Feature

When the ‘Free World’ bars free speech

Countries in the West are using hate-crime laws to punish people who “offend” religion, but in nations that revere freedom and pluralism, there should be no “unacceptable” ideas and no such crime as bla

Jonathan Turley
The Washington Post

“The ‘Free World’ may be losing faith in free speech,” said Jonathan Turley. Westerners are appalled when countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia prosecute citizens for “offending Islam.” But an “equally troubling trend” has been developing in the West, where countries have used hate-crime laws to punish people who "offend” religion.

In France, actress Brigitte Bardot was convicted last June of “inciting religious hatred” by declaring that Muslims were ruining France. Dutch prosecutors last year arrested cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot for insulting Christians and Muslims with a cartoon depicting fundamentalists as zombies. Italian prosecutors are investigating a comedian for making a crude joke about Pope Benedict’s opposition to homosexuality. Britain has barred a Dutch politician from entering the country because he described Islam as a “violent religion.”

Some of these attacks on religion are indeed offensive and ignorant, but that’s not the point. “The purpose of free speech is to be able to challenge widely held views.” In nations that supposedly revere freedom and pluralism, there should be no “unacceptable” ideas, and no such crime as blasphemy.

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