Cardinal Silvestrini: freedom to be satirical must not lead to offense of religious sentiments

.- Cardinal Archille Silvestrini, the former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, has called the caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, published in the European press, a "scandal" that has offended the world’s Muslims.

Speaking to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the cardinal said satirical comments about the practices or customs of Islam were understandable, but not about “the Koran, Allah or his prophet.”

Satire that offends the religious sentiments of others, he went on, becomes aggression and is regrettable.  Laws allow individuals to institute legal action when they are personally harmed by libel or defamation, he noted. "But if the offenses are against their religious symbols, how can they defend themselves?" he asked.

Cardinal Silvestrini noted that even a secular society “presupposes respect,” noting the existence of laws that punish those who desecrate their nation’s flags.  He said that the cartoons which have led to violence across Europe and the Islamic world betrayed a tendency in Western society to consider freedom of expression as an absolute right.

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