[This post has been substantially edited two or three times.]
In view of Charles Sullivan’s comment below — which is obviously the reason for this particular Jesus and Mo cartoon, and my reason for including it here — there is part of a London Times comment on Lady Warsi’s speech and the reasons for people’s concern about Islam, here at richarddawkins.net (“It’s not a phobia — it’s rational to fear Islam”). The article itself is behind a paywall.
I was listening to Rachel Maddow last night about the increasingly ugly “Islamophobia” in the US. I agree. There probably is an increasing amount of anti-Islam feeling. But how much of this, I wonder, is sparked by the fact that, because of widespread threats, Islam is the one religion that cannot be discussed and criticised freely anywhere in the West? This is very dangerous. So long as the threat posed by radical Muslims means that people dare not speak freely about Islam and their fears of Islam, those fears can only grow and intensify. In the Globe and Mail this morning (27 January 2011) there are estimates as to the growth of Muslim populations in North America and Europe (as well as around the world). One person suggests that this will prompt alarm, and there will be “rhetoric” about the threat that this poses. Her solution? Can the rhetoric!
We have a young, vibrant, very engaged youth community,” she said. “Their faith is intertwined with their self-identity, and so to continuously identify that faith as a very violent ideology, incompatible with democracy – that rhetoric has to be checked.
But people should be positively encouraged to speak freely about their fears. Social fear is not allayed by imposing checks on freedom of speech. The only way social consensus can be achieved is through free speech, and if we had more of it, we would all get some idea as to what is acceptable, socially, in how we find identity through our religious traditions. Unless Muslims in the West wake up and recognise that only freedom of speech will resolve some of the uncertainties that people feel, and do everything in their power to defeat the radicals in their midst, the tension can only grow, and speeches like Lady Warsi’s will remain words in a vacuum that is filled only with hysterical rather than rational speech – quite aside from the fact that Lady Warsi’s words themselves failed to address real problems, or even, in some cases, contributed to them, as Edmund Standing points out so well — see “Warsi’s Wasted Opportunity” over at Butterflies and Wheels.