All religions should be subject to mockery. It is an essential cornerstone of our freedoms of speech and expression that we are allowed to ridicule and slander beliefs which we find absurd. As a healthy democracy we should be proud of the fact that we have these vital freedoms when there are so many countries that do not. However I feel that in a post-911 world, one religion above all others has been given a special status and has become free from criticism and derision (under threat of persecution and jail sentences in some countries). That religion is Islam.

After your assumed, collective sigh and/or shudder subsides, allow me to explain.

Over the past few years use of the term ‘Islamophobia’ has grown exponentially throughout the media, press and many social networking websites (namely Twitter). It is often used as an instant shutdown in arguments, when opponents tremble at the prospect of being labelled an islamophobe or a racist. It is a cheap, easy to employ tactic used to instantly negate and discredit even valid and well thought out reasoning from an adversary. For this reason I have come to loathe the word and its connotations, especially because in reality, ‘Islamophobia’ as a label should not have the widespread use that it enjoys today.

I say this because if the words ‘Christophobia’ or ‘Judeophobia’ were being tossed around as frequently we would dismiss them without so much as a second thought. This is never the case when Islam is concerned. When pointing out its flaws (of which there are many), the brave few who do are normally met with accusations of racism or xenophobia, regardless of whether the observation is true or not. If one was to openly mock Christianity for example, it would be more than likely greeted with laughter rather than hushed shock or contempt. To me it is incredibly vexing that we are perfectly willing to overlook ridicule of a religion that has shaped our law and liberty (in the form of Magna Carta, mostly a creation of the Christian church), but ostracize those who denounce a faith that has caused misery and oppression worldwide.

It is entirely reasonable for one to take an objective, well informed view of Islam and conclude that in some areas it has indeed grown into a barbaric religion. There was a time when the early Muslim caliphates were centres of great learning, brilliant inventions and tireless innovation, however this era has long passed. It has been replaced with the constant maltreatment of women and minorities (which western feminist groups almost never take into account), the brainwashing of children with religious dogma at increasingly earlier ages, and a malicious hatred for the west in general. Sometimes this western hatred can be justified, especially when it concerns wealthier powers throwing their weight around in the Middle East, but other times it simply cannot.

I am not, of course, talking about all Muslims. The vast majority just want peace and a safe place to live for them and their families, and if that means western countries which are supposedly more tolerant, then so be it. I am talking about specific, wicked groups of fanatical, overzealous terrorists who would fight and die to see a theocratic ‘Sharia’ state established worldwide. It is rather troubling though, how much these ‘moderate’ Muslims commiserate with their more extremist counterparts. As reported in the Telegraph, 27 percent of British Muslims sympathise with the Charlie Hebdo attackers. As Britain’s Muslim population is now over 2.5 million, this means that over 500,000 of them endorse the hateful atrocities committed in Paris (not just on the people of France, but on freedom of speech as well). And this brings me to my next point.

When followers of Islam are in a western country, they often talk about the tolerance needed to be shown to other cultures and minorities. Of course I can see the reason for this (although social cohesion in the UK is pretty much in tatters regardless), but I cannot help wondering if Islamic countries treat their minorities the same way. It seems to me that whenever Islam is the dominant religion in a country, other cultures are shunned and minorities are often victimized. I am not saying that we should go out and harass British Muslims, far from it, just that we should be aware that if the tables were turned we might not be so lucky.

We are fortunate enough to live in a country that allows total freedom of religion, and I do not think that should change. Nevertheless, what role should the state play if one set of religious ideals infringes upon the doctrine of another? Apathetic observer, arbiter, or champion of our country’s principal religion?

Prejudice against anyone for their religious beliefs is, to put it briefly, wrong. But to sacrifice our freedoms of speech and expression to protect the feelings of others is also wrong. Being able to freely express oneself on any subject is the lifeblood of any fit democracy, and to have completely justifiable arguments labelled as a ‘phobia’ by the opposition is an incredibly crude and ungentlemanly way to debate.



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