One of our cherished freedoms is free speech. The ability to speak our minds short of provable hate mongering or slander is one of the reasons Canada is such a great country. One can’t be charged with blasphemy either, defined as speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things. Unfortunately, it is not so in some countries. A recent example is Indonesia where a court has sentenced the minority Christian Governor of Jakarta to two years in prison. Apparently he told voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Qur’an prohibited Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim leader which led to an accusation and charge of blasphemy.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation and has been known for practising a moderate form of Islam and the West has viewed the country as a bulwark of tolerance and pluralism. However, there is a reported rise of conservatism and intolerance in Indonesia with vigilante groups attempting to prevent religious minorities from practising their faiths and hardline Islamic groups opposed to having a Christian leader capitalizing on the Governor’s trial. Freedom of expression is recognized under Article 19 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees fundamental freedom of religion, thought, belief, association, peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression, the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction. We must keep these freedoms uppermost in our minds in this age of political correctness and inclusiveness and remember that tolerance is a two-way street.