THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Fear must not trump the pen

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February 24, 2008

MICHAEL ZANK dismisses the symbolic gesture of reprinting an inflammatory cartoon as a "disingenuous" attempt to incite "fear" ("Danish papers stir up trouble," Letters, Feb. 17). I maintain that it is a necessary reminder of the frighteningly real threat to freedom of speech coming from parts of the Muslim world. The very reaction the reprinting generated underlines its necessity.

Have we as a society decided to accept violence as a legitimate response to humor? Somehow we have managed to rationalize incursions upon our fundamental freedoms as small exceptions for comfort. Which calls for more fear: a two-dimensional drawing or a mob of violent protesters?

There is nothing inherently threatening about the commentary, but there is in the disproportionate reaction to it. Without more heroic defenses of our freedom to criticize religious extremism in the face of violence, we may lose the ability to criticize anything at all. If we should not judge another society by the standards of our own, then neither should we be held to modify our societal freedoms by the standards of another. Just as Zank believes we should not incite hatred in the "guise of supporting free speech," I submit that we cannot curtail freedom in the name of tolerance.

SAGE ENGBERG
Middlebury, Vt.

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