I have never been a fan of outright religious provocations hence I have been accussed many times by friends as been too soft on religions; some will even suggest that am too sentimental about them despite all that I know about the religious attrocities. None of the allegations succeeded in swaying me to the side of the gadflies. None! Not even the anti-Miss world rally that cost lives and properties in Nigeria. In fact, I could still remember saying that Daniel Isioma (a Nigerian journalist now a refugee in Norway) should have crafted her words more consciously rather that saying what would suggest that even Muhammed, if alive, would have wanted one of the beauty queens as wife.
But the Danish cartoon saga, which created so much hulabaloo around the world, changed everything. I became worried on the infrigements of these fanatics on freedom of speech. How could these persons attempt to censor the entire socio-political space? How could they seek to control men and women who do not subscribe to their faith yet have contrary views to air? Do they have monopololy of access to the public space? Why must these fanatics seek to strangle the ethics of public discourse on a flimsy excuse of blasphemy? These questions, in a dialectical way, led me to think there is more to the activities of ‘blasphemy law’ activists.
Sincerely, the conclusion was that the crux of these recent cries lie with the muslim fanatics. Of course, am not unaware that the christians have had their fun with the blasphemers in the past; but I thought many christians are now better enlightened and modernised to tolerate other beliefs and unbeliefs. But the push for and final criminalization of blasphemy in Ireland has changed all that. Indeed, it served as a pointer to the fact that hardly can the religionists be trusted with the rights of others (most especially freedom of speech).
After reading Albert Mohler’s article, Why Do the Heathen Rage? — International Blasphemy Day, I became more convinced that there is, indeed, the need for a day to be set aside annually to remind the religionists that they do not have the monopoly of access to the public space and can never hold beliefs which would be insulated, by forces of the states,from critical evaluation.
The declaration of September 30 as the international blasphemy day is therefore a welcome development. Indeed, I cant agree less with Ron Lindsay’s justification of the dire need for such a day: “to expose all religious beliefs to the same level of inquiry, discussion and criticism to which other areas of intellectual interest are subjected.”
This might lead to many islamic ‘fatwas’ and christians’ ‘call for arrests/cautions’, yet the religionists must realise that it has become old-fashioned for them to be unwilling to subject their beliefs to the dictates of critical inquiry, in the face of contemporary global religious attrocities in diverse shades. The earlier they accept this reality the better because the International Blasphemy Day has come to stay! To my humanist friends, moderation is the word: we do not need to be execessively insultive on others’ beliefs to drive home our point.
Yemi Ademowo Johnson