blasphemy, Brian McLaren, Christian persecution, Christianity, David Gushee, freedom of speech, Institute on Religion and Democracy, IRD Blog, Islamists, Luke Moon, Politics, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. State Department
Just as the Religious Left dutifully lined up behind the Obama Administration’s HHS contraception mandate, they now seem poised to support the Administration’s seeming accommodation of anti-blasphemy laws.
Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on the subject of combating religious intolerance. For years the OIC has been pushing for the adoption of UN Human Rights Resolution 16/18 – “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.” Originally the resolution was targeting what the OIC referred to as “defamation of Islam,” and which was eventually expanded to “defamation of religion” in an effort to gain support.
The concern expressed by many free speech advocates was that this resolution was specifically designed to silence speech deemed insulting to Islam. From the infamous Danish anti-Islam cartoons to last week’s riots and murders that were supposedly in response to a stupid YouTube video, Innocence of Muslims, these expressions for speech would potentially be suppressed.
Not only has the Obama Administration embraced Resolution 16/18, it has sought to implement it. In her speech to the OIC, Secretary Clinton clearly stated the intent of the administration.
“But as the secretary general just outlined, we now need to move to implementation. The resolution calls upon states to protect freedom of religion, to counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue, and public debate, and to prohibit discrimination, profiling, and hate crimes, but not to criminalize speech unless there is an incitement to imminent violence….For our part, I have asked our Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook, to spearhead our implementation efforts.“
Implementation through intimidation is the intent of protests, riots, and murders throughout the Muslim world. Instead of protection or at least neutrality towards the director of the anti Islam video, the U.S. Department of Justice has sought to silence the film by asking YouTube to “review” it and by detaining the video producer for FBI questioning. So seemingly DOJ seeks incrementally to implement Resolution 16/18.
In an exchange between Congressman Trent Franks and U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, Perez refused to answer whether the Administration would “never entertain or advance a proposal that criminalizes speech against any religion.” DOJ treatment of Nakoula seems to confirm Rep. Franks’ concern that this administration would place fear of offending Muslims above Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.
During the Cold War era, many on the Religious Left let their affinity for Marxism and infinite “dialogue” silence any potential criticism Communist persecution of Christians. Now the Religious Left is letting their affinity for Islam and infinite “inter-faith dialogue” inhibit criticism of Islamist treatment of Christians. The blasphemy laws in Muslim nations around the world have been an effective tool against Christians. Yet rather than support the free speech for Christians who are brutalized, some on the Religious Left side with the Islamists and their abusive blasphemy laws.
Brian McLaren, an expert in moral equivalency, felt that in the light of recent events the real problem is Evangelical Islamaphobia. McLaren writes, “At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam – beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.”
According to McLaren, Evangelical Islamaphobia is mainstream and the real existential threat to Christianity. But rioters throughout North Africa are a “tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence.” Of course, this “tiny minority” on many issues is the actual majority. In a Pew poll out last year, 86% of Muslims in Egypt support the death penalty for apostasy, which would include converting to Christianity.
University of Pennsylvania Religious Studies Professor Anthea Butler, has decided that “it is difficult to teach the facts when movies such as… Innocence of Muslims are taken as both truth and propaganda.” And [the producer] deserves to be in jail because his film “denigrates [Islam] by depicting the faith’s founder in several ludicrous and historically inaccurate scenes to incite and inflame viewers.”
Seemingly, not only are the U-Penn students so ignorant that they cannot distinguish between a movie and historical truth, but blasphemy against Islam is a criminal offense.
Finally, David Gushee, founder of Evangelicals for Human Rights and professor at Mercer University, told the Christian Post:
“We certainly need to have no participation in what you might call ‘Muslim-baiting.’ If we know that attacks on the character of the prophet Muhammad evoke predictably violent reactions, it’s just foolish and unwise and immoral. You want to avoid such things from happening and we need to quarantine out of our community this kind of Muslim-baiting that is happening on our fringes.”
While not justifying the actions of the murderous mobs, Gushee’s logic is consistent with both the Administration’s and his fellow academic’s. Speech that might lead to violence is inappropriate, and perhaps criminal. Yet, in many places around the world simply preaching the gospel can lead to violent reaction.
The broken and blurry line of the Religious Left’s commitment to free speech is very unsettling. Of all people Christians must affirm that even offensive speech is protected speech. Pornographer Larry Flynt and Fred Phelps, of “God Hates Fags,” are extremely offensive and intentionally provocative yet engage in constitutionally protected speech. Even now, in certain quarters, the plain reading of scripture is considered offensive and attempts have been made to silence the public reading of it. As the atheist Voltaire once said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Christians everywhere should heartily agree.