Free speech must never hurt sentiments: Buddhist thinker

Updated - September 25, 2012 08:26 pm IST

Published - September 25, 2012 08:03 pm IST - KOTTAYAM:

The freedom of expression or intellectual exercise must never be used to hurt the sentiments of any section, Buddhist thinker, philosopher and managing trustee of World Buddhist Culture Trust, Venerable Doboom Tulku has said.

The Lama, during an interview conducted here on the sidelines of a seminar on inter-faith dialogues on Tuesday, was reacting to the controversy over the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims .

He was of the opinion that the film which has content portraying Islam in a bad light should never have been produced. “It should not have happened and should have been prevented. If the intention [behind producing the movie] is bad, then it is certainly condemnable. Everyone, irrespective of which religion they believe in, should respect the faith and beliefs of others,” he said.

According to him, freedom of expression or speech must be limited when the work could potentially hurt the sentiments of a large number of people. “Religious sentiments are mostly easy to spark or inflame. It is one thing to write books as part of an intellectual exercise. Similarly, producing films as a form of art is also acceptable. However, if the work is performed with bad intentions, they naturally will not be received positively.”

In addition to the numerous demonstrations and ensuing violence that have occurred due to the film, the inflammatory content has also led to a bounty being put on offer for the life of the film’s maker. However, the Tulku has advocated caution in dealing with the issue. “Such instances happen every now and then. Reacting to such actions with intolerance must be seen as the other extreme. Such acts could only worsen the situation.”

“In my opinion, everything depends on the attitude and intention of all those involved. For example, several years ago, when the Taliban had destroyed the Buddha statues in Afghanistan, only a mere few Buddhists had raised voices protesting against the action. But there was never any sort of retaliation in the issue. A sense of understanding had prevailed, back then. I have felt that the Taliban was not particularly against Buddhists or Buddhism. It was their belief that such statues should not be considered as an object of worship was what had led to their action,” he said.

He added that a high-level of understanding was necessary in dealing with matters relating to different faiths. At the same time, he stressed the importance of educating the public with lessons on moral and ethical values as they could influence individuals for the better.

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