Further to this piece, and this and this, the BBC reports that the editor of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has been acquitted. A French court rejected accusations by the Grand Mosque of Paris and other Islamic groups who claimed the magazine had “insulted Muslims” and had incited “hatred” against them by reprinting cartoons of Muhammad. Of the blog posts I've seen reporting this news, Oliver Kamm makes the strongest point, and one that's all too rarely heard:
“Note, however, one aspect of the judgement, according to the BBC report, that troubles me: ‘The cartoons were covered by freedom of expression laws and were not an attack on Islam, but fundamentalists, it said.’ Do freedom of expression laws not cover an attack on Islam? It is essential that they should. There is nothing wrong with an attack on Islam (or any other sacred belief). There is nothing wrong with giving offence to religious groups. The judgement appears implicitly to reject these principles. Defenders of a free society must assert them militantly.”
Let me repeat some of that, because it bears repeating, and probably more than once:
“There is nothing wrong with an attack on Islam (or any other sacred belief).”
One of the creeping, unanalysed myths of our time is that it is somehow wrong to dislike Islam, or any part thereof, and wrong to take a dim view of its tenets and demands, and wrong to take a still dimmer view of the figure who founded it. I can practically hear the distant tutting and grunts of disapproval. Poor Islam. Poor Muslims. Their beliefs are being mocked. How hurtful. How 'racist.' How terribly unfair.
No. It's not unfair at all. What's unfair is a demand for unearned deference and a unilateral exemption from the testing of ideas. What's unfair, indeed despicable, are efforts by Islamic groups to cow dissent and stifle criticism with a well-rehearsed pantomime of victimhood and the projection of false motives. Pretending to be hurt in order to assert one's will over others, even violently, or to gain unreciprocated favours, or to exert control over what others may say and think, is cowardly and malign. Let me say that once again. It's cowardly and malign.
As I argued here,
“Religious freedom is presumed to entail sparing believers any hint that others do not share their beliefs, and indeed may find them ludicrous. There is, apparently, no corresponding obligation for believers to embrace ideas that are not clearly risible, monstrous or disgusting. When given a moment's thought, this protectionist claim is decidedly fascistic in its practical implications. If believers wish to be insulated from any differing opinion, and even statements of fact, they would have to create a closed religious order, somewhere atop a mountain where reality can to some extent be avoided.
Alternatively, likeminded believers could strive to impose upon society a reactionary and intolerant mindset in which intellectual enquiry and dissent are punishable by imprisonment or death. Failing that, a climate of pre-emptive self-censorship, fear and unilateral deference would no doubt be a start. And, ultimately, one has to wonder what kind of 'faith' requires protection of this kind. If a prideful and supremacist ideology requires the punitive eradication of alternative ideas, then what kind of ideology are we dealing with, and just how superior is it?”
This is not an entirely trivial point, and it's one I suspect I'll have to restate at depressingly regular intervals. For more on censorship, dominance and the passive-aggressive jihad, see here and here.
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