Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland were taken to court for refusing to decorate a cake with the words “Support Gay Marriage” because it went against their Christian beliefs. The judge ruled this was discriminatory and Ashers lost.
With this ‘progressive’ ruling passed, I’m off to Golders Green to get my “Support Hamas” bagels; then to the Muslim printers with my “Muhammad is a False Prophet” leaflet and not forgetting my “The Bible Calls Homosexual Practice Sin” T Shirt from that place with the rainbow flag outside.
I admit that last slogan could be catchier.
OK, so I’m not really in the market for bagels or T shirts, but the printing example is not that hypothetical. I do need leaflets for my Christian bookstall, and I really do think Muhammad is a false prophet. And my local printer is a Muslim! Nice guy called Asad actually: we’ve already had a good chat about the gospel.
Let’s say I take my (imaginary) leaflet to Asad for printing and he says ‘No thank you. I can’t print this. It goes against what I believe.’
What are my options?
Option 1. Accept politely and take my business elsewhere. Maybe have a friend round and offload. Move on.
Option 2. Use this opportunity to have a lively discussion about why he believes what he does. What qualifies Muhammad for prophet-hood when he didn’t know the name of YHWH? (Deuteronomy 18:20) Why couldn’t he discern between the voice of God and Satan in his revelations? (Sura 53:19-20, Ibn Ishaq pp165-166) Why did he think it OK to kill whole tribes and take their women for himself? (Sahih Bukhari 3:46: 717) Talk to him about why I believe that Jesus is way, way better. That kind of thing.
If he’s still not convinced by my arguments, thank him for his willingness to discuss uncomfortable subjects. Then take my business elsewhere.
Option 3. Give full rein to my feelings of personal affrontedness. Convince myself that his disagreement is discrimination because I’m a Christian, which Asad didn’t even realise because this is Option 3 not Option 2. Confuse everyone into thinking this is about discrimination, which it would be, if Asad had put a sign in his window saying “No Infidels”, which Asad, being a reasonable person, didn’t do. Convince the lawyers that because Asad has printed pictures of the tooth fairy on dentists’ leaflets, despite not believing in toothfairianism, printing the words “Muhammad is a false prophet” is not much of a stretch.
Dupe the entire legal system into thinking all views are equal, only some views are more equal than others. Win the case. Then land Asad a bill for £80k worth of legal costs. So not only have I legally coerced Asad into promoting a message he doesn’t believe in, I’ve probably put him out of business as well!
Is this not a glorious victory for the Lord Jesus? Er, no.
Has Option 3 changed Asad’s mind about Muhammad or Jesus? Not at all. Instead it makes him think Christianity is form of totalitarianism. Does the Equality Commission win? No, they just look like the thought police.
And what have I gained? Well, now the law’s on my side, I can get anyone to write any of my favourite slogans (they’re not really, people, I’m just making a point here): so what if they have tears in their eyes?
In the Ashers case, even gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell agrees with me.
In short, I am all about Option 2. We are surrounded by people who think differently: let’s talk honestly and openly about what these differences are.
Let’s not be afraid to criticise ideologies while being gracious to those who adhere to them.
Let’s have a debate and all go to dinner afterwards. And don’t forget – there are lots of countries in the world where just questioning Muhammad is a death sentence, let alone printing a leaflet about him. Either we treasure the freedom we to defend or criticise each others beliefs, or we get judicially-sponsored censorship.
And if you want to know what that’s like, just ask Asia Bibi.
Lizzie Schofield lives in London, works for Pfander Apologetics and a debates regularly with Muslims at Speakers’ Corner.
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