Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"No blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer."

Some of you may already be familiar with the latest Scandinavian Mohammed cartoon controversy. I'll have something on it tomorrow. In the meantime, Paul Marshall has a terrific essay pointing out that this is just the latest example of how Islamists use charges of blasphemy to suppress free expression:

Of course, these are not the only threats in repressive states' arsenals. In Egypt activists and critics have been imprisoned for forgery and damaging Egypt's image abroad. Saudi Arabia and Iran use a host of restrictive measures. But blasphemy charges are a potent weapon and are used systematically to silence and destroy religious minorities, authors and journalists and democracy activists. As the late Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, and whose novel Children of Gebelawi was banned in Egypt for blasphemy, put it: "no blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer."

Repressive laws, supplemented and reinforced by terrorists, vigilantes and mob violence, are a fundamental barrier to open discussion and dissent, and so to democracy and free societies, within the Muslim world. When politics and religion are intertwined, there can be no political freedom without religious freedom, including the right to criticize religious ideas. Hence, removing legal bans on blasphemy and 'insulting Islam' is vital to protecting an open debate that could lead to other reforms.

I found this essay via Greg at Dhimmi Watch who bizarrely condemned this piece as politically correct because it didn't offer a blanket condemnation of Islam and Muslims. Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch are good news sources, but I think I'll take the serious work of Mr. Marshall over the simple minded reductionism that usually passes for analysis at those two sites.


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