Small People make Small Gods and Small Prophets

I don’t think think is fair or useful to satirise someone who has been dead for 1400 years. Free speech, which is the cornerstone of freedom and dignity, allows people the right to do that, and I agree with that right, but I also gives me the freedom to assert that cartoonists who satirise dead prophets are being childish.

Muhammad isn’t walking the streets of Paris in 2014, or riding the Metro. He lived in the desert, 1400 years ago, and whatever you feel inspired him, his words belong to the context in which he lived. Some of them might still hold worth, some might not. I don’t know if he said anything about women driving camels which might apply to women driving cars, or about children building snowmen; and I’m not about to poke fun at him for what I think he might have said.

The people who deserve satire are those who put themselves forward as authorities now, and who chose to interpret those old texts in ways which justify murder and oppression. There are plenty of religious leaders across the worlds major religions who chose to advocate violence and repression – but there are also adherents of all the worlds religions who revere exactly the same sacred texts and argue for toleration, justice, equality and freedom, so being anything from a dumbass to a killer is not divinely ordained, it’s a choice.

That choice is not confined to Muslims – there are fundamentalists in every religion, who claim their faith requires them to treat various groups of people – gays, women, altar girls, low caste, non-believers – as second class citizens. If you think your religion requires you to treat one human being as less than another, then your interpretation is wrong – and, let me stress this, since others read the same texts and make a different choice, it is a choice, not a revelation.

Satirising dead prophets denies the agency of the living. It absolves those who use religion as a tool for hated from responsibility for their actions. If you satirise Muhammad, or Jesus, or Abraham, or whoever, for what their followers say and do; you are asserting that those long dead prophets left their followers no choice but to hate and kill. Don’t shift the responsibility off to someone who died centuries ago

I have reservations about satire – it can be cruel and hurtful, and I don’t think that hurting and humiliating people is a good way to change the world. I suspect a lot of people share my reservations about the value of satire – certainly, the print runs of satirical magazines all round the world are generally limited. But I really don’t see a point in satirising dead prophets – they aren’t the idiots talking about how snowmen are evil. If you want to make fun of someone who puts themselves up as an authority and makes stupid pronouncements, or preaches hatred, then attack them, and their choices, and not some guy who’s been dead for 1400/2000/4000/2500/whatever years.

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