“We want to laugh at the extremists – every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept,” Laurent Léger, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo–a satirical magazine where an extremist attack killed 12 people on Wednesday—told BFM-TV in 2012. Some weeks ago, a violent extremist attack also killed three people in Sydney. In 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 people in a terrorist attack in Norway. During the late 20th century, the conflict between Catholics and Protestants also claimed the lives of thousands in Northern Ireland. The list of conflicts goes on.
Religious extremism is one of the greatest challenges facing society in the 21st century. Many world conflicts are closely linked to restrictions on religious freedoms. These horrific attacks will continue until there is an understanding of how important it is for people to be free to believe and practice their religion.
Religious freedom is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have the right to change religion or belief. We have the right to pray in private or public. We have the right to teach about our religion, but we can only keep these rights if we do not give in to religious discrimination, such as Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism or even discrimination against atheists.
On the #IndexDrawtheLine Twitter feed, some readers emphasised the importance of institutions in countering religious extremism. @KayRobinson thinks that institutions should adopt a secular law but “hold an authentic respect for religious values.” Organisations, such as governments, have to effectively counter extremism but society also has a responsibility. We have to support the values of religious freedom, and to ensure people expressing a range of differing views and values are not silenced.