Cunning Little Monkeys
Friday Ephemera

Explaining Why

Rummaging through the archives, I unearthed this nugget by Steve Edwards, from an essay titled On the Right to Give Offence, published last year in Policy magazine. In the extract below, Edwards points out why offending religious prejudice can be a necessary part of realistic discussion, and why avoiding such offence can be grossly unfair.

A Muslim is somebody who believes that a man called Muhammad… passed on certain revelations and instructions directly from God Himself. By logic, a non-Muslim is somebody who does not accept that Muhammad was any such prophet, and thereby rejects his teachings as not having come from God… If, contrary to Muhammad’s claims (assuming he has been represented correctly), we do not believe that he was any such prophet from God, what do we truly think of the man?

The answer must be one of three possibilities: either Muhammad was a liar, or he was deluded, or he was mad. These are the only possible conclusions of the intellectually honest non-Muslim. Let us ponder one of the three possibilities—that Muhammad was a liar. Would it be unreasonable then to posit that a man willing to deceive many thousands of people, perhaps out of hunger for power or self-aggrandisement, could be labelled as ‘evil’? If so, on what basis do we object to an extremely negative portrayal (either graphic or prose) of such an ‘evildoer’?

Whether or not such a portrayal may appear ‘gratuitous’ or provoke widespread anger, it would nonetheless be a justifiable expression of dissent. Therefore, to place legal sanctions on any such piece of literature is to necessarily outlaw opposition to, and disagreement with, Islam to a logical denouement; this suggests we are implicitly calling for the abolition of the right to proclaim oneself a non-Muslim in clear and in certain terms. That is, one may still be a nominal ‘non-Muslim’ free of harassment, but one cannot explain and defend one’s position in any significant detail without committing the act of blasphemy.

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