The western world is still trying to make sense of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris on January 7, 2015. Four days later, in his Forbes column, Doug Bandow offered a unique analysis. He makes an interesting and persuasive argument that there is much more at stake than free speech. What lies at the root of this incident, reflected time and again in one atrocity after another, is religious persecution meted out against dissenters.
Here is one especially thought-worthy paragraph:
The thugs who cut down a dozen [people at] Charlie Hebdo are the international cousins of those who murder alleged blasphemers and apostates in Muslim nations. Laws against blasphemy once were common in the West, and persist in a few nations—some, ironically, represented by government leaders who marched in Paris—and even a couple of American states, but are rarely used. However, blasphemy laws are actively enforced throughout the Muslim world. The irony is that where Islam is strongest, with belief by overwhelming popular majorities and support from authoritarian state authorities, the slightest perceived criticism of the dominant faith can result in prison or death. That suggests lack of confidence in the truth of Islam and fear of free inquiry by free minds.
The last two sentences draw attention to a neglected point. Would a religious group that is secure in its beliefs be as hypersensitive as those who murder alleged blasphemers?
I would add that such horrific actions—which are a daily occurrence somewhere in the world—are rooted in a worldview, a set of controlling beliefs that are either true or false. Our public discussion needs to acknowledge this point. There has been plenty of talk about whether Islam is a “peaceful religion” that has been hijacked by militant apostates (notice, they aren’t generally called “apostates” even by moderate Muslim leaders). But this distracts from three more fundamental questions:
- Peaceful or not, is Islam true?
- Are there are good reasons to believe that Islam is true?
- What are the best reasons to believe that Islam offers the most plausible worldview?
The atrocities we’re witnessing should prompt us to give more attention to this question.