How about we give it a “fair trial?” It should not be too much to ask, right? Let us see if we can properly enforce a law in “letter and spirit,” to protect “religious sentiments” from those people who wish to spread “irrational fear and hatred,” which is the definition of a “phobia,” towards a particular religion and religious community.
What would be the text of such a proposed law? I propose:
"Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
“Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.— Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
Let us see—we need to consider a provision banning the books, works of art, etc. that the offender will use. In addition, if we are to challenge the promotion of a “phobia,” it would not merely be the intent to “wound religious feelings” but the “deliberate intent to spread an irrational fear and hatred.” Let us consider that, because the followers of every organized religion will surely appreciate the first proposed wording a lot more, and drool over the inevitable opportunity to send people like me to jail.
Indian Penal Codes 295-A/298
I did not come up with the first draft. That is actually the text of Section 298 and Article 295-A of the Indian Penal Code, respectively. Both were drafted in 1860 by the British colonial government of India, and still left it effect because on paper, they seem to be worth having in a country mauled and vivisected by religious hatred. My proposal to give a law against the phobia of religion arises from a minor epiphany that struck me during an earlier discussion of what to do with IPC 295-A/298, which is being used to imprison Indian artists, novelists, journalists and others who are being targeted by religious fundamentalists for daring to portray some religious and mythical characters in their works of art, fiction and critical analysis. As I am usually a militant defender of the freedom of expression, I found that the only “out of the box” thinking possible for me was to consider the proper implementation of the law. It then struck me that a lot of these laws could actually do some good to India, which as many will know, lives on the edge of the next religious civil war.
In India and across the world, the proper implementation of such a law in letter and spirit would immediately result in the following:
A ban on the publication and sale of the Holy Qur'an, the Sunnah, the Hadiths, the Sharia and the associated interpretations and commentaries. These satisfy both drafts, as these texts have the “deliberate intention of wounding the religious sentiments” and promoting an “irrational fear and hate,” globally, of 2,300 million Christians, 900 million Hindus, 400 million Buddhists, 50 million Sikhs, 15 million Jews, 15 million Jains, 10 million Baha'is, etc., hitherto referred to as “rest of humanity.”
A ban on the publication and sale of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, which carry the “deliberate intention of wounding religious sentiments” and promoting an “irrational fear and hate” of 1,500 million Muslims, 900 million Hindus, 400 million Buddhists, “rest of humanity.”
The outlawing and proscribing of organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion of Churches, Muslim Brotherhood, the Orthodox Churches of Russia, Jamaat-e-Islami and Eastern European nations and thousands of other Protestant churches, Orthodox Jewish sects, Sunni and Shia Muslim organizations, Hindu fascist political parties, etc. for making speeches, publications and undertaking other organized activities with the “deliberate intention of wounding the religious sentiments” and promoting an “irrational fear and hate” of 2,300 million (Catholics, wrong-kind-of Protestants, Orthodox Christians, etc.), 1,500 million (Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadis, Sufis, Barelvis, Nation of Islam, etc.) and the “rest of humanity.”
- The suspension of diplomatic relations with every nation-state that has an official religion, including Britain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Vatican City.
The scriptures speak for themselves. How many religious leaders and activists does that put in jail?
Seriously, let us examine what happens under a law that is to protect us from “Islamophobia” alone. This legal protection is being actively sought in various countries, but let us assume it becomes law in Britain, where the authorities pride themselves on enforcing both letter and spirit. With the legal obligation to take to task those who promote an “irrational fear and hatred” of Islam and Muslims, the British authorities will have to:
Ban the publications of the Old and New Testaments and all the churches and organizations that endorse them, for as Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, and as the Muslim prophet Muhammad is considered a “false prophet” by the Jews, Muslims are threatened with the punishment of God through means of hell and other “divine” tortures, which Muslims are liable to find offensive and promoting an “irrational hatred” as one of God's to-be-damned creations..
Ban the Sunni Muslim organizations and arrest their members, for they preach “irrational hatred” of those Muslims who are regarded as “Shia” by the rest of the world but as “heretics” by the Sunnis. This is hardly a joke, as in 2013 alone, more than ten thousand people have been killed by suicide bombings of mosques, funerals and other public events held by Shia Muslims in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and other countries with Muslim populations.
Ban the Shia Muslim organizations and arrest their members, for they preach “irrational hatred” of those Muslims who are regarded as “Sunni” by the rest of the world but as “heretics” by the Shias as they do not recognize the rightful claims of Imams Ali and Hussein to be the Caliphs of Islam. The retaliatory terrorist attacks against Sunnis by Shia militias has also been particularly severe this year, and ever since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran's Sunni Muslim population has been subject to severe discrimination and marginalization. The Shia-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Shia Alawites of Syria have inflicted grave war crimes against Syria's Sunni population.
Suspend diplomatic relations with the state of Pakistan for passing laws victimizing the Ahmadi Muslim community as “non-Muslims,” even though they believe in the core tenet of Islam that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his final prophet. This community, which provided Pakistan with its first and only Nobel Prize-winning scientist, is now deprived of basic civil rights and have to disown their beliefs in writing to obtain a passport of their own country.
- Suspend diplomatic relations with the states of Iran and Syria for the victimization of its Sunnis, and with the states of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan for encouraging the victimization of their Shias. Iraq is counted in both columns..
Under the implementation of the letter and spirit of the statute against “Islamophobia,” how many Muslims will be left walking the streets of Britain, or indeed any country? This is not idle conjecture—an uncovered aspect of the story of Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws is their use by rival Muslim sects—the Deobandis and Barelvis in particular—to put rival activists, clerics and politicians in jail in the areas where they carry enough influence with the police to trump up charges. Will an “Islamophobia” law protect Muslims from the “phobia” borne against them by other Muslims?
The Trials of an Atheist, a Clergyman and a Politician
Laws like IPC 298 and the proposed drafts against the phobia of any religion will certainly lead to the banning of organizations such as the National Front, British National Party, Bajrang Dal, Aryan Union, Ku Klux Klan, English Defence League and other anti-Islamic, anti-Hindu and anti-Christian groups that are actually founded in racial nationalism, religious fascism and national socialism and other ideologies currently protected under current free speech laws. If our proposed laws takes them away, well...Good riddance – take 'em away! However, many of us seem to be under the impression that such laws will also include the atheists, secular humanists, rationalists, etc. Is that really true?
No. They will be arrested, sure, but there is also a trial to follow (in free countries anyway). In any such trial, the burden on the prosecution will be to find any evidence that there was a “deliberate intention to wound religious feelings” or spread an “irrational fear or hatred.” Neither charge will stick to any real atheist, or even antitheist—the only people who will be taken away are the ones who use atheism as a cloak for fascist ideals. In the defense of the real atheist, it will be pointed out that they are themselves highlighting the dangers caused by the “holy scriptures” that call upon believers to inflict cruel treatment and bodily harm to unbelievers (not only atheists, but also followers of other religions). They are not attacking or promoting fear against the believers, the people, but criticizing the texts. It is not “irrational,” as the various revelations, verses and commandments are plain in their language and import. Indeed, it would be “irrational” to consider them harmless, or “positive,” which is what atheists strive to explain.
Will a British court convict Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses? No, as Mr. Rushdie never expressed any “deliberate intention” to wound religious sentiments or promote any irrational fear through this work of fiction. He has been fairly consistent on this from the very beginning. Will a British court convict the Imams, Ayatollahs, Maulanas, Maulvis, Archbishops, Popes, Shankaracharyas, Rabbis, etc? Yes, as they cannot disown their own faith and scriptures, can they? In their case, the prosecution will be armed with the “holy scriptures” to use as evidence. They can disown their own speeches, but they cannot disown for their respective gods and prophets. The Islamic principle of Taqiyya, or God-sanctioned lying, will be a hurdle for sure, but perjury is also punishable in the laws of almost every country, and the prosecution will no doubt make the court aware that a Muslim religious leader is still divinely-sanctioned to lie even after taking oath on the Qur'an. In their case, perhaps perjury convictions will precede the inevitable conviction on the various counts of promoting various phobias.
Nay, the most interesting moments in such a trial will come when the accused will cite the “Nuremberg defense” - “I was just following orders…” Whose orders? God(s), Allah, Muhammad, Jesus.. Can you produce them to give testimony in your defense?
An even more gratifying moment for me personally, will be when the prosecution cites the general tendency of religions such as Islam to fawn “irrational hatred”—there are millions of examples, but let us consider the “irrational fear and hatred” of children who want to go to school, as evidenced in the attempted murder of Ms. Malala Yousufzai and the murder of five-year old Ms. Yama Al-Ghamdi in Saudi Arabia, where it was feared she had not only reached what is biologically impossible, sexual maturity at that nascent age, but begun its natural use out of wedlock. In Exhibit “C” is the “irrational fear and hatred” of statues and sculptures such as the Bamiyan Buddhas, which had to be destroyed using war artillery. Well…I suppose they can cop an “insanity” plea for that, and everything else, and won't that change the future of the world for the better...
What if the religious decide to respond to the arrest of their leaders and the banning of their scriptures and organizations with acts of violence? They will only further legitimize the charges of the prosecution that their religions advocate violence and terrorism against those who do not agree with them. They will validate the prosecution's concern that the continuing propagation of the religious teachings in question only inflames individuals to commit “irrational” acts of physical harm. Yes, the fear of the religious will be “irrational”—we are only implementing laws against the wounding of religious sentiments that they wanted in the first place. The rioters and terrorists themselves will face charges ranging from arson to murder, while their leaders will be further accused of direct incitement.
Once convicted, it is not merely one year that they will serve. As long as the belief in the scripture is retained, the arrest and trial will have to repeat after the completion of each prison sentence. Indeed, to implement IPC 298 in India properly would be to find most of India's religious and political leaders already in jail before the conviction of the first atheist is even achieved. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots between Hindus and Muslims has resulted in the charging of members of the state legislature of Uttar Pradesh belonging to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the nominally secular Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for inciting hatred. A BJP lawmaker and minister has been found guilty of conspiring in the 2002 Gujarat riots, and the so-called secular Indian National Congress (INC) still strives to protect those of its leaders directly responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Legal Murder of Justice
Of course, I know none of this will ever be allowed to come to fruition for “common sense” is not what motivates the proponents of such laws. However, surely you, dear reader, have kept me company so long because you do see there is a grain of truth that is to reveal itself now. The real problem is not that laws in effect, like IPC 295-A/298, or any proposed laws against the criticism of religion are an attack to the freedom of expression, which they are. In reality, they are a horrid corruption of the entire concept of “justice,” which a law exists to ensure. Any law against wounding religious sentiments must first find most of the clergy and believers of almost every religion on earth in jail, for no one, and not one atheist has a more “deliberate intention of wounding religious feelings” than the follower of another religion. Each one of them believes that they are the only one, or the purest one, and that the others do not deserve to exist or must not be allowed to.
Hinduism is always deliberately insulted by Muslims and Christians, who regularly rail against its polytheism and idolatry, yet IPC 295-A/298 is never invoked to protect more than 900 million people against the “malicious” intentions of the Qur'an—why? Why are these laws never invoked against Hindu religious leaders who rail against people considered “lower caste” according to religious doctrine? Legislation that says one thing and does another, that allows the real perpetrators of mass murder, banditry and arson to escape while falsely haranguing artists and novelists, is an affront not only to one of the fundamental, inviolable and self-evident rights, but to the entire concept of a statute that exists to afford protection to every human being. A law against “Islamophobia” or the hurting of religious sentiments is incapable of affording “protection” or delivering “justice” to those Shia, Ahmadis and Sunnis who are killed in large numbers each year by their fellow “Muslims” alone. 9.9 out of 10 mosques are bombed by Muslims themselves.
If you (not me) still wish to muddle along this path, to exist in a lethal state of ever-tangled hypocrisy, be assured of one thing—not one Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Jew, or any other “person of faith” will actually walk the street in any part of the world feeling safer than he or she did the day before, which was the supposed purpose of any such law. For the real criminals, members of their rival faiths, will still be loose...won't they?