Dear Mr Hasan,
I read your recent article on ‘Free Speech Hypocrites’ and the Charlie Hebdo attack with great interest. However I found it to be poorly thought out and flawed in many places. Therefore I believe it appropriate and worthwhile to debunk some of your points…
Either you are with free speech… or you are against it
Simply put you are either for freedom of expression or you are not. There is no middle ground. People and Government’s attempts to find a middle ground will fail and will end in disaster. You cannot question one person’s right to free expression without questioning everybody’s. That includes Salafi Fanatics, Holocaust Deniers, Flat Earthers and the many other lunatics we share this beautiful planet with…
There is no “Clash of Civilisations”
You are correct there is no clash of civilisations. Many Muslims are just as liberal as Westerners and the histories of both the ‘West’ and ‘Islam’ are equally pot-holed with acts of liberalism and acts of barbarism. There is however a clash of ideologies. One between those who believe in freedom, its associated rights, and those who don’t. Salafi Jihadis are definitely one of the enemies of freedom and they must be defeated. The same stands for the many and various Western statists who oppose freedom too.
None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech
Some of us do because, basically, there is an untrammelled right to free speech. What there is not is a right not to be offended. The reason is simple, offence is entirely subjective. What offends one person may not offend another. You cannot possibly write a law that defines what is offensive and what is not. All that will ever happen is the state will define and outlaw what they find offensive, not what you or I find offensive.
Also self censorship does not stand opposed to free speech. Self censorship is again subjective and based on our personal beliefs on what is stupid or wrong. It does not mean we oppose other people’s right to say those things. For example I am not an athiest so I am not going to call Catholics “mental, sky-fairy worshippers”. I would deem that statement insulting. However if an athiest wishes to say that, they are free to do so as we have different preferences.
The Prophet Muhammad and the Holocaust are comparable
This is simply ridiculous, even for an agnostic like myself. For an athiest it would be utterly insane. You simply cannot compare the Holocaust or 9/11, both evil events that definitely occurred, with the Prophet Muhammad.
Islam and its Prophet are a matter of faith not a matter of fact. For example there is little evidence for the existence of Muhammad or his ‘Word’ until the 9th century, two centuries after his death.
There are magnitudes of difference between lampooning something that is definite and something that may or may not be so. This holds even if I believe neither should be banned.
Parisian mourners would have killed a person holding a cartoon lampooning the dead cartoonists
You are probably quite correct that an angry, distressed mob ‘may’ kill a fool. That though does not mean the fool is not free to do something idiotic and dangerous. So long as the law does not turn a blind eye to the murder of a person expressing themselves in a foolish way freedom of speech has not been undermined. The actions of the mob or the murderer do not taint us all.
Charlie Hebdo was a racist and hypocritical magazine
This may well be the case, I have never read nor researched said publication so I am not entirely aware. This though does not undermine their right to say and act as they please. It also provides no justification for the murder of their employees. Nor does it undermine the fact the attack was an attack against free expression. They were murdered for expressing themselves, regardless of what they expressed.
Westerners are hypocrites and there foreign policy is wrong
I agree on both points. The West’s foreign policy has both been wrong and very, very stupid. And yes many Westerners are hypocrites who are easily offended too. You could even draw comparison between some Western ideologies and Salafism. The latter after all has significant Platonic overtones — an irony seemingly lost on many Jihadis.
Again though, neither of those points undermine the importance or inalienable nature of free expression. Nor should it water down our opposition to those who oppose freedom of speech — such as our ‘friends’ the Salafi Jihadis.
I do hope you will consider my points and look at free speech in a more positive light.