Who needs blasphemy laws anyway?

Twitter message

There have been two victories for freedom of speech recently. The first, on 28th October, was when Ireland voted in a referendum to scrap its blasphemy laws. Stephen Fry was reported by a member of the public in 2015 for the following comments:

“Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded stupid god who creates a world so full of injustice and pain?” the actor said.”The god that created this universe, if it was created by a god, is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac, totally selfish.”

The reaction from the political establishment was embarrassment swiftly followed by legislative reform. How ridiculous that this stuff is still on the statute book, said the press.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where blasphemy is a capital offence and blasphemy laws are defended by its UK educated Prime Minister,  Asia Bibi was finally freed after 8 years on death row. After some grubby bargaining with the political parties who wanted her dead, it’s hoped she has finally been allowed to leave the country – the latest news is still unclear.

But unlike Stephen Fry’s opinions, Western media outlets don’t like to repeat what Bibi actually said. The BBC reports coyly “she made three offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad.”  Sky News says she was imprisoned “over allegations she insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad”. Mohammed Hanif in the New York Times went further still:

“We can never know what she may or may not have said because repeating blasphemy is also blasphemy, and writing it down may be even greater blasphemy. So let’s not go there….”

Surprise, surprise, the same newspaper decided to publish Stephen’s comments in full! Why this lack of editorial consistency? I wonder if the violent protests  across the country, calling for the assassination of Bibi and the judges who acquitted her had anything to do with it.

So what exactly did Asia say that everyone is too shy to report? Asia recounts answering her neighbour, who had just referred to Jesus as a “bastard”, with the words “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammed ever do to save mankind?” Probably one of the most prescient, probing, relevant questions ever asked. And not even blasphemous -her neighbour was blasphemous. Either way – blasphemy should never be a criminal offence. But who cares? A blasphemy law is redundant when the mainstream media is sharia compliant by choice.

Indeed Twitter’s sharia-compliance officers charged us with ‘hateful conduct’, after we tweeted Sky News on the issue of grooming gangs:

“Religion of Islam has lots to do with this. Qur’an supports their actions. Role model of Muslims is Muhammad and his actions support the actions of grooming gangs (should be called ‘rape gangs’.” (You can probably tell which one of us wrote that.)

Clearly Twitter can’t tell the difference between ‘hateful conduct’ and ‘uncomfortable facts.’ But then, this is the organisation that accepted a paid  ad promoting female genital mutilation. (You can watch our response to Twitter  here, and you can read our article where we link the issue of rape gangs with Islamic teaching here.)

But at least the European Court of Human Rights is on the side of free speech – right? Wrong. The ECHR thinks free speech is less important than “the rights of others to have their religious feelings protected, and to have religious peace preserved.” So if people feel on religious grounds, that having sex with 9 year old child is acceptable (because their prophet did so) their religious feelings take precedence over proper discussion of their prophet’s behaviour.  All at a time when “child marriage has become one of the most pervasive and enduring forms of sexual exploitation of young girls in the Middle East and North Africa,” according to this  white paper on Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa.  (Click here for the full article by Jules Gomes.)  Likewise Asia Bibi won’t be offered asylum in Britain, according to one source, due to ‘security concerns and unrest in certain sections of the community.’ Yet again Muslim feelings trump the morally right thing to do.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday. I wonder what the soldiers who laid down their lives would make of the freedoms they fought for being discarded so cheaply? But bemoaning it doesn’t help. Nor does silence. The church needs to find her voice again, and be firm and be courageous. We must “speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9); we must preach the Gospel in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:2), and “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10:5), especially as it gets more costly. But we can do with joy and hope, with Jesus as our victorious King.

‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)

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UK Parliament shuts down debate on Islam

Uk Parliament shuts down debate on Islam.

Hatun and Lizzie talk about what happened in UK Parliament this week.

This week Lord Pearson, UKIP Peer, asked if “Her Majesty’s Government whether, in pursuit of their anti-terrorism strategy,” will “require preaching in mosques and teaching in madrassas in England and Wales to be monitored for hate speech against non-Muslims?”

Conservative Peer Baroness Warsi responded: “Could I ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in pursuit of their antiterrorism strategy, they will require preaching in the form of Oral Questions and debate in your Lordships’ House to be monitored for hate speech and Islamophobia against Muslims?”

In other words: asking for mosques to monitor hate speech is – hate speech and Islamophobia!

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Islam, Christianity and Freedom of Speech

Police at Speaker's Corner

Speaker’s Corner was more tense than usual last week during a visit from Tommy Robinson. He was there to read a speech written by Austrian activist Martin Sellner. Only Robinson wasn’t supposed to be the one doing it: the speech was meant to be delivered by Lutz Bachmann, founder of the anti-Islamisation group, Pegida, following Sellner’s being denied entry to the UK along with two other activists. Then Bachmann was also deported. The Home Office’s reason was that

A speech was discovered during a baggage search which you have stated you are intending to deliver to the general public at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park. (Breitbart)

Of course, the UK government has been cravenly denying entry to critics of Islam for years – Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller were banned from entering the country in 2013. But it’s a bad day for democracy when you ban a speech at Speaker’s Corner – the place where you can exhort people to stockpile soup tins before the alien abduction; the place where we preach the Gospel week in, week out; the place where Arabs flock to in the summer months precisely because they can freely criticise things they can’t at home.  Speaker’s Corner is the global bastion of freedom of speech. So it’s depressing as it is absurd when someone is banned from the bastion of freedom of speech from giving a speech on…freedom of speech.

For years Muslims have taken full advantage of Speaker’s Corner to promote Islam. They ridicule Christianity. They heckle us. “May Allah destroy you!” “You are Shaytan!” “Women are to be silent!” “You are insincere and ignorant!” –and that was just last Sunday. So what? The right to insult, ridicule and offend is a precious freedom and muslims are using it. (We respond with “God bless you.”) So why is our government treating them like such delicate flowers? To presume Muslims can’t defend themselves against with those who dislike their religion without resorting to violence is very patronising. Nor does deporting people or locking them up for their speech even work. Instead it makes martyrs for the cause – just ask Anjem Choudhury.

In exercising their freedom of speech, Muslims are in fact exercising more liberty than Allah gives them in their own religion. The Qu’ran discourages questioning (Sura 5:101) and according to four hadith in Sahih Bukhari, Muhammad found too many questions irritating. It’s something Allah actually hates you for:

Narrated Ash-sha’bi: The clerk of Al-Mughira bin Shu’ba narrated, “Muawiya wrote to Al-Mughira bin Shu’ba: Write to me something which you have heard from the Prophet .” So Al-Mughira wrote: I heard the Prophet saying, “Allah has hated for you three things: 1. Vain talks, (useless talk) that you talk too much or about others. 2. Wasting of wealth (by extravagance) 3. And asking too many questions (in disputed religious matters) or asking others for something (except in great need) (Sahih Bukhari, Book 24, Hadith no 555.)

Muhammad also had his critics gruesomely assasinated. If the fruit of these teachings aren’t obvious enough, ask yourself – in which Muslim countries would DCCI be able to operate freely?

But it’s Judeo-christian countries – not atheist ones like China or North Korea – where freedom of speech is a societal norm. Why? Because YHWH gives human beings the freedom to question Him. Think of the Psalms or Job’s anguished speeches:

What is mankind that you make so much of them,
that you give them so much attention,
18 that you examine them every morning
and test them every moment?
19 Will you never look away from me,
or let me alone even for an instant?
20 If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
you who see everything we do? (Job 7:17-20)

Jesus, our role model, didn’t try and censor his critics or respond with violence when they called him the ‘prince of demons’ (Matt 9:34) or scorned him on the Cross (Matt 27:40-42). He died for people who actively hated him.

Last Sunday we preached to a crowd of about 5, while hundreds of people thronged around Speaker’s Corner’s celebrity visitor. We prayed Tommy Robinson’s visit would pass off peacefully which it did, apart from a few scuffles. But we’ll be there next week, and the week after, preaching Christ and responding to curses with blessing. It is because of Him that we have these freedoms in the first place, and only in Him that we find true freedom – something both Muslims and Tommy Robinson’s crowd should stop and think about.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” John 8:36.