Catholic fanatic believes that no-one has the 'moral right' to insult religion.
Catholic fanatic says that no-one has the ‘moral right’ to insult religion
This week, religious lunatics in France murdered a total of seventeen people over the course of a three day rampage that started with an attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The only appropriate response to this, as should be obvious to any sentient person, is unequivocal condemnation of the attack, a ruthless manhunt for those responsible, and a mass reprinting of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons by every publication in the world that cares about free expression, the freedom to be offensive and the freedom to satirise and criticise religion.
Such a move isn’t an endorsement of the content of the cartoons, so much as an affirmation of the principle that people cannot be murdered or threatened with violence for publishing cartoons.
Beyond proving a point, this sort of solidarity spreads the very real physical risk around among a large number of people, making it futile for censorious barbarians to threaten or attack any of those involved.
While most of the discussion in the wake of the attacks has been reasonably intelligent and mercifully nuanced, there have been notable exceptions. To wit, as David Bernstein has pointed out, Glenn Greenwald seems to think this week’s primary take away is that we all need to criticise Israel more, because the alleged ‘taboo’ against such criticism is just as bad as deranged fanatics going on a shooting spree – or something.
Greenwald’s fellow inhabitant of the kooky, allegedly libertarian fringe, former Presidential candidate Ron Paul also proved his reliability as a crank by being one of the only people to say the attacks were all a result of interventionist French foreign policy.
In a strong field though, the worst response to the attack so far has come from professional religious censor and provocateur Bill Donohue. Mr. Donohue has made a contemptible career out of being loudly ‘offended’ any time anyone makes fun of or – gasp! – insults Catholicism.
His most notable contributions to public life include a December 2004 appearance on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, during which he defended Mel Gibson’s sadomasochistic and unmistakably anti-Semitic snuff film The Passion of the Christ.
He did so by attributing accusations of anti-Semitism in the film to Hollywood’s being “controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular…it’s about the truth. It’s about the messiah.’
Donohue is also a noted combatant in what he imagines to be the ‘war against Christmas,’ regularly taking aim at such atrocities as White House greeting cards that say ‘Holiday Season’ instead of Christmas and at atheist billboards that compare Jesus to Santa.
Donohue though, probably deserves to be best known for his infamous responses to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. In 2011, for example, he took out a nearly 3,000 word ad in the New York Times entitled ‘Straight Talk About The Catholic Church‘.
Relying on a report which was commissioned and funded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Donohue claims the victims of sexually abusive priests, “weren’t children and they weren’t raped.” In the same paragraph he argues that because most of the victims in report he cites were post-pubescent, “the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.”
Elsewhere in the ad, Donohue strongly implies that many, if not most of the victims of priestly sexual abuse who have come forward are simply greedy fraudsters. Indeed the ad is so far beyond the pale and so obviously self-discrediting that it need not be replied to, but simply underlined.
This brings us to the latest pearls of wisdom Mr. Donohue has bestowed upon us. In a statement on his website Wednesday, with the blood not yet dry in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, he first writes that the attacks must be “unequivocally condemned”.
However, in the very next sentence, Mr. Donohue does a good deal more than equivocate; he informs us that “neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction”.
In other words, Mr. Donohue shares the murderers’ ends, though he doesn’t condone their means. Later in the statement, Donohue singles out Charlie Hebdo publisher Stephane Charbonnier as particularly deserving of his bloody, bullet-riddled end for daring to “deliberately insult Muslims by trashing [Mohammed]”.
As it happens, Mr. Donohue’s ceaseless gay-bashing, Jew-baiting and trivialisation of clerical child molesting, causes me a great deal of offence. To take one hypothetical though, I would never effectively justify his assassination by victims of priestly sexual assault by saying Mr. Donohue had “provoked” it with his apologia for the Catholic Church.
If I were going to comment on his deplorable record in such a scenario, I’d like to think I’d at least have the decency to wait until he was in the ground before doing so.
When his original statement succeeded in its goal of getting Donohue invited on Fox News to be smacked around by Megyn Kelly, he proceeded to enlarge upon his original slander of the cartoonists, comparing them to a husband who has beaten his wife for 20 years and is then murdered by her.
He went on to concede that while people may have a legal right to insult religion, “no one has a moral right to do so”.
It’s remarkable this has to be said in 2015, to highly educated people who are the heirs of the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution, but it clearly does: religion, like all other ideologies and ideas is not and must never be immune to satire, insult, or criticism.
That we are burdened with a large number of disgusting and occasionally violent anti-Muslim bigots does not exempt Islam from criticism or make satirising it ‘Islamophobic’ (a word that is often used to insidiously conflate criticisms of various doctrines and beliefs associated with Islam with bigotry toward Muslims).
Nor does the publishing of ‘provocative’ or ‘offensive’ cartoons mean that the publishers or cartoonists are, in any sense, asking for trouble. Anyone who says otherwise is making excuses for murderous, totalitarian theocrats.
Moreover, we do our Muslim brothers and sisters (who constitute almost all of the victims of this theocratic barbarism) no favours by agreeing with the murderers that their religion must be immune from criticism and satire.
From Morocco to Pakistan and from Syria to Nigeria, sane, decent, intelligent, and in many cases heroic Muslims are literally fighting for their lives at this very moment, against exactly the sort of totalitarian head-choppers who attacked France.
It’s tempting to conclude that the reason that religious fanatics like Mr. Donohue and the murderous lunatics in France want religion to be out of bounds for criticism and mockery isn’t just their hurt feelings. Rather, their religions are simply too big a target.
If your deeply held beliefs are so fragile they can’t withstand the odd cartoon, regardless of how vulgar, perhaps it’s time to think about trading them in for some new ones. Likewise, if your beliefs are so absolute that they necessitate the murder of anyone who dares to mock them, you are likely a member of a totalitarian cult – religious or otherwise – and should immediately get help to be deprogrammed.
In the meantime, those of us who care about free expression and living in a civilised society will continue to say exactly what we think of Mr. Donohue, murderous Jihadis and the ridiculous tripe they both espouse.
Evan Helmuth is a freelance writer who covers the Middle East. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.