Letter: Equal treatment for Islam

In their Feb. 6 column, Tim McEvoy and Ben Griffiths form a great defense for free speech. “If Islam, or any other religion for that matter, is intellectually viable it should be able to withstand any form of criticism.” If this is the case, then why are certain beliefs offered protection from this under the law? In Austria, David Irving, a holocaust denier, was jailed for expressing his views on the topic. Similar laws exist in France, Germany, Israel, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania and Switzerland. In Britain, Abu Hamza was imprisoned for “inciting racial hatred.” The head of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, was similarly convicted of “encouraging racial hatred” for distributing party literature.

Laws throughout Europe punish blasphemy against Christianity. In Denmark itself, section 140 of the Danish penal code prohibits such blasphemy and section 226b outlaws expressions that “threaten, deride or degrade on the grounds of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, belief or sexual orientation.”

The newspaper where the cartoons were published had earlier supported litigation against Danish artist Jens Jorgen Thorsen for an obscene depiction of Jesus.

Even the Daily Illini retracted an anti-semitic cartoon published last year and issued an apology. Why are these cases deplored but the offensive cartoons defended?

It’s not that Muslims want a “special protection in secular society,” but rather want the same rights afforded to other faiths. Otherwise, if free speech is truly being sought, then these laws have to be taken off of the books. Self-policing is not a “slippery slope,” but rather an important element of any free society, forcing people to critically evaluate their own works.

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    As someone wiser than myself once said “Just because you have the right to say it doesn’t make it right to say it.”

    Umair Irfan

    Sophomore in LAS