BBC Asks “What Is The Right Punishment For Blasphemy?”
Earlier this week it was reported that Facebook were sending a team to Pakistan to discuss the concerns of Pakistani officials regarding ‘blasphemous’ content on the social media platform. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has previously described ‘blasphemy’ as an “unpardonable offence”.
The fact that Facebook is even entertaining this sort of thing deserves no small amount of opprobrium, but it should come as a surprise to no-one that Pakistan would be heavily engaged in this area.
What should inspire open mouths and comedy double takes however is the question posed by Shazia Awan on the BBC’s Asian Network in response to this story:
What is the right punishment for blasphemy?
— BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork) 17 March 2017
There are a million useful and ethical questions one could choose to ask here – and this is not one of them. Instead, Awan thinks the best use of her time (and licence fee payers’ money) is to pay lip service to theocracy.
To hold a conversation on the ‘right’ punishment for blasphemy in 2017 Britain (or anywhere for that matter) is utterly obscene. The mere acknowledgement that such an act may merit any sort of punishment, however small, is to provide shade for the Pakistani theocrats who feel no compunction in gunning down ‘blasphemers’, or putting them on death row.
Imagine if you will that a major broadcaster asked ‘what is the right punishment for pre-marital sex?’ or perhaps ‘should a woman be made to marry the man who raped her?’.
This is the sort of zone we’re in here. And it’s of the twilight variety.
I’m not sure clarity was the issue here, but rather a complete inability to grasp free expression, human rights and consult a calendar.
So, allow me to be ‘clear’. I am free to say whatever I like about someone’s religion or ‘god’. I claim that right for myself and all others, and do so without apology. The hurt feelings of the faithful is the tiny price we pay for the understanding that no belief is exempt from scrutiny and that no ultimate authority may be hoisted upon us in the market place of ideas.
This simple understanding has been the foundation of human progress and enlightenment in all the ways that matter – for centuries. Not so much as an inch should be offered to those who seek to dial the clock back in this regard.
There is no idea I hold with sufficient insecurity that I would seek to punish those who criticise it. The very fact that religion is so utterly resistant to dissent and debate speaks volumes about the veracity of its contents.