Anti-Blasphemy Laws Bring Us Back to Pre-Islamic Era
Pramudya A Oktavinanda
Suppose you believe in Religion X and A is your God, and someone comes to tell you that your belief is false — A is a mere human and therefore he is not worthy to be worshiped. Would you call the scenario as a blasphemy to your religion?
If the answer is yes, then we have a problem because in reality, most religions — if not all — claim other religions are false or misleading. As you can probably tell, the above scenario is about Jesus. In Christianity, Jesus is God. In Islam, Jesus is not God: He is a human, one of the prophets sent by the almighty God.
In last week’s blogpost, “The Law and Economics of ‘Innocence of Muslims,’” I argued that defining religious blasphemy is very difficult from the perspective of freedom of speech. Now I would like to emphasize the logical problem of having anti-blasphemy laws when we have so many religions in this planet. Thus, another reason why we should not support the existence of such law.
Why do we have so many religions? If it is true that all religions are the same, surely we have already converged all of them into a single faith a long time ago. But no, we know that will never happen because each religion claims the truth for itself.
Even in case where a religion accepts the possibility of having truth from other religions, it does not change the fact that such religion still claims the truth of its own teaching. I dare say that the policy of recognizing the truth of other religions is just a way to maintain stability rather than an actual confession of faith.
Why? Because it is simply illogical. A Christian can’t say Jesus is God and at the same time accept the possibility that Muslim’s claim that Jesus is not a god is true.
Or you may want to say that at the basic level, all religions teach the same things despite the differences of gods. But that would be another problem. Why bother having religion if the concept of God no longer matters?
The most important thing I want to show here is that there will always be a friction between different religions. It might be slight, but it might also be very sharp. Combine that with religion followers who have low tolerance level and we would have a great recipe for disaster.
Would anti-blasphemy law help? It depends. If we are talking about a law that will punish people who are considered as blasphemers, such law will not help at all. Even worse, it might be counterproductive.
An easy example would be the story of early Islam development. Prophet Muhammad must had spent years of his life in Mecca teaching Islam in the underground because his teaching was considered as a blasphemy among the Arabs at that time.
If not, why bother migrated from Mecca to Medina? Because Medina’s citizen was more tolerant? Because it did not have the crazy people who will kill you because you are considered as a blasphemer?
How many early Muslims were killed arbitrarily in Mecca? How many of the killers were judged and deemed criminal for killing the early Muslims? We are quite lucky that the history changed and later on Islam became the religion of the majority in the Middle East.
Nowadays, Muslims can easily claim that those Arabs who worshiped stone gods are stupid and irrational. But the main reason why we can safely make that claim is because we are in the majority, not because we are absolutely correct or because those stone worshippers were indeed really stupid. That’s the harsh truth.
This is why I don’t support anti-blasphemy laws, because it brings us back precisely to the jahiliyyah era or pre-Islamic period. As long as you are in the majority, you will be fine. But not when you are in the minority.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that we will always be in the majority nor that we will always be able to protect our minority brothers and sisters out there in case the other majority group decides to retaliate against them.
My suggestion is still the same. Don’t waste our time fighting due to badmouthing. We can simply avoid conflicts by letting people choose what they want to believe and what they want to share with everyone else, provided that no elements of violence is involved during the process.
If in the end you are still suggesting people to fight back all bad mouthing using violence, then I’m afraid we have not evolved to be better men during the last 1,500 years.