Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, some secularists have been pressing Christians, Jews and Muslims to sign a joint declaration defining blasphemy as a right, and to post that declaration outside their places of worship.
This is silly on two fronts. First, it’s sad that in their apparent attempt to assert their courage and defiance against the intimidation of jihadists, the secular media feel the need to seek support from theists. There’s an oxymoron here that raises legitimate questions about the relative spines and intestinal fortitude of theists vs. secularists. It’s more than curious that the secular media seeks support and strength from those they love to ridicule. Perhaps their sub-consciences sense the genuine deficiency and lack of firm foundation of their secularist position. Their search for affirmation reveals a profound fear and insecurity in that they want others to approve of their drive-by-smearing. Maybe they don’t want their heads to be the only ones on the ISIS chopping block. Misery loves company.
But more fundamentally, there’s no such thing as a “right to blasphemy”. Rights are defined towards the good, not evil. There are no rights to commit evil. At most we sometimes tolerate evil for the sake of a greater good.
For example, there’s no “right” to gratuitously insult someone. Society tolerates insults (within limits, e.g. defamation lawsuits) for the sake of preserving a greater good called freedom of speech. But there’s no “right” to go around insulting people for the heck of it. Few sane ethical human beings would condone or applaud gratuitous insults. Even from a purely human point of view, that’s not good for social cohesion. Calling it a “right” would give it a legitimacy it doesn’t have. Advocating for such a right betrays a very shallow moral fabric and misunderstanding of true freedom. That doesn’t mean that we put people in jail or hand out fines over insults, but they shouldn’t be normalized, nor be the source of livelihood as it seems to be for some trashy publications like Charlie Hebdo.
In pushing for the “right to blasphemy”, the secular media has revealed that their fear of jihadists is leading them to take the easy way out over the challenges posed by radical Islam. Yes, there are risks to publishing derogatory cartoons of Mohamed. But that’s much less risky than the alternative, i.e. undertaking a mature societal debate about competing ideologies and religions. Publishing offensive cartoons earns you a tiny probably of being killed, but starting a societal debate is 100% guaranteed to earn you many powerful enemies. That’s why the mainstream media, despite the barbarity displayed before their eyes, still doesn’t have the stomach to start a conversation about the fact that not all religions are equally conducive to social harmony; that some foster respect, tolerance and economic development, while others are more conducive to violence, instability and economic stagnation; that our current immigration policies need to be revisited due to the obvious failure of forcing radically divergent worldviews to coexist; ultimately, that the current version of multiculturalism has failed. These are complex questions that require a carefully crafted policy response lest we fall into dumb and unjust oversimplifications like stigmatizing all Muslims.
Only the genuinely brave would dare tackle these questions. The mainstream media won’t go there, for two reasons. First, they don’t want to know the answers to those questions. They don’t want to admit that despite all their claims about Christians being intolerant bigots, Christianity provided the tolerant space for such virulent anti-Christians to express themselves. In a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia, that would never have happened.
Second, most people in the media and the elite are genuinely afraid of the jihadists. That’s why they self-censure and avoid any negative stories about Islam. Remember the terrorist killings in Canada on October 21-22 and how some MPs and media were afraid to even call them acts of terrorism? Remember how so many acts of terror are blamed on the West for failing to “engage” with jihadists? Rex Murphy summarized a few examples, in case you’ve forgotten. Other attacks are blamed on things like unemployment. What a joke. The media is afraid and has adopted the strategy of appeasement: If you don’t offend jihadists, they hopefully won’t hurt you. Christians and Jews, on the other hand, can be insulted any time because they’re much too civilized to go on killing sprees.
The only ruse the media has found to protest against the Charlie Hebdo massacre while avoiding the difficult societal questions is to reprint a Charlie Hebdo caricature on their cover page for one day and pound their chest about how audacious and effective this will be in combating the problem. If anyone accuses them of being “intolerant”, they can easily say that it’s “just a joke” and “they don’t mean any harm”. World leaders, for their part, could do no better than staging a photo opp on a closed side street and pretend that they were leading the million-strong march towards a solution. It’s all show and no substance. With this approach, they manage to save face before immediately returning to their strategy of appeasement and self-censure.
Unfortunately, that won’t make the real problems go away. The demographic trends in Europe are advancing relentlessly. Radicalization is showing no signs of abating. Several European cities experience frequent riots, intimidation and other social tensions. The real problem won’t go away with a cartoon and self-censorship. It’s time to act like mature adults and face these challenges before they undermine our way of life.