Blasphemy Goes Both Ways

mishal z
mishal z
Apr 25, 2017 · 2 min read

Blasphemy goes both ways

“You can’t insult what I hold sacred.” That’s the logic people use when they accuse others of being blasphemous, and according to its definition, that’s what “blasphemy” is. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines blasphemy as “irreverence toward something considered sacred”. But what if your “sacred” and my “sacred” are different?

The concept of what is “sacred” is highly variable. People all over the world believe in a million different things. Even within the world’s major religions, sects and beliefs vary, sometimes even in contradiction to each other. Some hold country or patriotism as their above all “sacred”. Some consider family, money, or knowledge as their above all “sacred”. If you tell a scientist that the world is flat, he will likely take that as blasphemy. If you tell a patriot his country is unworthy, he will consider that to be blasphemy.

The concept of what is considered blasphemous really boils down to personal opinion. Voltaire, infamous for his blasphemous writings, was a French thinker in the 1700’s, who often challenged major religious institutions, not out of spite or hate, but out of the desire for freedom of speech. He famously said:

“Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours.” — Voltaire

Personal opinion, which differs from person to person, is what drives the concept of what is “sacred”, and insulting someone’s “sacred” will spawn anger, no doubt.

America is one of the greatest countries on Earth. Americans are allowed freedom of speech, and the safety to harbor whatever opinions they may have, whether they insult someone’s “sacred” or not.

I’m a Muslim and an American. My “sacred” is my faith and my country. I hate it when people antagonize my religion, and I hate it when people antagonize my country. But as an American, I know that we all are entitled to our opinions, and have the right to voice those opinions. So when I hear a Muslim Cleric say “death to America’, or hear a redneck say “death to Islam”, I’m not offended. It’s ugly yes, but am I offended personally, no. I will defend the rights of both of those people, who were blasphemous to my “sacred”.

Blasphemy goes both ways, someone may insult your “sacred”, and you may just as likely insult theirs. I would love to say that we should all be kinder and more accepting of one another, but that sounds like the answer of a naïve, idealistic pageant contestant. If we can’t learn to accept each other’s differences, then at least we can try to accept each other based on our united desire to have an opinion. We all have opinions. We all hold something sacred. We’re all the same.

“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Voltairean quote.

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mishal z

Written by

mishal z

She is a writer based on Long Island, who writes about politics, culture, and TV.