"One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith." The Guardian reports the comments were made during his travel from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. "There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity ... in freedom of expression there are limits."
Every faith may have its dignity, but each also is riddled with corruption and cruelties that accompany power over others. Dignity is not about killing shoppers in a Kosher grocery store, storming offices of a satirical newspaper and killing staff and the police who guard them, beheading journalists or imposing archaic rules on Muslims in Syria or Iraq. It's not about ignoring and hiding hundreds of reports of children abused by priests over decades.
The world's religions are in competition. Globalization ensures ongoing debate, and satire ensures that key questions are heard by many. Satire may be in poor taste or miss the mark, still the wide range of ideologies demonstrates that some religious beliefs must be wrong. More likely, any spiritual message interpreted by humans is flawed, as indicated by a timeline on the history of free speech, also provided by the Guardian:
1633: Galileo answers to the Inquisition for the claim that the sun does not revolve around the earth.
1859: Fundamentalists attack Charles Darwin for the theory of natural selection.
1989: The Iranian leader issues a fatwa against author Salman Rushdie over "blasphemous" content. the fatwa is withdrawn in 1998.
The inability to embrace free speech for one's opponents in the constant global exchange of ideas demonstrates a lack of confidence and faith, often leading to bullying and coercion. Progress requires free speech on all topics, especially religion. Any attempts at control invite defiance.
The 1857 portrait, Galileo Facing the Roman Inquisition, courtesy of Cristiano Banti and Wikimedia Commons.