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Meditation 545
On Insulting Religious Belief

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In a book published last year, Turkish archeologist Muazzez Ilmiye Cig claimed that head scarves were worn by temple prostitutes 5,000 years ago in Sumerian temples. The purpose of the scarf was to distinguish them from the priestesses.

That would seem to be a minor historical fact of relatively minor interest except to a few specialists. However, it led to Dr. Cig and her publisher being charged in Istanbul with insulting Islam.

How the practices of the Sumerian age can be considered an insult to a religion founded nearly four millennia later beggars belief. Yet an Islamic lawyer claimed that pointing out that prostitutes wore head scarfs in the past constituted an insult to those Muslim women who wear them today; as a result he succeeded in initiating a prosecution.[1]

Fortunately, the court saw just how ridiculous the accusation was, and the charge was dismissed.

Periodically we see proposals in the Western world to introduce laws to protect people from having their religious beliefs insulted. These are intended to be extensions to human rights protections. The above case illustrates precisely why such laws are a bad idea. Any fool can find an insult to religion if he goes out of his way to look for one.

A few years ago, Jerry Falwell said:

The Bible is the inerrant word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc

Falwell might possibly consider his religious beliefs insulted every time someone points out specific facts of geography, science, and history that are at odds with his bible. If he or any other religious leader feels insulted, he can deliver a sermon about it. He does not need the force of law to protect his beliefs. Nor should anyone have the force of law behind him to enforce his religion's views on geography, science, and history to be part of the public school curriculum.


  1. I would argue that if anyone insulted Muslim women, it was this thick-headed thin-skinned lawyer by making such an idiotic connection.