Nick Cohen too is unimpressed by the pope’s assertion that we can’t insult religion. He’s also unimpressed by the “Charlie Hebdo had it coming” crowd.
After the Paris attacks, the novelist Will Self claimed moral equivalence. Those who say “freedom of speech is an absolute right” – no one does, incidentally – have “a religious point of view”. Mehdi Hasan, political director of the Huffington Post, agreed that freedom was fanaticism. He condemned “the hypocrisy of free-speech fundamentalists” and cited a thought experiment of an Oxford philosopher called Brian Klug. If an Islamist had joined the free speech rallies in Paris and applauded the murderers, Klug mused on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, he “would have been lucky to get away with his life”.
And yet, and yet – when’s the last time journalists shot up the office of some Islamists? Hmm? That would be never, wouldn’t it. Imagining such a scenario is not quite the same thing as actually being able to point to one, or fifty.
Think before you go along with the pope’s argument that violence is the “normal” response to insults to family honour. Once the law accepted it was. A husband could beat a wife, who failed to stroke his ego and confirm his superiority and the police would dismiss the case as a “domestic”. A man could kill a woman who had betrayed his honour and the courts would dismiss it as a crime of passion.
We don’t live there any more. And you know what? We don’t want to.