Southeast Asia is a center of religious conflict and even a seemingly minor comment in a newspaper can spark a religious riot. This raises questions as to the concept of freedom of religion particularly when a writer dares to question the very foundation of religion. The Indian newspaper Statesman ran an article by columnist Johann Hari which blasted all religions for their superstitions and beliefs in god like forces in the world. Hari wrote; “All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do so. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a ‘Prophet’ who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.” It appears Mr. Hari is an equal opportunity doubter of all religions.
The Statesman has always been a newspaper which has propogated secular values and ideas so there is no need for it to bow to the pressure of religious forces which demand that its columns avoid discussing religion. The arrest of Statesman editors on ground they “hurt the religious feelings” of Muslims is abominable because it violates the right to disagree with religion as well as the right to believe. People who dislike religion have a right to hate and dislike and so do religious followers. Everyone has the right to believe any nonsense they desire or not believe in nonsense.