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Is France turning its back on blasphemy?

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By Mariëtte le Roux and Taimaz Szirniks

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Always remember what goes around comes around. No free meals. Heart, not emotion is the way.

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In January this year, a renewed debate about freedom of expression erupted when a teenager received death threats for calling Islam "a shitty religion" in an expletive-laden Instagram rant.

It should be noted that her rant was in response to being called a "dirty lesbian" by a Muslim online commentator.

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Safe prediction is that France, in line with the EU, will re-introduce blasphemy laws, however they will only be applied to blaspheming islam.

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Safe prediction is that France, in line with the EU, will re-introduce blasphemy laws, however they will only be applied to blaspheming islam.

Not a safe prediction at all. How would such a law be in line with the EU, since the EU has no unified policy on blasphemy laws? In most EU countries where they exist, they're a decades or centuries-old legacy. Some countries, like Ireland, which has recently (how brave) managed to free itself of the clerical stranglehold, are moving to dump their blasphemy laws.

France itself is exceedingly unlikely to introduce any new blasphemy law; it explicitly abolished this as an offence in the early 1880s, putting it well ahead of most of the world. There was a loophole in the form of a law in the Alsace region - you might want to pay attention here - which Islamists attempted to use to sue Charlie Hebdo. As a result, that law was repealed in 2016. That is hardly a sign of a country being bent to Islam's will, nor is their slightly weird fight against certain articles of Islamic clothing.

As to why Alsace had a blasphemy law if France was supposed to be pro-liberty, there's an easily guessed reason. It would require a little basic knowledge of history though.

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Just because you can does not mean you should. I view Charlie Hebdo as basically a gang of stupid trolls who trolled everyone so hard, even their supporters, that they damaged the freedom of expression for us all. They simply abused it for giggles. They never drew Mohammad with any sort of important critique of Mohammad. They simply drew him in the most horrifically offensive ways possible so as to provoke anger, and anger they got in spades.

Most Muslims, or most humans even, you can reason with. But not if you just set out to piss them off first. Iranians have pictures of Mohammad everywhere. No sweat. No Muslim is freaking out. But they are not pictures of him having gay sex with Jesus, which is the kind of valueless, trolling trash Charlie Hebdo published.

Self censorship done in the name of peace and dialogue is a wonderful thing. But self-censorship done out of fear is not self-censorship at all. Its censorship by force of will upon you. But worst of all is government mandated censorship by law. All the laws mentioned in the article are trash and need to be scrapped.

The lesson of Charlie Hebdo is that trolls get themselves and others shot and that's it. I am NOT Charlie.

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"Blasphemy" should, like religion itself, be confined strictly to the private sphere and emoting over either has no place in public discourse in any democracy where freedom of speech and expression trumps all personal sense of affront or insult occasioned by the opinions of others with different values. The right to offend the beliefs of others is one of the marks of a mature democracy and a keystone of a peaceful community of adults.

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Self censorship done in the name of peace and dialogue is a wonderful thing.

No it is not! Nobody should ever feel compelled to mute criticisms of religion, government or anything else in the name of comity. It is censorship and is repugnant to a free society.

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Read the words of John Adams written in 1765. No modern politician could write this today, though it remains true now as it was then so timid have we become to criticize religion. This is a full throated denounciation!

"Since the promulgation of Christianity, the two greatest systems of tyranny that have sprung from this original, are the canon and the feudal law. The desire of dominion, that great principle by which we have attempted to account for so much good and so much evil, is, when properly restrained, a very useful and noble movement in the human mind. But when such restraints are taken off, it becomes an encroaching, grasping, restless, and ungovernable power. Numberless have been the systems of iniquity contrived by the great for the gratification of this passion in themselves; but in none of them were they ever more successful than in the invention and establishment of the canon and the feudal law.

By the former of these, the most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy that ever was conceived by the mind of man was framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandizement of their own order. All the epithets I have here given to the Romish policy are just, and will be allowed to be so when it is considered, that they even persuaded mankind to believe, faithfully and undoubtingly, that God Almighty had entrusted them with the keys of heaven, whose gates they might open and close at pleasure; with a power of dispensation over all the rules and obligations of morality; with authority to license all sorts of sins and crimes; with a power of deposing princes and absolving subjects from allegiance; with a power of procuring or withholding the rain of heaven and the beams of the sun; with the management of earthquakes, pestilence, and famine; nay, with the mysterious, awful, incomprehensible power of creating out of bread and wine the flesh and blood of God himself. All these opinions they were enabled to spread and rivet among the people by reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity, and by infusing into them a religious horror of letters and knowledge. Thus was human nature chained fast for ages in a cruel, shameful, and deplorable servitude to him, and his subordinate tyrants, who, it was foretold, would exalt himself above all that was called God, and that was worshipped."

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@ Vanessa Carlisle

Iranians have pictures of Mohammad everywhere. No sweat. No Muslim is freaking out.

Iranian are not Sunnites thus the pictures. For Sunnite they are blasphemers. And their are kind of regularly at war in between the different Muslim school. You know Yemen, for one.

they are not pictures of him having gay sex with Jesus

Do not know this one. Got a link ? The meaning is too obvious to be it so could be interesting to see it to have better understanding of what is what.

They never drew Mohammad with any sort of important critique of Mohammad.

Why should they criticize Mohammad when they can critics religion, politics, terrorists and so on ? You know the dude died a real long time ago and was living in a really different time (for example, verbatim were a rarity which had a tendency to be destroyed/falsified to suit narrative).

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Iranians have pictures of Mohammad everywhere. No sweat.

Try it in Saudi Arabia.

Art depicting Mohammed was even removed from galleries in western countries. In the UK, the Victoria and Albert museum removed an artistic image of Mohammed from its website.

They were sweating. It was not long after jihadis mowed down cartoonists with military weapons.

The picture in the Victoria and Albert wasn’t offensive in itself, but some followers of this faith get very offended by any depiction of their prophet.

I’m sure you know depictions of Mohammed are best not described as ‘no sweat’ on the whole.

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Why should they criticize Mohammad when they can critics religion, politics, terrorists and so on ?

Mohammed was a politician as well as a founder of a religion. He was also a military leader.

He is indisputably one of the most influential figures in history. Some regard him as the greatest human to have ever existed, God’s messenger and the last prophet. Others see his his claims as bogus and that he left a terrible legacy.

Let the ones who love him love him. Let the ones who see his claims as ridiculous ridicule him.

France is a free country.

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@Jimizo

Charlie Hebdo is a news newspaper, so I do not think they often talk about historical figure in a historic view.

I tried looking for some using historical figure name and with the paper and only Hitler brought some results, and Hitler being Hitler seems he is more used as a symbol than as a historical figure.

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Nobody should ever feel compelled to mute criticisms of religion, government or anything else in the name of comity.

Oh. And just how ferociously are you going to defend my right to address you exactly as I feel about you right now, with words that would make a sailor blush? Why should I treat you any better than religion, when religion dominates the world by far over non-religion, and you are known by few? Incidentally, I would not be allowed to post as I feel, as you well know. And THAT is a far greater affront than self-censorship in interests of peace and progress.

But the way forward is not by stamping on people's toes, and you know that subconsciously even if you consciously expound on a falsehood.

It is censorship and is repugnant to a free society.

You are completely wrong. I abhor outside censorship as much or more as you do. But I hold back 90 percent of what I REALLY want to say every single day in the interest of progress and peace. I bet you do too, rather than rattle off every single insulting and belittling thing you think and might love to say.

Well said. Ms. Carlisle would be appalled if she read John Adams "A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law"

You don't know me at all. I am all for valid criticism. I am just not going to support out and out trolling. On the one hand I support the right of Charlie Hebdo to print whatever stupid garbage it wants. On the other, you won't find me rushing in to be a body shield for them or any fool that stuck around there. They kicked the hornets nest to see what would happen. They got stung. It was stupid all around.

where he calls the Christian clergy a "wretched herd"

Its hard to believe that you think criticizing religion in general or the believers or the leaders is anywhere near equivalent to, say, depicting Jesus as, say, a child molester and sheep rapist. It just sounds to me as if you are out for an argument today and not really thinking about what you are saying.

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They were sweating. It was not long after jihadis mowed down cartoonists with military weapons.

I remember "Draw Mohammad Day". It was an attempt by trolls to get stupid people to rile up the Muslims for no other reason than their own trolling lulz. Yes there was sweating, because an atmosphere of consternation had been whipped up by trolls for no good reason at all and responded to by trolls on the other side in their own trollish way.

There is a bit of a grey are between kowtowing to religious people's stupid blasphemy rules and just being a total trolling destroyer of peace for lulz, but if you relax and think for a bit you can spot the difference.

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depicting Jesus as, say, a child molester and sheep rapist

Still not link ?

You do not get satire ? If someone depict Jesus as a child molester, you have to ask yourself : who is Jesus to stand for ? what is the child molestation depicted ? ... and lot of other questions.

And just how ferociously are you going to defend my right to address you exactly as I feel about you right now [...] But I hold back 90 percent of what I REALLY want to say every single day in the interest of progress and peace.

Is that so ...

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On the other, you won't find me rushing in to be a body shield for them or any fool that stuck around there. They kicked the hornets nest to see what would happen. They got stung. It was stupid all around.

My parents used to say "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me". When did people (like you) stop growing up? The people who attacked over those cartoons are insecure babies, not mature adults. Nobody owes them any sort of consideration. Attributed to Voltaire, correctly or not, is the quote " I may disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That moral is the very foundation of a free society. Your stated point of view is contrary to everything I value and is a wretched curse on free people everywhere. Self censor if you wish but do not expect anyone else to as you have absolutely no right to do so, and don't get offended when others refuse. Nobody has a right to not be offended.

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Still not link ?

Still no search engine? I cannot link you to pornographic content. It will be deleted and I might suffer a ban. See, this is part of my complaint. Basic freedoms of speech are not protected. But here we have whining to the heavens that straight up trolling needs support. I agree even trolling needs legal protection but its not going to get my support. Freedom of speech is great but freedom from consequences simply cannot be provided to a sufficient degree that trolling is going to be safe...or even being controversial but factual.

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Still no search engine?

I have one and I can not find what you are talking about, so nobody will be able to enlight you about stuff you do not get (like idolatry, taboo, religion, satire, ...). Giving relevant explanation to something you do not see is difficult as you can just give base, for example nobody have any way to make sure your Jesus is doing it with a sheep to illustrate the fact that world changed a lot from his time and now everyone will look at him as an uncivilized man ; that is basic satire interpretation but quite possibly not accurate without seeing the picture.

I cannot link you to pornographic content. [...] straight up trolling

So you really have no idea what satire is.

Freedom of speech is great but freedom from consequences simply cannot be provided to a sufficient degree that trolling is going to be safe...or even being controversial but factual.

So you are against freedom of speech since you sound like you found fine people you consider troll (you understand everyone is someone else troll) are murdered and that same should apply to people stating controversial fact.

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u_s__reamerSep. 2  10:14 pm JST

*"Blasphemy" should, like religion itself, be confined strictly to the private sphere and emoting over either has no place in public discourse in any democracy where freedom of speech and expression trumps all personal sense of affront or insult occasioned by the opinions of others with different values. The right to offend the beliefs of others is one of the marks of a mature democracy and a keystone of a peaceful community of adults.*

HUSTLER magazine does this with some disgusting 'quotes' and cartoons of 'jesuchrist' AKA 'Jesus H. Christ' who they even list asan 'editor'. Publisher Larry Flint goes out of his way to be a gross childish sickpuke. And that's what his magazine is geared towards. Crap mags like that reveal who the sickos are, it kind of 'seperates the sheep from the goats'. You see some people's true colors in that way and you can decide if you want anything to do with such people or not, and how much.

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I have one and I can not find what you are talking about

Its possible I remembered it wrong or who published it, but actually its probably been expunged from the internet, sadly. Can't blame anyone. No one likes lead in their back.

So you really have no idea what satire is.

Or perhaps you don't know what straight up trolling is.

So you are against freedom of speech since you sound like you found fine people you consider troll (you understand everyone is someone else troll) are murdered and that same should apply to people stating controversial fact.

I think you must have read someone else's post. I never said I was fine with anyone getting murdered. I said I would not be their body shield. I said I would not support their trolling. But neither do I support their murder.

I guarantee I am the most extreme freedom of speech advocate in the room 99.9 percent of the time. I would literally allow everything and anything to be posted on the internet. No copyright protection. No deletions. No bans. No pornography restrictions. No Holocaust denial rules. Every picture, every video, every word would be preserved by law and accessible if I had my way. I would not even allow edits to disappear as every time you made an edit, the old version would be saved and accessible via a link on the new version. I am 100 percent serious. Once the dirty laundry is out there, I think everyone will just get used to it and calm down. Its hiding information that is the real problem.

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Desert Tortoise:

Read the words of John Adams written in 1765. No modern politician could write this today, though it remains true now as it was then so timid have we become to criticize religion. This is a full throated denounciation! "Since the promulgation of Christianity, the two greatest systems of tyranny that have sprung from this original, are the canon and the feudal law. 

I think todays politicians could say this without getting burned at the stake by the media. But how about this other, quote also from John Adams:

"The essence of his (Mohammeds) doctrine was violence and lust: to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature."

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Flute

Why should they criticize Mohammad when they can critics religion, politics, terrorists and so on ?

Because that is freedom of speech. We can have "Piss Jesus" and "Madonna in Elephant Dung" art pieces, both of which actually won art prizes, and all you get from Christians are complaints because they feel offended. Heck, I find that offensive, and I am atheist. But I would defend the right of the artist to create that "art", because freedom of speech means precisely the freedom to offend.

But when the only exception to freedom of speech is one particular character, and when the offense is expressed with death threats, you know we have a problem.

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the topic about the French and blasphemy everything, when it started is in information above, jokes pokes get used for any attention nowadays, me I dislike nothing more than to hate at all, what I learn from this, when a person once told another person or many, any story book could make them taller in an instant, not one person believed that person could do that, the claim the person made changed as it went among them all. with the power of science placed one of the books on the ground stood on it and said "You see now? can the people in the back hear me also now?" some got angry some made jokes and others did stupid stuff, when a depiction of a story more important than a life something is wrong with the story or the ones getting so upset about it.

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Read the words of John Adams written in 1765. No modern politician could write this today

Agreed, but only because using the word "promulgation" marks you out as a gigantic nerd.

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