Should Australia’s blasphemy law be revived to protect religion? Would this legal avenue forego the need of violent protest when people feel provoked? Or as Daniel Pipes recommends, should we ‘daily display cartons of Muhammad until the Islamists get used to the fact that we turn sacred cows into hamburger’.

Is the onus on individuals to not incite to violence, or on individuals to not be incited…this is the question.

As Christians we may be confused about this. If we love our neighbor we will not choose to provoke them to anger. However, if we love our neighbor we will speak and answer honestly and pursue truth – and this may well provoke them to anger no matter how graciously we attempt to make our point. So how does this relate to law?

The role of freedom of speech in the pursuit of truth is absolutely critical and whether someone intentionally incites violence is very subjective and debatable. As has been often said, without freedom of speech all other freedoms are indefensible. And never before has freedom of speech been so under threat.

The international push by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) to criminalise speech against Islam is in effect an application of the Sharia Blasphemy law forbiding all criticism of Muhammad or Islam and internationally still carries the death penalty with plenty of zealots keen to exercise it. Non-Muslim Pakistani’s are suffering terribly under this law, as are a number in Iran. And Egypt has recently charged some Copts under blasphemy laws as well. In Victoria we have been fighting vilification laws that are designed to act as a type of blasphemy law, and ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell is keen to pursue the same in Canberra to silence opposition to the proposed mega mosque there.

As Australian Christians, we believe we should foster a culture of genuine respect but not legislate this. As I learnt in my terrorism studies, propaganda is a non-violent weapon of deceit that all too often precedes terrorist campaigns in liberal democracies. And the movie sparking the worldwide riots and deaths last week was certainly used by terrorists for just that.

We can’t win the ideological war if our only defense, freedom of speech, is removed. And if we can’t win the ideological war how can we avoid what will inevitably follow? I believe turning the other cheek as we pursue truth is the best policy and any blasphemy law will only aid the move to silence critical inquiry and real education. This is an opportunity to choose between freedom or blasphemy laws; self-control or state control.

Although I doubt that Australia’s blasphemy law was ever intended to protect religions outside the Biblical narrative, even if this was so, we believe the honest pursuit of truth and freedom should prevail over protecting Christianity from criticism or even mockery. This merely gives us the opportunity to display the grace and forgiveness of God so desperately needed in the world today.

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