Global Blasphemy Law


by Sid (Faisal)
25th November, 2008 at 7:00 am    

Oh. my. god.

Washington – World leaders gathering at the United Nations this week for a special session of the General Assembly to advance interfaith dialogue should have no illusions that their efforts will miraculously promote mutual respect between religious communities or end abuses of religious freedom.

Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated this week’s special session, is quietly enlisting the leaders’ support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties.

If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of “respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols … therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred.”

No prizes for guessing that this lofty sounding message is nothing more than a proposal for the criminalisation of speech and activities that allow clerics to decide what is or isn’t an “insult to religion”.

Who else but Saudi Arabia? A country which is politely regarded as an “exceptional case” when it comes to abuses of religious freedom. A country which refuses to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the International Religious Freedom Act. Saudi Arabia is a nation where public acts of faith by Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i and the Ahmadiyya would be illegal and even private acts are constricted. Saudi authorities stamp out Islamic practices they consider are outside of an interpretation of Islam their clerics have deemed orthodox (Wahhabi).

In the past two years, dozens of Shiites have been detained for up to 30 days for holding small religious gatherings at home. One Ismaili, Hadi Al-Mutaif, is serving a life sentence after being condemned for apostasy in 1994 for a remark he made as a teenager that was deemed blasphemous. The alleged crime of apostasy, in fact, can be punished by death.

The government’s policies are enforced by the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, a roving religious police force, armed with whips, that regularly oversteps its authority and is unchecked by the judiciary.

Women seeking to exercise basic freedoms of speech, movement, association, and equality before the law have experienced particularly severe abuse.

Against the background of countless incidences of abuses of religious freedom and human rights violations, Saudi Arabia is also the guilty of funding religious “scholars” and ideologues and the printing and distribution of religious treatises, textbooks and newspapers which promote the hatred of non-Muslims which find their way into thousands of religious schools all over the muslim world. They continue to fund and patronise the clerical fascists behind the Jamaat-e-Islam with the support to operate in nascent democratic countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

And then there is the denial of the rights of women in their own country:

Women seeking to exercise basic freedoms of speech, movement, association, and equality before the law have experienced particularly severe abuse.

In a particularly egregious recent case, a woman was gang-raped as punishment by seven men who found her alone in a car with a man who was not her relative. She escaped the sentence of 200 lashes and six months in prison only because of a pardon by King Abdullah, yet he also said he believed the sentence was appropriate.

At a time when some Muslim countries are struggling to factor out Islamic blasphemy laws from their constitutions via secular legislation, why is the United Nations involved with formalising an International law to promote them? The UN is an organisation which is supposedly in the business of promoting harmony, international dialogue and human rights for all. So why is it allowing Saudi Arabia to table a proposal for an International Blasphemy Law to policy makers of its Member nations? What do we  make of the UN when it is the willing harbinger of an initiative that will intensify religious repression and exacerbate divisions?


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  1. A low, dishonest year « Max Dunbar

    [...] Of course the recession will change things. Jonathan Jones argues that culture is authonomous from economics and that writing won’t be killed by the crunch – it may even thrive. But in publishing, less cash means less risk. Directors will not want to risk a libel suit, even for the next Ulysses. On the plus side, there is going to be an inquiry into our libel laws. On the minus side, the UN has organised what amounts to an international blasphemy law. [...]




  1. Letters From A Tory — on 25th November, 2008 at 9:55 am  

    Oh great, just what we need – an economic crisis compounded by an attack on liberty and freedom.

    Happy days.

    http://www.lettersfromatory.com

  2. Leon — on 25th November, 2008 at 10:32 am  

    Hahaha this is great!

    is quietly enlisting the leaders’ support for a global law to punish blasphemy

    No better promoter and unifier for the cause of Atheism will be found than this! I say let them try, and they’ll see the response they’ll get.

  3. Jai — on 25th November, 2008 at 10:43 am  

    is quietly enlisting the leaders’ support for a global law to punish blasphemy

    Some of the people promoting this clearly haven’t thought things through. For example, asserting that one particular religion is the “only true path” and “non-believers” are condemned to damnation could be viewed as blasphemy from the perspective of less exclusivist faiths. The same applies for other major differences of opinion between organised religions.

  4. bananabrain — on 25th November, 2008 at 10:44 am  

    When did the UN become the harbinger of this hateful ideology that will intensify religious repression and exacerbate divisions?

    is that a serious question? the UN has been in the pocket of these lunatics for as long as i remember. that is why syria and iran are allowed to sit on UN human rights bodies and spend all their time thinking up new ways to have a go at israel. that is why the “durban II” anti-racism conference is going to be dedicated to the same thing.

    honestly, are you *surprised*? i’ve long been suspicious of saudi efforts in the interfaith arena for precisely this reason. now we see what their game really is and, surprise, surprise, it’s the same one as always.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  5. Rumbold — on 25th November, 2008 at 10:53 am  

    What Bananabrain said.

  6. Sid — on 25th November, 2008 at 10:59 am  

    Jai: For example, asserting that one particular religion is the “only true path” and “non-believers” are condemned to damnation could be viewed as blasphemy from the perspective of less exclusivist faiths.

    It goes way deeper than simply inter-religious exclusivity. The Saudis push the ideology that only Wahhabism is the true sect within Islam and all others are heresies.

    bananabrain: honestly, are you *surprised*? i’ve long been suspicious of saudi efforts in the interfaith arena for precisely this reason.

    I was being more rhetorical than surprised.

  7. Sid — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:12 am  

    But the use of the UN General Assembly to push a Global Blasphemy Law while boasting a catalogue of of human rights violations, complete lack of religious freedom, abuse of migrant workers etc is fantastical.

  8. Ashik — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:15 am  

    A very difficult balance this. There is no absolute right to offend religious belief and neither an absolute right not to have ones beliefs offended. We need a happy middle ground. A global blasphemy law simply wouldn’t help achieve this.

    In the Satanic Verses controversy I always thought that Rushdie should not have portrayed the Prophet’s (PBUH) wives as prostitutes as this is mere sensationalism and slander. However, the controversy around Salman the Persian adding bits to the Qur’an without the Prophet’s knowledge has been around for centuries. As long as Muslim academics and religious figures are given equal opportunity to refute such claims when then that’s fine.

    The Saudis are not credible faith leaders to enter into discourse with other faiths on behalf of Muslims. Although I strongly disagree with the notion in this thread that this Wahhabi regime is bankrolling Jamaat I Islami in the Subcontinent, the Saudis do financially support Madrashas, Schools, Mosques etc which favour a more orthodox spartan Arab flavoured Islam which does not sit comfortably with the cultural diversity within Islam. To be fair though they and the Arabs also provide genuine support as well eg. funding for Sylhet Shahjalal University in Bangladesh (a mainstream University). It’s a mixed bag.

  9. billy — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:17 am  

    It goes way deeper than simply inter-religious exclusivity. The Saudis push the ideology that only Wahhabism is the true sect within Islam and all others are heresies.

    That’s just the flesh-eating-bug logic that Islam has presented towards every other faith in the world since its inception, become internalised. The same flesh-eating-bug logic that Christianity possessed and internalised in the various inquisitions and persecutions over the ages. Every religion has this kind of chauvinism to a certain extent, especially in the consolidation of modernity. But whilst Christianity has to a great extent been de-fanged, especially in the locus of its earlier madness, Saudi Islam actually believes, and acts on, its bullying and totalising, and demented understanding of itself.

    It’s just the basic hypocrisy writ large: contempt for all others, but demanding special priveliges for itself.

    If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

    Really, this is just going to backfire spectacularly. Although I have no idea how they ever imagine they could enforce such a protocol in nations like Britain. I guess the Ayatollah’s annoyance with Rushdie was an early example of this lunatic impulse. It also describes the core contempt that Saudi Wahaabi Islam holds the rest of humanity in. That they have pumped unknown numbers of billions into disseminating their creed into Islamic communities around the world, including Britain, leaves you with some idea of just how insidious they are.

  10. Rumbold — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:20 am  

    Ashik:

    “There is no absolute right to offend religious belief and neither an absolute right not to have ones beliefs offended.”

    There is. Or there should be. We should have the right, but it doesn’t mean that we should use it. I should be able to insult whatever beliefs I want to.

  11. Ashik — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:20 am  

    I would find inclusion of Israel as much as Syria or Iran on a UN Human Rights Commission laughable. But then such panels would not be culturally representative as they would only include genuine European and North American democracies who absolutely value human Rights. And even then there would be controversy eg. over Guantanimo.

  12. Leon — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:25 am  

    What a second, why shouldn’t I have the right to offend people about their fairy tale beliefs? This whole thing takes religion far too seriously…

  13. Bartholomew — on 25th November, 2008 at 1:08 pm  

    At the risk of sounding wacky, there may be a “hidden hand” working with the Saudis – none other than Rev Moon, via a member of the Philippine House of Representatives. Here’s the possible evidence.

  14. platinum786 — on 25th November, 2008 at 2:27 pm  

    Well it would seem money can buy you other peoples freedom as well now…

  15. Mezba — on 25th November, 2008 at 2:53 pm  

    Now if someone in Saudi criticizes the rulers, they can say insulting the ruler is insulting Islam, i.e. breaking the Global Blasphemy law, and take action. And it will be UN-scanctioned action.

  16. bananabrain — on 25th November, 2008 at 3:11 pm  

    ashik:

    israel isn’t allowed on *any* UN bodies, because the rules about geographical representation come into play, which makes it part of the middle eastern region, where nobody else will speak to them or even acknowledge their existence. it is the only state to be so treated.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  17. soru — on 25th November, 2008 at 3:49 pm  

    bananabrain:

    true, but only because China has succeeded in blocking Taiwan from even being counted as a UN member state.

  18. Hermes — on 25th November, 2008 at 4:02 pm  

    We are all doomed, I tell ye…doomed! And a good job too because with any luck the Isalmic nations will be the first disappear hopefully, by turning their Jihad against each other. There, have I insulted someone’s religion too much? Or should I go on a bit longer…

  19. Don — on 25th November, 2008 at 6:02 pm  

    I’m in two minds about this proposal…

    Of course I’m bloody not. The sheer brass neck of it, the utter contempt it shows for the most basic human rights – if they even grasp the concept.

    If I choose to mock somebody’s religion I may be boorish and insensitive (or not) but a criminal? If this thing goes through in any shape I shall seek to become the Al Capone of mockers and sneerers.

    I may have to give up the day job just to fit all the mocking in.

    Thanks for highlighting this one, Sid. Here’s a little healthy mockery to be going on with.

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/

  20. Ophelia Benson — on 25th November, 2008 at 6:03 pm  

    This has been going on for awhile, almost totally ignored by the news media. Roy Brown of the IHEU (Int Humanist & Ethical Union) and David Littman have been putting up a lonely resistance at the UN, joined in September by Austin Dacey, the Center for Inquiry’s rep at the UN.

    See this

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=345

    and this

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=354

    And see Roy Brown’s articles at the IHEU and Austin Dacey’s two long articles at CFI.

  21. Sid — on 25th November, 2008 at 6:14 pm  

    thanks Ophelia.
    Is there anything people can do to organise against this?

  22. Imran Khan — on 25th November, 2008 at 7:55 pm  

    You can’t have it both ways. Many European countries have Blasphemy laws and indeed restriction to speak on the holocaust aside from officially accepted doctrine.

    Thus freedom of speech is denied in some cases here.

    So its worse in Saudi but start by putting your own house in order. Why go running off to harp on about Saudi. What about the freedom of speech of those in Europe which is curtailed?

    Even if they are wrong before lecturing elsewhere get Europe’s House in order.

  23. Imran Khan — on 25th November, 2008 at 8:07 pm  

    “israel isn’t allowed on *any* UN bodies, because the rules about geographical representation come into play, which makes it part of the middle eastern region, where nobody else will speak to them or even acknowledge their existence. it is the only state to be so treated.”

    Well Israel also denies the Palestinians their fundamental right to speak at major UN occasions.

    In addition the USA refuses to allow any criticism of Israel to pass by the Security Council.

    Do you agree with the USA that Israel is above any censure?

    Do you agree with the USA which vetoes almost any criticism of Israel?

    Israel is blocked but equally is a blocker to another people’s aspirations and voice on the UN.

    Why should Israel be part of the UN and because of its actions another people are denied being part of the UN?

    Would Israel and its allies allow the Palestinians onto a UN body? If not then why should Palestinian allies allow Israel onto a UN body?

    First Israel has to learn to accept legitimate criticism and not hide behind the USA. Israel needs to build a constructive role in the region as do the Palestinians.

    Also I would point out that Israel now has a valid plan of acceptance into the region including then UN bodies and my friend Israel is dithering – why? They said they would do anything for peace but when an offer came they have dithered for years. Acceptance of peace means that Israel will be a player in the areas you talk of.

    Why isn’t Israel a player in making the Middle Eats nuclear free? Maybe it should head that committee and I am not joking it is a legitimate aim that it should be leading to rid the region of all nuclear weapons.

    Too often Israel’s mistake has been to look West instead of closer to home.

  24. halima — on 25th November, 2008 at 8:10 pm  

    What’s the big deal that the UN convenes a special session on looking at inter-faith? The UN convenes countless sessions on a number of issues – in good faith (excuse the pun for those that don’t have a liberal view of religion) . It’s as typical as convening a session on anti-racism or gender abuse and so on.

    While convening universal standards on human rights is always tricky – and has been a long debate over the years, and will be, I don’t see what the fuss is here.

    Presumably those that oppose will be individuals who defend freedom of expression without any compromise on this ideal – and then there are others that will argue free speech up to a point.

    No biggie.

  25. Imran Khan — on 25th November, 2008 at 8:14 pm  

    “that is why the “durban II” anti-racism conference is going to be dedicated to the same thing.”

    Oh come on. So any conference that criticises Israel has to be bad huh?

    If Israel is being racists then it should be held to account and not allowed to hide away. If it isn’t then it should go and address the issue.

    What is staying away achieving? You are being frankly silly in saying it is bad – it is a chance for Israel to be constructive and it may take years to change opinion but by staying away it delays the change.

    Israel and the Palestinians need to stand up and say they have done things wrong and want to move forward.

    Boycotting every event that criticises you simply denial that anything is wrong. Things are very wrong over there and all the parties need to start saying so.

    They have all been bad, they have all been racist, they have all be unjust. So yes they need to be held to account.

    If Israel went and said yes we have been unfair and we want the Palestinians to admit this as well, then yes I would say that Israel has risen above the other in the region in trying to tackle issues. So yes they should go and so should the Palestinians and say they have been making mistakes.

    To not go is to deny there is a problem. Are you denying that both parties have essentially been abhorrent to each other?

  26. Don — on 25th November, 2008 at 8:25 pm  

    Imran,

    European blasphemy laws are anachronisms, or at least they were until a certain section of christianity saw a bandwagon. Down with ‘em, but it’s all of a piece. Belief as the ultimate trump card is what all of them want and I’m sure there will be common ground found by clerics of all persuasions.

    So, yes. We need to get rid of blasphemy laws, but this article is about a larger issue than the few anomolous cases they throw up locally. It’s about a serious proposal to change the legal status of discourse. So while getting our house in order (hey, it’s taking longer than we thought) I don’t think it is wise to avert our eyes from an outrageous and well financed campaign.

  27. Imran Khan — on 25th November, 2008 at 9:10 pm  

    Don: “I don’t think it is wise to avert our eyes from an outrageous and well financed campaign.”

    I agree but equally one of the complaints I see often made is that in the west free speech is restricted in certain areas. So yes of course your point is right and well made but also please realise that in the Muslim world they see double standards in the approach.

    So if you look at the Arab world for example they see and say that the West wants to mock their faith under freedom of speech but wants to curtail their freedom of speech when it comes to issues such as publishing The Protocol of the Elders of Zion. Now I haven’t read this book as I understand it is offensive so I have no wish to read it, but why should one be banned and one allowed?

    The West is deciding what is and isn’t allowed under freedom of speech and it isn’t working. So the west needs to put its own house in order at the same time and no longer drag its own feet.

  28. soru — on 25th November, 2008 at 10:09 pm  

    ‘why should one be banned and one allowed?’

    http://www.amazon.com/Protocols-Elders-Zion-Nilus/dp/1599869446


    Frequently Bought Together
    The Protocols of the Elders of Zion + The Jews And Their Lies + The International Jew
    Total List Price: $40.93
    Price For All Three: $35.93

    Maybe you are confusing the concepts ‘banning’ and ‘pointing and laughing’?

  29. Ashik — on 25th November, 2008 at 10:44 pm  

    Imran Khan:

    ‘You can’t have it both ways. Many European countries have Blasphemy laws and indeed restriction to speak on the holocaust aside from officially accepted doctrine’.

    A very good point which highlights Western sensibilities in the area of absolute free speech. This is why at 8 I disagree with absolute viewpoints from either side. We need to find a workable middle ground.

    The absolute sanctity with which the West treats discourse and academic purview of the Holocaust era is itself quite racist. The main reason this sorry episode is put on a pedestal above other genocides in Western culture is because the White Germanic people, one of the paramount Christian European civilisations, was the perpetrator. Nobody cares in comparison eg. if the black Hutu and Tutsi massacre amongst themselves in the deepest darkest Africa. Many in the West shudder to think one of their ‘own’ could have been so bad as ‘these’ people.

    The American’s who deify the Holocaust ought to take a moment to reflect that during the Bangladeshi War of Liberation in 1971 from Pakistan they provided material support in the form of arms and financing and diplomatic support to the genocidal Pakistani regime responsible for anything from hundreds of thousands to three million Bengali civilians. They also supressed media information about what was happening in occupied Bengal ie. the infamous Blood correspondence.

  30. Sid — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:05 pm  

    The West is deciding what is and isn’t allowed under freedom of speech and it isn’t working. So the west needs to put its own house in order at the same time and no longer drag its own feet.

    The Blasphemy Law is being called for in the “West” too.

    At the Catholic-Muslim Forum in Rome last month, the two sides agreed in a statement about religious minorities that “their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule.”

    There are people who are serious about opposing it here as well as internationally as UN-sanctioned international Act dressed up as “interfaith inititive” funded by Saudi Arabia.

  31. Ophelia Benson — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:27 pm  

    “Many in the West shudder to think one of their ‘own’ could have been so bad as ‘these’ people.”

    But if so, what’s wrong with that? Why isn’t that necessary moral humility and self-knowledge? (If you assume that people in ‘the West’ form one group such that Germans are ‘one of their own,’ which I don’t assume, but you apparently buy into the rather crude East-West dichotomy.)

    “The American’s who deify the Holocaust ought to take a moment to reflect that during the Bangladeshi War of Liberation in 1971 from Pakistan they provided material support in the form of arms and financing and diplomatic support to the genocidal Pakistani regime responsible for anything from hundreds of thousands to three million Bengali civilians.”

    Yes – and if Americans ought to reflect, so ought Pakistanis, no? Presumably ‘the genocidal Pakistani regime’ itself is at least as culpable as those who supported it.

    There is also of course the detail that not all Americans were fans of the US government of 1971, to put it mildly, any more than (presumably) all Pakistanis were fans of the Pakistani government of 1971, so it’s not entirely clear why all citizens of a particular country should feel responsible for the actions of their government.

  32. billy — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:36 pm  

    The absolute sanctity with which the West treats discourse and academic purview of the Holocaust era is itself quite racist. The main reason this sorry episode is put on a pedestal above other genocides in Western culture is because the White Germanic people, one of the paramount Christian European civilisations, was the perpetrator. Nobody cares in comparison eg. if the black Hutu and Tutsi massacre amongst themselves in the deepest darkest Africa. Many in the West shudder to think one of their ‘own’ could have been so bad as ‘these’ people.

    What bizarre logic. To commemorate the Holocaust is an act of racism?

    The Holocaust is not covered up, denied, or brushed under the carpet by anyone in the West, except for Holocaust revisionists, who are ideologically connected to neo-nazi movements, many of whom find a welcoming home in some of the more lunatic parts of the Islamic world. As such, you show a central confusion in your argument.

    So which is it? Does ‘the West’ place it on a pedestal? Or does it try to sweep it under the carpet out of embarassment? Make up your mind. Your comments about the ‘discourse and academic purview of the Holocaust; make it sound like you have a revisionist itch you’re dying to scratch yourself.

    The reason why the Holocaust is commemorated is so that the lessons of it are never forgotten. Long may it continue to be so recognised.

  33. billy — on 25th November, 2008 at 11:54 pm  

    Oh yeah, and what Ophelia Benson says too.

  34. Kismet Hardy — on 26th November, 2008 at 6:57 am  

    I talk out of my arse. Will I get a fart-wa?

  35. Kulvinder — on 26th November, 2008 at 8:22 am  

    It’s about a serious proposal to change the legal status of discourse.

    No. It isn’t.

    That has to be one of the worst articles i’ve read in a long time, and im quite frankly amazed that people have been linking to it without question; in particular how exactly they got from

    ‘That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of “respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols … therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred.”‘

    to

    ‘The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.’

    eludes me and apparently the authors, or perhaps they just forgot to elucidate on that matter. Even Brockmann’s opinions are worthless (if you think otherwise tell me honestly if you’d ever heard of any of his predecessors); his office has no real power.

    The position and reputation the UN has in the west – in the UK and US in particular – fascinates me. It astonishingly juxtaposes vastly different emotions and feelings: fear, power, a desire for control – a horror at being controlled. On the one hand the UN is regularly dismissed as being pointless a meaningless collection of autocrats who don’t achieve anything and whose diatribes should be ignored. On the other hand neither the US nor the UK in particular has any desire to give up its place on the security council (which is hopelessly modelled on the past) let alone leave the UN.

    If its that dangerous or pointless why don’t we leave it? There is no justification in our continual presence on the security council yet WE get upset over the most minor statements made within the UN.

    The UN has never interfered on criminal matters except in the most serious situations (genocide etc), and even then the security council has hardly been a beyond reproach – even the US has refused to sign up to the icct.

    There is no chance of the security council approving this and the entire story is paranoid bullshit.

    Apart from anything else even if WE did impose this on the rest of the world via the security council (oh the hilarity of blaming the Saudis – what exactly are they going to do bribe us?) the laws of every sovereign territory are just that – sovereign. The de facto nature of which is decided by who has monopoly of violence in a given area. Its proving difficult enough for the UN to do anything about Omar al-Bashir, god knows (irony) what they’d supposedly do about ‘blasphemy’.

    Even the Germans have had difficulty in the far smaller EU with respect to the EAW and Toben – and the Germans are actually banging on the gates of our judicial system.

    Those that are worried about how international law could infringe upon us should focus on actual matters not supposed ones; those that are specifically worried about the UN ‘ruling over’ us should take the time to explain exactly how we’d shoot ourselves in the foot.

  36. Imran Khan — on 26th November, 2008 at 1:02 pm  

    “Maybe you are confusing the concepts ‘banning’ and ‘pointing and laughing’?”

    Err no you are confusing the fact that there are calls to ban anti-semitic publications in the Middle East – something that should be banned in my view. However then the Middle East is asking why can’t anti-Muslim material be banned in the West and that is a fair point.

    The Holocaust Conference in Iran why didn’t that constitute free speech? It is a double standard – not that I agree with that conference. But the point is that the west is deciding what is and isn’t acceptable and bans certain speech in Europe.

  37. soru — on 26th November, 2008 at 1:41 pm  

    ‘there are calls to ban anti-semitic publications ‘

    I am sure there are: such calls have not been banned.

    I really do think you might do well to apply a bit if introspection to the idea in your head of the West as some kind of collective single entity, something with a capacity for hypocrisy, consistency, something with an opinion, viewpoint or persona.

    Are your thoughts and feelings about that capitalised West political, emotional, or religious in nature?

    When you hear it speak, whose voice does it speak in?

  38. sonia — on 26th November, 2008 at 4:04 pm  

    the key point has been made by jai.#

    and mezba in no. 15 – well said!

    a global blasphemy law would mean – what? jews and christians can turn around and say in their opinion the quran doesn’t show them enough respect in certain passages. and so it could go on and on! some muslims will say those ismailis are guilty of blasphemy. where will it stop?

    and besides it would be impossible to enforce. this is all just a little drama to show ‘support for religious faith in this godless era’ type action/ someone at the UN must have made some openly atheistic comments and this is the organisational ‘eating humble pie’. the “UN” is a vast bureaucracy and i dont see why people are suprised when ‘it’ does all manner of funny things. it’s always the ‘who’.

    “a woman was gang-raped as punishment by seven men who found her alone in a car with a man who was not her relative”

    this sort of thing never fails to make my blood boil. ‘gang-rape’ as punishment for ‘being alone with a man in a car’ indeed! Oh you’re a bad girl and guess what we get to f**ck you isnt that great. its only for your good and not ours! sick sick sick. did the men get away with it? what was their sentence? saudi arabia is one hell of a horrible horrible land. but what can we expect given the historical precedent of gang-rape so nicely documented in our religious texts! and criticized by .0001 % of the population, brushed aside by everyone else. Outrageous!

    Perhaps all this global blasphemy conspiracy is a good topic for questions at this freedom of speech and muslims event

  39. sonia — on 26th November, 2008 at 4:16 pm  

    yes sid it is fantastical (7) but rest assured, it ain’t ever going to get anywhere.

    but i’m all up for some saudi bashing. god that country REALLY makes my blood boil…i don’t know how those women can stand it. or anyone really with a shred of human decency. |Absolutely apalling how they treat their low-level migrant workers, and especially given all that lip service about brotherhood in Islam, it makes it particularly psychopathic. but we all know why Saudi gets away with so much – its the “cradle of religion” excuse that provides them their shield.

  40. Sid — on 26th November, 2008 at 5:02 pm  

    hey kulvadorean, I have read and re-read your comment #35 but, forgive me, I still don’t understand your point.

    Are you saying that the Global Blasphemy Law (GBL) is a nasty piece of work but the UN is, in any case, a paper tiger which is unable to impose this on sovereign states?

    Or are you saying the GBL is a benign piece work and we have simply misread it, over-reacted to its possible implications and we should respect it if the UN imposes it since we are members of the UN Security Council?

  41. Ravi Naik — on 26th November, 2008 at 5:14 pm  

    A very difficult balance this. There is no absolute right to offend religious belief and neither an absolute right not to have ones beliefs offended. We need a happy middle ground. A global blasphemy law simply wouldn’t help achieve this.

    I do not believe that “offensiveness” should ever be a factor in the debate of what constitutes acceptable speech. You will find that there is always a group of people who are going to be offended by the mere fact that you disagree or clash with their narrow-minded world-view (aka as fundamentalists), who then instruct others to feel angry because their religion/organisation is allegedly under siege. Because most of the flock probably knows nothing about their religion, they are more than happy to enter the “offended” bandwagon.

    So, fuck them.

    You can only have freedom of speech in societies where individuals accept that their ideals and beliefs are relative, and are perfectly comfortable reading, discussing or merely tolerating other points of view. Which is why this global blasphemy law is an attempt to curb freedom of speech, because it imposes a totalitarian belief.

    So what constitutes acceptable speech? Does everything go? No – I still believe that freedom of speech is not the same as the ability to say everything you like. I believe “intent”, the source and the context are important. I certainly think that speech which is meant to demonise minorities is hate speech, and therefore unacceptable. That is intent and context for you, and the BNP (usual suspect) as the source.

    I also believe that making “Holocaust denial” a crime is very similar to a blasphemy law, and putting people like David Irving in prison is just wrong. I think Germany and Austria should definitely reconsider.

  42. Imran Khan — on 26th November, 2008 at 5:21 pm  

    “Are your thoughts and feelings about that capitalised West political, emotional, or religious in nature?

    When you hear it speak, whose voice does it speak in?”

    I didn’t say capitalised did I? If you look at how things occur then the Western bloc refers to itself as such and then in a similar vein makes blocs of other countries. So there is a Muslim bloc, african bloc etc. The West sees itself as far more civilised and advanced than anything else. So said your friend Berlisconi when he said we are superior to the Muslim world.

    Yours is a typical reaction when caught out so you imply there is no such thing as a collective western voice.

    Don’t many commentators especially the right refer to the west and the encroachment upon it? Don’t many people feel that Turkey shouldn’t be admitted to the EU because it isn’t one of us? Who is us then?

    You are simply trying to avoid the issue namely that the West which constitutes most of Europe, America and Canada as well as Australia ie. majority white Caucasian stick together and lecture others on freedom, human rights etc.

  43. Sid — on 26th November, 2008 at 5:29 pm  

    I also believe that making “Holocaust denial” a crime is very similar to a blasphemy law, and putting people like David Irving in prison is just wrong. I think Germany and Austria should definitely reconsider.

    Wholly agree with you.

  44. Kulvinder — on 26th November, 2008 at 6:19 pm  

    Are you saying that the Global Blasphemy Law (GBL) is a nasty piece of work but the UN is, in any case, a paper tiger which is unable to impose this on sovereign states?

    Or are you saying the GBL is a benign piece work and we have simply misread it, over-reacted to its possible implications and we should respect it if the UN imposes it since we are members of the UN Security Council?

    Im saying i fail to see how the authors of the article reached their astonishing conclusions as i haven’t seen anything to suggest a vast Saudi conspiracy.

    Irrespective of that supposed conspiracy the UN has never sought such actions in the past and even if – for the sake of argument – it did go down this route not only would it need our explicit consent (we have a veto) but it would find it practically impossible to enforce.

  45. soru — on 26th November, 2008 at 9:39 pm  

    @Kulvinder: The point of such things is not to enforce them, it is just to weaken the effect of lectures from ‘Europe, America and Canada as well as Australia’.

    Such lectures are hardly an irresistible force, but they have proven to sometimes have effect in the past – for example, they managed to get slavery outlawed in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s, did a lot to overthrow apartheid, etc.

    Obviously, if you own slaves, or indentured Bangladeshi labourers as they are these days, and are doing very well out of that, then you are not going to be in favour of anything that threatens your privileges. If your social circles include a lot of other rich people in the same situation, you are quite likely to come up with some kind of plan to act to defend them.

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