Fundamentalist Islamic nations and leaders are speaking of unleashing a new weapon against those who defame Islam: lawyers.
During a two-day summit in Senegal, leaders called for a litigation offensive against those who fail to give the prophet or Islam sufficient respect by publishing cartoons or saying negative things. The focus again is the cartoons showing Prophet Muhammad in 2006 and re-published again last month.
Of course, most view the role of the law as protecting free speech but these leaders appear to view right as only valid if it is not used to insult their religious views: “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy,” said Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, the chairman of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. Wade added, “There can be no freedom without limits.”
The group is seeking the creation of a “legal instrument” to crack down on defamation of Islam, including criminal penalties.
There remains a refusal to accept that religion should remain a matter of individuals and not states (though we have had a bit of a problem with that concept in this country lately). Insulting a religion is the ultimate expression of free speech. There is a fundamental misconception over the use of both the law and lawyers to achieve cultural and legal hegemony.
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