In the wake of the most recent cover of Charlie Hebdo featuring an image of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, there have been some people speaking out against allowing content to be published that is viewed as offensive by certain groups – in particular, adherents of religions such as Christianity and Islam. Those people who believe support such measures should consider the following.
You have opposed the new Charlie Hebdo cover on the grounds that it is offensive to Muslims. This cover even depicts Muhammad in a positive light, showing him saddened that terrorists have committed violence. Keep in mind now, that this is at least your minimum requirement for something to be considered offensive.
Now if we as a society were to suppress offensive speech (regardless of the means by which it is done, by law or by pressure on companies etc) on that basis – on the basis that it offends people, then what else would we need to ban?
What if a book declares this:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
Atheists could say that was offensive, or even dangerous.
Jews, Christians, and Pagans could certainly say that these statements are offensive:
Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and Al-Mushrikun will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.
And all non-Muslims could say these words are offensive:
No one denies Our revelations except those who are unjust.
Who is more unjust than he who fabricates a lie about God, or denies the truth when it has come to him?
Who is more wicked than he who is reminded of his Lord’s revelations yet turns away from them?
And could gay people say that the following was offensive?
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
And We sent Lot, who said to his people: “Why do you commit this lecherous act which none in the world has committed before? In preference to women you satisfy your lust with men. Indeed you are a people who are guilty of excess.”
And could women find the following statements offensive?
“Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things—while I was still searching but not finding—I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all.”
“…but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other.“
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
So to those who would suppress free speech, especially on the basis of ending offense:
Be careful what you wish for.