"Blasphemy is the price we pay for not having a theocracy."
Daniel Greenfield of Sultan Knish blog has a great piece on the question of blasphemy that I just had to cross-post. It is in response to Muslim complaints of blasphemy in the Charlie Hebdo controversy.
The question of blasphemy is in the eyes of the beholder. Christians, Jews, and I guess every religion has experienced criticism of their beliefs, prophets, sacred figures, or mockery of same. As Christians, we have endured the Virgin Mary encased in elephant dung and Jesus on the cross submerged in urine. It hurts some. It enrages some. But it has never led to murder.
In addition, I think that Muslims should examine their own acts of blasphemy when it comes to other religions.
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.  All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.  The Beneficent, the Merciful.  Master of the Day of Judgment.  Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.  Keep us on the right path.  The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray."
-The Koran (sura one) MH Shakir, ed.
The above is the prayer that is recited multiple times by Muslims every day. It is important to note who are the ones "upon whom Thy wrath is brought down", and who are the ones who "go astray". According to a Hadith (the traditions and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), the former are Jews, and the latter are Christians. That is what Mohammad told a follower who asked him.
Is that not blasphemy against the religions of Jews and Christians?
Yet, Christians and Jews are not out on the warpath committing acts of violence and murder because of that sura. Nor should we be. I dare say most Christians and Jews are not even aware of this. Even if we know, we let it pass. In fact, if you are following the current Duke University controversy, where the university is allowing Muslims to conduct their Friday prayer in the campus' iconic chapel, they are allowing blasphemy to occur in their own chapel.
Religion is such a strong force in our cultures and daily lives that in a free society, it cannot be held above criticism or-even mockery. It may be offensive. But if it is against the law, we no longer live in a free society.
I have told this story before. I am a Protestant married to a Catholic. I have never converted, and when the priest pedophilia scandal was raging about 10 years ago in America, I made my own statement when a priest read an official proclamation that the Church could no longer afford to pay off every claimant of sexual abuse by priests. I walked out of the service in full view of the entire church. Can you imagine that several hundred years ago I could have been burned at the stake for that simple gesture?