What is honour? A word.

This is unpleasant stuff. Unsurprising, but unpleasant. A statement by the Cambridge Muslim Welfare Society about that business at Clare College.

With sorrow and anger the Mosque notes the publication, in the student newsletter Clareification, of material which deliberately insults the honour of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s.w.s.). Mindful of its duty before Almighty Allah and before humanity to defend the honour and good name of the Final Prophet, the Mosque condemns this provocation in the strongest terms.

Its duty? To tell everyone in the entire world that it is forbidden to ‘insult’ the honour of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s.w.s.)? To impose the taboos and rules of one religion on everyone everywhere, despite the impossibility and unreasonability of expecting everyone to share that view of the BPM? To worry more about the ‘honour’ of someone who died in the 7th century than about – pretty much anything else? That’s its duty?

We hope and trust…that the students will offer a full and unconditional apology for their irresponsible action. The University’s record of freedom of expression is a matter of record and of pride. However it is clear that incitement to religious and ethnic hatred is at all times immoral, and that its consequences for harmony between communities and nations can be grave. It is particularly important that the boundary between fair comment and hate speech be respected and understood at the present time…

Is insulting the honour of the BPM ‘incitement to religious and ethnic hatred’? Is the boundary between ‘fair comment and hate speech’ so well demarcated that it is self-evident where it is? Is it up to Mosques to decide? Is that worry about harmony between communities a threat? A lot of questions here. But it makes me nervous when religious people think they get to tell everyone what to do.

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