The Anti-Islamic Movie and Cartoons: Let’s Not Defend Literary Litter

What is the point of the cartoon?

The “journalists” at Charlie Hebdo published cartoons insulting the Prophet Muhammad. They’re stupid cartoons, uninteresting in their art, message, humour, you name it, and fit for only one purpose: to make the point that nothing is sacred, no target is safe, and Muslims deserve no special treatment.

Well, hurrah. For this freedom of speech and of the press (which I shall combine here), our foreparents fought and died? To protect this kind of utterance, we have supported movements for freedom around the world that have cost millions their lives?

Freedom of speech is often characterized as a “right.” That loaded term “right” is then understood to be absolute: “I know my rights! I can say whatever I want!”

—Except, you obviously don’t know your rights. You really can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. You can’t incite a mob to violence. You can’t slander or libel. You can’t sexually harass a co-worker. You can’t reveal secrets you have sworn not to reveal. You can’t even utter threats in a wide range of circumstances. So let’s be clear that freedom of speech is properly curtailed in a variety of ways.

But, one might retort, the French cartoons—and the anti-Muhammad movie before them—aren’t any of those things. They’re vulgar and insulting, sure, but if you don’t protect speech you don’t like, you’re not serious about protecting free speech.

—Except, the classical defense of free speech isn’t about protecting the right of louts to spout off, or cartoonists to insult whom they like, or moviemakers to deliberately upset other people for no other reason than a weird quest for vengeance. No artistic merit, no important civic message, not even a valid personal statement: this is not why we protect free speech.

Free speech is about letting ideas play out for the ultimate benefit of everyone and the common good. Free speech is about experimentation, critique, imagination, possibility, thinking new thoughts (or old ones unhelpfully forgotten or exiled)—all to provide the widest opportunity for mutual benefit. Only secondarily is it about my being free to say what I like, about what I like, when I like, to whom I like.

Free speech, then, doesn’t protect an advertiser who wants to place sexually explicit images at bus stops. Free speech doesn’t protect child molesters or drug dealers who want to contact pupils at school or online. Free speech doesn’t protect the protester who wants to disrupt any meeting of his choice just because he wants to have his say, no matter what anyone else at the meeting is there for.

So what about the movie and the cartoons? We in the West have done away with blasphemy laws. We do not any longer share a common religion and therefore a common commitment to what is sacred, what properly lies beyond the reach of contemptuous speech. But we still have obscenity laws, and I wonder now if we need to have their religious/ideological equivalents: obscenity laws that forbid anti-religious speech (including anti-atheistic speech, since atheism is, in this context, just one of the ideological options among the others) that has no other point than to offend and inflame.

Let me be quite clear that I do not think we have a right not to be offended. Risking offense is the price of encountering important difference, and it’s a price one has to pay in Grown-Up World. It’s a price worth paying, too, because by remaining vulnerable to ideas I initially find upsetting, I might find a radically better way of seeing something. Without that vulnerability, by contrast, I am doomed to whatever set of ideas I happen to have now. And if I have grown up in a particularly stupid family or under a particularly repressive regime, that is a terrible doom indeed.

I should, however, have the right not to be needlessly offended, vulnerable to offense at every turn for no socially significant reason. I should not have to enter a public place and find my values pointlessly trashed by my ideological enemies. If they have an important message to project in an appropriate forum, then yes, I have to put up with it—and maybe even learn from it.

But if they are trivially simply poking me with a stick because they hate people like me or ideas like mine, or if they are heedlessly offending me in order simply to sell something to someone who likes that sort of stuff, then they are simply polluting the common space. We forbid people from littering with objects: We might now stop people from littering with offensive advertisements, let alone deliberating targeting their fellow citizens to no end other than their unhappiness. That really is not what the protection of free speech is about.

To me, this is what is actually valid about initiatives to outlaw “insulting the Prophet or Islam” and the like. Criticizing the Prophet or Islam must be allowed. And the form of criticism might well be highly distasteful. But if it is actually criticism, it’s not a mere insult. Because the line between genuine criticism and gratuitous, malicious injury-seeking is not always clear, we ought to err on the side of freedom. And I’m as nervous as anyone about authorities touchily and heavy-handedly outlawing anything they don’t like and especially anything that questions their legitimacy. Yet in the West we properly haven’t then opted for the other extreme and let just anything go. And I think Islamic criticisms of how we manage free speech are worth trying to listen to, rather than reflexively dismissing them as if we have it all figured out. We do trust our official authorities to police speech in certain instances. I am cautiously, cautiously suggesting we have something to think about in this current global conversation as well.

Here in the West, then, we have come to genuine free speech only recently, historically speaking, and we certainly haven’t ironed out all the wrinkles in our theory or our law. We must appreciate that many Muslim-majority nations are in transition toward recognizing what pluralism could look like, and why and how they should protect unpopular but still valid forms of speech. Moderates and liberals in Muslim communities are trying desperately, and with great courage, to encourage their fellow citizens to be tolerant of speech they don’t like, even speech that is critical of what they hold most dear. We do not help their cause by defending the likes of these wretched cartoons and this vulgar film.

Nor do we help our own.

“Free speech,” “the public has a right to know,” “censorship is always wrong”—slogans are for children learning to get a grip on the complexities of the world. They are not for adults who appreciate that these matters are indeed complex and cannot be resolved merely by reference to this or that pet saying. It’s time for us to take another step forward in our thought and practice about free speech, if we’re really serious about welcoming quite different people into our own countries and getting along properly with people in others.

30 Responses to “The Anti-Islamic Movie and Cartoons: Let’s Not Defend Literary Litter”

  1. Charles

    “They’re stupid cartoons…fit only one purpose: to make the point that nothing is sacred.”

    “Free speech is about experimentation, critique, imagination, possibility, thinking new thoughts…”

    1. Though obviously unpopular with the Muslim world, I think the movie/cartoon makers used their freedom of speech to make a critique of “radical” Muslims’ religion: answer offenses with violence. And, ironically, they idolize Muhammed. Even though wars were not fought to “defend freedom”, blood was shed to show the world that radical Islam needs to reform.

    2. Despite this, I’m not sure “rights” are necessarily biblical given Luke 6:27-35

    27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

    28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

    29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

    30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

    31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

    32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

    33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

    34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

    35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

  2. Dan

    Any such laws would have to be worded very precisely. I am thinking of the torrent of bad-faith lawsuits/harassment campaigns/etc. from the history of the Church of Scientology. During Operation Freakout, they broke into a critical journalist’s apartment, stole her letterhead, and mailed in a fake bomb threat to get her arrested. They also imported her book into countries with stringent libel laws to get her arrested. I am worried that this organization in particular would exploit such laws to the max. While sympathetic to your concerns, I think that it is difficult to define “offensive for the sake of being offensive”, because nearly anybody making a provocative point would argue that there is some intrinsic value in it, even if others struggle to locate it. Like you, I prefer to err on the side of freedom, but I think we locate that line in different spots.

    Overall, though, this is a very provocative post with ideas worthy of consideration. The same people who clamor for democracy in the Middle East need to realize that there are important cultural distinctives and that identical systems cannot and should not be imported identically, and these are the discussions we need to be having.

  3. Mirax

    When countries with Islamic majorities start respecting other religions and allowing freedom of worship I will respect Islam. Until then I will cling to my belief it is a fascist, totalitarian, anti-democractic, reactionary creed.

  4. Mel M

    Its called “extortion”.

    We can discuss the academic pros and cons of free speech. But its not ultimately about that.

    The cartoons, and especially the film in question (which has generated this discussion) are simply the pretexts for a very well planned and choreographed agenda carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood and its current allies in Iran. If not a cartoon, or a badly produced film, today, then it might just as easily be a teddy bear named “Mohammed”, or a restaurant that sells ice cream that swirls like the name of “Allah” in Arabic, or more trumped up charges of Qur’an burning against a mentally disabled child tomorrow. Muslim mobs have been incited to riot, kill, and destroy over such “insulting offenses”. No matter what you do or say, someone, somewhere, is likely to take offense. That then is used as justification for rioting and killing the innocent.

    And lets not forget that one of the ultimate offenses — which directly contradicts the teachings of the Qur’an — and is regarded as “shirk” (blasphemy) is to say that Jesus is the son of God. Are we going to stop saying that in public because Muslims are bound to see that as a direct insult to their prophet who taught otherwise?

    It is extortion….pure and simple. And it appears to be working.

    • John

      Mirax and Mel M, would you care to tell us the number of Muslims you know personally? The courses in Islam you have taken to study that religion? The Muslim-majority countries you have lived in? It is hard for me initially to take your comments seriously as informed by serious acquaintance with Muslims, Islam, or actual Muslim societies.

      • Mel M


        I would like to ask you the same questions. I have lived over 10 years of my life in Sudan; clearly a Muslim majority nation; one where the Muslim Brotherhood has been in power since 1989. |I’ve also spent time in South Yemen, Egypt, and Somalia. I’ve also worked for years in South Sudan, mostly among victims of Khartoum’s violent and discriminatory policies (including at times genocide) towards non Muslims in South Sudan and Nuba Mts, and to more moderate Muslims in Darfur. I have scores of Muslim friends, most of whom would say I’m being way to soft on the antics of the Muslim Brotherhood. I was first alerted to this organization’s policies and outlook by a respected Muslim professor from Khartoum. I won’t mention his name on an open forum like this. But if you are intrested, I can email it to you. I’ve read dozens of books on Islam and hundreds of articles by knowledgeable Muslims, non Muslims from Muslim majority nations, (mostly Christians) as well as others from academic sources. . I would not put myself in the “academic” category for sure, but on this topic, I do know what I’m talking about.

        • John

          Thanks for this, Mel. I don’t doubt you’ve had some pretty horrible experiences, as have friends of mine who have worked in the same or similar places.

          What’s not clear to me, however, is that your comments address the issue I’m raising in my post. I’m writing about free speech and how we ought to properly encourage, channel, and restrict it. That is not necessarily an “academic” conversation, unless by that you mean a theoretically careful one–and I’d like to think you’d support careful thinking about important matters. What one knows and thinks and fears and suspects about something as protean and diffuse as the Muslim Brotherhood is simply not the point I’m discussing here.

          • Mel M


            My point does address your comments on free speech. I’m attempting to demonstrate that the end game here (as far as the |Muslim Brotherhood is concerned) is the worldwide imposition of “blasphemy laws”. We are almost there now. The UN General Assembly is already going down that road.

            The justifications which you appear to give for restricting speech (more than it is already being restricted) are far too broad, far too unclear, and far too easy to abuse for one’s own political ends. We already have had too many Christians (and others) who have suffered ruinous lawsuits, or spent time in courts, prison, and police custody for supposed “hate speech” in Canada and other countries in the Western world.

            Under the paradigm you are recommending, how does one legitimately criticize or educate people about Islam without offending Muslims, and having your motivations called into question? For example, If you quote the Hadiths (which Muslims consider sacred) which tell of Muhammad marrying a 6 year old girl, I guarantee that many Muslims (and far too many 6 figure salaried federal and provincial bureaucrats) are going to assume that your intent is not to inform but to insult….even if what you say is taken from Islam’s own “sacred” texts.

            How would this apply to other non Islam related cases on the current events scene? Such as the Broadway act which clearly mocks Mormons; the Pussy Riot case in Russia; and the re-displaying in DC of tax payer funded so-called “art” entitled “Piss Christ”‘?

            If its good for the goose, its good for the gander. Or to make the adage more appropo….”if its good for Pussy Riot it is good for the Copts.

  5. Jeff Loach

    Hi John. You wrote the following, on which I would be grateful for some clarification:
    “We forbid people from littering with objects: We might now stop people from littering with offensive advertisements, let alone deliberating targeting their fellow citizens to no end other than their unhappiness. That really is not what the protection of free speech is about.”

    While I greatly appreciate the premise on which you are writing, I need some help to understand how, by whom, etc., one defines such things as “offensive advertisements”. Part of the difficulty with relativism, and the inherent supposed lack of absolutes, means that everybody’s definition of ‘offensive’ may vary. We’ve made some absolutes that are (largely) abided, such as the red octagonal sign means “stop”, and you’d better do so; however, in moral areas, for many people, it’s not so clear. Can you explain further how we can govern free speech in such a way as to please, or at least assuage, the majority? Thanks.

    • John

      How do we do it now, Jeff? It’s not like I’m suggesting a brand new form of policy, policy-making, or policy-enforcement, right?

      The transit authority in Vancouver, for instance, is responsible for what advertisements go up on its vehicles and in its stations. They have guidelines they follow that flow from their mission. Municipal, provincial, and federal governments are responsible for the public spaces under their jurisdiction, just as park services are responsible for those under theirs.

      Hospitals allow people to engage in free speech only insofar as it does not infringe on the mission of the hospital: so no cell phones, no loud talking, no visitors or phone calls outside visitors’ hours, and so on.

      We already police (let’s call it what it is) free speech in lots of contexts in way that is, when all goes well, consistent with the ethos of the context. That’s what I’m asking us to consider doing in this case. Does that help?

      • Jeff Loach

        Thanks for your reply, John. It helps, though I’m led now to wonder whether it will, as time unfolds, be a matter of “majority rules” (as it tends to be under most circumstances anyway). To take the example of advertising on public transit: when I worked for the Bible Society, I would take out the occasional ad on certain bus routes on the TTC. How many complaints would the Commission have required to have CBS banned from advertising? I realize that this is both hypothetical and perhaps unanswerable – and I don’t pretend to be speaking against the motion, as it were! – but the matter of free speech seems always to be a relative thing rather than an absolute thing. (I also don’t pretend to be a philosopher!)

  6. Bret

    Well said Mr. Stackhouse, words and ideas can talk a jumper down off of a bridge or even make him jump, form freindships or make enemies. If you read books like Confessions of an Economic Hitman you can understand better that the west/east relationship is at a crucial stage. Words do matter now more then ever, in light of the Arab Uprising. Yes, Freedom of Speech is important but so is discernment. As the Bible states the toungue is a rudder that can lead the whole ship astray.

  7. Mel M


    You have implied that the maker of the movie in question was motivated simply by the urge to “…deliberately upset other people for no other reason than a weird quest for vengeance” How do you know this? Have you talked personally with the moviemaker in question?

    Would you feel the same way if it were a Jew who had escaped from Nazi Germany who created a film depicting the cruelties of Nazism? What the Copts in Egypt are going through right now at the hands of Muslim radicals is not all that different.

    Who is to be the judge of what is someone’s intentions? You? Me? Canada’s so-called “Human Rights Commissions”? Especially if, as is the case with this movie, the subject matter in the film is mostly derived from Islam’s own “sacred” Hadiths?

    • John

      Haven’t seen the film. Have you? I’d be interested to know if it is a film that depicts anything like the historical record. No one says it does, that I’ve read. As for the filmmaker’s motives, I have only reports of his own testimony to go on.

      So if the film is legitimate criticism, my post makes my position clear. If it isn’t, then the post makes my position clear. What are we arguing about?

      • Mel M


        So who determine if the film is legitimate criticism or not? That’s the problem. Based on your “weird vengeance” comment I’m inferring that you don’t think it is legitimate.

        I haven’t watched the movie, but I did see the trailor. While I will not vouch for the quality of the acting, the accounts which are portrayed are, in fact, taken from the Suna. I don’t doubt that the author has an axe to grind against Islam. What Copt from Egypt now wouldn’t? But should that possibility necessarily restrict his right to produce the film?

        • John

          Let’s drop the movie. Neither of us have seen it, and “taken from the Sunna” is a moot point. And please stop oversimplifying what I’m trying carefully to say. I certainly did not say that anyone “with an axe to grind” should be censored. That would be absurd.

          Instead, let’s take your point that consistency across the board is essential. So let’s consider abusive speech against Jesus and his religion instead. How do you feel about someone interrupting a church service with a string of curses? About a bus stop celebrating gay marriage with a photo of a couple in flagrante delicto? About a perfume commercial depicting Jesus and his lover?

          If you think none of that speech deserves a hard look and possible restraint, then we’re done. But I think religious people–of all stripes–should not have to abide gratuitous assaults on their convictions and sensibilities just any time and any place.

          And if we can agree on some situations, such as the ones I’ve mentioned, then we can hope to agree on more. We won’t agree on them all, and–as my original post says–we need to lean hard in the direction of freedom for fear of self-serving authorities abusing the public trust. But I don’t think that all the resistance to these cartoons, films, and more come from a single worldwide conspiracy of the Muslim Brotherhood, any more than I think all Christian reaction is coordinated from the Vatican. So let’s listen to what legitimately might be expressed in the wide range of objections being raised around the world.

          • Mel M


            I dont’ know if anyone anywhere has actually seen the movie. That’s the point. Everyone is judging it without even seeing it….on the basis of what? The focus is on the movie, not the violence. The violence is being excused not condemned. THAT is the problem. Extortion is being accepted.

            Of course resistance to this movie (which no one seems to be watching) is coming from sincere Muslims across the world, but the violence is organized and coordinated. It would be analagous to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada calling on Christians across Canada to attack, burn down, and kill secular humanists because of abortion clinic activity which is a direct and violent assault on what Christians regard as “sacred” (innocent human life). One could say that opposition to abortion is not controlled by the EFC, but if they were inciting those sincerely held pro life sentiments to violence, then it would be analogous to what the Muslim Brotherhood is doing with these mob riots.

            Naturally, I am offended by the “Piss Christ” type of art. But I’ve not yet beheaded any Norwegian aid worker over it. There are legitimate means to protest such activities…especially when our taxes are funding them.

            As for intrusions into church services, that is on private property. There are already sufficient laws protecting inappropriate speech taking place there. And even if “Act Up” goes into a church and commits indecorous impropriety, that’s no justification for me to go out and burn down an embassy.

            All that is needed to create the kind of mayhem we are seeing is for a well organized, subversive organization to throw out rumours which incite people (which is what the Nazis did very effectively). And when that happens (if it involves Islam) everyone it seems, from the President of the United States, to evangelical leaders, to pious Muslims on the street tend to accept it as gospel truth. Just look at how easy it was for the Pakistani mobs to be riled up and incited to beat, destroy and demand death to Christians by false claims that a mentally disabled child burned pages with verses of the Qur’an on them.

            The focus of discussion should be on allowing the truth to be revealed. If we allow the concept of “weird sense of vengeance”, to restrict it, then we really are “finished”. Just imagine how that proviso could be used by the bureaucratic Richard Warman’s of this world! Anyone who has suffered loss at the hands of Muslims could be written off as having a “weird sense of vengeance”, Any Jew writing legitimate warnings about the ultimate aims and objectives of the Nazis could have the same allegation levelled at him/her.

            And if a “weird sense of vengeance” is a reason to deny free speech, why shouldn’t a “weird sense of religious superstition”, or wierd sense of homophobia”? Get the drift? Who determines what is “weird”? Who determines what is motivated solely by a desire to insult? Who determines what is a “gratuitous assault on one’s convictions”? And is “insult” solely determined by (as Canadian “hate laws” already argue) the likelihood that somone will be offended? Whether anyone actually is or not?

            It becomes another tool to shut down free expression and free thought.

            What I agree with you on is the need to (if we are going to err) to “err on the side of freedom”. We already have far too many restrictions on free speech, especially here in Canada!

            • John

              You have certainly made your point, Mel. Your fears and hatreds are now thoroughly registered.

              What we never got to, alas, is your seriously engaging the point of the post: Since we do restrict some forms of free speech, is there anything positive to be learned from Muslims being upset about the puerile forms of speech that have recently caused upset among a wide range of Muslims, not just those riled up on other grounds? You seem to think there is nothing to be learned. Okay. I suppose we’re done.

  8. Bret

    Interestingly enough this very topic was discussed in the United Nations Assembly in New York today. I just tuned in to the live feed and have not read the full transcript yet. A cooperative measure was called for among the nations to curb inflamatory anti-religious remarks.

  9. DanL

    Would love to shut down explicit sexual content in free magazines in every major U.S. city (“the Stranger,” in Seattle, for example), freely available to minors at places like bus stops, coffee shops, libraries, etc. Obscenity laws could and should be enforced for such filth. (And I’m under 40, by the way, if that makes any difference, ha ha!)

  10. Mel M


    You’re proving my point! Even to the extent of assigning the motivation of “hatred” to my comments.

    Nor have I ignored the “point” of the article! I’ve addressed it head – on. You just haven’t liked what I am saying. Let me try one more approach:

    You say that we already restrict freedom of speech; True! One is not allowed to shout out “fire fire” in a crowded theater. Granted!

    But you correctly add “when there is no fire”. Therein lies the important caveat! It depends on TRUTH. It should be the same with slander, defamation and other restrictive laws.

    If it were always illegal to shout “fire fire” (on the basis of some false assumption that anyone who shouts that out it could only be motivated by malice), then it could lead truly lead to disaster in the event of a real fire.

    What you seem to be suggesting is analogous to that! If society restricts all freedom of speech which can be subjectively deemed (by some bureaucrat or person with a political agenda) to be “insulting” or motivated by a “gratuitous assault” then that opens up a whole pandora’s box of repressive tools to silence dissent and destroy fundamental freedoms.

  11. Bret

    Speaking to our own situation, free expression is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and like it or not the courts alone decide what these limits are. Only federal or provincial legislation can amend the charter’s application. This is why the lawsuits are flying to establish precendent. It is therefore a Christian responsibility to be a voice even if it is crying out from the wilderness for discernment. If we cannot judge right from wrong speech now, how we will be ready to inherit the world?

    • Mel M


      I would agree with what you say. Christians do need to be a responsible voice, even if it is crying out in the wilderness. We desperately need discernment. (Especially since we are assured in Scriptures that in the end times (if possible) even the very elect will be deceived.

      And there is an important difference between speaking out against something, and wanting to make that something (be it art or some other form of expression) illegal.

      The power of freedom of expression is twofold: First it allows all ideas (regardless of how popular they are) to be put on the public table; and second, (and more importantly) it allows erroneous, spurious, or unethical ideas and thoughts to be exposed and torn down; rendering them harmless and impotent. The truth is strong enough to stand on its own; It needs only freedom to allow it to be told. Christ came to testify to the truth. We can do no less.

      If the issue were about whether or not Christians should condemn so-called “art” that intentionally defames or insults, then I would be in 100% agreement. Preach if from the pulpits….let it fly from the rooftops. But that is a far cry from wanting to make it illegal.

      • Bret

        Since you qouted me in a certain light, I should be more specific about what I meant. Our government already defines the fact that the courts govern limits on free speech. What I meant was that the churches cannot afford the legal bill to police freedom of speech that is why they are calling out from the desert outside of the sytem quo. I did not mean that we are not called to enter into legal issues. I just spoke with a Justice Offical about this very issue. To use a foreign example for a moment that is currently in the news. The Anglican church has been advised by Legal Counsel that they may soon be required by law to peform gay wedding ceremonies soon. I can only assume that this was one of the reason’s why the Archbishop of Cantebury is quiting his post eleven years before it expires. What I mean is that Freedom of Expression & Religion is absolutely a legal battle as defined by the Canadian Charter and other countries laws. The lawyers are setting precedent’s for the churches and the churchs are already involved in this massive legal battle right across Canada and for the most part we are losing. Many Christians are just not aware of the legal cases that are being adjudicated. I don’t lose heart in this nor do I condone us not protecting our rights but I am increasingly drawn to eschtaology as the final solution to the matter.

  12. Mark


    I can appreciate your concern that something like a blasphemy law might be forced on us out of a simple desire to reduce bloodshed. I also commend you for your anger over the Pakistani law’s attempted application in the case of the mentally disabled girl. Such injustice is despicableHowever, if you honestly believe the Muslim sunna teaches either that Muhammad committed adultery with his first wife, Khadijah, or that he was gay, you are seriously misinformed. Those two examples from the movie trailer make me very grateful that the world was somehow spared from seeing the whole movie. Whoever made the movie clearly included such things out of a desire to vent his hatred and insult, not simply to present an alternative view.

    • Mel M


      I watched the trailor again after your last post and couldn’t see how you inferred that the trailor was saying that Muhammad committed adultery with his first wife. From what I could see, the trailor was not saying that at all. Maybe I missed something or watched an edited version. It does, however, show him cheating on Aisha (his favorite wife, the one who was 6 years old when he married her). But the account with his first wife was about how she made him stop seeing a devil using a rather salacious technique. And those accounts are all from the Hadiths.

      As for Muhammad being gay, I guess that depends on one’s definition of “gay”. (And orthodox Islam have some interesting perspectives on this, to say the least). It certainly could be argued that Muhamnad was at least what some might call “bi curious” based on his experience with his beloved friend Zahir alone (as well as other accounts recorded in the Hadiths).

      But for the sake of argument, lets assume that you are right; that all Muhammad and Zahir were doing was cuddling on a cold desert night to keep warm (or something). Having this story explained in that way would allow pious, honest Muslims the opportunity to put the canard (assuming that’s what it is) to rest. But if, of course, if they are unable to do so, then is it not important that such information come to light?

      How many times has it been argued by modern “scholars” using creative exegesis that the Old Testament David and Jonathan were “gay”, and I’ve even heard it argued that Jesus was gay. Isn’t it better that people be allowed to make those suggestions, and then have them exposed to the public where they can be either refuted or confirmed, than to have it all hushed up (where it may obtain unwarranted credibility?)

      Islam’s “sacred” texts portray Muhammed doing a lot of things which the vast majority of people today would recoil at in horror …things far more shocking and horrific than are depicted in this movie trailor.

      No doubt that is the whole purpose of inciting people to riot and kill, so that few people will, in fact, examine the facts or disseminate the truth. And those few who dare to do so will be demonized, discredited and sufficiently punished.

  13. Mel M

    Sorry Mark, I addressed that last post to John, and not to you. I apologize.

  14. DanL

    Great thought-provoking discussion you’ve begun, John! Thanks!

    What we have here is a failure to communicate, over an inevitable clashing of values and worldviews (and only two worldviews, at that!)

    Thank you, Mel, for making an important distinction between condemning certain kinds of speech vs. making it illegal. Censorship is not the answer for expressions I find even unnecessarily offensive. Love it or hate it, freedom of speech allows ideas to be courageously, honestly, thoroughly and vigorously scrutinized, debated, vilified or vindicated in the public square. If people respond to an offensive statement, cartoon or movie, etc. with name calling or mudslinging, we can be pretty sure they’ve got no better defense, they’ve got nothing. What else should we infer when they react with violence and murder? What should our response be? Should we capitulate? Which expressions do we most want to dignify with our laws, offensive videos and cartoons, or rioting and murder?

    In the absence or scarcity of “legitimate” forums for honest, respectful discussion, some people instead resort to art and other “subversive” means to get their points across and/or force a conversation. However offensive such artistic expressions may be, they can get a topic out on the table and lead, finally, to enlightening conversations.

    Anti-obscenity/blasphemy laws seem to depend on a majority of people in our society agreeing that those laws are worthwhile and should be enforced. Our society has drifted from the fear of God it may have claimed once upon a time, and anti-obscenity, anti-blasphemy and “contributing-to-the-delinquency-of-a-minor”-type laws do not stand a chance, presently, (even in the face of solid research) against those who need only cry, “freedom of speech!”

    • Mel M

      Dan…good comments.

      You are right. And its interesting to see how quickly those who support obscenity, (even child porn) cry “freedom of speech” when they are challenged, but are the first to want to silence Christians from engaging in the public square of ideas.

      We apparently can’t even have a serious debate in our own parliament on when human life begins!!! (Motion 312 was soundly defeated … and our own supposedly “evangelical” Prime Minister voted against it!) Go figure!

      Is there any doubt that if Pussy Riot had performed the same kind of performance in a mosque that they did in an Orthodox Cathedral, human rights groups and the media, instead of supporting their right to freedom of speech (as they are currently doing), would be condemning them in the strongest of terms.

      Similarly, the Broadway hit show “Book of Mormon” which mocks and derides those of the Mormon faith has received accolades of praise from our elite establishments — even from Hilary Clinton, who is now heaping all kinds of vituperative venom against the producers of “Innocence of Muslims”.

      We need to ask ourselves why it is that our society has descended to the point where we can not even officially discuss when human life begins; but we can promote all kinds of obscenities (even with the use of taxpayer funds) that mock Christianity, deride virtue and cleary defile our land.

      Why the blatant double standard? I believe the answer is obvious.

      First, it is clear that we are caving in to extortion. And each time we cave in paves the way for the next. Today it might be a cartoon; tomorrow it will be a beauty pageant; until such time comes when no pretext is needed at all.

      But secondly: freedom of speech is a powerful weapon against evil. There is nothing like shining the spotlight on a crime to make it stop. Exposing injustice is the first step in eliminating it. When the facts are sufficiently known, evil’s demise becomes more certain. Those with a vested interest in evil (whether they are aware of it or not) are unable to address the truth in a rational, factual manner. Their only hope of maintaining the status quo is to either: a). Shut down debate (as in Motion 312); or b). Ensure that people of goodwill remain sound asleep.

      Unfortunately we have all been complicit in allowing that to happen.

  15. Mel M

    “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” — Voltaire


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