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Why the Big Fuss About Religious Insults?

If we will not shed blood in the name of our faith, then why does our government censor offensive material because it fears violence?

Written by johnleemk on 7:28:35 pm Sep 4, 2007.

I am not an atheist; I am a Christian. However, I have never believed in imposing my religious beliefs on others; they may be dearer to me than other views I hold, but nothing should ever be enough to suppress the free will God has granted mankind.

It was thus most perplexing to me when the government suspended Makkal Osai for one month. Why? For its publication of this image, which apparently touched on "sensitive" issues:

Jesus holding a cigarette and beer can

The precise facts of the case, which has since quietly dropped of the public consciousness' radar, need not be recapitulated in detail.

The Tamil daily's insistence it was an accident, an image too quickly grabbed from Google to go with a religious piece, is a matter of public record. The insistence of some Christian leaders and the initial demand of a prominent interfaith organisation that the daily be punished for this is also publicly known.

The question is, why? Did Jesus not tell us to turn the other cheek? Why does this simple picture so deeply offend us to the point that we must call for such punitive action?

Perhaps I am not sufficiently offended because I am not Catholic (and actually disagree with a number of their doctrines), but even if, say, they flushed a Bible down the toilet, I would not be offended to this degree.

Am I offended that my God has been insulted? Of course. But am I so offended that I must impose my views on others? Nothing could compel me to insult the intelligence God has given to man. I have enough faith in God's creations to know that people will see a low-brow insult for what it is, assuming it is an insult.

Why should Makkal Osai have been banned? What good does it do? The authorities ostensibly banned it because, as Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said, "if the Christians get to know about it, it will create problems".

Later, he added that "I am sure the Christians, as we Muslims, cannot accept this," calling to mind the Jyllands Posten controversy, when offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were published, instigating violence amongst Muslims worldwide.

As a Christian, I find it offending and insulting that people would believe my faith is one which calls for us to meet a simple cartoon with bloodshed. But more depressingly, that belief is to an extent, founded — people have murdered, raped and pillaged in the name of Christianity before.

But no real Christian would murder or cause violence over a simple picture — not when Jesus himself told us to turn the other cheek when slapped, so our nemesis could have a second go.

Why should our government have to censor supposedly offensive images fifty years after we supposedly became an independent nation? Are we truly independent if some information is too "sensitive" for us to know? Who is truly independent, the government, or the people?

As a Christian, it is offensive to me that there are people who would shed blood in my faith's name. I am sure all Muslims share the same opinion about their faith; I am sure all the major faiths would be offended at people who murder and do ill to others in the name of their God(s).

So why do we need our government to censor the Jyllands Posten and Makkal Osai images? What message does this send, Muslims and Christians? That we will murder and injure others if we are offended? Is this really the message we want to send? Is this what we really would do?