European policymakers should reject demands for anti-blasphemy laws that would restrict freedom of speech. Such laws will do nothing to promote tolerance and only serve those who want to muzzle the rights of others to express opinions or beliefs with which they disagree. It is typically those most committed to tolerance, pluralism and the rights of religious minorities who are the first to suffer under such laws.
European leaders should ignore demands and threats made by reactionaries. Instead, they should listen to the Islamic leaders and organizations who have expressed their support for freedom of speech, despite their dismay over the film’s prejudices. They should focus on speech around the world that openly incites violence against members of other religions and ethnic minorities (and which is already banned in Europe). They should also champion freedom of religion – including the right not to believe – where none exists. These are the steps that will advance inter-faith tolerance and mutual understanding.
Network for a New European Generation
2nd October, 2012