Free speech for Muslims?

I often complain about how conservative Muslims’ overdeveloped sensitivity to religious insult erects barriers to the freedom of speech, and particularly speech criticizing anything Islamic. That’s a serious problem for nonbelievers and anyone who cares about freedom of expression.

But here in the US, where we so love to posture about how we’re so much freer than those benighted Muslim countries, our paranoia about terrorism has created an environment where American Muslims cannot feel free to speak their minds for fear of the possible consequences.

These consequences unfortunately include imprisonment for nothing but speech. The recent conviction of Tarek Mehanna is an illustration, already remarked on by civil libertarians.

I can predict some of the Muslim responses, especially those accusing Western critics of hypocrisy when they call for Muslim governments to loosen up on the freedom of speech.

But I’m also curious about how atheists, particularly atheists convinced that conservative Islam is a major barrier to certain political liberties, are going to respond. Are we really concerned about freedom of speech, including speech we think is thoroughly obnoxious, or are we going to figure Islamists deserve everything coming their way?

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University


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