Freedom under grave threat

This post was previously posted at a different URL. See it at the Internet Archive.
I was once described, by the leader of Adur District Council, as a right-wing anarchist. And he may be right — much of what government and Councils do I consider an imposition on freedom.
I have expressed, to the dismay of the Conservatives, my distress that civilian-enforcement of parking restrictions will be introduced in Shoreham, Lancing, Sompting and Southwick. I express, publicly and often, my dismay that there is no party that promises to repeal or amend the Road Traffic Act 1991 and to remove charges for parking on public roads.
But these concerns are nothing — less than nothing — when we, as a country, support the oppression of freedom of speech.
Geert Wilders made some unfortunate comparisons between the Qu’ran and Mein Kampf. Now I cannot pretend to have read either but that does not matter to me. The principle here is that a man of conviction, who criticised a religion not a race, has been stopped from entering this country.
Worse, the Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Democrats support this ban (Chris Huhne’s quote).
As I said in 2006, we are under attack by people who would rather control our thoughts and our actions. It’s not enough that we must respect those who do not respect us by law; we must now not say anything against a book written 1,100 years ago. Presumably if I said that the writings of the Ancient Greeks were nonsense, I would not be roundly assaulted by the machines of state, but if I dare criticise a more modern religion I must be censored by the Orwellian machinery?
As I say, I have not read the holy book of Islam or the full-text of the frightening witterings of Germany’s most famous mass-murderer, but some points should be made about Geert Wilder’s claims.
  1. The Old Testament could safely be described as fascist if taken literally
  2. The principles of Islamic Finance that I have recently studied are about fair trade and commerce — fairer trade than the Western fiscal model
  3. Islam is a religion that, unlike Judaism and Hinduism, can be practised by anyone who manages to find faith in the God of Muhammed
  4. Criticising a religion, and especially Christianity or Islam, is not the same as criticising a race
I suspect that none of those points could be competently criticised as they are not opinions (okay, maybe the first one but then read Leviticus and Exodus and come back to me), but facts.
Some people accept, and I have to say, I have some sympathy here, that there are things people can say that can manipulate people and endanger other peoples’ lives. It is possible, but to criticise a religion (no matter how specifically) is not to tell people to attack any group or individual. Of itself I can see no way that comparing the Qu’ran to Mein Kampf (or by showing video of appalling atrocities committed in the name of Islam) has placed any individual or group in danger (except maybe Geert himself — from his government, ours and the misguided Muslims that he shows).
I know some Muslims (not many, I grant you, and surely not enough to make any statistical sense) and they are not, as a group, different to any other group. You could find, within any organisation, people who would do bad things or twist the meaning or exaggerate and in this respect Islam is no different. In the same way, a group of people who would normally be expected to be in favour of free speech (the Liberal Democrats) have amongst them the mealy-mouthed Chris Huhne.
Having watched a part of Fitna, Wilder’s video, the quotes he gives are not dissimilar from quotes you would find in the Old Testament of the Bible. If Wilder is guilty of anything, he is guilty of suggesting that it is only Islam which, if its Holy Books were taken literally, could be used to commit atrocities.
It is not news that the verbatim words of some religious texts could be used to commit acts of violence. I don’t have the answers but I do know that blocking freedom of speech is not the answer to greater understanding and liberalism in those Islamic countries that we, as a nation, do not count amongst our friends.
I don’t know how much we can trust the claims of the BBC’s Science and Islam programme but if we can, then we must know that Fitna is over the top; that Islam allowed other religions to live alongside it; and that the aggression in the passages that Wilder quotes (and that could be quoted, as I said, just as easily from the Old Testament of the Bible) was not acted upon even shortly after the Prophet passed on his message.
But it is key, is it not, that I can only make these comments, only criticise Wilder, only criticise Islamic extremists, only criticise people who believe in God (any God), only question people who would do something only because their Rabbi, Mullah, Priest, Vicar or whatever tells them to… I can only make these comments, if the other side is available. We cannot debate without hearing all sides.
How could I convince someone on a doorstep in Crawley (as I did at an election in 2006) that the BNP is not for them if the things that the BNP believe and promote are not public knowledge, if what they say cannot be criticised? The same would be true of Respect, if their version of political insanity was under threat of state-censure.
We need free speech in order to ensure all other forms of freedom and I demand it. We must all demand it. We must all vote tactically at every opportunity, to ensure that this Labour government does not continue on its path.
See also montanareddog’s comments on the Guardian.
Final thoughts “A spokesman for the Conservative Party said it did not wish to comment.” according to the Daily Malice.

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