We are extremely lucky to live in a day and age where freedom of speech is upheld by most societies. Those who have access to this article and the ability to understand the English language can assumably read the words on this page and discuss them with fellow readers without fear of persecution.
This liberty is fundamental to our rights and it should apply to all citizens regardless of their standing in society, the traits they are born with or the decisions they have made throughout their life.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the delicate subject of religion, the upholding this universal right is lackluster at best.
It seems like at the drop of the G-bomb, you must suddenly tip-toe around the conversation holding up a white flag that says “I’m politically correct, don’t hurt me!”
Why is that conversation so unnecessarily uncomfortable?
What’s the solution? Banning people from talking altogether?
There’s a very thin (and often misunderstood) line between being blasphemous (aka rude, which is mean, but ultimately ok) and defamatory (aka lying, which is very not ok) when it comes to religion. Blasphemy connotes towards speaking about religion in a way that may be viewed as offensive towards the religious belief or a higher deity whilst defamation is understood as speaking in a way that can be seen as an attack against a person using untrue information. Everyone should be protected against defamation however punishing blasphemy is praising censorship and oppressive control.
The world should accept open discussion about religion because isn’t that the only way to find the right identity for yourself? By analysing your beliefs and sharing it with others?
To those who sit on the extremes with their beliefs and don’t want to hear the voice of the rest of the spectrum, using God as a barrier against freedom of speech simply will not stand anymore. God does not care about what people say about him, it’s you who gets offended. Don’t try to play it any other way. After all, if he is a heavenly entity, do you think his feelings will be hurt by the words of a few mortals?
Lets bring it back to hate speech in general. If you dislike it, and we all do, here’s a suggestion. Block out the real threats to safety but the only way to mitigate the disgusting side of humanity is not through repression but through promoting speaking about the issues in a safe environment.
“The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech. Voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy.” –Barack Obama
Freedom of speech is the “right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them”. It’s something I’m exercising right now and if you disagree, you can exercise in return.
How unfair would it be if I disabled the commenting system and ensure that my posts pop up on your screen every single day, force feeding my random musings, feminist rants and opinions on life down your throat giving you no way of fighting back?
Now imagine that on a larger scale.
Obviously this problem is more serious in some places than others and that’s where I’m leading this to. We must all be allowed to think for ourselves and discuss these thoughts freely as long as there is no incitement of violence.
Amnesty International is an organisation I’d like to highlight that “campaigns on a wide range of issues to protect and defend human rights” through shedding light on when voices have been silenced and demanding change through collective action. With people speaking up all over the world, they have successfully saved many lives and righted injustices that would have otherwise been carried out without dissent.
There are also other groups out there fighting for the freedom of speech more directly as well as many brave individuals exercising that right despite the dangers that might put them in.
You are why I have hope for the future: a world where hate is combatted not with the silencing of civilians but by shouting back with the sounds of our own voices, a world where freedom of speech can triumph.