Freedom and religion – Do they clash?

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“Freedom and religion – do they clash?” That was the question posted on social media by RNW’s Arabic Department, Cartoon Movement and media partners in the Arab region for the second week of our new project, 360 Degrees. The project aims to encourage people to look at the world from different perspectives. People are invited to tweet their views using a common hashtag: #360D, and artists from Cartoon Movement create drawings based on the tweets that inspire them.

Freedom and religion was a hot topic right from the start, with some angry reactions to the original cartoon we posted on Facebook inviting reactions.  The cartoon refers to the Kaaba ritual, one of the highpoints of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and some people considered it insulting. Turkish cartoonist Eray Özbek explains why he drew this cartoon:


"I drew that in December 2011 because I shared these people's excitement during the expected democratic elections in the Islamic world,” he says. The artist, who is a Muslim himself, was surprised by the negative reactions. “It was not drawn to belittle anything, but was to glorify democracy”, he explains. “The voting box itself is a respectable symbol too. There is a referral to Kaaba here for sure, but the surroundings don't look like Mecca. I took Casablanca as the example.”

In answer to this week’s question, Özbek observes that all disciplines clash with freedom, “from ideologies to religions, from ethic rules to kinds of education. Even more so if there is no tolerance.”

Nada Younis agrees: “the boundaries of your freedom are religion”, he tweeted, inspiring Greek artist Spiros Derveniotis to create a cartoon he calls “Ruligion”:


Other people say religion and freedom don’t clash at all. “On the contrary, freedom is a genuine part of religion”, say several commentators. Mustafa Elamin adds that “اIslam calls on freedom. justice and equality between people even if their religion or group are different.”
So the problem is not religion but religious leaders, says Yehia Alkattan, and so Bernard Bouton drew for the tweet “religious extremist busy removing dangerous branches in his garden”.


Baher Emad had an even more critical view: “The extremists are the ones who convinced people that there is a clash between freedom and religion! In reality, extremists fear people will free themselves, start thinking and then abandon extremism.” This comment led to Saad Murtadha’s cartoon about East and West relations.



Emad is not the only one unhappy with extremists. ‏@yehiazak says: “Freedom of expression is fine, but if your opinion is to terrorise and kill me, just go to hell with your opinion.” Another commenter thinks hell might not be so bad: “If paradise is in the company of Bin Laden and Zawahiri and the Brothers and the Salafis, please reserve me the worst place in hell.”
Religious leaders? According to Tweep @delomb, you don’t need them at all “as long as you’ve got a brain”. Cartoonist Emilio took @delomb’s thought and expanded on it to create: “A brain immersed in religion experiences a loss or rationality proportional to the time of immersion.”


And cartoonist ‘Elchicotriste’ (‘the sad guy’ in translation) doesn’t even see the necessity of a brain - love is all you need!