This morning I read the article "Scorning the Prophet goes beyond free speech, it's an act of violence" in The Telegraph. It starts with the words "The Paris murders aside, the law has a duty to protect us all from insult and abuse". I thought the opening line seemed to set the whole article up for a session of victim blaming, and it seems I wasn't wrong. Here are my objections to the article:
The Paris murders aside, the law has a duty to protect us all from insult and abuse
No, this is simply not something you do. You do not put aside the murder of numerous people merely for causing offence, and then go on to say they should not have offended the killers in the first place. The law does have a duty to protect people from abuse, but it does not have any duty to protect us from insult. Don't tell people to forget the disproportionate response in order to get to see how upset you were that some people drew some cartoons.
Muslims believe in every jot and tittle of the Second Commandment. We are to make no graven images of any living thing, irrespective of whether such images might or might not lure the unwary into idolatry.
Here's the thing...I am not a Muslim. I don't believe in the second commandment, My beliefs (or lack of) do not constrain me to avoid drawing pictures. If that is what you believe that's nice for you, don't do it, but don't tell the rest of the world we have to adhere to your beliefs. The more you demand the drawing of Muhammad should be forbidden, the more necessary it is for unbelievers to draw him in order to maintain the freedom of our non-Islamic laws.
Unlike some other commandments, notably those against murder, adultery and theft, the Second is treated as a somewhat marginal issue in the classical manuals of Islamic ethics and law. Making pictures of people is forbidden, certainly, but it is hardly as wicked as missing a prayer, or neglecting the welfare of parents.
It should be treated as a marginal offence, for Muslims within a state ruled by Islamic law, and not a more serious offence like (as mentioned) deliberately missing prayers which, by the way, warrants a death penalty. Let's not forget that Muslims themselves have painted pictures of Muhammad throughout the years.
The murders were the acts of criminals with troubled pasts and little religious knowledge...The difficulty lay in the evident intention to mock, deride and wound. To portray the Prophet naked, or with a bomb in his turban, was not the simple manufacturing of a graven image. It was received, and rightly so, as a deliberate insult to an already maligned and vulnerable community.
The problem with the Charlie Hebdo cartoons is that they were offensive. Something which, according to hadiths, carried a death sentence during the life of Muhammad. In this hadith (story from Muhammad's life) a singing girl used to mock Muhammad, and upon his conquest of Mecca he ordered her to be killed even if she was seeking refuge on sacred ground; and in this hadith Muhammad was told about a blind man who stabbed to death his own wife, his wife who was also his slave. Muhammad was about to rule on his punishment when he was told the murdered women used to abuse and disparage him with her words, in response to these accusations Muhammad declared there should be no punishment for the murderer.
Perhaps these killers were inspired by these stories from Muhammad's own actions, stories which were probably made up over a hundred years after Muhammad's death and shouldn't even be part of Islam?
Scorn towards despised minorities is a hazardous business. During the days of Nazi terror, cartoons supplied a key weapon of anti-Jewish polemic
This is an awful misrepresentation. As you have just said yourself, the Nazi's propaganda was anti-Jewish, it was not anti-Judaism, and it certainly wasn't a mere mockery of the claims of Judaism itself. The Nazi's didn't mock stories of burning bushes, or bread falling from the sky, they produced material which portrayed Jewish people as sub-human, people to be despised. To compare this to a mockery of the idea that non-Muslims have to abide by blasphemy rules of a belief system they do not believe in is absurd beyond words.
To laugh at the Prophet, the repository of all that Muslims revere and find precious, to reduce him to the level of the scabrous and comedic, is something very different from “free speech” as usually understood. It is a violent act surely conscious of its capacity to cause distress, ratchet up prejudice and damage social cohesion.
A violent act? If someone is violent towards you then it is easier to understand a violent reaction, and it is clear that this is your intention when labelling it as a violent act. Who was physically injured by this violent act? This is a very poor attempt at excusing violent reprisal! Could you please supply a list of victims, their injuries, and at which hospitals they were treated? To classify those cartoons as violent acts is as erroneous as classifying the ensuing murders as art.
an atheist activist was convicted for distributing anti-Christian images in the prayer room at Liverpool Airport. The deeply distressed airport chaplain took him to court, and won easily.
Again, I object. The offender mentioned in this case went to a place of worship and distributed his materials, he was pushing the information onto people who did not want it. The problem with his case isn't that he was producing material insulting religious ideas, but that he was being anti-social in distributing this material without permission on private property, it was harassment, it was material that contained images of a sexual nature being distributed in a public place where there are children.
My second objection is that this story has been misrepresented as a man being prosecuted for distributing "anti-Christian" images, this simply is not the case. According to this news article, which also appeared in The Telegraph, the images consisted of
- Jesus on a cross next to an advert for "No more nails."
- Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of heaven being told "Stop, stop, we've run out of virgins"
- Two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality for everyone except women and homosexuals.
- A drawing of the Pope with a condom on his finger.
- A women kneeling in front of a Catholic priest captioned with a crude pun.
- An image where sausages were labelled as "The Koran."
Labelling pork as "The Quran" would be considered a massive offence by many Muslims. From these descriptions it seems these leaflets were more derogatory about Islam than Christianity.
The crime for which this man was arrested was harassment, and rightly so. I would be equally as willing to condemn anyone for handing out Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Muhammad in a Mosque in order to cause offence, that too would be harassment!
Mr Winters was obviously aware of the details of this case, so why pretend it was a purely anti-Christian act that resulted in the successful prosecution of the perpetrator? His purpose was simply to make it look as though it is an example of double standards when it comes to mocking Islam. It is an attempt at making the Muslim community victims of injustice. Whether this injustice actually exists or not I do not know, but the cited case is a clear example of faking such injustice.
It is for the many Muslims who now populate the Inns of Court to discover whether these legal precepts can in practice be used to protect non-Christians from abuse. A series of complex cases would trigger an overdue national and perhaps Europe-wide discussion on the right to protection from hate speech. Not all the lawsuits would succeed, but the community would have shown that it is determined to enjoy the protection of our country’s laws.
Go ahead, that is what the courts are for! If you don't like the ruling then that is what appeals are for! These laws that apply to any case on the mockery of Christianity also apply to the mockery Islam, these laws that apply to dehumanisation of Christians also apply to the dehumanisation of Muslims.
You should perhaps be careful what you wish for. The freedom of speech laws which permit people to mock your beliefs are the exact same ones which allow Muslims to call for the establishment of an Islamic system of government in the UK, to say non-believers are worse than cattle, and that we are people of no intelligence. British law does not protect people from hurt feelings, nor should it. If it did then religious books such as The Quran and The Old Testament, which deride homosexuals and unbelievers would be amongst the first to be censored.