Is it not interesting that someone can easily get away unscathed when mocking, say, Mormons, Scientologists, or even Jehovah’s Witnesses, without being accused by the media and other "intellectuals" of bigotry? On the other hand, whenever anyone -even an outspoken liberal such as Bill Maher-criticizes or mocks certain outdated tenets of Islam, or if some newspaper publishes satirical cartoons of Muhammad(even after having repeatedly mocked other religions), they are savagely criticized and accused of promoting“Islamophobia.”Is there also such a thing as “Christianophobia,” “Mormonophobia,”and “Scientolophobia”? And if so, why aren’t those considered “thought crimes” as well? There should be no thought crimes at all in Western societies. After all, in a truly free society, should not every form of belief be a potential object of criticism and mockery?
People do not choose their sexual orientation, gender, or race.On the other hand, nobody is born as a Muslim, Catholic, Conservative, or Liberal. Those and other beliefs are either ideas that people have been socialized to accept or ideas that people have willingly chosen to subscribe to. It is necessary to remember that people have inalienable rights, but that ideas and beliefs have no such rights. Above all, the right to be immune from criticism or satire.
Let us look at some examples that illustrate contemporary double standards. The “Book of Mormon Musical” is a hilarious, blasphemous, insulting, and sacrilegious Broadway play that mocks the Mormon religion. Yet, it was critically acclaimed and dominated the Tony awards, collecting nine prizes. The musical arguably deserved those accolades, since the play was entertaining and the songs inspired the audience members to rethink their relationship with religion. Now imagine the outcry that would have occurred if Trey Parker and Matt Stone had instead directed a “Qur’an Musical”: in addition to being labeled “Islamophobic” by the media, there is a strong chance that their lives would have been in jeopardy because they would be targeted by Islamists with violence. Interestingly, the writers were themselves well aware of this double standard. As guests on the satirical news show The Daily Show with John Stewart, they acknowledged that making fun of Mormons was safe, as the believers would not threaten their lives, unlike in the case of certain other religions.
There is no specific principle or commandment in Islam that interdicts drawings of the “prophet.” The actual rule is that any form of art should be shunned so as not to divert all glory from Allah. Thus in Islam, it is not drawing Muhammad per set hat is a sin, but rather everything that is regarded as blasphemous, and blasphemy is punishable by death. Similarly, in the Christian religion one of the main commandments is to not take the name of the Lord in vain, which is also a prohibition against blasphemy. However, the today’s Western media and political elites do not seem to be bothered when Christianityis mocked. For instance, putting a crucifix in a mason jar full of urine is considered “art”, whereas drawing a picture of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban is labeled as “insensitive.”
In the end, the biggest threat to freedom of speech in the West emanates from the so-called “do-gooders” who claim we should stop mocking things. Unfortunately, this self-proclaimed “elite” of Gutmenschen has been tirelessly advancing this idea on the grounds that mockery can be viewed as “offensive” to members of certain select groups. We must remember, however, that irreverence, satire, and blasphemy have led Western society to produce the world’s greatest discoveries and philosophies, such as the Enlightenment. From the plays in ancient Greece to pre-French Revolution cartoons, artists have repeatedly and viciously mocked governments, kings, gods, religions, and everything else that was considered sacred and important. For example, in Voltaire’s Candide, a priest actually has intercourse with someone in the bushes, and Rabelais writes about a priest who loves liquor more than God). Scientific progress was achieved in part through the blatant disregard of religious norms and dogmas. Mockery and satire make people think and question themselves and their paradigms! Indeed, I recently heard someone say the following: “If a cartoon threatens your God, that religion is not worth believing in.” I firmly agree with this statement.
We need to realize that people will always get hurt or get offended by things that other people say. Our society was built on the right to say what we want, even if it offends someone else along the way. This has been the way of the West for thousands of years, and the only periods in which openly mocking “sacred cows” was not tolerated were among the darkest in our history. We are the heirs of Aristophanes and Horace. As Lee Harris wrote in The Suicide of Reason, a society’s greatest danger is to abandon the very values that made it strong.
When I look at the current state of affairs, it seems that Harris' prophetic vision is already well underway.
To sum up, as Voltaire once said, "I might disapprove of what you say, draw, or sing, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
*The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not represent those of The Political Analysis.