Not an architecture topic, to be sure, but a human topic. I am a firm believer in the freedom of expression. I also believe that a peaceful world is born, in large part, of respect for the differences between people. Without the ability to express differences, misunderstandings cannot be corrected. Prejudices cannot be addressed. As distasteful as it may be, it is important that we allow the misinformed people to write and speak and even attempt to teach things that we would consider wrong, or misleading, or even harmful. As Voltaire is often misquoted in saying: “I do not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.”
As such, I find it perplexing, and seriously problematic, that the government of Ireland has seen fit to pass a new law that seeks to criminalize free expression in those situations where the speech offends someone’s religious beliefs. I am talking about Ireland’s new Anti-Blasphemy law. While there is clearly good intent in this law, I cannot support it.
So what can we, the non citizens of Ireland who are offended by this law, do about it? Continue, undaunted, to speak, and read, and share ideas… even mistaken ones… so that we will all learn together. Were the Danish cartoons depicting muslims as terrorists an accurate depiction? no. But did the author and the newspaper have the right to publish them? yes. Did protesters have the right to picket, and governments have the right to react? yes. It is not wrong to speak. It is not wrong to react. It is wrong to kill, or imprison, or even fine someone, for speaking their ideas, and sharing them with others.
So, to my readers, I encourage you to take a moment and read statements from Mark Twain to Jesus that are now probably illegal in the beautiful and normally progressive nation of Ireland. These statements are published on a web site hosted in Ireland, by a group of atheists who are challenging the law, so don’t delay because this site may vanish if the Irish courts decide to actually enforce this unjust law.
Read 25 Blasphemous Quotations at: http://www.atheist.ie/2010/01/25-blasphemous-quotations/
And while you are at it, find and read as many banned books as you can.
You can find a list of banned books at: http://www.banned-books.com/bblist.html
(Note: I corrected the text above to reflect the fact that the cartoons were Danish, not Dutch. Apologies.)