Saturday, January 30, 2010

More Speech, More Freedom

Our Austrian correspondent AMT, moved by such recent events as the legal actions against Geert Wilders and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, has written an essay about the parlous state of free speech in Europe.


“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Voltaire

by AMT


As many of us are aware — some more than others — freedom of speech has been changing. Those of us who believe in and fight to protect the concept of democracy can clearly recognize the gradual erosion of this noble and important freedom. There is growing concern that freedom of speech and its provisions in the law are being used more and more to do stifle opinions, and — even more worrying — truths.

Wikipedia informs us that

Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak without censorship and/or limitation. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes used to indicate not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on “hate speech.”

Yes, the dreaded hate speech. The “killer phrase” of political correctness, which is threatening the physical freedom of freedom lovers and defenders like Geert Wilders, Ezra Levant, and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. All three use their right to free speech to speak about Islam. All three have been summoned — and Geert Wilders even prosecuted — by the state.

The main problem with the charge of hate speech is that it includes nearly everything under the sun:

Hate speech is speech perceived to disparage a person or group of people based on their social or ethnic group, such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance (height, weight, skin color, etc.), mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability. The term covers written as well as oral communication and some forms of behaviors in a public setting.

Now take this concept in conjunction with what the elites of the European Union impose on their population:

Council Framework Decision 2008/913/Jha
of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law
Has Adopted This Framework Decision:
  Article 1
  Offences concerning racism and xenophobia
  1. Each Member State shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable:
    (a) publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin;
The careful reader and defender of democracy immediately asks: What is the definition of racism? What is the definition of xenophobia? None is given. However, one concept is clearly defined: Islam is considered not only a religion, but also a race, which transforms any criticism of Islam into racism, the worst charge of all.

What is more, racism and xenophobia can also be applied to “a group of people” who define themselves as members of a religion. One must thus come to the conclusion that statements criticizing the teachings of a religion can be considered racist and xenophobic.

Already back in 2005, the Council of Europe pleaded insanity by equating Islamophobia with anti-Semitism. Ali Sina sums it up:
- - - - - - - - -
The Council has reached the following decisions regarding the issue: Condemnation of any kind of intolerance and discrimination based on gender, race and religious beliefs in particular, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, the fight against these within the framework of the Council of Europe and the use of effective mechanisms and rules to combat these problems.

Thus, anti-Islamism as well as anti-Semitism will be dealt with within the framework of legal proceedings. The Council reports will include anti-Islamist movements. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) will closely monitor these movements. The Commission will record in which country anti-Islamism increases or how it is reflected.”

This is the beginning of the fall of Europe. Anti-Islamism is not the same as anti-Semitism. Islam is a belief system, Semites are a race. We can’t equate a race to a doctrine. Racism is sheer evil. Apart from the fact that no race is better or worse than other races, unless one is Michael Jackson, one can’t change his race. Instigating hate against a race is instigating hate against mankind. Doctrines that instigate racial hate must be condemned and those who engage in racial slurs must be brought to justice.

Prohibiting criticism of Islam is like prohibiting criticism of Judaism or Christianity. No one in his right mind would suggest criticism of these religions should be banned. The very fact that these religions have reformed and have adapted to modern times is because they were criticized. Only during the inquisition, criticism of Christianity was against the law. Are we trying to introduce Islamic inquisition to appease Muslims? Are we trying to institute the blasphemy law that is practiced in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran to make Muslims happy? This is insane!

One wonders who exactly is fomenting extremism. Consider Turkish prime minister Erdogan who is on the record reacting to the Swiss minaret ban:

“[This is a] sign of an increasing racist and fascist stance in Europe,” Turkish television Channel 7 reported on Tuesday. Islamophobia was a “crime against humanity,” just like anti-Semitism.

Turkish president Abdullah Gül said the vote was a “disgrace” for the people of Switzerland and showed how far Islamophobia had advanced in the Western world.

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If a “citizen” of the EU may timidly make a suggestion to those in charge — whoever that might be — it would be the following:

1. Prosecute racism by Muslims against non-Muslims;
2. Define freedom of religion as an individual right and not a collective one.

Islam considers freedom of religion as a collective right of the Muslim community to live according to Islamic rules, even if these rules contradict secular laws. Non-Muslims consider it an individual right to live according to their beliefs within the private sphere, but in accordance with secular laws.

In light of the EU Framework Decision, the Austrian government is in the process of introducing a new law, which according to Andreas Unterberger, “will mimic China’s approach to freedom of speech.”

“Whoever publicly incites to hate against a group [detailed in a long list], shall be punished with a maximum of two years of imprisonment.” The same is valid for those who “insult or disparage” a group. This is what it says in a new law which is about to be passed without any public outcry.

All this in the name of “combating terror”. Unterberger adds,

Do not misunderstand me: I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who hate or insult. But terms that are not precisely defined may be used extensively by the judiciary to restrict freedom of speech. These terms [hate and insulting] belong to good upbringing, to religious education, but not in the claws of a government which, if need be, may use brutal force. […] In the future, one just has to say or write, with a slightly critical undertone, that nationals of X are involved in a significantly higher degree in the drug trade or that national of Y dominate the burglary “business”, or that members of sexual orientation Z are prone to certain transmittable diseases. […] And right away one is confronted with criminal proceedings.

[…]

It is unbelievable that no one in this country rises to the defense of freedom of expression protesting against this attack on the most important principle of the Enlightenment, namely freedom of opinion.

Similarly, but not surprisingly, the lack of interest in these measures appears generally manifested in American and European public opinion. Writes Paul Belien:

“… [This] is apparent with regard to the semi-legal initiatives taken at the level of the United Nations. On October 2nd, the UN Human Rights Council approved a free speech resolution, co-sponsored by the US and Egypt, which criticizes “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” […] Though the resolution has no immediate effect in law, it provides Muslim extremists with moral ammunition the next time they feel that central tenets of Islam are being treated disrespectfully through the creation of what they perceive to be an ‘offensive environment.’“

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Lesson Plans for Teaching the First Amendment tells us the following:

In the “marketplace of ideas,” we may choose which views to support and which ones to reject. When all ideas are allowed to flourish, we — as individuals — may decide what ideas and concepts to question, embrace or reject.

The antidote to distasteful or hateful speech is not censorship, but more speech.

Geert Wilders will not stop criticizing Islam, neither will Sabaditsch-Wolff or others. One may assume there will be more speech, rather than less.

6 comments:

Bad Catholic said...

Of course, since Christianity is also a religion, theoretically, any person making "hate speech" against Christians should also be punished. I'll bet that the definition of "hate speech" will be much more liberal for Islamophobia than for Christianphobia.

rebelliousvanilla said...

How are all races the same? The average IQ of an European is 100, while the one of a Bantu is 70ish. Anyway, this is beyond the point. Why is discrimination bad? It's not the same as racism. I discriminate against other people's children when I don't consider them my own and I discriminate against non-family people by not letting them move in with me. And I definitely discriminate against guys shorter than me in the dating thing. Racism implies prejudice(stating facts isn't racism) and a belief of hatred towards other race groups. That's what racism is, in the non-made up sense.

To be honest, I started to not mind Islam as much as I mind liberals/leftists who are all over this crap. It's like you're in a war and someone of your own betrays you. I'd have far more contempt for the traitor than the enemy.

And last time I checked, Islam mandates that apostates should be killed. How is that going along with freedom of religion? I can even continue with a long list of other ways Islam violates the law, including this one. Sometimes, I wonder if Europe or Europeans are worth saving...

4Symbols said...

"The main problem with the charge of hate speech is that it includes nearly everything under the sun"

Police, prosecutors and courts do use the under the sun definition, they refuse to define the charge of racism because they do not have one, these are in fact nothing more than thought crimes.

heroyalwhyness said...

rebelliousvanilla said...Why is discrimination bad?

Have you watched

Evan Sayet's “Regurgitating the Apple: How Modern Liberals “Think”"?

Here is a brief snippet from Sayet's enormously entertaining lecture which captures the essence of this issue :

What happens is, they are indoctrinated into what I call a “cult of indiscriminateness.” The way the elite does this is by teaching our children, start­ing with the very young, that rational and moral thought is an act of bigotry; that no matter how sin­cerely you may seek to gather the facts, no matter how earnestly you may look at the evidence, no matter how disciplined you may try to be in your reasoning, your conclusion is going to be so tainted by your personal bigotries, by your upbringing, by your religion, by the color of your skin, by the nation of your great-great-great-great-great grandfa­ther’s birth; that no matter what your conclusion, it is useless. It is nothing other than the reflection of your bigotries, and the only way to eliminate bigot­ry is to eliminate rational thought. There’s a brilliant book out there called The Clos­ing of the American Mind by Professor Allan Bloom. Professor Bloom was trying to figure out in the 1980s why his students were suddenly so stupid, and what he came to was the realization, the recog­nition, that they’d been raised to believe that indis­criminateness is a moral imperative because its opposite is the evil of having discriminated. I para­phrase this in my own works: “In order to eliminate discrimination, the Modern Liberal has opted to become utterly indiscriminate.”

ANTI-ISLAMIST said...

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Voltair never said those words! They were put in his mouth 128 years after his death by a biographer of his: Evelyn Beatrice Hall. Poor Voltair was neighter a premature socialistic idol of the French Revolution - actually he is supposed to have been an affluent - compare Bill Gates - right-wing gentleman with deep, special and delicate interests in the mucous membranes of the opposite sex.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Evelyn Beatrice Hall, (1868 - 19??), who wrote under the pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre, was an English writer best known for her biography of Voltaire with the title "The Friends of Voltaire", which she completed in 1906. Hall wrote the phrase: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," (which is often misattributed to Voltaire), as an illustration of Voltaire's beliefs, in her biography on him. Hall's quote is often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech.

More of interest here.

4Symbols said...

Strange that academa has allowed such a misrepresentation without correction.

For quote first read hearsay.