“Fear is the most powerful weapon they have,”

la-na-pen-awards-20150505-003As I’m sure you are aware, PEN America has granted an award to Charlie Hebdo for courage of freedom of expression for the magazine. That award was controversial, 200 leading writers refused to attend, but those that did granted Gerard Biard, the Charlie Hebdo editor, a standing ovation. Mr Biard also gave a fabulous speech …

“Fear is the most powerful weapon they have… Being here tonight we contribute to disarming them …Being shocked is part of the democratic debate, being shot is not.”

In this context, I’d like to add a few additional thoughts.

I observed a Muslim pleading on Facebook that cartoons of Mohammed deeply offended the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims. OK, so let’s put aside the observation that this is not actually true at all, and that many Muslims are not at all bothered and can quite happily ignore such cartoons, or even go one better and as Muslims launch their own pro-Islamic Draw Mohammed cartoon response Also, we shall put aside the observation that nobody can self-appoint themselves as the representative for 1.5 Muslims when there is no agreement on what the word “Muslim” actually means, and that Islam is just as highly fragmented as Christianity and has numerous threads of conflicting thinking, and focus on this argument.

Here is some highly offensive stuff …

Muslims are the vilest of animals

Show mercy to one another, but be ruthless against Muslims

How perverse are the Muslims

strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them

Fight those Muslims who are near to you

Those Muslim mischief makers should be murdered or crucified

Yikes, that really does push the boundary and is truly vile hate speech, so we should of course ban that … right?

So who is saying the above and where does it come from?

It actually all comes from the Quran, I simply replaced the word ‘Christian’, ‘Jew’ or ‘unbeliever’ with the word ‘Muslim.’ Here is how they actually appear in the Qur’an:

Sura (8:55) – Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve

Sura (48:29) – Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves

Sura (9:30) – And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah… Allah (Himself) fights against them. How perverse are they!

Sura (8:12) – I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them

Sura (9:123) – O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness

Sura (5:33) – The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement

This is highly offensive stuff. The 5.5 billion humans on the planet who do not embrace some variation of islamic belief will be deeply offended to discover that they are labelled the “Vilest of Animals”, so if indeed we are to give serious credence to the idea that criticism of Islamic ideas should be suppressed because it deeply offends some, then that is an argument that would also endorse the idea of suppressing and banning the Quran itself, a text that contains rather a lot of rhetoric that is equally offensive.

As highlighted by Mr Biard during his acceptance speech …

Being shocked is part of the democratic debate, being shot is not.”.

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