An open letter.
Excellent and essential protest
And isn’t it time for the craven Novel Prize for Literature committee to honor Salman Rushdie as I had hoped and expected it would do after the assassination attempt he suffered last year ? I assume they fear being accused of Islamophobia. Shameful cowardice!
I do have a bit of turmoil about this. The world was appalled by the destruction of the Great Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Muslims in 2001, as we should have been. So the problem is some great works of religious significance should be protected by some sort of law. But we need a very clear line between what should and should not be protected. Is an ancient Torah sacrosanct? An ancient Koran? A Druid grave stone? That is the problem. When is it speech and when is it simply vandalism and hatred?
It's shocking to me that this has to written. Of course I'm in agreement with the letter. How are liberals so naive to attempt to enact the religious whims of far away authoritarian governments?
Is the idea that the Danes are defending the rights of the religious authoritarians (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan) to enact their preferred religious laws on the free citizens in another country?
Where's the liberal part in any of this?
There must be plenty of Danes who know better who don't have the courage to stand up for free speech when it comes to Quran burning. In the Eighties there were plenty of Americans who didn't have the courage to for free speech when it came to flag burning. So let's not be too smug about it.
This article, while purporting to be in opposition to a proposed criminal law, actually defends a fundamental right to vandalize objects as a form of expression. Does that mean we cannot criminalize any act of vandalism, including spray painting “fuck” on your car or vandalizing the Statue of Liberty? If some acts of vandalism are against the law, every charge of vandalism of any any kind will be defended on free speech grounds. History provides a timely example. September 15, 1975 Rembrandt’s Night Watch was slashed, an expressive act if ever there was one. What else could it have been?
There is an easy answer to the issue of vandalism. It is identical to how permitting people to burn the American flag works. If one is burning or tearing up a flag that they purchased, then it is there own private property that is subject to such disrespect. If they take someone else's flag and burn it, that's a crime of destruction of the property of another, the same as if they snatched a family'scrapbook of photos and burned it. So, if someone goes into a mosque and grabs a copy of the Khoran that belongs to the place or to some individual and burns it, they have destroyed the property of someone else, which is a crime.
However, if people buy their own copies of the Khoran and burn it, there should be no crime, because the property of others is not being destroyed. Once the article of religious reverence is owned by the those who destroy it, there should be no crime. This eliminates any issue of vandalism. The goal, once we have gotten the issue of the destruction of the property of others out of the way, is that the mere offensiveness of an expression should not ever be a basis for legally punishing it. This holds regardless of how offended others might be by the expression in question.
Another major problem with blasphemy laws is that they violate the separation of church and state and the equality before the law of both believers and nonbelievers. If burning one's own copy of the Khoran is a punishable offense and burning one's own copy of the Secular Humanist Manifesto is not, then the government is giving special protection to certain views on matters of religion against other views. If someone is equally offended by the burning of an issue of Hustler magazine, but the arsonist in this case is not punished, yet the burner of the Khoran is punished, then the government is showing preference for religious sentiments over nonreligious ones, which is a violation of the equality principle.
Denmark should be ashamed of even contemplating caving into this type of pressure by religious adherents who want their religious beliefs and objects that represent those beliefs to have special protection that no other type of belief or object is entitled to.