Blasphemy Laws Incite Violence

Here’s a transcript of this short exchange between Flemming Rose and Steve Simpson on how blasphemy laws encourage violence and terrorism:

Flemming Rose: But it turns out that there is a very close correlation between blasphemy laws and terrorism, and lack of freedom of expression. If you look at Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria, you have seen an escalation in the application of blasphemy laws by the governments and escalation in terrorist violence by groups like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and a leading terrorist group — a Muslim terrorist group — in Indonesia. So I would make the argument that blasphemy laws, in fact, incite violence, because the government basically tells society that it’s okay to use violence against blasphemers because this is a very, very serious crime. In Pakistan, you have the death penalty for blasphemy, which means that you will get the same sentence if you publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed or publish a novel like The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, or kill 500 people in a terrorist attack. It’s a similar criminal offense. And that’s why people take the law into their own hands and they kill blasphemers in prisons and in villages and so on and so forth.

Steve Simpson: I think that makes sense that you would see that correlation. I mean, I haven’t studied it, but, you know, because what blasphemy laws do, if you put them on the books, it just emboldens the irrational, violent people who want to shut down thought — and ultimately they want to enslave people. Anytime you appease evil, you get more of it.

The panelists are Steve Simpson, director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute and editor of Defending Free Speech; Flemming Rose, author of Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech; and, Dave Rubin, creator and host of The Rubin Report. The event, “Free Speech Under Attack,” took place at Objectivist Summer Conference 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.