The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief’s report on violence committed “in the name of religion” could not have been more prescient. In the preceding months we have witnessed killings in Paris and Copenhagen and, just a couple of weeks ago, the hacking to death of an atheist on his visit to Bangladesh, all apparently in the name of religion.
These killings highlighted a perceived tension between freedom of belief and expression; indeed many have pushed a narrative of free expression as divisive and fundamental in its causal role when it comes to violence “in the name of religion”.
Not only is this narrative deeply insidious insofar as it seeks to redistribute blame from the perpetrators to those who seek to exercise their human right to free expression, but it is wrong: the right to free expression is essential in countering such violence.
It not only ensures debate, showing-up harmful and erroneous views, it echoes the right to freedom of belief in that it respects human beings by allowing them to air their views, but does not automatically ensure a respect for such views.
Grounded in an inherent trust of people as agents who can challenge each other and foster progress, free expression is central to our humanity and dignity; to stifle it, is to belittle and patronise.Van Der Ham talar om hädelselagstiftning och tar upp kampanjen End Blasphemy Laws.