The push for modern blasphemy laws — the argument that governments should individually or collectively punish expression that offends subjective and frequently manufactured-for-effect religious sensibilities — may be servile. It may be contemptible. It may be trading the Western birthright of freedom and autonomy for the mess of pottage that is the right not to be offended.
What does it look like in action?
Well, consider an incident last week from the "cradle of Democracy," Greece, where a man has apparently been arrested for mildly satirizing a beloved Eastern Orthodox monk. Accordingly to one translation of a press release:
Cyber Crime Unit arrested 27-year old domestic for malicious blasphemy and religious kathyvrisi through Facebook
The 27 year old managed page on Facebook with profane and abusive content for Elder Paisios and Orthodox Christianity
Damn you, Google Translate!
The Greek man from the Island of Evia has been charged with “malicious blasphemy and insulting of religion” through Facebook, Keep Talking Greece reported. His arrest followed thousands of e-complaints to the Cyber Crime Unit for the creation of a Facebook page “Geron Pastitsios” (Elder Pastitsios), a mock name for Greek Athos monk, Elder Paisios, of the Greek Orthodox Church. Pastitsio is a Greek food dish.
The Facebook page is, at the time of this writing, unavailable. Some sources are claiming that the Greek Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was instrumental in influencing Greek authorities to make the arrest. I'd like to see more proof of that, but it would not surprise me: blasphemy always has been and always will be a political crime, the prosecution of which will be determined by the relative power of offended and offender.
The satirist here is fortunate to live in Greece — he won't be executed by the state for wordplay that offends the professionally offended, and his chances of being murdered by a mob are far lower than they would be in a country like Pakistan.
The forces advocating worldwide blasphemy laws want to turn Western countries more like Greece, where you can be arrested for a pun. This has the natural and probable effect of emboldening violence and therefore turning more countries into places like Pakistan, where you can be stoned to death or burned alive if someone accuses you of dissing Muhammad.
People who want these things require more than our indifference or even our unspoken contempt. They require vibrant, vocal, vigorous defiance. We must call them out and fight them.
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