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No faith wants a blasphemy law – except Muslims


IN the West, although the culture and traditions we value are largely the result of the influence throughout society of centuries of Christian teaching, Christianity has no special protection in law. 

Blasphemy laws are a relic of a bygone era. The last successful prosecution in Scotland was in 1843. The last person imprisoned in England for blasphemy was in 1922, and there have been no prosecutions for blasphemy in Northern Ireland. 

We live in a largely godless society in which few take offence at blasphemous speech which traduces Christ, or portrays God as a figure of fun or of derision. Even under the old blasphemy laws, there was provision for bona fide opposition to Christianity. 

Today’s UK is a remarkably tolerant society. By and large, we rub along together pretty well and tolerate each other’s beliefs or lack of them. As in the rest of the West, UK publishers do not self-censor in fear of arousing a Christian mob who might invade their editorial offices armed to the teeth. Comedians do not pore over their material to self-censor in case they make a career-ending joke about Jesus. 

 Unfortunately we are well aware of the self-censorship surrounding Islam, especially in the media. The BBC has a long record of self-censorship regarding Islam, a stance in which it is joined by other broadcasters such as Channel 4. Is it likely Channel 4 would screen a Father Ted type of comedy featuring three imams instead of three Irish Roman Catholic priests? 

 There are increasing moves from within Islam to impose Sharia-compliant regulations on Western nations. Not satisfied with having triggered widespread self-censorship, now there are Islamic efforts to bring in actual blasphemy laws. 

Pakistan is at the forefront of the push to impose such laws on other countries. This year, its Prime Minister Imran Khan used a televised address to call on other Islamic nations to agitate for Western countries to bring in blasphemy laws to protect Islam. Khan urged that if Mohammed is insulted in any country and the perpetrator goes unpunished,  ‘then we will launch a trade boycott on them and not buy their goods’. 

According to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers: ‘Prime Minister Imran Khan has been the leading international voice in raising awareness on the grave consequences of rising systematic Islamophobia and in promoting inter-faith harmony.’ 

The idea that Imran Khan is a promoter of ‘inter-faith harmony’ is risible. Khan denies the existence of Jesus, and his country persecutes and mistreats religious minorities using blasphemy laws to subjugate minority faiths. According to Al Jazeera, since 1990 at least 78 people have been killed in Pakistan in mob violence and targeted attacks related to blasphemy accusations. 

The call for the extension of Islamic law, including blasphemy legislation, comes not only from Muslim majority countries such as those represented by the OIC. It is increasingly being heard from within the West. 

In Canada, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has recently sent a series of ‘requests’ to the Ottowa government. The council wants the Islamic faith to be advanced and promoted within all Canada’s cultural institutions. Canadian schools, media, and entertainment industry must promote and advance Islam to the satisfaction of the NCCM. 

 As well as wanting a major increase in funding for multicultural non-profit organisations to battle supposed ‘Islamophobia’, there is also a call for internet censorship as it relates to ‘Islamophobia’ in Canada. In other words, a de facto blasphemy law inhibiting free-speech criticism of Islam and Muslims. 

In addition, the NCCM wants ‘the potential introduction of a public-interest based defamation fund for Canadians who are smeared on the basis of hate.’ This would mean the state providing financial support to Muslims raising supposed ‘hate’ crime accusations. 

The NCCM also wants Canada to ‘pause the mandated “Countering Violent Extremism” programme’ – a programme whose mandate includes investigating Islamic terrorist groups. Also recommended for suspension is the Canada Revenue Agency’s Review and Analysis Division, which has investigated and charged a number of Canadian mosques with tax evasion. 

The UK is following the same track. The chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, Imam Qari Asim MBE, who was appointed the Government’s ‘Islamophobia adviser’ in 2019, has suggested that showing images of Mohammed should be made as socially taboo as ‘using the n-word’. 

He is pushing at an open door. During the recent Batley and Spen by-election, both Labour’s Kim Leadbeater – who won the seat – and her predecessor Tracy Brabin took an evasive stance on the issue of the religious studies teacher who showed an image of Mohammed to pupils. Both half-heartedly defended the teacher, while excusing the threats and intimidation which forced him and his family into hiding.  

Claiming the ‘upset and offence’ at his actions were ‘understandable’, they effectively rubber-stamped the right of Islamist protesters to use threats of violence in order to impose Sharia blasphemy standards on British schools. 

Labour MP Naz Shah recently called in Parliament for what would be in effect a blasphemy law for the UK. She highlighted the ‘emotional harm’ caused by depictions of Mohammed.  Whether she wants an explicit blasphemy law, or just an implicit one, the possible effect on freedom of speech is alarming. 

Like all Muslims pressing for blasphemy legislation, she called for protection against offence for all religions. However, there is no outcry amongst Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists or even Druids for such protection. The only religion pressing for special protection or blasphemy laws is Islam. 

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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