Thursday, January 08, 2015

Freedom of Speech and Religion

By now, the world has had time to digest the horrific attacks on the Paris newspaper which has resulted in the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie in social media.  Twelve people dead, four of them journalists and one the founder of the paper.

Sure, the paper was known for its harsh graphic criticism of Islam in the past, and had been firebombed last fall over previous drawings of Mohammed.  But did you know that it is also known for some pretty harsh stuff criticizing ALL religions?

I want to make my stance here perfectly clear.

In EVERY case, freedom of speech trumps anyone's heartfelt beliefs, whether religious or secular.  No belief system is sacrosanct against criticism.


Not yours, not mine.

Criticism helps us grow, it points out our weaknesses, exposes our flaws.  Responding to criticism helps us sharpen our debating techniques, correct the flaws in our thinking and brings us back down to a human level, instead of existing in the clouds of our own perceived perfection.

I know, it's hard.  It often hurts.  Believe me, I am no angel when it comes to receiving criticism.

Ask my wife.  She knows!

But, really, at no time should criticism deserve a violent response.  Not a punch to the nose, not a pistol shot, not a firebomb.

Surely not a barrage of AK-47 bullets resulting in multiple deaths.

Any ideology or theology which requires, or even allows, the penalty of death for criticism neither deserves such protection nor can, obviously, tolerate it.

Our response should be to post the offending images, everywhere, spreading them as far and wide as possible, with the reason why posted prominently therewith.

Therefor, here is my contribution to that:

The Muslim world isn't sitting back silently, no matter what Fox News may want you to think. To quote:
“What have you really accomplished?” 
Yesterday you killed 12 people and freedom of expression. You say that you avenged the Prophet. You were violated because caricatures were drawn. Charlie Hebdo had a circulation of 50,000. You changed this yesterday. Those caricatures you thought were worth killing for, so that no one would ever again dare to caricature our prophet? Those cartoons had a circulation of 500 million yesterday. At the very least.
Newspapers worldwide have the cartoons on the front pagte today, online, on paper. Millions have changed their profile picture to a caricature of Muhammad . You said “Charlie Hebdo is dead.” The world responded by saying “Je suis Charlie,” “I’m Charlie.” You’ve made ​​Charlie Hebdo immortal. And freedom of speech has reemerged stronger than ever. And did you know that many Muslims, who in 2005 and 2006 were hurt and depressed over the Mohammed cartoons, yesterday wrote that they have changed their minds? They say that the killing of the defenseless is a far greater insult against Muslims than caricatures will ever be. They say: “Draw, draw, draw.” This is what you have achieved.
It's called the Streisand Effect, folks.  Try to suppress something today, especially on the Internet, and that WILL backfire.  So many more people will hear about it, you'll be sorry.

Instead of loading that AK-47, try sitting down and looking at yourself.  There is a reason millions of your co-religionists are also lambasting you on various Arab TV networks, including Al Jazerra.  Engage them, talk to them, learn from them.

By shooting your critics, you merely multiply them.  You hurt your cause, you do not help it.


Changing course a bit here, and bringing up the criticism some have brought up against those who are pursuing what they claim is "Islamaphobia", I will only say this:

The suffix -phobia is intended to indicate a fear of something.  I do not "fear" Islam.  I abhor it and all religions.  Religion condones, teaches, and advances non-critical thinking, subjection to unquestioned authority and adherence to non-scientific, superstitious beliefs which do not advance our knowledge of the material world.  Such beliefs cause us to advance solutions to problems which do not exist and stop us from pursuing solutions to real problems.

This has real and extremely harmful consequences to real people, billions of them, worldwide, which deserves the full and most scathing criticism and/or satire possible.  Wherever we can, however we can.

Harmful theologies, as with harmful ideologies, deserve no respite from criticism, nor protection from satire.

If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.