Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland has declared publicly that he will bring legal action against any Irish newspaper or publication that runs the Charlie Hebdo or other similar cartoons featuring Muhammad. As discussed in my Sunday Washington Post column, these laws in Western countries like France have served to emboldened those like Selim in demanding that others confirm to their religious sensibilities. Despite his effort to deter others from speaking in this fashion, Selim insists without any appearance of embarrassment that he is “a great advocate of freedom of expression” . . . so long of course that it is his expression or an expression that does not offend him.
We have previously discussed Ireland’s ignoble status as a Western nation that has dabbled in blasphemy prosecutions. In 1999, the country’s blasphemy law was found to be incompatible with the Constitution’s guarantee of religious equality. Belated but true. However, a new offense was crafted for the “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.”
The Muslim scholar insisted that he is not threatening the lives of journalists but that he will sue anyone who offends him or other Muslims and that such speech “doesn’t help for peaceful coexistence.” He insisted that he is only using the laws that exist and he may be right. The fault stands with Ireland — just as I criticized France in the column.
Selim noted the parameters for acceptable speech: “You can say love is stronger than hate but you can’t portray the Prophet Mohammed. If the law gives you the right to do it, do it, if the law does not give you the right to do it, then don’t do it.”
Selim likely will anger many in Ireland in such comments but it is the Irish who have to answer for these laws. Selim clearly does not truly believe in the freedom of expression, but it is Ireland that has enabled his ability to silence others. Selim insisted “Definitely if there is a legal action, I will take it. If you want to blame, blame the law.” Once again he is right. Ireland has allied itself with those who would deny the speech of others and this is the result.