A new internet magazine called The Participator has been launched by our British associate and political like-thinker, Chauncey Tinker. (The title intentionally calls to mind the long-established journal The Spectator.)
The first article was published yesterday and may be found here
It is about Islam punishing blasphemy – which is what Islam considers any criticism of Islamic belief to be. As Islam is trying to make criticism of itself a punishable crime the world over, the topic is of universal interest and importance. It could be summed up as “Islam versus free speech“. In Europe, Islam is winning. Is it winning in Britain too?
These are extracts from the article:
On a BBC Asian Network program, the Muslim presenter Shazia Awan posed the question “What Is The Right Punishment For Blasphemy?”. The question is obviously loaded with the implication that there SHOULD be a punishment for blasphemy. … There have been a great many articles written about this radio program already, but so far they all seem to have missed the fact that the BBC have committed a criminal offence under current UK law by airing it. …
(We posted commentary on the program two days ago. See Where stands the BBC on blasphemy?, March 20, 2017.)
Examples of what callers to the program gave as answers to the question include these:
The second caller … was a man called Wajid Ali (Burki?) from Birmingham – a city in the UK. This caller supported the principle of a death sentence for blasphemers under Islamic law in Muslim majority countries, but he seemed confused about whether blasphemers in non-Muslim countries should also be killed. For example he said he was upset that Salman Rushdie had not yet been killed. Rushdie does not live in a Muslim Country, he has lived in the US since 2000 before which he was living in the UK under very necessary police protection. Shazia pressed the caller on his view, asking “do you not think that the death penalty is a step too far?”. By the phrasing of this question we might even suspect that Shazia herself thinks that there should in fact be a punishment for blasphemy, but that the death penalty would be excessive. The caller responded saying that the punishment should be determined by the law of the land, so we can only conclude from all this that he was disappointed that Salman Rushdie had not been murdered by a private citizen. At the very least this is inescapably a very grossly offensive point of view, at the worst it might almost be considered an incitement to murder.
A caller called Ishaan from Cardiff … said: “sooner or later Islam is going to be taking over anyway”, a statement that was surely grossly offensive to all the non-Muslims in the UK who do not wish to live in an Islamic state. …
Surprisingly, blasphemy was still a statutory crime in the United Kingdom until as recently as 2008, when it was finally abolished. But the last time anyone was prosecuted for committing it was in 1843, in Scotland. Will it now make a come-back when sharia law – already in use as a parallel legal system in Britain – becomes the only law of the land?
The context of the question was not current law in the UK (which abolished the blasphemy law in 2008), but the current law in Pakistan, where the punishment is currently the death penalty. In the case of Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for 7 years in appalling conditions, the authorities there are clearly hoping that she will die in prison and save them from the worldwide outrage that would necessarily result if they carried out the sentence.
Please read our post on Asia Bibi – whose right name is Aasiya Noreen. It is titled Thirst: a story of religious injustice, and may be found here.
At some point the BBC woke up to the fact that the question it was asking implied that there should be some punishment for blasphemy. So it sent out a tweet:
We never intend[ed] to imply Blasphemy should be punished. Provocative question that got it wrong.
OK, now they are getting it. …
By now I think any “reasonable ordinary person” would agree with me that views were aired on this program that were at the very least grossly offensive. Under current UK law (Communications Act 2003) it is illegal to broadcast a communication on an electronic network that is “grossly offensive”.
The program may have been broadcast live (making it impossible to know exactly what would be said), but by the phrasing of the question the producers of the program have actively encouraged such sentiments to be expressed. At least one of the callers who expressed grossly offensive views was a regular caller on the show, and the producers will have been well aware of what sort of reactions to expect. As a UK Muslim herself, the presenter will also have been well aware that those views expressed are scarcely uncommon among Muslims in the UK today (polls have shown this to be the case as well). In short, the makers of this program knew full well what to expect.
All this considered then I think it is quite reasonable to suggest that the producers deliberately sought these grossly offensive opinions in order to create a sensational program and that therefore by broadcasting the program they are wilfully in contravention of the Communications Act. …
The question is then posed: “What is the right punishment for the BBC?”
So readers, I wish to ask you, what do you think would be an appropriate punishment for the BBC, for this criminal act? Unfortunately when the BBC is fined it is those who pay the licence fee who have to foot the bill. Therefore, fining the BBC will only serve to punish those who are already suffering from the BBC’s poor quality and wildly biased output.
I think that an appropriate punishment for the BBC would be that it should be privatized in totality. I believe that the BBC should also lose all their rights to broadcast TV channels and FM radio programs on the airwaves, and instead be forced to compete on the internet with everybody else. This is not a harsh punishment, certainly I am not calling for any BBC operatives to be beheaded or even to receive milder punishments such as flogging. All I am asking for is a level playing field, let the BBC compete in the free market. The BBC should also be renamed as it cannot be said to represent the views of most British people.
This will take a while to accomplish of course – it will require some legislation to be put forward in parliament. In the meantime the BBC Asian Network should sack the producers and the presenter. …
If we lived in a country where equality before the law was upheld then I think a 12 month community order and 1 month’s forced labour for the producers and the presenter of this show, and the callers who expressed grossly offensive opinions, would most certainly be called for (at the very minimum). However, personally I would prefer to hear all these grossly offensive opinions, so that we know what people think.
An opinion with which we heartily agree. It is the essence of the case for free speech.
We recommend The Participator to our readers.
We also recommend blasphemy. Against all religions, all deities, all “sacred things”, and most especially and particularly – considering the threat Islam poses to us all – against Muhammad and “Allah”.
We urge our readers to blaspheme purposefully, publicly, and often, as we try to do ourselves.*
*Of course this is addressed only to readers who live in countries where it is safe to blaspheme – which is to say, no Islamic or European country.