Monday, July 30, 2018


Is there one rule for criticising Christianity and another for Islam?

When rugby player Israel Folau posted on Instagram in April that, in line with his Christian beliefs, gays who don’t repent are going to hell, he was widely pilloried. It was never clear from the ensuing media storm whether the defenders of gay rights thought Folau simply shouldn’t have said such things in public or whether he shouldn’t believe them in private either. Criticisms of his post included that he risked sparking suicidal feelings among young gays.

Yet, when Lauren Southern set up a stall in a public square in Britain in February with posters declaring: “Allah is gay, Allah is trans, Allah is lesbian…” to draw attention to Islam’s negative attitudes to the LGBT community, she was the one who was pilloried, especially by the political left. Her stall was shut down by the police because the constabulary feared violence might erupt. No word, then, about how Islam’s attitudes to gays might drive some of them to suicide.

Later, Southern was denied entry to Britain on the grounds that she had distributed “racist material” in Luton — even though Islam is not a race and she was targeting religious beliefs, not individuals.

Southern may indeed have racist views but it’s hard to see how her stall in Luton was an example of them. Perhaps the word “racist” is used because it is powerful in a way that “anti-religion” is not. Describing Southern as “a fierce critic of aspects of Islam” sounds eminently reasonable — perhaps even laudably brave — while “racist” is a comprehensive slur.

It is very hard to reconcile the reactions to these events — Folau’s post and Southern’s stunt — in any satisfactory way. We might conclude that it is simply a case of one rule for criticising Muslims and another for criticising Christianity — which, as it happens, was the point Southern was trying to make in Luton in what she described as a “social experiment”. She had observed that it seemed acceptable to ask if Jesus Christ was gay (as an article in Vice had done recently) but not Allah. So she set out to test her hypothesis — and was quickly proved right.

In New Zealand, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, Hazim Arafeh, argued that Southern should not be allowed to enter the country because she “abuses her right of freedom of speech. She’s just going to give a talk in which she’s just going to insult all of us… I don’t think insulting Muslims comes under free speech, that’s an abuse of freedom of speech.”

Insult or criticism? And does it matter which? New Zealand is a secular state and — alongside the right of the religious to believe what they wish — we have wide latitude to insult or criticise them. We have done that for decades with respect to Christianity — from screenings of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian to the Virgin in a Condom artwork at Te Papa, despite protests agitating to have them banned.

Religious beliefs deserve no more protection from criticism, insult or mocking than any set of beliefs, whether political, scientific or any other kind. Islam is not a special case, despite its attempts to make it one. Southern was brave enough to point that out.

And it is deeply ironic that at a time when the Labour-led government is planning to remove blasphemous libel from the Crimes Act, Hazim Arafeh and many on the left want to effectively reinstitute a de facto version of the same law by deeming criticism and mocking of religion to be unacceptable, often under the wide umbrella of “hate speech”.

SOURCE

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Islam is evil !

Paul Weber said...

Exodus 12:49 - "One law shall be to the native, and to the visitor, the one staying in your midst."

Numbers 15:16 - "There shall be one law and one ordinance both for you and for the alien that lives with you."

Anonymous said...

This is a point well made - that no idea should be immune from criticism.
If people are free to criticise one ideology (as they should be), they must also be free to critique every other ideology.