I’ve heard people in the past wonder about the wisdom of celebration International Blasphemy Rights Day, which is today. The last couple weeks have, with spectacular timing, underscored the importance of standing against religious authoritarianism and in favor of free speech. Now the head of the Arab League has called for global criminalization of any speech that hurts the delicate feelings of religious believers (or at least Muslims).
The head of the Arab League called Wednesday for the international community to criminalize blasphemy, warning that insults to religion pose a serious threat to global peace and security. The comments put him squarely at odds with the United States and many of its western allies, which are resolutely opposed to restrictions on freedom of expression.
Blasphemy is not a threat to global peace and security, but the madness of people who think they can kill and maim in response to it certainly is.
“While we fully reject such actions that are not justifiable in any way, we would like to ring the warning bell,” Elaraby said. “We are warning that offending religions, faiths and symbols is indeed a matter that threatens in international peace and security now.”
“If the international community has criminalized bodily harm, it must just as well criminalize psychological and spiritual harm,” he said. “The League of Arab States calls for the development of an international legal framework which is binding … in order to confront insulting religions and ensuring that religious faith and its symbols are respected.”
Elaraby maintained that the 21-member Arab League valued the freedom of speech but stressed that “we don’t see any relation between freedom of expression which aims at enriching culture and building civilization of the one hand and activities that merely offend and insult the beliefs, culture and civilization of others.”
Yeah, they love freedom of speech — as long as you don’t say things that bother them. Famous first words of fascists.