How unfortunate. For anyone who is interested in what caning looks like, you’ll find plenty of examples on YouTube. I would, however, advise against it unless you are cursed with the same morbid (and unfortunate) curiosity about the darker sides of human nature, and its evolutionary/cultural causes, that I seem to posses.
A Danish man finds himself in hot water for blasphemy. He is being prosecuted (persecuted?) under an old Danish blasphemy law that was still on the books, but had not been used to prosecute (persecute) someone since 1946.
Many Danes support the law, though, because they see it as a compromise between two values: freedom of speech and multiculturalism. Both they hold dear. But unfortunately, keeping the peace, at least to the Danes, takes precedence over freedom of speech.
The defendant’s lawyer makes a valid point, ““The Quran contains passages on how Mohammed’s followers must kill the infidel, i.e. the Danes,” he said. “Therefore, it’s an act of self-defense to burn a book that in such a way incites war and violence.””
Many apologists will argue that such passages cannot be interpreted except through careful, expert exegesis, because they can otherwise be so easily taken out of context by the layman. For example, Quran 61:9 says, “He it is who has sent His Messenger (Mohammed) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) to make it victorious over all religions even though the infidels may resist.” This could obviously be interpreted to mean, “Islam is a religion of peace”, or it could also be interpreted to mean, “Islam is a religion that may often manifest in violence.” It’s all open to interpretation (resist could mean, “consent” or “comply”), so we’d be lost without the experts.
In like fashion, the burning of a holy book could be interpreted to mean “open hostility towards a people”, or it could also be interpreted as a genuine embrace of freedom over the asphyxiating proscriptions of group dogma. Who knows?
Another day, another article about why we can’t assign some blame for negative human behavior to religious teachings that advocate for humans to behave negatively.
Certainly, with enough hand waving and motivated reasoning (along with motivated political science) one can remove from culpability any variable they’d like. While yes, human behavior is complex and functions within a complex system with many inputs and outputs, to say that the teachings of a religious text cannot be used to help explain an aspect of human behavior because “It’s only by looking beyond the texts that we can hope to understand why certain interpretations of them have gained currency among a tiny minority” is itself as shortsighted and ludicrous as saying that the texts are the only explanation for human behavior.
A better explanation is that certain behaviors are more likely to manifest as a result of certain religious teachings more than others. So if a text says “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out… And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone.” Quran (2:191-193) People are more likely to manifest behavior that is in accordance with modern day violent jihad than if the text said more plainly, “never harm the unbelievers except in self defense, and even then only inflict the minimum harm necessary.” More likely doesn’t mean definitely, however. So said behaviors can also lie dormant for periods of time, even though they are within the toolkit of probable behavioral expressions of certain belief systems.
The idea that religion plays a role in human behavior isn’t a simple minded one, it’s a basic fact. The author of this piece argues instead that human behavior is complicated, and that in order to understand it we must take into account the “full complexities of the world” by considering how “politics – including military and non-military intervention by foreign powers – interacts with religion.” But then he does so by arguing that we must then remove religion from culpability, in the very same piece where he himself admits “Aspects of Islamic teaching do indeed justify some kinds of violence. Islam isn’t a pacifist religion.” In other words, the author proves himself unable to cope with the “full complexities of the world” even as he advocates for everyone else to do so.