Hate Speech – Blasphemy Laws: Strange Bedfellows?

Hate Speech – Blasphemy Laws: Strange Bedfellows?

Hate Speech is a term that has often been used by pro-gay activists to refer to anything perceived to cast homosexual behavior in a bad light, e.g., referring to it as sin. Homophobia, as a label, is also used in this context, as though homophobia is the root cause of hate speech.

Blasphemy is a term used by zealous Muslims for anything that appears to place Muhammad, the Quran, or the Islamic Faith in a bad light. Blasphemy laws are intended to protect Islam. The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in Pakistan, who has been accused of blasphemy, is now making headlines around the world. Muslim friends of hers say that she spoke ill of Islam and Muhammed. The penalty for blasphemy could be as severe as death, though usually the death sentence is not needed to be carried out as the accused is more often assassinated by either zealots or those who want the reward for doing the deed. (Both money and a sure ticket to paradise are offered as rewards.) One of Pakistan’s leading clerics in addressing the issue of justice for a person deemed to be guilty of blasphemy, put it this way: “Any Muslim, if given the chance, would kill such a person.”[1]

Blasphemy laws are enforced in some Muslim states, not all of course, and these laws are being challenged, to some degree, today. There are efforts being made in Pakistan, for example, to do away with such laws, and the radicals are up in arms about it.

In Western societies hate speech,[2] so called, is a term heard more and more and as yet the rhetoric has not yet reached the level of the blasphemy laws. But will it?

Islamic blasphemy laws reveal a weakness and demonstrate a cultic mentality. To stifle contrary opinions is not a strong position but a defensive one, and one which borders on, at minimum, a sense of inferiority. The same can be said for the pro-gay lobby. Heterosexuals don’t operate from a place of guilt over their sexual identity. Their defense of traditional marriage is not rooted in anger, guilt, or shame, rather it is centered in what is obviously natural and normal not to mention biblical.

Progressive, modernist, or liberal Islamists have made some headway toward a more tolerant expression of Islam. These emphasize reason more strongly than revelation and are willing to subject the Quran to academic tools of textual criticism.  And most importantly, they will accept a separation between mosque and state. However, freedom of expression is firmly restricted in most Muslim states where the radical Islamists and traditionalists have gained dominance. It is this group of moderates who face the threat of violence and death and have often then immigrated to Western countries.

Pro-gay activists seem to be energized toward even more aggressive efforts to normalize homosexual behavior. The repeal of “Don’t’ ask, don’t tell” has been a long sought victory and is spurring the pro-gay lobby toward more demands, especially the legalizing of same sex marriage. Likely more demands will be made such as lowering the age of sexual consent, legalizing of plural marriage, and who knows what. The barriers confronting the achieving of such goals are largely localized within the broad Christian communities. The pressure is evident already as many historical Christian groups have adopted the gay agenda. But there are those who are faithful to the biblical witness that homosexual behavior is errant and immoral. What is to be done?

Hate speech has been defined as any communication that puts homosexual behavior in a negative light. The issue is whether such speech should be criminalized, which is seemingly a step too far at this point in history. If not criminal then maybe making so-called hate speck a breach of civil rights law and thus opening the door to tort lawsuits and other bureaucratic pressures brought to bear on non-profit organizations or other institutions who somehow benefit from government grants or loans.

Is it possible that the pro-gay lobby might be successful in using the legal system to stifle dissent and outlaw communications that do not portray homosexual behavior as normal? This has yet to be decided but it is a battle to be fought, and soon. And it will pit the conservative wing of the Christian community against those who accept homosexuality to be normal. The U.S. Constitution will be no help since the founding fathers did not imagine that protections against homosexuality and same sex marriage would need to be guaranteed. No, the law of the land is actually if favor of the pro-gay activist and so the legal battle will likely be lost for the Bible supporters.

Would that be enough for the pro-gay folks? Probably not. And here is where the blasphemy laws and hate speech join up. Strange bedfellows – radical Islamists and those who defend homosexual behavior – there is a good chance we will see this.


[1] The quote is from Muhammad Salim as reported in the Los  Angeles Times, December 27, 2010, section A, page 1.

[2] Hate Speech, in regard to homosexual issues, would include describing homosexual behavior as sinful, or, that there is something wrong with it as in it being immoral. The insinuation is made that let us surmise, a Christian preacher saying that homosexual behavior is sinful or immoral would be coming from hate toward the homosexual. All this would be based on an assumption of course. The opposite would more likely be the case however as in warning those whose actions would result in unhappy consequences. So far the pro-gay lobby has gotten away with applying the term hate speech broadly and without definition.