Freedom of expression is not a value held around the world. To say otherwise is false. Mainstream Islam bans blasphemy even for non-Muslims.
— Buck Sexton (@BuckSexton) January 8, 2015
As I’m sure you’ve heard, yesterday a Newspaper office in Paris was attacked by gunmen who murdered twelve people. The specific targets were the paper’s editorial cartoonists, and the motive for their murder was the fact that they had often drawn cartoons disparaging Mohammad.
While the attack was swiftly condemned by many political leaders—France’s own president called it “an exceptional act of barbarism”—it was also met by many people eager to protect the reputation of Islam. The fact that the murders were done to avenge the reputation of Mohammad and that the politically correct response was to protect Islam’s reputation is ironic indeed.
MSNBC compared the ideology of the fundamentalist Muslims who carried out the crime with the ideology of Jerry Falwell and Liberty University. Several American politicians and journalists made comments along the lines of “all religions have their fundamentalists responsible for violence” (and of course, remember this from Salon? “What’s the difference between Palin and Muslim fundamentalists? Lipstick: A theocrat is a theocrat, whether Muslim or Christian”).
These kind of comments demonstrate our culture’s tendency toward moral equivocation. We value relativism so much that we have lost the ability to say that some religions are enemies of both truth and freedom.
But it is an event like yesterday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo that should highlight one of the stark contrasts between Islam and Christianity. Islam teaches violence, while Christianity teaches forgiveness. I’m not referencing fringe Islamic groups, but mainstream governments and mainstream cultures. Countries run by Islamic law foster violence and are democratically unworkable, whereas countries run by Christian law…
Well, it should dawn on you that there are no countries run by Christian law. Because Christianity is a religion built upon an individual’s relationship with God through Christ, not on a way of structuring a society. Because the focus is on the individual, nations with a Christian heritage produce individual and civic freedoms.
This is why Western nations tend toward freedom, and why Islamic nations cannot tolerate even a basic semblance of the freedoms that are taken for granted in much of the world. It is noteworthy that no country under Islamic law has a form of Freedom of Expression, and they all ban criticism of Mohamed. Their bans apply not only to Muslims, but to non-Muslims as well.
In contrast, Christians are accustomed to Jesus being mocked. Perhaps this is owing to how he was treated when he was on earth, or the fact that unlike Islam, Christianity began as non-violent religion. Whatever the reason, I’m not aware of any nations that ban mocking Jesus or Christians.
But this stark contrast—a contrast between violence in the name of a prophet and forgiveness in the name of a savior—is as politically incorrect as it is obvious. For example, yesterday the Associated Press (the largest news wire service in the world) explained that it was banning cartoons that are offensive to Muslims from its wire. Its explanation was that “it has been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images.” Yet that never stopped them from running pictures of the Virgin Mary covered in feces, or a picture of Jesus being splattered with urine—to give just two examples that come immediately to mind.
Why is it ok in the United States to show scatological pictures that are derogatory to Christians, but not those that are derogatory to Muslims? Why is it ok for Newsweek to run a shoddy story essentially mocking the Bible (so filled with errors that it comes across as parody) but if someone does the same about Islam he is likely to be arrested?
— Archbishop Cranmer (@His_Grace) January 8, 2015
Today, an influential Islamic cleric explained this difference in a column in the USA Today where he called for Western nations to ban criticism of Mohamed. He wrote that this is necessary because it is just too much a part of the Islamic world view to violently avenge any critical comments about Mohamed. In other words, Lutherans don’t violently chase down those who mock Jesus, while anyone poking fun at Mohamed should expect violence.
It would serve us well to fully grasp that distinction. It is the difference between dark and light, violence and forgiveness, censorship and freedom. It is also the difference between worshiping a lie and worshiping God in Spirit and truth.