Stand up for the right to criticise Islam

Stand up for the right to criticise Islam, by Matt Ridley.

The terrorists in London, Paris, Brussels, Nice, Munich, Berlin, Wurzburg, Ansbach, Orlando, San Bernardino, Sydney, Bali, New York, Mumbai and many other places have been white, black and brown, rich, poor and middle class, male and female, gay and straight, immigrant and native, young and (now) older. The one thing they have in common is that they had been radicalised by religious preachers claiming to interpret the Koran.

Moreover, while a few sick individuals find within Islam justification for murder and terror, a far larger number find justification for misogyny and intolerance. We must be allowed to say this without being thought to criticise Muslims as people. …

The situation is getting worse, much worse:

Islamist terrorism has become more frequent, but criticism of the faith of Islam, and of religion in general, seems to be becoming less acceptable, as if it were equivalent to racism or blasphemy. The charge of Islamophobia is too quickly levelled. …

In 1979, some Christians took offence at Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a witty if mordant satire on the phenomenon of cults (and Romans). The Christians were angry but the Pythons did not go into hiding. Two years ago, in the wake of the murder of his fellow satirists at Charlie Hebdo, the late Australian cartoonist Bill Leak went further than simply saying “Je suis Charlie” and drew cartoons of the Prophet. As a result he was forced to sell his house and move to a secret location. That does not feel like progress to me. …

Three days before the Westminster attack, the BBC’s Asian Network quite rightly apologised for asking “what is the right punishment for blasphemy?” shortly after an outspoken atheist had been hacked to death in Coimbatore, India, for expressing his views. There have been 48 murders of atheists in Bangladesh in recent years. Yet it is now more acceptable to attack “militant atheists” than militant theists. Blasphemy is back.