Wednesday, September 17, 2008

F*eedom of Speech

Our Danish correspondent Kepiblanc has translated an op-ed by Mikael Jalving from yesterday’s 180Grader. He included a little bit of background information with his translation:

The Durban-2 Conference is a hot matter right now in Denmark.

Two political parties (the Socialist People’s Party and the Danish People’s Party) advocate a total boycott, and the ruling ‘Liberal Party’ is divided on the matter. The government seems to think that sending our minister of foreign affairs to socialize with these scumbags might influence them somehow — as if anybody cared what little Denmark does or doesn’t say. What matters here is the EU, and we know what that means, don’t we…

And now his translation of the opinion piece in 180Grader:

F*eedom of Speech

Today’s column: Mikael Jalving on the virtues of free speech now under transformation to vice

Warning: The UNHRC is right now preparing restrictions to the rights of free thinking, belief, and speech. From now on it will be considered a crime against human rights to criticize religion, ideas, and cultures.

— — —

What’s the most beautiful thing about living in a relatively free society?

Is it the material goods, the abundance of good food, the bloated bookshops, social life, free debate, private life, cafés, equality before the law, or the occasional feeling that one is responsible for ones own life?

I find it hard to choose among those and several other goods, be they material or intellectual — ideas and phenomena that most of us take for granted in our daily life — so my answer is that I will not dispense with any of the above.

The heart of the matter is — and here it gets a bit complicated — that the life I and many others want to live in peace is founded on everybody’s right to think, believe, and talk without censorship and fear of reprisals, other than those mandated by law, such as for libel and slander.

To think, believe, and speak freely is the very foundation. The earth beneath our feet. Without it we can not create growth — and thereby the material goods most of us strive for and consume. It is simply those rights that guarantee our very life, intellectually and physically.

Without those rights democracy wouldn’t be democracy but autocracy, and bookshops wouldn’t be bookshops but departments of propaganda and lies. Social life would decay; it would be like Hitler’s Germany with Hitler-societies everywhere, and private life would suddenly become public because everybody is expected to agree on everything, believe in the same gods, myths, or phantasies, and prove it to everyone else. And equality before the law? The law, dictated by the most faithful, would consider its most natural task to be the eradication of the political equality between people.
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Take away one single letter from the words ‘freedom of speech’ and you’ll introduce thought crime. Freedom of speech isn’t debatable. Either it’s there or it isn’t. Reducing ‘freedom of speech’ to ‘f*eedom of speech’ doesn’t compute.

This happens to be the case with the UN’s Council of Human Rights. Here, a faction led by Libya and Iran and inspired by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is in full swing, undermining the UN’s Human Rights, including freedom of thought, faith, and speech.

They do it by means of preparing a conference in Geneva next April, a conference intended to be a follow-up on an earlier UN conference against racism in south Africa. The final goal is a unified UN declaration defining criticism of religion as racism.

This outcome is not only madness, it undermines universal human rights. Criticizing religion isn’t racism but just religious criticism, a different matter entirely.

The rights to criticize religion and speak freely are the very foundation of human rights. These virtues are being transformed into vices, and declarations are made against them — and legislation is on its way. It may sound academic. It is not. They mean it seriously. Dead serious, because a UN-endorsed restriction on free speech is a major symbolic victory for those who want to abandon freedom wherever it is or displays its human face.

Mikael Jalving has taken the initiative to mount a Danish action in defense of human rights in the UN. A manifesto and a homepage will be published later this week.

Hat tip: TB.


Vicktorya said...

circulate this to our NGO friends. I imagine the people have a voice in UN decisions ... yes?

Henrik R Clausen said...

The only kind of 'influence' we have here is that of threatening to walk out, or actually doing so.

The threat would (ideally) trigger action to make the conference work for human rights, not against them. Purely hypothetical, of course, given the evil regimes running the show.

Since honest improval is unlikely, the best thing to do is for all democratic states to walk out, thus delegitimizing the conference (and embarrasing the hosts - a delicate matter).

Should we be unable to agree in doing so, at least individual states, large (Canada) or small (like Denmark) should walk out, publicly declare the conference beyond hope, and let the others embarrass themselves by attending.

Vicktorya said...
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Vicktorya said...

Good Idea on a walkout. Looks like Denmark is our best bet. Could any other countries make that kind of stand, by walking?

In context of this:

"The new commissioner – South African jurist Navanethem Pillay, who began her four-year term on Sept. 1 – was asked in an earlier resolution to compile a study on existing relevant legislation and submit it to this month’s council session.

Pillay concluded the document by saying clarity was needed over where the line should be drawn between freedom of expression and incitement to religious hatred."

Actually everyone, we shouldn't worry -- this line can never be crossed, because the UN has not yet been able to define 'terrorism', so I doubt they could tackle a fine line between freedom and hatred.


Henrik R Clausen said...

Vicktorya, as far as I know, Canada walked out already.

Naser Khader is also upset about Durban II - and takes the opportunity to say much more:

World War 3 is here.

It is not the war on terror I am referring to, all though that war has the qualifications to be called a World War with terror acts crossing boarders around the world.

That war is only a fragment on the real World War.


What I never thought would happen is beginning to happen: I am loosing confidence in the UN.

Czechmade said...

We might easily start UDN - United Democratic Nations. After all "we are the people, we are the nation".
The existence, the name of such an organization would already weaken the existing talking heads monopoly. You can have any number of atomized people with good ideas, but if there is no common stage and purpose, you make no empact. Listen to the speeches of Hillel Neuer, a Canadian Jewish lawyer active in Geneve as mere NGO. The degree of clarity in his speeches is amazing. Unfortunately he is preaching to the wolves.

Dictatorships are not "the people or nation", they are just jumbo jets kidnapped by few violent guys.

Our states failed miserably - they open more and more to the failed states like Libya, Syria, Iran. Egypt, Pakistan and SA are even "allies".