Special To The Washington Post
From the fatwa on author Salman Rushdie to the attack on the offices of French weekly Charlie Hebdo, the phenomenon of anti-blasphemy actions remains prominent in the Muslim world.
At first glance, the problem appears to be quite simple. For many years, there has been much talk about the conflicts between blasphemy and free speech within Islam. Some go further and argue about the “intrinsic hostility between two civilizations: Islam and Europe,” as the philosopher Talal Asad puts it.
It is quite easy to say that Islam suffers from a lack of tolerance and that Muslims are anti-freedom, anti-democracy, pro-despotism and pro-fanaticism. However, this generalization ignores not only the number of branches of Islam and diversity of views among Muslims, but also the sociopolitical foundation of the problem.
Blasphemy in the history of Islam
Assad highlighted the big difference between the notion of talking against the religion in Christianity and Islam. It is difficult to find a specific idea rooted in the Christian historical background of blasphemy in the history of Islam. However, there are a variety of equivalents that each overlaps a part of blasphemy.