Jan 7, 2016
My Cartoon of Allah and Muhammad -
Religious Freedom and Its Limits
The distinction between religious "law" and governmental law is something that's lost on too many Americans ------- probably because they're too busy trying to make sure that government law is their religious law. That's why those same Americans get their knickers in a twist when they hear the term "sharia law."
As a former Catholic, I'm well aware of the distinction between religious "law" and government law. The Roman Catholic Church has the Code of Canon Law which Catholics are supposed to follow. Non-Catholics are free to ignore it without having to worry that their Catholic neighbors will drag them off to jail for eating meat on Fridays (violating Canon Law 1251). That's an understanding of the difference between religious "law" and actual law that Catholics in the United States have. Canon Law may be called "law" but it's really rules which anyone is free to ignore ----- though if you're a practicing Catholic there could be consequences within the Catholic Church.
Here in the U.S. your religion is free to have its own "laws" (rules). In general, those religious "laws" cannot contradict actual law.* Religions can even have their own religious courts (but these are not courts that have the authority to jail you). So in the United States for quite a long time now Roman Catholics have had ecclesiastical courts and Jewish have had rabbinical courts. Now Muslims are having sharia courts (which is causing the Americans I mentioned earlier to even further twist their knickers). Those religious "courts" can make decisions and those decisions count within the religion, but they don't count outside of the religion. Outside the religion, actual law trumps. (So a religious court can say you're still married and will not let you remarry within the religion, but if you've got a legal divorce decree, you can legally remarry and your religion cannot stop you.) Followers of a religion are supposed to follow their religious "laws" and abide by their religious "courts" decisions. Non-followers get to not follow those "laws." To me that's not a difficult distinction to grasp. Hence, I never believed everyone was supposed to not eat meat on Fridays ---- just Catholics and only just those Catholics who wanted to follow that "law."
Religious freedom is a basis of US government. It comes from the Constitution itself:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievancesThat means, here in America, the government is supposed to let people have their own religion, their own religious "laws" and even their own religious "courts."
As an extension of religious freedom, what we try to have in this country is religious tolerance. That's tolerance, not embracing. You tolerate it, meaning you don't have to love it, you put up with it................even if you dislike it.
And tolerance is a two way street. So I will tolerate the right of Muslims to have their own religious "laws" and religious "courts" just as I tolerate other religions having them. But the tolerance from Muslims (a tolerance that most Muslims in this country have) is the understanding that people of other religions or of no religion do not have to follow Muslim religious "laws" and "court" judgments ------ just as Catholics or Jewish don't expect other people to follow their "laws" and "court" judgments.
That is a point that is grasped by this Danish imam who said, 'even if Muslims interpret the Koran as being against portrayals of Muhammad, those rules should only apply to Muslims themselves. "Just like the ban on pork and the consumption of alcohol, the ban on depictions is also only something that affects Muslims. Non-Muslims are free to do whatever they want"' (I've been offered a soft drink by a Muslim who was fasting during Ramadan. He understood that he was fasting; I wasn't. So that was a Muslim who understood that his religious strictures applied to him, not to non-Muslims.)
I've never seen the violent reaction of extremist Muslims to images of Muhammad as a free speech issue in Western countries. We have free speech. It is a free speech issue in countries with Islamic law because free speech is about government interference in speech --- which those governments most definitely do. In Western countries, it's not the government trying to interfere in the speech. I see the violent reaction of extremist Muslims to images of Muhammad in Western countries as an issue about the government limits on the free exercise of religion. Those extremist Muslims would like us to not have government limits on the free exercise of their religion. However, we do have limits on the free exercise of religion because as the U.S. Supreme Court said, "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself" (Reynolds v United States).
The only way religious freedom can work in a country with a secular government and multiple religions is by having limits on religion.
So for the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack, as a non-follower of Islam, if I here in the United States want to draw a cartoon of Allah sending the Quran to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, I can. Such a cartoon is perfectly legal, even if you believe it's against your religion. Now, if Islam is your religion, you're free to dislike this cartoon. (You're free to dislike it for any other reason even if you're not Muslim.) You're even free to express that dislike in speech ----- that is your government granted right of free speech. However, if you do anything actually illegal (as in against federal, state and local laws) about the cartoon, saying it's your religious "law" is not going to save you from the actual law via the criminal justice system.
However, I feel compelled to note:
And for those people who say, yes, you have the right to draw this, but that doesn't mean you should because it upsets people or is throwing gas on a fire................if you don't already have children, please resolve not to be parents --- at least not until you learn this lesson by heart: You don't reward bad behavior. You don't give in to bad behavior. Because if you do, you just give positive reinforcement for that bad behavior which makes someone think the bad behavior worked since they got what they wanted. (Prior to World War II, this policy was called appeasement. As a policy, it was a major failure in curbing the bad behavior.) People who don't want anyone drawing a picture of their prophet Muhammad and will kill people who do..............if you stop drawing their prophet, that's rewarding them with exactly what they want. I say don't reward bad behavior, and it's incredibly bad behavior to murder people for drawing cartoons. So don't give them what they want. Don't let them win. Which also means don't give them the media attention. Instead, like with recent school shooters, don't mention their names, don't show their photos.............instead pay attention to the victims, and, in this case, to the principles the victims were standing for.
Even though anyone who has clicked on this page should be more than aware that it contains an image of Allah and Muhammad, out of courtesy, as with my previous image of Muhammad (accessible on the Archive page), I took the additional step of putting the cartoon in a "Show/hide" button. So it shouldn't automatically be visible. If you want to see it, click on the button. If the sight of it will offend you, then don't click.......................
The angel Gabriel is receiving the Quran from Allah in order to give the verses to Muhammad.
* I say 'In general, those religious "laws" cannot contradict actual law' because there are rare exceptions where people are allowed to do things as part of their religious practice which is against the law. So a Native American is allowed to use peyote in a religious ritual even though the use of peyote is against federal law. But those exceptions are quite narrow and don't involve actively physically harming others (whether or not they follow the religion in question). (You're only allowed to passively harm your own children by withholding medical treatment.) As made perfectly and abundantly clear in this piece, religious "laws" do not apply to anyone who does not practice the religion. But even if someone is a follower of the religion, there is no religious exemption to actively harm someone else for breaking the rules. So, for example, even if a daughter is a Muslim, her parents can't legally kill her because she had pre-marital sex anymore than some Christian or Jewish can legally execute a person in their congregation for working on the Sabbath.
For more on terrorism, read "Dying from Terrorism Not Really a Danger, Losing Freedoms Is a Real Danger" and "15 Reasons Why ISIS Is a Bunch of Total Losers."
For my take on Free Speech, there's "Sometimes Free Speech Is Ugly Speech But It's Still Supposed to Be Free."
I said I'm a former Catholic. For my current position re the Roman Catholic Church, read "Self-Proclaimed Antichrist."
I also have another image of Muhammad which you can see here or in my Archive.