The deadly terror attack on French weekly Charlie Hebdo has put the debate over blasphemy back in the spotlight.
Although people across the globe condemn the attack, disagreement persists on whether Charlie Hebdo’s publication of religious caricatures itself was justified.
This disagreement is not alien to the Indonesian public. We had our own debates on blasphemy. The criminalization of Rakyat Merdeka online (2006) and The Jakarta Post (2014) over the publication of certain allegedly religiously offensive cartoons are but a few examples.
In such cases, we deal with the same question over and over again: Does freedom of speech include blasphemy? The answer proposed by some is a simple “No”. Freedom of speech does not include the right to engage in blasphemous activities.
There must be some limit to freedom. As convenient as the answer may be, it cannot withstand logical and practical tests. There are at least two reasons why a more reasonable answer to the question is actually an affirmative one.
Firstly, we cannot cherry-pick which speech acts ought to be free and which not. Something can be offensive only for those who believe in or identify themselves as a part of the entity being offended.
Continue reading Blasphemy and Freedom of Speech