Islam not cuddly

As has been well reported, Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher in Sudan, has been jailed for 15 days for insulting Islam.

There are two different ways to oppose such a ruling.

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, ran with the first. Disagree with the facts of the case:

Bunglawala… said it appeared to have been a "quite horrible misunderstanding" and Ms Gibbons should never have been arrested. There was no apparent intention to offend Islamic sensibilities or defame the honour and name of the Prophet Muhammad, he said.

While supporting the general principle behind the blasphemy law:

Muslim majority countries have their own laws and customs. If you set out to deliberately insult the Prophet Muhammad in a country where such behaviour is regarded as unacceptable and against the law then I would have little sympathy for you.

The second approach is to oppose blasphemy laws.

Regardless of the country or culture in which they are instigated prohibitions against discussing, verbally attacking or mocking religion are detrimental to human society. There is no reason to protect religion, which is just another set of ideas like liberalism or Confucianism, from criticism. As Bertrand Russell, writing in 1930, commented on England’s blasphemy laws:

If you abuse Lenin to a Communist until he gets so angry that he hits you on the nose, the Communist is sent to prison. If the Communist abuses Christ to you until you get angry so that you hit him on the nose, it is again the Communist that is sent to prison. There is apparently no member of the present Government who is able to perceive that this is an injustice.


Update 3/12: Gibbons has been pardoned.


AIGBusted said...

I like this post. I have been saying that atheists need to speak out against Islam more, as it is one of the fastest growing religions. By the way check out my blog, I debunk creationism/design:


Australian Atheist said...

Thanks for your comment.

I agree that criticising Islam is important. It is useful if criticisms come from dispassionate observers, atheists, rather than Christians who could be suspected looking to convert.

metal-fan-666 said...

Education is the only way to combat these problems. You do not have to convince everyone in a society to have in idea become the 'established' norm, just the majority. At this point of inflexion rapid change can naturally follow.