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Archive for February, 2009

Johann Hari has an excellent article explaining how Islamic dictatorships at the UN are chipping away at free speech: the UN’s Rapporteur of Human Rights, who is supposed to call out countries that suppress free speech, just had his job description changed so that he could criticise so-called ‘abuses of free expression’. Meaning that if you criticise, say, Islam, you’re open to being condemned by the UN. Or, as Hari puts it, ‘Instead of condemning the people who wanted to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself’.

Of course, this has nothing to do with respecting religious faith, and everything to do with stopping condemnation of these very states for human rights abuses. Evidently, the UN has been hijacked by theocracies to undercut its own commitment to human rights. Will they condemn me for pointing out that Islam, along with most other religions, are silly, false, and serve little purpose other than brainwashing people?

The article is too good to pick out a single quote to summarise, but here a couple of incisive ones:

Anything which can be deemed “religious” is no longer allowed to be a subject of discussion at the UN – and almost everything is deemed religious. Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union has tried to raise topics like the stoning of women accused of adultery or child marriage. The Egyptian delegate stood up to announce discussion of shariah “will not happen” and “Islam will not be crucified in this council” – and Brown was ordered to be silent. Of course, the first victims of locking down free speech about Islam with the imprimatur of the UN are ordinary Muslims.

Here is a random smattering of events that have taken place in the past week in countries that demanded this change. In Nigeria, divorced women are routinely thrown out of their homes and left destitute, unable to see their children, so a large group of them wanted to stage a protest – but the Shariah police declared it was “un-Islamic” and the marchers would be beaten and whipped. In Saudi Arabia, the country’s most senior government-approved cleric said it was perfectly acceptable for old men to marry 10-year-old girls, and those who disagree should be silenced. In Egypt, a 27-year-old Muslim blogger Abdel Rahman was seized, jailed and tortured for arguing for a reformed Islam that does not enforce shariah.

To the people who demand respect for Muslim culture, I ask: which Muslim culture? Those women’s, those children’s, this blogger’s – or their oppressors’?

Underpinning these “reforms” is a notion seeping even into democratic societies – that atheism and doubt are akin to racism. Today, whenever a religious belief is criticised, its adherents immediately claim they are the victims of “prejudice” – and their outrage is increasingly being backed by laws.

All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.

I don’t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don’t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. This is not because of “prejudice” or “ignorance”, but because there is no evidence for these claims. They belong to the childhood of our species, and will in time look as preposterous as believing in Zeus or Thor or Baal.

When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.

I can only hope this will spur more people, both in Western democracies and inside illiberal states, to defend free speech against this tide of religion being used to strangle it.

(Hat tip: Sullivan)

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