We have to carry on until Islam is rendered as banal as Catholicism

Stéphane Charbonnier

Thoughts and notes from the Centre for Theology and Public Issues’ forum on Freedom of Speech, an event from the perspective of the Charlie Hebdo killings.  Lots of thoughts, no definite answers.

There is an ethical obligation against gratuitous offence that allows the right to do wrong in an ethical society, a society that tolerates different moral points of view.  There is no absolute freedom of speech.  “I” want to be censor, we want what should be censored from our perspective, what I say goes (or doesn’t go, it gets stopped).  Taking offense is not a legitimate reason to curtail freedom of expression.  Offense is subjective.  We have no right not to be offended.  Don’t seek out moral outrage.  Encourage civility and respect the other.  Legislation creates an uncivil society.

The law is culturally biased.  In New Zealand it has a heritage in a Christian-dominant society.  Blasphemy in New Zealand was last prosecuted in the 1920s.  We have a hate speech law.  It needs the approval of the Attorney General to prosecute and proof of the intent to incite wider hostility against race.  Especially advantageous to Jews, Gypsies and Arabs.

Christianity has spent the last few centuries being acclimatised into the secular society.  Islam has become used to being an invaded society.  We need to be aware of other world religions.  Question the unquestionable: the sacred practice, the symbols and the doctrines.  Question who has privilege and who has power.

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