Friday, March 28, 2008

Fitna: Freedom and Expression



There is much controversy about the film that is linked above. It is easy to demagogue an entire culture but I think that it is important to ask some questions. I write this post as a practicing Catholic. Someone who has to accept all the evil that my particular branch of Christianity imposed on people in slavery and colonialism.

There is no moral superiority for the Bible or Christianity over the Koran. There are verses in both the Tanakh and New Testaments as vile as the verses in the Koran in the film above. The difference is that in the Christian world we do not on the whole try to impose our religious beliefs on others.

We have in fact made a decision that religious practice and law are separate. This was not an easy transition. My Church opposed this, the Mormons and Christian Fundamentalists tried to form theocracies. In the end Freedom of Choice won these arguments and authoritarian religion lost.

Having said that many liberals and progressives are uncomfortable standing up for what our Western tradition believes there is this false sense that all expressions are the same they are not. There is a difference between the ideal of a good society in the Christian West and the Muslim world. Until we admit and understand this we will continue to not understand the challenge before us.

That challenge is not going to be met with bombs or wars. In many ways it is a challenge that needs to be fought with ideas. For 200 years Catholics and Protestants fought wars of religion. Then the French and American Revolutions happened we then fought between Traditional notions of the state and the current enlightenment model, then we fought between Liberals, Fascists and Communists.

All of these fights were ones of ideas primarily. It was liberal ideas that defeated Hitler and Communism and the Counter Reformation and Calvin's theocracy and Slavery in the USA and the British in India. Ideas that All people are Created Equal and that they have a right to decide for themselves what they want to believe.
This is why I post this film on my Blog. Not because I agree with it- but because I disagree with threats and murder for people expressing ideas. People have a right to criticize whatever they want including the Bible the Koran, Jesus or Muhammad and that is what makes us free.