Error has no rights?
From the media there has been an air of disbelief about it all: several media stories have questioned how can those calling for respect for their own religion thing it appropriate at the same time to insult Christians for example. So here is the thing secularists: many Muslims (as Catholics once did, albeit with a rather more moderate view of what the consequences of that position were!) believe that error has no rights!
Last week Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ offered one of those curious apologist works for the liberal-secularist perspective in Eureka Street, arguing that in a democracy religious freedom can be 'negotiated' on a case by case basis.
The problem with this is that it does actually require people to be willing to negotiate, and above all, willing to accept the rights of others. And to date, neither the secularists nor Islam has shown the faintest sign of being willing to do this.
Let me give a few examples. In Victoria, there is no conscience exemption in its child murder laws, which allow abortions virtually up to the time of birth in some circumstances, for health workers.
In countries where same sex marriage has been legalised, Christian organizations have been forced out of the foster care and adoption business because of the refusal to allow exemptions for them.
In Canada a religious minister is being forced out of the business of offering ceremonies for those having civil marriages 'on principle' by homosexual activists because she will not offer the same service to same sex couples.
'Good' Muslims helping?
The predictable response from the Muslim community has been a string of stories suggesting that the rioters represent a minority view, are unIslamic, and that the community are helping police, including to stop it from happening again.
It is certainly a positive that some (even if by no means all) Islamic organisations have condemned the violence and are apparently trying to help.
But the alarming part of the continuing reporting of this story is surely that many of those involved are 'familiar faces' to the intelligence community, as the ABC Reports:
"Meanwhile, police are also probing the faces of those involved in the weekend's violent protests and have found some alarming links to Islamic extremism.
Some protesters were wearing t-shirts with the words Sixth Pillar written on them, a reference to jihad.
Some believe it is a group that has been formed to promote the uprising, but NSW Police's Assistant Commissioner Nick Kaldas is not saying either way....
But some faces in the crowd do stand out to those with experience in intelligence and security, including Neil Fergus, the director of intelligence at the Sydney Olympics.
"Certainly a few individuals who are at the forefront of these terrible scenes are people who've been involved in peddling, propagating extremist views, supporting extremist causes," Mr Fergus said.
Some of those involved in the protest have connections to several terrorism-related cases in the past, including criminal proceedings brought in 2005 of a group of Muslim men accused of planning a terrorist attack.
Some go back even further.
"I recognised a couple of people from the footage who are people, back when we were preparing for the Sydney Olympics, a couple of these people were persons of interest then and had been involved - some of them - in some of the terrorist-related investigations which have taken place in Australia in the intervening 12 years."
And let's not lose sight of the fact that the views expressed by the groups involved in the riot (and there seem to have been more than one group involved) are not in fact, necessarily the views of a small minority.
Rather, the views on blasphemy they are forcibly bringing to our attention represent the law of the land in many Islamic countries, as the string of appalling cases like the jailing, for several weeks of an intellectually handicapped young girl (and now released on bail!) for allegedly burning a Koran in Pakistan illustrate.
And while moderate Muslims might genuinely object to the violence, they don't hesitate to call Islamophobia at the faintest hint of criticism or legitimate action on the part of the authorities.
Consider for example the spate of stories that erupted last week after the terror raids in Victoria, where peple claimed they were being spied on because they were Muslims, or were fleeing from all that and couldn't possibly be associated with terror here...
The riots were no accident. They were surely part of a deliberate campaign to intimidate anyone who might in any way criticise Islam, might object to the spread of sharia law and practices in our communities, and to inhibit the work of the authorities in policing extremism.
And secularists, many of whom similarly take the view that hurt feelings are enough to warrant action against Christians, are helping them through the introduction of religious vilification laws and the like.
About bigger things?
The other line of defence has been that the rioters are in fact reacting to a string of bigger events, most especially the activities of the evil Empire, viz America.
That would be a whole lot more convincing if there hadn't been a string of such 'over-reactions' to cases of alleged blasphemy going back more than twenty years to Salman Rushdie.
Mind you, perhaps it is not entirely a coincidence that US embassies around the world, including in Jakarta, are under attack, just as a flotilla of forces gathers in the Strait of Hormuz in the face of the threat of war between Israel and Iran.
Oh and by the way, Iran has upped the bounty on Salman Rushdie again too.