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News Blasphemy laws

  1. Sep 17, 2012 #1

    SixNein

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    Many people seem to be angry at the filmmaker, and they attribute blame for the violence in the middle east to him. I'm kind of struck by all of this anger.

    Do you, the reader of this post, believe we should have blasphemy laws?

    Blasphemy cases are quite common in the middle east, and in addition, they aren't shy of issuing the death penalty over it. If I were to say that their prophet Mohammad was just a man and not a Prophet of God, I would be charged with blasphemy and be deemed deserving of the death penalty.

    The issue here is that they believe their religion should enjoy a privilege beyond criticism or parody. If the Da Vinci Code had been about the Muslim religion instead of the Christian religion, it would most likely be called blasphemy in the middle east, and they would try to kill those who made it, and whoever hosted it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
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  3. Sep 17, 2012 #2

    apeiron

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    Hard to see how you can claim the benefits of a globalised world without also accepting some of the responsibilities.

    So some constraints on hate speech in the US might bring it more into line with the rest of the planet.

    For instance, has it signed up to article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights yet?
     
  4. Sep 17, 2012 #3

    micromass

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    So you think we should remove the freedom of speech?
     
  5. Sep 17, 2012 #4

    micromass

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    Muslims don't believe that Mohammed was a God.
     
  6. Sep 17, 2012 #5

    apeiron

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    Why are you so quick to pose an absurd extreme? If you think people are talking louder than they need, does that automatically make your position that you think they must not talk at all?
     
  7. Sep 17, 2012 #6

    micromass

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    I just asked a question. You said you want constraints on hate speech. That constitutes removing freedom of speech in its current form (and maybe replacing it with another form). So, what do you propose?
     
  8. Sep 17, 2012 #7

    SixNein

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  9. Sep 17, 2012 #8

    Bobbywhy

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    SixNein, in answer to your specific question: No, I do not believe the USA should have “blasphemy laws”. I am satisfied with our present Constitution and legal system regarding this issue and which is fairly well described here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_the_United_States_of_America

    Here are a few excerpts from the above reference:
    “A prosecution for blasphemy in the United States would fail as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . ."

    While there are no federal laws which forbid "religious vilification" or "religious insult" or "hate speech", some states have blasphemy statutes. Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania have laws that make reference to blasphemy.” It is interesting to note that few, if any, prosecutions have ever been made using those statutes.

    As for your other comment: As micromass has correctly pointed out, Islam does not teach Mohammed was a God. It is extremely important for all of us to “do our homework” and be sure of our facts before making public statements, especially in these sensitive times so as to avoid confrontational misunderstandings. EDIT: Thank you for fixing the error.

    There are at least 51 countries considered “Moslem” in our world totaling 1.65 Billion persons or 24% of the world population. Their blasphemy laws governing religious speech like movie-making or cartoon-drawing span the entire spectrum of strictness and severity of punishments for infractions. Furthermore, one individual Imam may preach hatred from his pulpit, while a nearby Imam will preach the message of brotherhood and tolerance. So, it is a mistake to lump “them” all into the same bucket.

    I abhor all violence, including this outbreak of angry and crazed mobs of persons fighting, burning property, and even killing four of our citizens. Embassy and Consulate personnel did not create that vile blasphemous film clip. The film maker is the one to blame. The Islamic Holy Book, the Quran, is clear that “innocents” are not to be harmed or hurt. So every single one of the thousands of violent protesters across our planet today is violating his own religious teaching by attacking and harming innocents.

    What is it that makes you “kind of struck by all of this anger”?

    Cheers,
    Bobbywhy
     
  10. Sep 17, 2012 #9

    apeiron

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    Where did I express a preference as opposed to articulating a rational basis for forming a preference?

    I live in a country with both blasphemy laws (on the books, no longer invoked) and hate speech laws (accepted without controversy). Yet democracy seems to survive - at least the Economist Intelligence Unit rates our effective freedoms 14 places higher than the US. So I don't see any big deal here.

    Again, my basic position would be that freedoms must always be matched by constraints, rights by responsibilities. That is the basis for healthy society. And so if you accept this is a globalising world, then adjustments are only to be expected.

    I like the arguments outlined by this UCLA law professor....

    So what about your position on the point I actually made.

    Should players in a global space be willing to sign up to global rules as a general principle? And if not, on what rational grounds?
     
  11. Sep 17, 2012 #10

    russ_watters

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    No, I don't think a non-theocracy should have blasphemy laws. I think it would be problematic in a country like the US, with both freedom of speech and religion.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
  12. Sep 17, 2012 #11

    SixNein

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    Although the media in the US insists that people like Osama Bin Laden are outliers, I believe it is wishful thinking on the part of the west to think of Bin Laden as the Jim Jones of the middle east. Quite frankly, there appears to be quite a lot of literalists (Salafi) in the middle east, and they are quite extreme by western standards (hint: Bin Laden was heavily influenced by these people). We are witnessing quite a clash between western principles of freedom and conservative middle eastern religion. Sure there exists many people in the middle east who have more liberal views (not using American lingo here), but it's not even clear if they are going to hold power or if the Salafi are going to hold it. The populist view in the middle east isn't exactly fond of America. And some of these groups, such as the Syrian rebels, may be worse then the governments that they are overthrowing regardless of all the romanticizing of them by our media right now. We may very well see our foreign policy over the last decade blow up in our face in a big way.

    On that note, I'm not really trying to lump everyone together; however, I think the media in America has given people the wrong impression about the extent of this problem.

    The "vile blasphemous film clip"? The proposition is risible in its own right. In my opinion, blasphemy is an illiberal word used by oppressors. People commit crimes against humanity, and they wrap their rhetoric in a bag full of God. When people speak out against those crimes against humanity, they are accused of Blasphemy and killed or thrown in prison forever.

    How do you define "innocent" in their terms? A conservative over there has quite hostile views of the west. For example, we allow our women to dress independently. Those people simply hate us.
     
  13. Sep 17, 2012 #12

    apeiron

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    Quite right. A rational approach does not support claims made on the basis of anyone's moral absolutism. Only the social good.

    Which is why internationally and domestically the debate ought to be about the practicalities of hate speech regulation, not blasphemy laws as such.
     
  14. Sep 17, 2012 #13

    SixNein

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    If religions of the earth were put on a pedestal separating them from criticism or works of parody, atheists might as well commit suicide unless they never share their blasphemous views. By the very nature of such a consensus, atheism would be deemed illegal. On the other hand, an agreement to allow religions the liberty of criticism or works of parody would prompt violence in the middle east.

    The real issue here is the variability of advancement among nations around the world. The middle east is pretty far behind the west or even the far east for that matter. It'll probably be another generation or two before the middle east catches up. The new generation being raised on the internet should hopefully catch them up. But until that time, we have to wait for the older generations to die off and the young generation to raise to power. The older generations are too extreme, illiterate, and too brainwashed to ever work anything out.

    But I agree that we should seek global consensus where we can, but we should also expect a great deal of opposition to modernism in places like the middle east.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
  15. Sep 17, 2012 #14

    apeiron

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    Which is why I stress the argument needs to be about hate speech laws rather than prohibitions against blasphemy as such.

    So the only thing "being put on a pedestal" in that context is the value we might wish to place on social cohesion. That is not the same as an attempt to support some arbitrary claims someone might have about moral absolutes and the need to punish sinful acts.
     
  16. Sep 17, 2012 #15
    You aren't allowed to harm others. What constitute harm varies depending upon peoples.
    To the west, no harm is done by insulting speeches; until physical harm is done, there is no harm. But to the people of middle east, you can very well harm them through speeches or movies (so it seems). They will protest against the harm. Yes of course, you think, they shouldn't be harmed by such things, but because of how they were raised, it certainly does harm them.
    So, there can't be global rules.
    Knowing that they can be harmed through speeches and still making such speech to them looks like a crime to me.
    Why not make a rule that you can make whatever movie in the US (or other liberal countries); but make sure that it doesn't reach to the peoples of middle east(or any other people who will be offended by it.)
     
  17. Sep 17, 2012 #16
    Blasphemy laws are so untenable and ridiculous that the mere fact we're discussing them in 2012 is depressing.

    Blasphemy laws are made by people of a specific religion, and the laws only apply to their religion. You can't blaspheme THEIR god. Why would they care about all those other fake gods? Blaspheme them all you want.

    If you make blasphemy laws against all religions, suddenly everything potentially becomes illegal. Eating spaghetti could be illegal because people could claim that blasphemes the flying spaghetti monster.
     
  18. Sep 17, 2012 #17

    SixNein

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    I'd like to expand some on that point (though a bit off topic).

    In my opinion, we are living in pretty dangerous times. We are on the brink of a major power transfer from the west to the east, and I think the transfer is going to catch many in the west completely off guard. I don't think people realize what those 9% growth rates of China or 6% growth rates of India mean in the long term (as well as the growth rates in other nations vs the west).

    I'm particularly concerned about America. I don't think people realize that this next president (whoever it may be) will likely be the last to preside over the world's largest economy. I don't think the meaning of that has fully dawned upon Americans yet.

    The thing that concerns me most about America is its history. America only has a 300 year history, and it's really a story of a rise in power. America doesn't have a history of going through a cycle of decline of power. And the government has not been fully tested against it. How will Americans react to this power transfer? This could go very bad if they decide to fight.

    I think the world is going to have to consider reaching some kind of global consensus on things, or we might be in for a very violent century.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/59910/james-f-hoge-jr/a-global-power-shift-in-the-making
     
  19. Sep 17, 2012 #18

    SixNein

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    Hate speech laws would not solve the problem with the middle east. The filmmakers did not participate in the violence nor did those who agreed with the speech; instead, the violence was carried out by those who disagreed with the views of the filmmakers and supporters of the movie.

    If one is to find the filmmaker guilty of a crime, it would be blasphemy.
     
  20. Sep 17, 2012 #19
    The problem with discussing it in terms of hate speech laws is, what is defined as hate speech? Rational criticism of a religion for its views could be considered hate speech by some within that religion. So are people supposed to just not say anything critical for fear that someone, somewhere, is going to call it hate speech? Frankly, I'd rather have the freedom to spout hate speech than the restriction against it. As the saying goes, "I will fight with every fiber of my being against what you say, but I will defend with every fiber of my being your right to say it".

    As for the film and the reaction, I blame both sides more or less equally. IMO, he made the film precisely to invoke this kind of violence, so that others could see that he was right - that "they're all a bunch of violent animals" (not his words, but what I believe he believes). And, the protesters became violent, so I blame them for their stupidity in falling for his trick.
     
  21. Sep 17, 2012 #20
    So if people were to be charged with murder, you think both the filmmaker and the murderers themselves should both be charged?

    If, for a hypothetical example, I made an anti-basketball movie knowing full well basketball players around the world would riot, would I be equally responsible for the rioting as the rioters themselves? No.

    The film maker did nothing intrinsically immoral; the rioters did. People are responsible for their own actions, so the blame lies completely on them.
     
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