This is a very brief comment on the events concerning Stephen Fry and the blasphemy law in Ireland. Until very recently, there was a possibility of charges being brought against Fry for speaking candidly about God in an interview with Gay Byrne. While the case now appears to have been dropped, the fact that the law exists at all should be a major cause for concern.
It is time to realise that there is no such thing as blasphemy: rather, there is only outrage from those who are insecure in their faith. Alliance of Former Muslims (Ireland) resolutely opposes any attempt to criminalise blasphemy under Irish law: for not only does this make a mockery of free speech and the secular state, but in doing so, makes it even harder for people to break from the cultural imposition of false understandings – Muslims in particular, who are held back by the fanaticism of self-appointed “community leaders”.
While the law has yet to be enforced, so long as the provision for it exists in our Constitution, the potential is there for Dark Age bigotry. As a country, Ireland needs to decide: Do we defend the liberal dispensation that is the foundation of our prosperity, or do we surrender it to charlatans with a Bronze Age mentality? Do we stand up for the values of free speech and secularism, or do we give organised religion a free hand to quash dissent? That is the question before us, one that we cannot afford to answer incorrectly. To quote Ali Selim, spokesperson for the Clonskeagh Mosque (pictured below):
If you say something offensive about my Prophet, it’s something that is definitely not going to be tolerated… I would be delighted to see the blasphemy law going further and further. But it has taken the first step. (RTÉ Prime Time, January 12th 2010)