"Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem, Moderator: "How come freedom of expression in the West is sacred only when it comes to degrading the Muslims? Are they allowed to talk about the Holocaust? Are they allowed to talk about Christianity? That is the question. Cinemas were burned down in the West when they talked about Christ."Wafa Sultan was great as always, and it's worth watching it. Unfortunately, her Islamist opponent, Tal'at Rmeih, is both ignorant and probably lying too because he can't possibly be that ignorant.
Wafa Sultan: "I live in America, and I never heard of a single cinema that was burned down here. Where do you get your information from? It sounds as if you are living in America, not me."
Moderator: "In France."
Wafa Sultan: "This is completely baseless. You should criticize your own beliefs just as Christians criticize their beliefs.""
MemriTV.org, Al-Jazeera on March 4, 2008., Arab-American Psychiatrist Wafa Sultan Clashes with Egyptian Islamist Tal'at Rmeih and Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem (Moderator) (Transcript)
I was however surprised to hear this talk from the moderator, Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem, about cinemas in the west having been burnt down because of criticism against Christ or Christianity. He didn't cite any sources so I'm not sure if he's lying, or if he's picked up a rumour or if there really was a fire by Christian fanatics. (Anyone?)
What I am certain of, however, is that criticizing Christ, or blasphemy against Christ, for that matter, is a stroll in the park in Western Europe. How do I know this? Well, because I've been listening to the Anti Christian music style Black Metal for about 20 years. Other music styles have been criticizing Christianity too(Punk, Hardcore, Goth, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal etc. etc.), but Black Metal has been the most explicit Anti Christian music style. Both visually (covers, logos etc.) and lyrically, the bands have been Anti Christian.
And in the early 90s, more extreme things happened: Church burnings. First and foremost in Norway(approximately 50 burnings), but it spread to other countries, so I'm not sure how many churches in the west were burnt thanks to this blasphemous music style. 200 would not be far from the truth.
At the time (92, 93) the amount of people who were into this music style were young, relatively few and extreme and impressionable teens were later a part of the picture.
Today the music style is much more popular and also less extreme. Well, the music itself is still often extreme but the people are more average. Everything has been calmed down. Plenty of the arsonists were imprisoned, churches were rebuilt, and the music style has been commercialized.
And that's just as well.
But my point is, to the European Christians' credit I heard of no attempts to get even. If the Christians had been Muslims, one might have expected attempts to blow up concert halls while Black Metal bands were playing, assassination of the band members or even killing fans displaying inverted crosses and pentagrams on their jackets.
What the Christians did (at least in Norway) was to write letters to the papers, guard their churches, and state emphatically that "Our faith just grows stronger".
Ironically, in 1997 youths in Egypt were arrested for listening to metal:
(From the Swedish fanzine "Pure Passion" #2.)
So in the vain hope that Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem is googling himself, I want to say: Yes, you can criticize Christ in Europe. The church burnings (and other things) were crimes, and were dealt with as crimes. The music style, however, as blasphemous as it was, has been given practically a free ride, even to the extent that many Christians not only can listen to it, but have even made their own Christian variety where they play music that sounds similar, but with Christian lyrics.
I don't think that Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem wishes that Middle Eastern youths try to do the same thing. But I also think that teenage "Black Metal terrorism" was fairly innocent compared to what's been going on in the Middle East between god-fearing men, women and children, for a while now.
It also has to be asked: What is it that separates BM covers (and many other Anti Christian blasphemies) from the infamous Muhammed cartoons? For the most of it, it was blasphemy for blasphemy's sake. This is definitely not true for all bands, because they're all different and some (like Darkthrone) has made very good lyrics, but it's true for many. Some just want to make a kind of horror music, others have a nihilistic attitude, others again were just keeping BM traditions alive while playing music they liked. And plenty of people have been able to compartmentalize between being extreme on stage but being law abiding citizens privately. Must of them have also grown up.
Anyway, the criticism against Christianity has, by and large, consisted of "Christianity is a stupid belief for weak and gullible people"(at a time in Western Europe when Christianity is no longer more than an annoyance) while the criticism, made by cartoonists and others against Islam is that "There is a connection between terror and Islam, and Muslims threaten our freedom of speech.". The blasphemy against Christ, then, serves only to mock a stupid belief. But the Muhammed cartoons had a more important message.
Black Metal was always a teenage riot that came for no apparent reason, while the Muhammed cartoons was a result from Islamic terrorism.
I have to mention that American Christianity is not at all as meek and mild as Western European Christianity, and you can say the same about a couple of Eastern European countries, especially Poland. And then of course, there's the Pope.
Also Western European Christianity is still irrational, and deserving of serious criticism, but I think we can agree that burning down churches was uncalled for and that probably some of the blasphemies were a tad childish.
Black Metal Nerd Alert: This has by no means meant to be a perfect report on the history of Black Metal, merely to show that criticizing Christ in the West is easier than criticizing Muhammed. For those who are interested in this subject, please read a book.