Thursday 15 January 2015

Why religious taboos need to be broken

More on the Charlie Hebdo affair, from Coel Hellier. It's full of nuggets:
Free speech is not an end in itself, we value it because we use it to examine and criticize influential ideas.
That's the point; Islam is influential. If it weren't influential we wouldn't bother with it.
The Islamic ban on drawing Mohammed is a theological taboo. The whole idea is to place Mohammed, and thus Islam, above human criticism. Drawing Mohammed is seen as disrespectful because it involves the drawer thinking for themselves about Mohammed and possibly coming to un-Islamic conclusions.
Organised religion does this kind of thing very well. Over the centuries religion has managed to insulate itself from criticism in such a way that the very notion that religion might be somehow incorrect about something has become abhorrent to many otherwise sensible people.
...we have a moral duty to question Islam, and that means a moral duty to flout the Islamic taboos that are there precisely to prevent us doing that. 
That looks like a call to action.
The cartoons drawn by Charlie Hebdo are not offensive by any proper standard — they are mild compared to those directed routinely at Western politicians — they are offensive only by the standards of a taboo that is there to protect Islam from scrutiny.

We simply cannot accept this taboo, since it conflicts with the basic principles that have raised the free West to the highest standards of economic prosperity, political freedom, and quality of life that the world has ever known. It is impermissible to try to impose one’s own religious rules onto other people, by means of taking “offense”, since that is to subject others to one’s own religion, which is exactly what Islam would like to do. 
Coel also highlights the dire plight of indigenous apostates such as Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1000 lashes for hosting a website critical of Islam:
If we in the West accept Islamic taboos, and acquiesce to Islamic strictures, then how can the Raif Badawis be expected to challenge Islam? To refuse to publish Mohammed cartoons is to say that the reformers are in the wrong! Surely we should stand in support of those who want to reform Islamic society from the inside.
Good points, clearly expressed — go read the whole thing.