Month after month the cartoons of Hossein Hajiagha draw condemnation from iranian.com's readers. It is quite rare to see a letter written commending him for his political and social commentary. In the past month alone, more than thirteen letters protesting Hajiagha's cartoons were published in the . While I agree with the sentiments of many of my compatriots regarding Hajiagha's poor taste as exhibited in his cartoons, I fully support iranian.com in publishing them.
Some people seem to forget that the mantra of this magazine is “Nothing is Sacred”. Many of them complain that iranain.com ought to act as a censor and refuse to print Hajiagha's cartoons. These are readers who wish to put the blame on Hajiagha and iranian.com for damage done to their delicate sensibilities. They conveniently forget that they are the one's who left-clicked their mouse to open the cartoon in the first place.
Hajiagha's uniquely offensive brand of satire is not unknown to the readers of iranian.com. He offends everyone: Iranian women, Canadian women, American women, Canadian men, American men, Iranian drug addicts, Canadian drug addicts, American drug addicts, the Canadian government, the Iranian government and the American government. The lascivious nature of his cartoons is also well known. In fact the only things that he apparently knows how to draw are tits, vaginas and penises. Without doubt, he is a full-fledged, uninhibited pervert, but that is no reason to strip him of his right to speak.
Free Speech has never been about getting along or agreeing with others. Nor is it about promoting unity within any community. The right of free speech is predicated on the notion that robust and vigorous debate within any community or society is the only avenue to harmonize divergent opinions and beliefs and to find the truth about any subject. When we attempt to silence others or when we ask others to do it for us, we are ultimately chipping away at our own right to speak freely. When we seek to limit another individual's right to participate in open and free social discourse, we are, in essence giving our unqualified support to the notion that censorship is acceptable.
If a small, but vocal portion of iranian.com readers are allowed to silence Hajiagha, whose ideas and illustrations are vulgar and repugnant to many, we must accept the fact that we will simultaneously be allowing others to eviscerate our cherished right of free expression. Personally, I would rather endure a million Hajiagha cartoons, before I would agree to let anyone limit my right to speak freely.
For the freedom of speech to be meaningful it must be defended and held sacrosanct from assault-no matter for what reason or from what quarter an attack against it is launched. In free societies, the principle of free speech and the right to express one's thoughts and ideas must be held inviolate. If we allow ourselves to give into emotion and jump on the censorship bandwagon every time we hear or read something that we find repugnant or offensive to our individual sensibilities, then we endanger our very own freedoms.
Allowing those with whom we do not agree, like Hossein Hajiagha, to be silenced either because what he has to say offends us or the manner in which he chooses to express his opinions offends us invites the compromise of own rights to free expression. I do not agree with Hajiagha's view of the world as expressed time and again in his vulgar depictions, but I unequivocally support his right to say what he wants to say, and I applaud iranian.com's courage and dedication to the principle of free speech in printing Hajiagha's cartoons. Every Iranian who believes that the right to speak freely is pretty darn special, ought to speak out in defense of Hajiagha. There can be no middle ground. Either one believes in freedom of speech or one does not. It's all or nothing.
How can any of us expect those who may not share our beliefs and opinions to defend our right to speak if we not only shrink from our obligation to protect their right to speak, but seek to have others [in this case iranian.com] terminate their right to speak freely? Standing up for another's right to speak freely and believing what he or she has to say are two entirely different things. One can find Hajiagha's cartoons filthy and offensive while still defending his right to freely express his views. Disagreeing with what one says while defending his right to say what he wishes are not mutually exclusive positions.
Hundreds of thousands of young American and Canadian men died horribly violent deaths on faraway battlefields at the hands of Hitler's Nazis during World War II. They died to preserve certain rights our peoples hold dear among which is the right to speak freely and without fear of retribution or reprisal. They died so that all subsequent generations of Canadians and Americans, whether natural born or naturalized would come to know how precious the right to speak freely is.
Their blood, given so many decades ago, today even protects the rights of those strange and pathetic individuals who are members of the Canadian and American Nazi Parties who parade around from time to time in S.S. uniforms protesting and demonstrating against the demise of the Aryan Race in North America . It is ironic that each time these misguided misfits don their Nazi uniforms and holds a public rally to spew their hate-filled propaganda against niggers, wops, chinks, spicks, gooks, hymies and camel jockeys, they in fact fortify and strengthen the rights of all Americans and Canadians to speak freely.
This includes sad and pathetic immigrants like Hossein Hajiagha who hate everything about their new life abroad. As a human being, I feel sad for him because he is unable to find anything good and beautiful in his new life as a Iranian-Canadian and as a fellow Iranian I feel shame because of the extremely offensive nature of his cartoons. Still, I fully support his right to say what he wishes to say.
Without doubt, the overwhelming majority of Iranians in North America do not ascribe to sentiments expressed by Hajiagha, but we must recognize and defend his right to publish his cartoons if we treasure our own right to speak. While I know that many Iranian, Canadian and American women particularly feel deeply insulted and aggrieved by the publication of Hajiagha's cartoons, we must never forget that there are times when the right of a single individual outweighs the sensibilities of the many. This is such a case. We may not like Hossein Hajiagha or his cartoons, but his right to speak outweighs our desire to be spared injured feelings.
The freedoms which we often take for granted, were bought and paid for with the blood of many long departed souls. I hope that I never live to see the day when we grow so complacent and uncaring that the sacrifice of those who died to guarantee the many treasured rights we enjoy, among which the most precious is the right of free speech, becomes meaningless to us. This is a right that billions of people in the world, including those in Iran, can only dream of. This is a right for which many of our precious countrymen in Iran have given their lives trying to establish for all Iranians.
We dishonor the sacrifice and suffering of our countrymen in Iran who cannot speak freely if we fail to rally in support of Hossein Hajiagha, and we sully the memory of all those Canadian and American boys who paid with their lives to give us the right to speak freely if we fail to defend Hajiagha and his repulsive cartoons.
We would all do well to remember what Martin Niemöller wrote about the about the silence of German intellectuals to the rise of the Nazis as they systematically targeted groups who disagreed with them;
First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left
to speak up for me.
If Iranian-Canadians and Iranian-Americans fail to take a stand today in support of the universal and inalienable right of all humans to speak freely whether we agree with them or not, then tomorrow there may be no one left to stand up for us when we want to speak. Go ahead Hajiagha, say it loud and say it proud!