Censorship and Literature: Term Paper
Ours is an age of information and technology, convenient, and readily-available. Any piece of information, opinion and critique is all but a mouse-click away. Like most advancements in technology, this is both a boon and a bane, a double-edged sword. The age of the Internet, in which we all reside now, has brought forth its fair share of controversies over the past few years. From the leaked sex tapes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, to the relatively more important, and recent Wikileaks scandal, in which classified government information and news became available to the common layman sitting at home. Nothing is a secret anymore, nothing is sacred. The Internet has reared its ugly head too many times in the recent past. Therefore, to combat this rising problem, internet censorship has come into existence. Internet censorship, which is conducted by the government, or private organizations on behalf of the government, is used to control or suppress the publishing of, or access to information deemed “not suitable”, for a variety of purposes. These various targets of censorship, often fall under broad headings such as i) politics and power, i.e., political blogs and web sites, ii) social norms and morals, that is pornographic sites, gambling sites, sites including hate speech, and anything that can be considered antithetical to accepted social norms, iii) security concerns, for example threats to national security, of which Wikileaks is the best example and iv) protection of intellectual property and existing economic interests, that is sites which share content that violates a copyright, and other intellectual property rights, for examples sites that sell or distribute music, but are not ‘approved’ by rights holders. These measures, though beneficial in the sense that illicit information is made unavailable to the public, have also sparked off the debates regarding freedom of speech and the right to information, as should be provided to all citizens, by the Constitution. By far one of the most controversial topics of Internet censorship of recent times has to do with the spread of anti-Islamic propaganda. In fact, there is a phobia named after it: Islamaphobia. Islamaphobia, is defined as prejudice against, or the hatred and irrational fear of Muslims. Though the term dates back to the early 1900s, it has entered common vocabulary after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in the United States. It is the dread and hatred of Islam, and therefore a fear and dislike of all Muslims, while at the same time the practice of discriminating against them by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation. It also includes the idea that Islam has no values in common with other cultures of the West, and is a violent political ideology, rather than a religion. Islamaphobia is fast becoming a topic of sociological and political importance. Take the issue of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, a novel which was first published in 1988 and inspired in part by the life of Muhammad, the Islamic Prophet. The title refers to the so-called “satanic verses”, a group of alleged Quranic verses that allow intercessory prayers to be made to three Pagan Meccan goddesses. The book sparked a major controversy when conservative Muslims accused it of being blasphemous and mocking their faith. It even lead to a fatwa being called for the death of Rushdie, issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on 14th February, 1989. Rushdie was also accused of misusing his right to freedom of speech, and the book was duly banned in several countries. Another similar controversy, The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, began when 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted Muhammad, were published in the Danish newspaper, on 30th September, 2005. The newspaper announced that this publication was an attempt to contribute to the debate regarding...
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