The recent public debate about freedom of speech in the context of religion and terrorism is very interesting and complex. With freedom comes responsibility and consideration, especially being aware of cultural differences.
A word can mean something different for individuals and groups and when some of us flippantly joke about the many gods in this world, the mere mention of a god in a certain context can hurt and infuriate others for whom their god is sacrosanct.
As someone who occasionally uses sarcasm and cynicism I know that my words can do damage and they have cost me the odd friendship and have hurt partners. Being acerbic in cartoons and poking fun at certain cultures is received in my world as being funny and making social and political comments, but in other cultures the same words are received as an insult to ones faith.
Language is such a powerful tool to do good and bad and the fine nuances are often not recognised by those who send out the message that could be received totally different from what it is meant to say.
The other day while in a down mood I was wondering why I kept telling myself I was traurig. It is the German word for sad, but sad was not precise enough for what I felt, so traurig was the word I went back to. It’s that fine and tiny nuance that makes a world of difference when we communicate with other cultures and language groups. We do not understand how our words are being received, so hence we believe those we criticise are overreacting.
For Christians the word Allah is just a word, something to describe a god we don’t believe in, but for other people Allah is sacred, a way of life, a culture, and religion. The greatness of our gods should never be challenged because it is a belief in something intangible. There is no real proof our gods exist, but it is not up to us who don’t believe, or who believe in a different god, to question the importance of a religion and its god.
Freedom of speech requires freedom of thinking and tolerance and accepting that our words can deeply hurt even if we only mean to be a bit sarcastic or naughty.