Support Free Speech: Buy LEGO!

I’m conflicted and confused about the recent controversy (and violence) over a cartoon of Mohammed published last September in a Danish newspaper. I spent a summer during college working on an archaeological dig in Jordan, where I became good friends with many Muslims. I’m also a writer and card-carrying proponent of free speech.

But the boycotts are especially baffling. Here’s a quote from a recent article (via ILENN):

From Havarti cheese to Lego toys, Danish products have been yanked off the shelves of stores in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries around the Middle East as Muslims await an apology for the cartoons, which the Copenhagen government has said it cannot give.

I realize that this is a complex issue. (Political cartoonist Mikhaela Reid provides a fairly balanced perspective, identifying the racist and xenophobic overtones of the original cartoon.) But punishing unrelated Danish companies like LEGO strikes me as an overreaction.

Should those of us in “the west” take to the streets, burn down the embassies of Muslim countries, and counter-boycott goods from such countries? No, absolutely not! But perhaps we can show our support for the right to free speech of artists and writers everywhere by buying a little extra Havarti and LEGO.

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