It is a scary trend found all over the Western world. People are being targeted and punished for criticising or mocking Islam. No other religion is given this kind of power in the west. Sharia law is being imposed on our Western democracies. Islamic blasphemy law is being applied to us. It is wrong and it is the canary in the coal mine alerting us to serious danger but is anyone listening?
A British gymnast and Olympic champion has been banned from the sport for two months after appearing to ‘mock’ Islam in a leaked private video…
…And to compound Mr. Smith’s woes, he could now be denied being honoured in his hometown of Peterborough.
In order to try to regain his sporting career, he was forced to make a grovelling apology and in order to show that he was re-educating himself about Islam he visited two local mosques. He has had threats online from Muslims ( of course ) where they called him a “kuffar” and said that “Allah is going to deal with this person”.
If you’ve been following the hounding of British Olympic gymnast Louis Smith this week, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that blasphemy laws were abolished in England back in 2008.
The very public castigation of the British gymnast is illustrative of the troubling return of blasphemy. As the former Strictly Come Dancing winner has discovered – and to his immense cost – Britain’s bourgeoning ‘culture of offence’ is ensuring that any action deemed likely to offend religious sensibilities, but particularly Muslim sensibilities, is strictly taboo.
The ‘offending’ footage, published by The Sun shows him with fellow gymnast Luke Carson drunkenly goofing around yelling “Allahu Akbar” and mocking aspects of Islamic belief.
Condemnation came swiftly from Mohammed Shafiq, the chief executive of the Ramadan Foundation, who asserted “our faith is not to be mocked” and called on Smith to “apologise immediately”.
Why aren’t people getting angry about this? Who the hell do these people think that they are? No religion or ideology should get a free pass from criticism or mockery. The fact that they think that theirs should be exempt is proof that they are a supremacist organisation. We must fight for our freedom of speech and a free marketplace of ideas. If Islam is so great then it will be able to come up with counter arguments to criticism and it will be able to handle mockery without resorting to threats of violence and death. Why do we tolerate an ideology that publicly condemns to death cartoonists? Why does the media focus on the cartoonist who offended these sensitive little petals instead of the hostility and terrorism of the offended petals?
…Mohammed Shafiq has form when it comes to whipping up hostility against people lawfully exercising their right to free expression. Back in 2014 when Maajid Nawaz tweeted a Jesus & Mo cartoon with a message saying he wasn’t offended by the depiction of Mohammad, Shafiq threatened to “notify all Muslim organisations in the UK of his despicable behaviour and also notify Islamic countries.”
Following Shafiq’s lead, other condemnation soon followed. A Muslim councillor in Peterborough withdrew his support for the four-time Olympic medallist to receive the Freedom of the City. Sponsors distanced themselves from the athlete. British Gymnastics, the official governing body for the sport, threatened Smith with expulsion. “British Gymnastics does not condone the mocking of any faith or religion”, said a spokesperson.
…for those accused of mocking or insulting Islam, there are indeed “severe” consequences.
Just ask Asia Bibi, the Christian woman currently facing execution in Pakistan for blasphemy. Or Raif Badawi, who, after receiving 50 lashes outside a Jeddah mosque in January for “insulting Islam” is still languishing in a Saudi prison.
There are others you could ask, apart from the fact that they’re dead. Take for example Asad Shah, the Ahmadiyya Muslim shopkeeper from Glasgow who was stabbed to death in March by a Sunni Muslim for “disrespecting Islam”. Or the polytechnic student recently lynched and beaten to a pulp by an angry mob in Nigeria over an allegation of blasphemy. Or of course those killed in the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. I could go on and on and on listing the countless names of people murdered for the ‘crime’ of “disrespecting Islam”.
Inevitably, Louis Smith has himself now received death threats.
Britain has a pedigree to be proud of when it comes to poking fun at religion. It certainly makes Britain a better place to live than some other states where religion demands complete ‘respect’. Would those insisting that religion must not to be mocked do away with British comedy classics like Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Father Ted?
…For Christopher Hitchens, mockery of religion wasn’t just acceptable, it was essential. “One of the beginnings of human emancipation is the ability to laugh at authority”, he observed.
…Being offended from time to time is the price we all pay for living in a free country. If religion expects to be tolerated it needs to be tolerant and robust enough to withstand mockery. Let’s insist on respect for people’s rights, but not their beliefs. Bigotry and hatred need to be called out, but there should be no shame in mocking religion. So let’s be assertive in defending our liberal values and in doing so cut Louis Smith some slack.