Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A note on International Blasphemy and Apostasy Day

[Originally posted at NOW Lebanon, with my italics restored]

For anyone feeling less than totally enthused about tomorrow’s March 14 commemoration at BIEL, perhaps I might draw your attention to something else that will be occurring at the time: the International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates.

Organised by One Law for All, the British group that makes the insane suggestion that there ought to be just the one set of laws for all citizens, this day honours “the critics of religion in order to highlight medieval laws and exert pressure to save the lives of the women and men facing execution, imprisonment or threats” from the various “religious authorities” around the world. 

While stressing that “there are countless people awaiting [such] punishment”, the group highlights ten causes célèbres, including the Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari and the Egyptian actor Adel Imam. I would have added my favourite example of Walid Husayin, the West Bank blogger arrested by the Palestinian Authorities for running an atheist blog, who is thus a victim of both Jewish and Islamic fanaticism simultaneously. And I’m sure that all Lebanese could think of one for themselves without a moment’s pause.

Now, before you start telling me how incredibly ‘insensitive’ it is to ‘insult’ these ‘great’ religions, allow me to make something very clear. I’m not asking for the right to torch a Qur’an, or to desecrate a church or, indeed, to blow one up – such offenses against humanity and civilisation are best left to the faithful themselves. I absolutely do assert the right, however, to satirise religion; to have fun at its expense; and to subject its texts to literary criticism; just as I absolutely assert the right to disbelieve its metaphysical claims. 

In other words, I assert the right to take sole ownership of the thoughts in my head, thank you very much – and in a week that has seen the Lebanese cabinet propose a law prohibiting “immoral” web content, this right may well need some more convincing assertion in the very near future. 

So, in that spirit, how about this from Ricky Gervais, blasphemer and apostate par excellence: 

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