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“The answer to the problems of free speech is always more free speech”

Oh look, the Muslims-extremists are vociferously offended, again…

Is the world going mad?  Johann Hari, the British human-rights campaigner and columnist, wrote a passionate defence of enlightenment principles in an opinion-piece for the UK Independent which was subsequently re-printed by the liberal Indian-daily, the Statesman.  The article was titled “Why should I respect oppressive religions?”  As usual with Hari’s writing, it pulled no punches and was both accurate and thought-provoking, and alarming  for those of us that respect universal human-rights and freedom of speech.

The Statesman’s editor Ravindra Kumar and publisher Anand Sinha were detained in Calcutta after complaints and a week of rioting.  The Statesman wrote the following in defence of publishing the article.

The Statesman had reprinted Hari’s article because “it mourned the marginalisation of the middle, liberal path in modern society”. It added: “The Statesman has always upheld secular values and has a record of providing space to all viewpoints, even contentious ones. If we were unable to fulfil this role, we would rather cease publication with honour than compromise our basic values.

 Just how far are the ideals of the enlightenment being eroded by militant religion?  Perceived offence, and our inability to fight for what we believe in, is being used against us to become the modus operandi of the ignorant and the reactionary.  We should be outraged by the dissemination of our freedom of expression.   As Hari wrote.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated 60 years ago that “a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief is the highest aspiration of the common people”. It was a Magna Carta for mankind – and loathed by every human rights abuser on earth. Today, the Chinese dictatorship calls it “Western”, Robert Mugabe calls it “colonialist”, and Dick Cheney calls it “outdated”. The countries of the world have chronically failed to meet it – but the document has been held up by the United Nations as the ultimate standard against which to check ourselves. Until now.

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants, led by Saudi Arabia, demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to “respect” the “unique sensitivities” of the religious, they decided – so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It insisted that you can only speak within “the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community”.

In other words, you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.


Clearly they are succeeding – we are inexorably giving up our freedoms in the name of unwarranted respect for stone-age myths and intolerance and we should all be disgusted and angry.  It seems clear to me that respect for Muslims only applies to the oppressors, respect will certainly not be afforded a female Muslim, or a gay Muslim, or a Muslim who has the temerity to disagree.  Hari has defended his position and I salute and respect the man for taking a stand for us all.


4 Responses

  1. When asked if I respect their beliefs, the religious should always expect a resounding ‘No!’. Why should I? What is there about their particular set of myths that should garner my respect? I see nothing. In my world respect is earned, not imputed. There is nothing that I can see about religion that has earned my respect.

    Do I respect the rights of others to believe poppycock? Of course, as long as, and as far as, they respect my rights.

    At a recent anti-gay rights rally a group of smiling happy teen aged girls were holding signs that were promoting hatred. To my rejection of that they all cried out together “That’s okay, because we LOVE you!”. I turned and looked at the sea of faces (at least 300 mis-guided fundies) and said “Well. I don’t love you. I don’t love your god. I think you’re the lot of you ASSHOLES.”

    I don’t see a need to love the willfully ignorant or respect the un-respectable.

  2. As ever, myself and Pat Condell share the same viewpoint. It is time to start pushing back.

  3. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the more we give to religious extremists the more they will ask for.

    Time to start pushing back.

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