To Blaspheme is a Human Right

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I came upon an article written by Kahin Ahmed, attacking Hanif Bali from the Moderate Party in Sweden, for his statements on Muhammad the prophet of Islam. Ahmed seems to be claiming that by criticizing Islam or by showing disrespect towards Muhammad, Bali has violated human rights. A claim which is wrong on many levels, as I will attempt to explain below. I, as an ex-Muslim, coming from a country that imprisons people for speech which could considered critical of Islam, branding it as “blasphemy”, “contempt of religion”, or “insulting Islam and the prophet”, as someone who has sought refuge, safety and freedom in Sweden for this very reason, I cannot let this go unanswered.

Firstly, even if I disagree with some of Bali’s ideas or positions, or that I do not support his party’s policies, I refuse to engage in ideological tribalism, and it would be a double standard approach if I would deny him his right to free speech.

Bali calls Muhammad a “pedophile”. Is a man in his fifties consummating a marriage with a nine year old girl to be considered pedophilia? You have the right to disagree, but what you do not have the right to, is preventing others from disagreeing with you and expressing their opinion freely.

Bali calls Muhammad a “warlord”. Is a person who wages war on others to expand his empire and spread his ideology be considered a warlord? Again, you have the right to disagree, but again, you do not have the right to prevent others from disagreeing with you.

Is such a historical character to be considered infallible? It is your right to believe so, but I repeat, it is not your right to prevent people from disagreeing.

Furthermore, for Kahin Ahmed to claim that it is even more shameful for Hanif Bali to express those opinions, since he has an immigrant background is demeaning to immigrants , treating them not as individuals, but stereotyping them and treating them as a monolithic group incapable of having diverse ideas and opinions.

What is offensive or disrespectful is subjective. I, like many other people, find the Islamic scripture’s misogyny , homophobia, anti Jewish sentiment and violence, offensive. In addition to that, I, and other ex-Muslims find it offensive that our punishment according to Islamic scripture is death for apostasy. Nevertheless, I am against censorship of the Islamic holy books, containing what is essentially hate speech. I do not and will not try to forbid Muslims from reciting those very lines from the scripture or even believing in them, because they, as everyone else, have the right to freedom of thought and freedom of speech.

Contempt of religion is a right not a crime. People are free to revere an idea, to hold it sacred, but only insofar as they do not try to enforce that perceived sanctity on others and force them to regard as holy what they, subjectively, view as holy.

Should a religion be banned just because some find it offensive? Should criticism of religion be banned just because some find it offensive? If the answer is no to one, it has to be no to the other.

Freedom of thought entails that one is free to like a certain religion, but also entails that one could dislike all, or a certain religion. Freedom of speech guarantees that the former can express their reverence for such a religion, and the latter to express their dislike for it, whether through criticism or satire or any other peaceful means of expression.

As long as all people have the freedom to practice their religion, insofar as it does not violate human rights, they have no right to restrict the freedom of others in voicing their thoughts and opinions.

So no, freedom of speech does not violate freedom of religion, freedom of speech does not violate human rights. As a matter of fact, violating freedom of speech violates human rights.

Religion is an ideology, and ideas do not have rights, people have rights, hence this is why Islam (an ideology) and Muslims (people) are not the same thing, something that many people in the west and in Sweden seem to repeatedly get confused about and misrepresent.

Claiming that criticizing, disliking or satirizing religion violates human rights and international conventions is just outright wrong and dangerous, that is one step away from demanding “blasphemy law” and prosecuting those who “insult religion”. If people want that, they can move to the bastions of human rights, like Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries where criticism of Islam is labeled as blasphemy and punished by death or imprisonment.

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