Since When Has Anti-Blasphemy Become a Tenet of Democracy?

The world is in turmoil. Whether you are glued to American television as the midterm elections fast approach, are closely following the rise of the far right in much of Europe, shocked by the stronghold of terror in the Middle East or dismayed by the sharp spike in Anti-semitism the world over; we are living in uncertain times. 

Left is right. Up is down. Nothing seems to adhere to our championed sense of decency and truth. 

Hate and  fear of “the other” runs rampant in the streets of some the world’s beacons of democracy. Population migration and escaping war torn countries has seen global demographic shifts. The world today is a very different world than most of us have come to know. 

And yet, the one truism most of the Western World has held dear, the one common denominator we claim to be fighting for, the message Lady Liberty herself  declared to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, is the right to democracy and freedom. 

The civil war in Syria has seen a global migration not witnessed since World War 2. Families fleeing terror & tyranny. Many making the life threatening trip to Europe, a continent who prides itself on championing human rights, religious freedoms  and equality for all. 

This is no longer Europe’s truth. 

The European Court of Human Rights has put an end to democracy in the EU by creating a direct nexus between church and state. 

Following a court ruling upholding a lower court’s decision, the ECHR ruled against defamation of the Prophet Mohammed and said such activities exceed the permissible limits of freedom of expression. 

“Defaming the Prophet Mohammed goes beyond the permissible limits of objective debate and could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace” 

This ruling followed a lower court decision finding an Austrian national guilty of defaming the Prophet and disparaging religious doctrines. 

Let that sink in for a moment. Guilty of defaming the Prophet and disparaging religious doctrines.

It’s as if we’ve done an about face, back to the Middle Ages. 

In researching blasphemy laws in some of the most traitorous, tyrannical and theocratic regimes, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia & Yemen, the common denominator in the law is always the same. 

The laws against blasphemy include criticizing the Islamic regimes, insulting Islam, and publishing materials that deviate from Islamic standards including, but not limited to defaming the Prophet Mohammed. 

One might think that the EU, a safe haven for so many families who have fled the life threatening realities of their home countries, would be the first to help those who arrived on its shores to embrace their new found freedom. 

Women who escaped regimes that saw them as second class citizens or sometimes worse, as property, could raise their heads proudly as misogynistic religious doctrine no longer ruled supreme.

Those who identify as LGBT, a death sentence in many of these theocracies, could once again raise their heads, while holding the hand of their partner as they walk down the street. 

Religious minorities who saw their families slaughtered by religious extremists simply for being of “the wrong” faith, could now practise their beliefs without fear for their lives. 

Alas, no. Instead, what the European Court has done, is side with those same extremists, those same tyrannical regimes that millions have fled from and instead have implemented laws steeped in religion. 

Since when has anti- blasphemy become a tenet of democracy? 

While it is clear that the EU is suffering from the inability in many cases to successfully integrate it’s new residents into Europe, trying to balance European tradition with the very rich culture of its new immigrants, I’d argue that passing blasphemy laws will create more turmoil and a greater divide. 

We’ve become so fearful of extremist retaliation, we’ve chosen to adhere to some of its calls.

Extremists on the right and on the left,  feed off of what makes us different rather than what makes us the same. They pander the fear of a foreign culture taking over European tradition, instead of embracing that the fabric of Europe is forever evolving based on multicultural integration while keeping the base of what makes European freedom so appealing to those who look to embrace it. 

The damage of this ruling is two-fold. First, it embraces the same theocracy that millions of displaced peoples have fled from, while, secondly, fuelling the extremist narrative of “others taking over”.

It plays into a very dangerous and extremist mindset. It embraces the most chilling religious extremist view, that speaking ill of a religious figure is punishable by law. 

Church and State, as was in the dark ages, are once again united.

The EU has passed its first blasphemy law and the democratic world should be outraged. 

About the Author
Shai is an Israeli television and media personality living abroad in Toronto, Canada. Following the 2014 Israel / Gaza war, Shai understood that his North American platform, afforded him the rare opportunity to educate against the rise in Antisemitism and Anti-Israel vitriol. In addition to his success in television and media, Shai now travels internationally, speaking to various international organizations & communities on combating the fallacies presented on Israel and the Israeli - Arab conflict.
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