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Three cheers for blasphemy!

January 11, 2015

Michael Tomasky draws the line between the Paris terrorists and the severe punishment Saudi Arabia metes out to a blasphemous blogger. Razib Khan makes the anthropological point that blasphemy taboos are normal. The problem, in an ever smaller and more mobile world, is that those taboos no longer are isolated each to a locality whose members were raised in the same beliefs. You don’t give a flip about Mohammed, Ali down the street thinks the Pope is just another deluded religious figure, and I agree with you both on those points. Metropolitan life requires everyone to allow that his fellow citizen can say and write what the first views as sacrilege. The notion that blasphemy and apostasy taboos need to be set aside in a modern world is one of the genius inventions of the Enlightenment, even if not fully realized in the west. The best response to the Charlie Hebdo attack — and especially by Muslims who want to present a moderate face for Islam — is for us all to work for the abolition of blasphemy and apostasy laws. Throughout the world. Including Canada and Ireland, even if those laws are rarely enforced, and never with the barbarity of Saudi Arabia.

Update: And I should have mentioned France’s own laws restricting speech. Read Jonathan Turley’s article on that!

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