What’s Wrong With Blasphemy?


In his article in NYT of 9/25, Andrew F. March offers a compelling argument for not regarding the controversy around blasphemy in terms of a conflict between the value of free speech and that of Muslim sensitivity to it There is no relation-independent wrong in such speech. That is to say, you will only refrain from saying things that might hurt me not because it is wrong to say those things, but because you relate to me and care for a social or political relationship with me. As he puts it:

No — there is no abstract, relation-independent wrong in mocking someone else’s prophet, even to the extent that I think there is wrong in using speech like the N-word. Instead, given the awareness of the impact such speech on others whom you might care about (even if you think it is wrong or silly for such speech to impact them in this way), the value you place on this relationships alters your moral judgment about such speech. The emotional world of someone about whom you care, or with whom you have a social relationship about which you care, matters to you when you speak.

Now, this is not a short-cut to merely condemning blasphemy. I may continue to judge my friends to be over-sensitive, or my speech to be so important, as to outweigh their emotional pain. And, of course, fellow citizens do not usually matter as much to me as people in my day-to-day life. And distant strangers matter still less. But, nonetheless, I think there is something for philosophy to encourage us to think about beyond the recycled clichés that emerge on all sides each time some new utterance creates an international crisis. At the very least, it encourages us to see conflicts over such speech not only as a conflict between the value of free speech and the value of sensitivity, but also in terms of social and political relationships that we have some obligation to care for.

Read the full article here: What’s Wrong With Blasphemy? – NYTimes.com.

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About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

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