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Sunday, 26 April 2009

Freedom of speech? In the West? Don't make me laugh!

Incursions into our freedom of speech and expression don’t happen all at once. They come in ones, sometimes in bits, building into a whole. They come at irregular intervals. Sometimes they’re overshadowed by other news that the media deem more important. Sometimes they're spun by shoddy, dishonest politicians of the NuLabour variety as something that is good for us.

But suddenly we realise that they're building up into a veritable Chieftain tank of oppression that surges through the streets of our culture, mowing down and crushing all that stands before it.

So I make no apologies for bringing your attention to an article in Australia’s Brisbane Times from a little while ago – 16 April – that brings a few of them together.

We often think we’re so, so free in the West to say what we like (with the usual caveats concerning defamation and shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre when there isn’t a wisp of smoke in sight).

But this article reminds us of such notorious infringements as the banning of the Dutch politician and filmmaker Geert Wilders from the UK and the police harassment of and threats against of a 15-year-old youth who dared to hold up a sign in London saying Scientology was a dangerous cult.

The article also cites Brigitte Bardot, who was

convicted last June of “inciting religious hatred” for a letter she wrote in 2006 to the then interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, saying that Muslims were ruining France. It was her fourth criminal citation for expressing intolerant views of Muslims and homosexuals.

If I, on a blog such as this, can say I have no problem with her criticising homosexuals, surely Muslims and those who seek to protect their overrated sensitivities can find it in themselves to accept criticism of religion.

Islam deserves to be criticised, and that’s why it gets it in the neck so often on blogs such as this one. Christianity, too, deserves to be criticised when it’s being particularly shitty, as it often is when wielded by Catholics and fundies and hate-filled Anglican bishops.

And Bardot’s conviction was for writing a letter to Sarkozy, not marching down the street baying for the blood of Muslims and gays and inciting people to do violence to them.

The article then talks of the UN resolution against “defaming” religion:

Emblematic of the assault is the effort to pass an international ban on religious defamation, supported by the United Nations General Assembly President, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. Brockmann is a suspended Roman Catholic priest who served as Nicaragua’s foreign minister in the 1980s under the Sandinista regime, the socialist government that had a penchant for crushing civil liberties.

The UN resolution is backed by countries such as Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive nations when it comes to the free exercise of religion. Blasphemers there are frequently executed. Most recently, the Government arrested the author Hamoud Bin Saleh simply for writing about his conversion to Christianity.

Islam again, of course. It’s a religion that still has its zits and its adolescent angst, and ought to grow up (or preferably just disappear).

And there’s more:

In May 2008, Dutch prosecutors arrested the cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot over a cartoon that caricatured a Christian fundamentalist and a Muslim fundamentalist as zombies who meet at an anti-gay rally and want to marry.

Last September, Italian prosecutors investigated the comedian Sabina Guzzanti for joking about Pope Benedict XVI: “In 20 years, [he] will be dead and will end up in hell, tormented by queer demons, and very active ones.”

Just what has got into the West and its authorities? Why is the Western world becoming so Orwellian?

It’s disturbing, and one day there will be bloodshed. Those who stamp on freedom of expression may just find themselves being denied one of their own freedoms – the freedom to live.

It’s not a scenario one wishes to see. But there’ll come a breaking point, and the first to suffer could well be those whom Draconian laws against “defaming” religion and against breaking the rules of political correctness seek to protect: religionists.

They will be the scapegoats, even if they’re innocent of any lawmaking. If Islam, for instance, is seen as the problem, then anyone with a dark skin will be targeted by the thugs of the far Right.

The fact that many who dislike the tenets of Islam are also racist will not help. Far too often even now, those who justifiably criticise Islam for its oppression of women, its treatment of homosexuals and the tendency of so many of its blind followers to moan and whinge and whine at every opportunity are accused of racism (usually by the likes of Islamophobiawatch, the risible, pathetic excuse for a blog – a blog that is too afraid to allow readers to leave comments).

But I digress – though only to draw your attention to one particularly obnoxious blog that seems to be campaigning against freedom of speech in the West.

Have a gander at the Brisbane Times article (which is reproduced from the Washington Post), written by Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

Under the headline In turning against free speech, Western nations turn against their citizens, it makes sobering reading.

1 comment:

Stuart Hartill said...

Spot on Andy.
You'll love this one too - this week I was effectively barred from the AGM of the local branch of a human rights group, because the Christians who run the building where it was held object to my asking questions about evangelical charities.
As there are no buildings not owned by church or government where local 'activist' groups can meet it's just one more tiny example of the closing down or sanitising of 'dissent' against anyone not prepared to toe a fluffy pseudo-progressive line laid down by civil servants or churchgoers.