTube to take it off the cyberspace? Or could the Justice Department charge Bacile?
Most positively not.
Even though Secretary Clinton was very unhappy, she couldn't do anything to the film producer except giving him a piece of her mind.
More people would gain access to the video on YouTube, and the US government has to do everything to ensure the safety of Bacile and his family.
There is no way people in the Islamic world can understand the way the American and French governments handle things. They think it is as easy as lifting a finger to ban the film and magazine, or charge the producer and editor.
If they don't do this, could this be a ploy of Western governments to challenge the Islamic world?
I don't quite think so. The real reason lies with the discrepancy in which the West and the Islamic world see things. A contradiction of two distinct civilisations.
A bedrock of Western democracy is the freedom of speech, without which there is no way the public's rights could be guaranteed and the democracy would be flawed.
Freedom of expression includes tolerating the rights of individuals expressing different kinds of views. The government is in no position to ban such freedom, and must instead go all lengths to protect and safeguard it.
In the West, democracy and rule of law are the two most supreme values that no one could be spared, the President included.
In the Islamic world, meanwhile, religion is of paramount importance. No one is allowed to go against it, the Kings and Princes included.
The vastly different values held in these two civilisations have very different approaches in handling sacrilegious acts.
Unless the West alters its yardstick, allowing their laws to act against people destroying religious harmony, and the Islamic world softens its stance, there is hardly any prospect of closing the gap and diluting the conflicts.