Time to retire Medieval thinking

People come to East York from all around the world. The result is a rainbow of backgrounds and interests in this community. Fortunately, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cites fundamental rights applying to us all. The right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression — including freedom of the press — are liberties that shape our lives. Those freedoms parallel constitutions across the western world, including France.
On Jan. 7, 12 journalists were killed in a terrorist attack against the Parisian satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The gunmen murdered these people for the supposed sake of their religion — replying with bloody vengeance because of cartoons depicting their Islamic prophet.
Whatever our feelings about the appropriateness of the cartoons depicting Muhammad, any reasonable person has to come down on the side of the rights of the journalists and the broader civilization that journalists speak to.
It may almost seem like a technicality now, but this massacre was a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that France and Canada and the other members of the United Nations are supposed to adhere to. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is enshrined there, especially in regards to journalism.
Every day, people wake up in the morning and make choices. Those choices reflect who we are, as free citizens. We value those choices, they define us, they allow us to express ourselves.
The fact that French journalists were killed because of their choices in the name of religion is wrong almost beyond comprehension.
Of course, everyone also has a right to their religion. That too is enshrined. But religion should never be used to commit murder; nor should it be allowed to so violently trump other human rights.
True, in the past, religion has been regularly employed in this way… up to and including waging wars in religion’s name. Mary Tudor, Queen of England, commanded that Protestants burn at the stake for their faith. But it’s no longer 1516. And yet religion is still used as a battle cry.
It’s long past time that we consigned that thinking to history.

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By: Stephanie Backus
Posted: Jan 26 2015 2:21 pm
Filed under: Opinion