A French cartoons editor has been acquitted of insulting Muslims by reprinting cartoons of the prophet Muhammad:
A French court has ruled in favour of weekly Charlie Hebdo, rejecting accusations by Islamic groups who said it incited hatred against Muslims.
The cartoons were covered by freedom of expression laws and were not an attack on Islam, but fundamentalists, it said.
The case was seen as an important test for freedom of expression in France.
Except this wasn’t a victory for free speech. According to the article, the editor was acquitted because the cartoons criticized only fundamentalists, not Muslims or Islam in general. So presumably criticizing Islam would still be a crime. The accused editor (perhaps unknowingly), summarized the situation correctly:
… the ruling was a victory for secular French Muslims.
Yes – this was a victory for religious apologists of all stripes. Implicit in the judgment is that it is not OK to make fun of a religion; it is only OK to make fun those who use religion to justify terrorism. If he had been found guilty merely of making fun of Islam he could have faced a maximum fine of nearly 30,000 euros ($40K) and a jail sentence of up to six months. Just for criticizing a religion.
As I’ve written before, religions should be the first thing we are allowed to criticize. Religious beliefs are not generally backed by evidence, and are frequently contradicted by overwhelming evidence and common sense, and yet they expect special privileges, they expect to be accorded a special level of respect they haven't earned.
And don’t think that even this lame acquittal on these narrow grounds (still acquiescing to the need to respect religion), will keep the theocrats happy. Lhaj Thami Breze of the fundamentalist Union of Islamic Organizations of France, one of the groups that brought the suit, said he would appeal the decision. That’s how much these religious nuts respect the free speech and rights of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their invisible sky fairy story as written in their magic book. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
It’s good that the editor was acquitted. It’s a pity the acquittal wasn’t because it’s OK to make fun of religion.