If everyone felt free

Ian Buruma is ringing the same old bell.

In civilised life, people refrain from saying many things, regardless of questions of legality…Mocking the ways and beliefs of minorities is not quite the same thing as taking on the cherished habits and views of majorities…[C]ivilised life, especially in countries with great ethnic and religious diversity, would soon break down if everyone felt free to say anything they liked to anyone.

So…what he appears to be hinting, albeit very cautiously, not to say evasively, not to say timorously, is that everyone should not feel free to mock the beliefs of minorities; in other words, everyone should not feel free to satirize or cartoonize or tell jokes about Islam, because where Ian Buruma is sitting Islam fits one definition of ‘beliefs of minorities,’ although of course in many other places in the world it constitutes beliefs of the majority and is often in fact legally imposed rather than freely offered. In other words Buruma is being, as usual, rather fatuously parochial (which is odd, because he’s not really parochial at all) about what is a minority and in what sense Islam can be considered ‘vulnerable’ in the way minorities can be vulnerable. In other, other words, he’s urging (again) special sensitivity about and protection for a very demanding coercive intrusive and often punitive religion, which has state power behind it in many countries on the planet, on the grounds that in some other countries on the planet it is a minority belief. Frankly I think that’s a bad and dangerous idea. We don’t think that way about Nazis, or Westboro Baptists, so why should we think it about any minority? I don’t think we should, and I think Buruma is woolly and mistaken.

6 Responses to “If everyone felt free”