Pope Francis had several things to say this week about freedom of speech as it relates to the Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris. Among them are “there is a limit to freedom of speech” and “one cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”
I have liked a lot of what Pope Francis has had to say since his election. I think he is good for the papacy, for Roman Catholicism, and indeed, for Christianity at large. But bluntly, this is asinine. There is no such thing as “freedom of speech, unless it upsets someone.” When we speak of protecting freedom of speech, what does he think we’re protecting? “Hello, how are you today?”? “Do you want fries with that?”? “Islam is a religion of peace”?
(Don’t call them violent. They’ll riot.)
It is precisely the speech that might make someone angry that must be protected. And there is no parody of Muhammad—however sustained, however irreverent, however perceivedly offensive—that anyone but a blood-crazed animal can say is worth the lives of 12 people. To be fair, Pope Francis did also condemn the attacks. But to essentially say yes, it was a terrible thing, but you also shouldn’t make fun of people’s religion, strikes exactly the wrong chord. It suggests an equivocation of the two offenses, which is obviously absurd.
(On a related note, this week Dennis Prager gave voice to something that’s bugged me for some time. Media sources referring to “the prophet Muhammad” is nothing short of fawning deference to Islam. Have you ever considered that? Do you ever hear a “news” outfit refer to “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”? Or just Jesus? What’s the difference?)
When it comes to the blood spilled in Paris last week, there is no “yes, it’s bad, but…” There is only condemnation in the strongest terms. Civilized people do not murder one another over cartoons.
Until everyone (including the whole of Islam) is nodding, without asterisks, we have a big problem.