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Luciana Cavallaro – *author *writer *historian *teacher *university supervisor

Today, I would like to introduce to you an amazing lady and friend, Anne Frandi-Coory. We connected on Twitter five years ago, when another equally lovely lady, Melanie Selemidis recommended Anne to read my short stories. It was from then on, we found we had not only a common interest in ancient history and mythology, but we also shared the same culture, an Italian heritage. I’ve since read her heart-wrenching autobiographical/memoir, Whatever happened to Ishtar? and more recently, read her latest publication, Dragons, Deserts, and Dreams: poems, short stories and artworks. Her latest book, is a unique collection of poetry, artwork and stories of her familial heritage. Click here for my review of the book.

Anne blog

Anne Frandi-Coory *author *writer *poet *painter *genealogist

I asked Anne if she’d honour me with an interview, and she said yes!  In this candid interview, Anne is honest and her answers will make you want to reach out and hug her. Enough with my ramblings, and over to Anne…

  1. Why did you write this book in this unique compilation?

For a few years after publishing  Whatever Happened To Ishtar?  in 2010 I felt a deep seated  need  to paint and write poetry incorporating some of the memories and family stories I’d written about.  Writing Ishtar?  helped me to organise  my childhood trauma into some kind of chronological order and gave many of the fractured  memories context and adult understanding.  That’s when  poems  and  brush strokes just flowed from me although I’d never written poetry or painted on a canvas in my life before.  Any  task or project I have embarked upon, be it career, marriage, motherhood, writing or painting, I have done with a passion, I know of no other way. Once a particular  passion grips me,  I let no one, or nothing, stand in my way.

I loved reading  to my children when they were little and later  I read to my grandchildren, whenever I helped out with their care. My grandchildren love to share their vivid imaginings with me so when I had completed the painting and poetry of the painful past,  I was inspired to paint images of my young grandchildren’s imaginative stories,  along with the natural world around us, and to write poetry to enhance them all.

Whenever family came to visit they were keen to see whatever painting I was working on and how it was progressing.  I kept a record of these and the rest of my works in a folder. I had intended to write another book when I realised one day looking through my folder, that I had already written and illustrated another book!  Somehow, all the different poems and stories just seemed to fit when I re-arranged them into a certain order. I felt that everything I’d written and painted summed up my whole life. I could see the pain of the past, and the joy that my grandchildren had brought into my life and how much we loved walking around the lakes near my home, watching wildlife and learning together.

  1. How do the poems and short stories relate to each other?

There are two short stories in the book. One relates to my Lebanese grandparents’ emigration from Lebanon to Australia then on to New Zealand, based on my grandfather Jacob Coory’s diary. I wrote the  other story especially for the book because I wanted to encapsulate all the research I’d done into my Italian family history which highlighted the heartbreaking lives of mothers and daughters, especially that of my great grandmother, Raffaela  Mansi Grego.  Compared to the Italian women in my family tree, my Lebanese grandmother and her daughters had a relatively happier existence. The poems pick up some of the hardships the women suffered, and how it impacted upon following generations. Catholicism featured largely in the lives of both my paternal and maternal families, much of it detrimental and in my view, added greatly to the suffering of the women and their daughters. The societies they lived in were patriarchal and certain cultures and conventions  hadn’t changed for centuries. I believe that when a Christian god was installed as the Almighty One and Only God, and pagan gods and goddesses were relegated to nothing more than Classical Studies, life for females became much darker. In this way, the short stories and many of the poems are a literary reflection  of my maternal Italian and paternal Lebanese heritage.

  1. The first third of your book is dedicated to the wrongs done to others and to Mother Nature. I thought the poem, a homage to Daniel, Zahra and Caylee was particularly How does your own childhood manifest in these poems?

The tragic deaths of Daniel, Zahra and Caylee  were front page world news during the years I was writing  my first  few  poems, and their stories really affected me and stayed with me. I couldn’t get them out of my mind, so I sat down one day and wrote a poem especially for them. The words just poured out, and I dedicated it to all abused children. Only then could I get on with my other writings.  My own childhood was full of fear, loneliness and gross neglect by family and others who should have been caring for me, and I felt deeply the horrors  Zahra  and Caylee  had  endured in their short lives from their own families. Daniel came from a loving family, but his last moments at the hands of the  stranger  who murdered him would have been terrifying.  All because a bus driver decided not to stop and pick him up at the bus stop. Likewise, the cruelty that some humans inflict on animals I find deeply disturbing. Life can be fickle, children and animals so vulnerable.  Humans have the intelligence and power to do so much good on this wonderful planet earth,  but sometimes it seems to me that greed and evil are winning. I fight depression by putting my thoughts down on paper. Sometimes they develop into stories and poetry.

  1. It was evident to me from reading your book and from your artwork, this project was filled with love, heartache and triumphs. What experience are you hoping readers will gain from your book?

I wanted women, especially mothers, to soak in my words, to be able to relate to them and for those of us who were raised within strict Catholic institutions, to know that others share the harm done to us and understand.  I would like readers in general to see the balance in my works…that love and the kindness shown by others can overcome tragedy.

Of course I have also written poems which celebrate the imagination of children and the allure of animals and the natural world.  I hope readers can share the joys I have found in my affinity with animals and children, and the solace that the natural world  can bring to our lives if we can accept that we are a part of nature and that we must live in harmony with it.

  1. How difficult was it confronting your own troubled childhood and that of your familial history, when writing the poems, short stories and painting? Did you learn anything while on this journey?

It was much easier than writing Ishtar?  because then I was confronting a jumble of fractured memories without any context. Each time I discovered new information it was another emotional hit and it left me exhausted, depressed and emotionally troubled. However, painting always leaves me in a state of equilibrium and the poems are already formed, seemingly, in my subconscious, so that I am merely transferring them onto an empty page.

Did I learn anything? If I did, it was that much of the emotional pain that I had carried around with me for most of my life, had largely dissipated.

  1. There is a search for innocence, love of a family and tribute to beloved pets in the latter part of the book. Does this reflect contentment and happiness in your life now or are you still seeking solace and answers to your abusive childhood?

When I was a child incarcerated in various  Catholic institutions, the natural world and animals did not feature in my life at all. Any reference to animals or nature were in abstract, that is, told through the prism of religion: God made everything on earth, Noah saved animals on the Ark during  the great flood and St Francis of Assisi loved animals. Most of  the children’s books we were given to read were illustrated bible stories, the images always of perfect human beings and animals.  We knew nothing at all about the actual world outside. When I was a young mum, we had a menagerie of many different animals;  as my children grew up and learned to cherish animals, so did I.  There is no doubt in my mind that animals taught me so very much about motherhood, life, death and loyalty. For instance, as a child, I was terrified at the thought of death. My nights were filled with nightmares of my own and others’ deaths. Having witnessed many times the death of beloved pets due to old age or accident while bringing up my children, I realised how animals accept death as a part of life. Not for them the maniacal scenes of death and destruction nuns and priests often imposed on us as a warning against sin. At first, I could not believe how peaceful death was when our first pet cat was euthanised after a long and happy life. I expected writhing and meowing in  agony and as the tears streamed down my face I waited in trepidation; instead our beloved feline died quietly in my arms. I had paid for the vet to come to our house so our pet who had never left our gardens could be surrounded by that which he loved.  The vet too had tears in his eyes, witnessing my distress. Not everyone I come into contact with is so gracious about my emotional states or as understanding of my passions.  It has been a long process, but yes, the happiness and contentment reflected in Dragons, Deserts and Dreams, is real. I remain  a bit of a recluse, preferring  to strictly control who comes into my life because I still live with trust issues which prevent me from having a normal social life.

  1. What is your next writing project? Will it be inspired by your family’s history or of your life today?

 I have correspondence from hundreds of readers, and both Lebanese and Italian descendants living around the world  which has the potential to be transcribed into a very powerful book.

I’ll await and see what spirits contrive to move me.

  1. Where can people purchase your book?

 Dragons, Deserts and Dreams can be purchased worldwide from Amazon and other online bookstores or if readers live in Australia or New Zealand they can purchase a signed copy directly from me through my blog here

  1. Where can people connect with you?

I’m always happy to receive comments and correspondence from readers either through comments on my blog or via email at   afcoory@gmail.com

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More information about books written by Luciana Cavallaro Here

 

 

 

Charles Freeman’s book about civilisations of the Ancient Mediterranean

I have just been reading Egypt, Greece and Rome; Civilisations of the Ancient Mediterranean by Charles Freeman , published 1999.  What an amazing book of 638 pages.

Not as much of a chore to read as you might think. The author breaks the book into easy to follow chapters and titled paragraphs.  He uses date charts, date lists, events and maps to great effect and to which I referred constantly during the reading of the book.

The book has given me a better insight into the pre-history of these amazing civilisations, and to their relevance today. Mr Freeman takes the reader on an epic journey from Egypt in 4,500 BC to Eastern and Western Empires up to 1000 AD.  He brings together the most interesting and salient stories. In one sense, not much has changed.  Constant wars, plagues, atheism, religious diversity,polemics, politics, the fight for democracy, all played a part.

Carthage (now Tunisia) , for instance, was a prosperous and thriving Phoenician city in the 5th Century BC, and Greece was pioneering philosophy and   theatre.   Greek philosophers travelled the Mediterranean teaching students to “look” at both sides of an argument.  Trading goods between the various states was the chief activity that brought so many disparate groups together.  What I also loved about this book, are the references to legend and myth, and how they intertwined everyday life across the Mediterranean world. I especially enjoyed the sections on Classical Greece, a favourite era of mine, and the references to its literature.

In Chapter 14, Mr Freeman expands on the 5th Century origins of drama (one of the greatest of Athenian Inventions, by no means a universal human experience),  poetry, tragedy, theatre with such names as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and Aristophanes, that satirical playwright extraordinaire.

During these times, beliefs in various gods were tied in with natural events,  human frailty and excesses.  Travel was relatively easy throughout Greece and the Mediterranean, and even non-citizens could find skilled work. Differing versions of the genealogy of gods wasn’t a hindrance, and most visitors ‘slotted in’ with local lore.

It was interesting to read the section on Sophists. The original meaning of the word ‘Sophist’ was anyone with exceptional talent.  However, members of this group were attacked  by both Plato and Aristophanes (satirically) for daring to present arguments  for and against any motion. Sophists can be credited with pioneering the study of religion as a social and anthropological phenomenon according to Mr Freeman. They disagreed strongly with the belief that there was some divine principle at work in the Universe. (Modern atheists, take note!) The Sophist, Protagoras, spent most of his life as a travelling teacher. He wrote: “Concerning the gods, I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”  He proclaimed: “Man is the measure of all things.”   Athens was implementing democratic governance at this time and Protagoras’ proclamation could be taken as the slogan of democratic Athens.  Other Sophists suggested that gods originated in man’s experience of nature. The various gods had been created as personifications of natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, rivers, water and fire. To the Sophists men of shrewd and subtle minds invented for man the fear of the gods, to “frighten the wicked even if they acted, spoke or thought in secret.”  By the end of the century free thinking on religious matters was less tolerated.  Pestilence, war, tyrants and destruction killed optimistic fervour.

I wonder, is this what is happening in our world now?

 

-Anne Frandi-Coory  1 February 2011

Mary & Jesus? No, actually Ancient Greek statue Tyche or Fortuna, the centre figure of a flourishing cult

updated 15 November 2013

Mercy: St Bartholomew's Day, Paris, 1572. 'Ill-fated love affair between a Catholic & a Protestant'. John Everett Millais 1829-96. This is the day thousands of Protestants were slaughtered by Catholics.

Mercy: St Bartholomew’s Day, Paris, 1572. ‘Ill-fated love affair between a Catholic & a Protestant’. John Everett Millais 1829-96. This is the day thousands of Protestants were slaughtered by Catholics.

Has Pope Benedict gone completely mad? He recently stated via a Catholic publication that politicians should behave like Joan Of Arc!   “With her deep prayer life and total devotion to serving God and the good of her fellow citizens, St. Joan of Arc is a wonderful model for Christian politicians”, Pope Benedict XVI said. “Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for lay people involved in politics, especially in difficult situations. Faith is the light that guided all her choices,” the pope said January 26 during his weekly general audience.  What a load of b…….  This is just another Church smokescreen to hide its vast problems.

Joan of Arc’s real name Jeanne d’Arc, The Maid of  Orléans, France. Clad in a white suit of armour, and carrying her own standard, Jeanne was leading an array of loyal French fighters to battle against the English, who were trying to take possession of her beloved Orléans.  Jeanne and her followers won that battle but on the way to relieve Compiégne, she was captured and sold to the English by John of Luxembourg, and they handed her over to The Catholic Holy Inquisition.  It seems to me,  Jeanne was burnt at the stake because she was leading a French army against the British. It was politics not religion, but a smokescreen was desperately needed.  Easier to torture and murder a young woman if she was found guilty of heresy and sorcery; less public sympathy.  The British didn’t want the blood of a  heroine on their historical hands.

But, and here’s the rub: Recent historical evidence has challenged the traditional account of Jeanne d’Arc. The contention is that Jeanne d’Arc has been confused with Jehanne, the illegitimate daughter of Queen Isabeau of France and Louis, duc d’Orléans, brother of the King. Now, how is Pope Benedict going to fix this problem given the Church’s teachings on the grave ‘sin’ of sex outside marriage, not to mention illegitimate births and the spectre of purgatory?

The Catholic Church ‘forgave’ Jeanne and made her a saint in 1920.  Perhaps the Church has canonised the wrong woman?  Now wouldn’t that cause ructions at the Holy See?

But let’s get back to what the Pope is actually saying in the 21st Century: “Christian politicians should not worry about doing the best for their country, but rather spend their time praying and fighting for their religion,  ie  Catholicism”.  There have been enough religious wars over millennia, and they’re still going on!

Shouldn’t the Pope and the Vatican be spending their time bringing paedophile priests to justice and helping their abused victims instead of pontificating about a brutal and savage murder committed by the Catholic hierarchy in the 15th Century?  I believe that the reason priests have been brutalising children for centuries is that they have never been brought to justice for their crimes.  Instead the Church has “forgiven them their sins” and allowed them to continue to prey on innocents.   These evil priests have been “indulged” by the Catholic Church.

Quote from The Ethical Nag’s Blog:

John Swales was only 10 years old back in 1969 when he and later his two younger brothers as well were first assaulted by

Father Barry Glendinning at a summer camp for low-income kids in Ontario. He told Maclean’s magazine in its December 7, 2009 issue:

“The real failing here is the institutional response to these deviants. Every culture, every occupation, has these issues of sexual abuse. But few have the ability to conceal sexual abuse of children like the Catholic church does.”

In Catholic theology, an indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The indulgence is granted by the Catholic Church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution. The belief is that indulgences draw “House of Merit” accumulated by Christ’s  superabundantly meritorious sacrifice on the cross (what?!) and the virtues and penance of the saints. They are granted for specific good works, prayers,  and what the Church will not openly admit, money.  Lots of it.  We all know many priests come from wealthy Catholic families.  No wonder deviant priests re-offend time and again!

Indulgences replaced the severe penances of the early Church. More exactly, they replaced the shortening of those penances that was allowed at the intercession of those imprisoned and those awaiting martyrdom for the faith.

Abuses in selling and granting indulgences were a major point of contention when Martin Luther  initiated the Protestant Reformation. (1517).

This is the word that inspires SeifAndBeirut

There are all sorts of suggestions flying around the world presently.  “Empower and educate women in the Middle East and other islamic regions, and they will influence their men to embrace  peace.”   This could be true. Some people believe change will encourage the war mongers and the religious fanatics to desist in killing  innocent women and children. But it will take many more thousands of years for any drastic changes to take place; change has always been painfully slow in Arab countries.  For one, religion might have to take second place in schools, and I can’t see that happening any time soon.  (It was the best thing that ever happened in western countries.)  Look what has just taken place in Pakistan, for instance.  A politician speaks out against blasphemy laws: a woman can be stoned to death for using the name Mohammed in the wrong context.  This is blasphemy?  Then this liberal politician was shot at close range by his body-guard and it seems the whole of Pakistan is rejoicing.  Hundreds of thousands of uneducated, brain washed (or brain-dead) rabble waving placards and praising the bodyguard as a hero.  How frightening this must be for minority Christians and the women awaiting death in brutal prison cells.  It is obvious the Pakistani Judiciary will not be able to punish the guard because that will just inspire more killings.  Where were the thousands of protestors when women accused of murdering their brutal husbands, were stoned to death by men in the street?   None of it makes any sense.  But that’s religion for you.

See previous posts: The Problem Being FemaleDichotomy of  Women.

I agree with Seif;  there is no doubt that the Arab World needs to CHANGE.   But when?

One of the damned being dragged to the fires of hell by demons – Part of Last Judgment hanging in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican

 

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Pope Francis is now the Pope and leader of the Catholic Church. Still, nothing has changed!

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World News: VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI baptized 21 newborns in an intimate ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday that marked the end of the Christmas season.

Standing under Michelangelo’s magnificent “Last Judgment” fresco, the pope poured water on the foreheads of 13 baby boys and eight baby girls. Some babies screamed, others squirmed, some slept through it. Benedict prayed for their “life and health so they can grow and mature in the faith.”

Or perhaps to be molested by paedophile priests.   Until the pope and the Vatican hierarchy make changes within Catholicism, nothing will change! Call me a cynic, but years of being brainwashed with stories of hell-fire and brimstone as a child, have made me so. The nightmares a large part of my childhood. (Whatever Happened To Ishtar?) The Last Judgment fresco is an amazing artistic achievement by Michelangelo, I have seen it for myself in person.  But the scene which covers most of a wall in the Sistine Chapel is horrifying, and is what is promised for our innocent children if we do not baptise them in the ‘Faith’. What he is really saying is: get them young, so they can grow up indoctrinated in the ‘Faith’ and the money will continue to roll in and continue to  enrich the Vatican.

‘The Pope was quoted as saying  that, in an ever-changing society without firm cultural references, it has become more difficult to educate children in the faith, and urged parishes and parents to cooperate. The babies — aged between four weeks and four months — are all children of Vatican employees.’

What a contrast in the two images, but an accurate portrayal. The fact is that not all in Catholicism is light & happiness, that is the problem.  There are too many dark, dark depths that have not been dealt with satisfactorily by the Pope and the Vatican power brokers, and until that is done, they should not be allowed near children.  Anyway, that’ s my opinion.

Muslims firebomb Christian Church in Egypt

Some Muslims are nothing more than thugs consumed by hate, disguised as religious fanatics. The problem is that there are thousands of them swarming across the Middle East and Christians are soft targets. At least Christianity has moved forward with the times, but Islam is still fomenting in the dark ages. No wonder the uneducated masses are following a religious belief system that is just plain stupid.

Muslims have been targeting Christians for hundreds of years.  Muslims were the reason my Lebanese ancestors fled from Iraq to the hills of Lebanon in the 14th Century. It is one of the reasons my Grandparents  left Lebanon for New Zealand in the late 19th Century.  More in  my book ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’ .  Nothing has changed.  My heart goes out to the minority Christian communities in Iraq and other muslim countries.  Christmas, the focal point of Christian beliefs, is a time of fear for Christians in Muslim countries instead of a time for celebration and joy.  See world news item below:

BAGHDAD – Militants attacked at least four Christian homes Thursday night with a combination of grenades and bombs, killing two people and sending fear into the already terrified tiny Christian community.  It was the first attack against the country’s Christian community since al-Qaida-linked militants last week threatened a wave of violence against them. Christians went so far as to tone down their Christmas celebrations in what was a peaceful holiday, but the attacks Thursday night demonstrated the intent of militants to keep up their deadly pressure on the Christian community.

In the deadliest attack, assailants in southwestern Baghdad threw two grenades inside the home of a Christian family, killing two people and injuring five more, police said. In a different neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, militants planted a bomb near a Christian home. Two people were injured in that attack. Then another bomb planted near a Christian house in western Baghdad exploded, injuring one member of the family as well as a civilian who was driving by, police said.

Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi confirmed that two people were killed Thursday evening; he said a bomb planted near the fence of a Christian home in southern Baghdad also exploded but he had no information about casualties in that incident.  “The aim of these attacks is to prevent Christians from celebrating the New Year’s holiday,” al-Moussawi said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but such attacks have generally been the work of Sunni militants linked to al-Qaida.  The casualties were confirmed by hospital officials. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to reporters.  The attacks are sure to ratchet up tension in the tiny Christian community still living in Baghdad. At least 68 people were killed in October when militants stormed a Baghdad church during Mass and took the congregation hostage.

Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to northern Iraq, fearing further attacks.  Father Mukhlis, a priest at the Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad where the Oct. 31 hostage incident occurred, called the Thursday attacks “direct oppression” against Iraqi Christians.

He said one Christian family already was staying at the church because they were worried about militants targeting their home. The family was planning to travel Friday to the Ninevah Plains area of northern Iraq which is home to a large Christian community and much safer than the rest of Iraq.  Last week, al-Qaida warned of further violence against Christians, leading many in the community to tone down their Christmas celebrations and cancel many events such as evening Mass and appearances by Santa Claus.

The Christmas holidays also coincide this year with the Shiite holy month of Muharam, an important holiday for the country’s Shiite Muslim majority.

Some Christians said they were also playing down the Christmas holiday this year out of respect for their Shiite neighbors, but other Christians reported intimidation by members of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia backed by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who pressured them not to celebrate the holiday publicly.   Christian leaders estimate 400,000 to 600,000 Christians still live in Iraq, according to a recent State Department report. At one time before the war, that number was as high as 1.4 million by some estimates.   – Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.

Another interesting post from: seifandbeirut.com

Lebanon has alway been home for minorities in the Middle East. A haven for those persecuted, chased out of their homes, and face destruction in their original homes. The Armenians, Palestinians, Assyrians, and even many Syrians have taken refuge inside of Lebanon over the years… their treatment, whether good or bad, has always seemed irrelevant. We simply focus on the fact that “hey, we take in all the refugees of the Middle East”.

I think its time, finally, to tackle the treatment of refugees inside the country. We have almost 250 000 – 300 000 Palestinians inside Lebanon, almost 150,000 Armenians (who are now Lebanese citizens, and not considered refugees anymore), and now 50, 000 Iraqi refugees in Lebanon. This post, for specific reasons,  is going to focus specifically on the latter group as it is the most recent group of refugees in the country. Most, almost 79%, of Lebanon’s Iraqi refugees are Iraqi Christians who fled Iraq for their safety after sectarian groups threatened their safety. Now for the sake of making things clear, sectarian groups in Iraq represent very small portions of the population, keeping in mind Iraqi Christians and Muslims have lived along side each other for hundreds and hundreds of years prior to this time, with very little tensions and fighting.


 

Biblical Scene: 'Noah's Sacrifice' Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione known as Grechetto (early 17th Century)

The interesting and thought-provoking  article below reinforces musings on my previous post Are We But a Flock of Sheep?

I am sure that the beautiful religious images painted by Italian artists helped persuade many a young mind toward belief in Catholic dogma and biblical stories.  I know I was captivated by their depictions of saints and martyrdom.

Article below. Source: Council for Secular Humanism:

Author: Peter Singer

Freedom of speech is important, and it must include the freedom to say what everyone else believes to be false, and even what many people take to be offensive. Religion remains a major obstacle to basic reforms that reduce unnecessary suffering. Think of issues like contraception, abortion, the status of women in society, the use of embryos for medical research, physician-assisted suicide, attitudes towards homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. In each case, somewhere in the world, religious beliefs have been a barrier to changes that would make the world more sustainable, freer, and more humane.

So, we must preserve our freedom to deny the existence of God and to criticize the teachings of Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, and Buddha, as reported in texts that billions of people regard as sacred. Since it is sometimes necessary to use a little humor to prick the membrane of sanctimonious piety that frequently surrounds religious teachings, freedom of expression must include the freedom to ridicule as well.

Yet, the outcome of the publication of the Danish cartoons ridiculing Muhammad was a tragedy. More than a hundred people died in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, and other Islamic countries during the ensuing protests and riots. In hindsight, it would have been wiser not to publish the cartoons. The benefits were not worth the costs. But that judgment is, as I say, made with the benefit of hindsight, and it is not intended as a criticism of the actual decisions taken by the editors who published them and could not reasonably be expected to foresee the consequences.

To restrict freedom of expression because we fear such consequences would not be the right response. It would only provide an incentive for those who do not want to see their views criticized to engage in violent protests in the future. Instead, we should forcefully defend the right of newspaper editors to publish such cartoons, if they choose to do so, and hope that respect for freedom of expression will eventually spread to countries where it does not yet exist.

Unfortunately, even while the protests about the cartoons were still underway, a new problem about convincing Muslims of the genuineness of our respect for freedom of expression has arisen because of Austria’s conviction and imprisonment of David Irving for denying the existence of the Holocaust. We cannot consistently hold that it should be a criminal offense to deny the existence of the Holocaust and that cartoonists have a right to mock religious figures. David Irving should be freed.

Before you accuse me of failing to understand the sensitivities of victims of the Holocaust or the nature of Austrian anti-Semitism, I should tell you that I am the son of Austrian Jews. My parents escaped Austria in time, but my grandparents did not. All four of my grandparents were deported to ghettos in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Two of them were sent to Lodz, in Poland, and then probably murdered with carbon monoxide at the extermination camp at Chelmno. Another one fell ill and died in the overcrowded and underfed ghetto at Theresienstadt. My maternal grandmother was the only survivor.

So, I have no sympathy for David Irving’s absurd denial of the Holocaust-which, in his trial, he said was a mistake. I support efforts to prevent any return to Nazism in Austria or anywhere else. But how is the cause of truth served by prohibiting Holocaust denial? If there are still people crazy enough to deny that the Holocaust occurred, will they be persuaded by imprisoning some who express that view? On the contrary, they will be more likely to think that views people are being imprisoned for expressing cannot be refuted by evidence and argument alone.

In the aftermath of World War II, when the Austrian republic was struggling to establish itself as a democracy, it was reasonable, as a temporary emergency measure, for Austrian democrats to suppress Nazi ideas and propaganda. But that danger is long past. Austria is a democracy and a member of the European Union. Despite the occasional resurgence of anti-immigrant and even racist views-an occurrence that is, lamentably, not limited to former Nazi nations-there is no longer a serious threat of any return to Nazism in Austria.

Austria should repeal its law against Holocaust denial. Other European nations with similar laws-for example, Germany, France, Italy, and Poland-should do the same, while maintaining or strengthening their efforts to inform their citizens about the reality of the Holocaust and why the racist ideology that led to it should be rejected.

Laws against incitement to racial, religious, or ethnic hatred, in circumstances where that incitement is intended to, or can reasonably be foreseen to, lead to violence or other criminal acts, are different, and are compatible with the freedom to express any views at all.

In the current climate in Western nations, the suspicion of a particular hostility towards Islam, rather than other religions, is well justified. Only when David Irving has been freed will it be possible for Europeans to turn to the Islamic protesters and say: “We apply the principle of freedom of expression evenhandedly, whether it offends Muslims, Christians, Jews, or anyone else.”


Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University, New Jersey, is the author of, among other books: Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather,  and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna.

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