Anglican Communion demands global blasphemy law
In their condemnation of the puerile, amateurish film The Innocence of Muslims which appears to be being used as a pretext for riots, destruction and murder in some Islamic countries (not to mention in some non-Islamic countries with significant Muslim populations), Anglican leaders from across the Communion have written a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon, demanding a UN declaration to outlaw ‘intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith’.
Note the specific parenthetical insertion of ‘such as prophets’: if they had dared to specify ‘such as the Son of God’, there isn’t a Muslim nation on the planet that would vote for such a declaration. It is a bizarre point of emphasis in any case, for why should the divinely-inspired prophets of the Abrahamic religions be granted higher recognition than the rishis of the Indian subcontinent? Why should the declaration allude to Mohammed but not to Vasishtha?
It is axiomatic that bad laws are made in ill-thought knee-jerk response to events: a global blasphemy law – which is what this declaration would amount to – cannot be cobbled together on the back of a crude bit of visual anti-Islamic propaganda. It would elevate protection from ‘hate speech’ to the level of a human right. And that would make it impossible to express an opinion – no matter how intelligent or reasoned – for ‘hate’ is in the apprehension of the offended, and the offended have an alarming propensity to decide to be at whatever convenient moment may suit them .
It is incumbent upon Christians the world over to work for peace, and we must be especially mindful of those nations in which Christians are a vulnerable or persecuted minority. But these Anglican leaders who demand a ‘blasphemy’ declaration appear to forget that to outlaw ‘intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets)’ would make it impossible for a Christian to repudiate the anti-Christian teachings of Mohammed. If all ‘symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith’ are to be protected from such a subjective notion as ‘insult’, there will be no more freedom of speech or expression where religion is concerned. And the implications for mission would be seismic, for what Muslim may be not feel insulted to hear that his or her religious foundations are built upon nothing but the arid sands of Arabia? What Muslim would not feel that his or her prophet had been defamed if they were to be told that his prophecies were false and his doctrine of God a lie? How would religions dialogue? How dare they challenge, rebuke or even question?
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ It is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive of such freedom being sustained in a context of global religious censoriousness.
His Grace agrees with these Anglican leaders that Christians and Muslims alike should continue to work to defeat attempts of extremists of every religion to create fear, hatred and violence, for, indeed, only love can cast out fear. But the UK Parliament has not abolished our own ‘regressive’ national laws of blasphemy and blasphemous libel only to see them resurface in ‘progressive’ international law or supranational legal regulation against the ‘defamation of religion’, in order to enforce global adherence to a sanctified UN orthodoxy.
Let us be in no doubt about this: any UN declaration to outlaw ‘intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith’ will not protect Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism or Atheism. It is the 56 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation who will agitate in defence of their prophet. Whenever Israel complains on behalf of Judaism, or Tibet on behalf of Buddhism, no-one will listen; few will care. The law will protect Islam alone.