updates down the page - latest Feb 7th 2006
FEB 2nd 2006
We don't have a Freedom of Speech problem in Europe, America, or many other areas of the modern world. We used to have quite a problem in getting the truth published, but since the coming of the Internet (on which there is of course a fair amount of incorrect information - no way to avoid that) there has been no problem there either. The regular press has had to compete. They have done so because their professional news gathering systems have become even better. Instead the problem has been to sort the fact from the fiction and the well-informed opinion from the narrowly or poorly informed. The established press has become more accurate.

I don't know how many Palestinians read Danish newspapers, but I would not have thought a cartoon of Mohamed in one of these would constitute a threat to the dignity of their moslem population. On the other hand I would prefer to see rational argument against extremism and fundamentalism, of all kinds, to mockery. Life is tough for millions, and mocking their views of the source of what civilizing ideas they have is not the most helpful way of encouraging self-help along rational lines. Just because something is not prohibited does not make it good behaviour. On the other for those offended to react by threatening to bomb innocent people and their property unless a there is a national apology and retraction, is to prove at a stroke the justification of the original mockery. We are dealing here with people who are incapable of expressing themselves intellectually - I refer to cartoonists as well as the religious extremists, noting that some cartoonists these days seem to spent their lives in a paroxysm of rage which they relieve by exaggerated and simplistic caricatures. Bring back Giles, that's what I say. [Who cares what you say - Ed]

To give some idea of how confused the average Englishman is on imagery, the BBC reporter on this evening's News at 10 explained that while mosques had no pictures at all in them, our churches had 'pictures of God, or Jesus'. HELLO! Jesus we all agree was a man. He went to the trouble to explain that we could not 'see' God, except in nature, and in its best example of the character, Him. There are no pictures of God other than symbolic figures of age and wisdom as in Michaelangelo's stuff on the ceiling. It's symbolic. Symbolic of the origins of what we observe, including humanity. Not helpful to symbolize that as a giant tortoise. Geddit? One begins to understand why Mohamed decided to dispense with pictures if they are going to confuse simple minds. I have nothing against Homer Simpson thinking of God as a large bearded man in a dressing-gown as long is he is not in a position to run the world based on what he thinks this apparition is telling him.

A lot of hogwash is being talked about Google and their decision to accept some restrictions on the Chinese access to their search engine. They are quite right to accept these restrictions for the moment. Evolution, not revolution is, one would hope, a lesson learned. They are more likely to be in trouble over making material available freely online in the west. The 10% drop in Google shares will be a good thing anyway, as it was overvalued.

Freedom from the effect of free speech is an interesting concept. Think about it. Freedom of access is a linked component of freedom of speech. Alf Garnett at home is one thing. Alf Garnett broadcast is another. Alf Garnett meant one thing to those who laughed at him and another to those who sometimes agreed with him. The world's civilisations demonstrate, each in their special way, how to screw up. This is significant and necessary. We proceed by trial and error. The errors are made because we try. We try, we succeed, and we screw up, thank goodness. If the Chinese had screwed up the way our cousins in the USA have, the planet would have boiled by now and we'd all be dead. So can our cosseted little liberals pipe down for a moment and stop criticizing. We all need to learn from each other.  The Tienanmen massacre was caused entirely by the western press whose self-seeking actions made it inevitable.

The hysteria over the Mohamed cartoons is now escalating. The first thing to understand is that this is a phase that has to be gone through so we might as well face it now. There are millions of people all over the world who base their lives and their psychological stability on personal models of reality that are not readily made compatible with evidence based cultures. I could include George Bush just as easily, here, as Osama bin Laden, and it is worth noting that they both make a point of talking calmly. There is of course a significant difference between their two positions. In truth, there has never been a time when war between nations has been less likely or less in evidence. We have made tremendous progress. Europe is at peace internally, the Cold War is over, China is going to host the Olympics and is doing everything to encourage visitors. Unbelievably its opening up to Google-searchable Internet actually meets with complaints that it is not 100% perfect. India and Pakistan are trying to negotiate Kashmir.  But even as we celebrate this achievement, the world is seized with a new problem - the power in the hands not of states but of fanatical individuals and self-forming groups who, as I try to point out all over this web site, are the victim of educational environments suited to a localised world, a pre-globalisation world, a world of simple models of reality that may have well served the development of regional cultures but which must now, while retaining all their best values, re-interpret the way these fit into the modern world and globalized co-operation.

It's going to hurt. We in the west have to face realities in the evidence-based culture we have claimed to be experts in. We have screwed up our own culture. The ice-cap is melting. In spite of many of us shouting about it for 20 years we have been ignored. Some have championed freedom of expression and allowed the free showing in films and TV of unspeakable violence and obscenity ignoring the clear evidence that a growing proportion of our population, beyond parental control, grows up thinking these things are acceptable. The other societies who have ignored evidence and based their culture on religious texts written by wise men in a previous era have made symmetrically opposite errors. Leading Israelis have based their property rights on their idea of God as private dealer with a particular race. Moslems have mistaken the wisdom of Mohamed as something more than it is. So both East and West have mistaken our prophets, in science and religion, for absolute divinity instead of wise men for their time who changed the world. The reason the aggression is mounting now is that both sides try to blame the other. It is true that both are to blame, but they should get their own houses in order. Of course those who suggest that publication of a cartoon is a reason to bomb anyone are not making sense. This is a shake-out of what goes on in people's heads which has just got to be gone through. Freedom of speech must be paramount, but with freedom goes responsibility.

George Bush thinks it a mistake for the Palestinians, having been given the freedom to elect their leaders, to choose Hamas.  Most people think it was a mistake of Americans to use their freedom to elect the republican party under George Bush - that includes people like me who think that the removal of Saddam Hussein by the UN or,  failing the UN, a coalition of the willing, was not an option but an imperative, and the mistake was not doing it wholeheartedly with enough personnel and applied expertise and understanding. For that we have to blame not just the Bush administration for their incredible ignorance but all those who thought the job should be avoided because they were not under immediate threat, and because they did not want to be allied with some whose motives they suspected. These same luxuriant perfectionists are those who think Google has betrayed freedom of speech in China. If their mentality had prevailed in history, we would still be in the Stone Age.

Here is an excellent summary of the news on this matter from the BBC

Muslim leader condemns protesters
A march in which protesters chanted violent anti-Western slogans such as "7/7 is on its way" should have been banned, a leading British Muslim said.

Asghar Bukhari said the demonstration in London on Friday should have been stopped by police because the group had been advocating violence.

The chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee said the protesters "did not represent British Muslims".

More protests over cartoons of Muhammad on Saturday passed off peacefully.

Mr Bukhari told the BBC News website: "The placards and chants were disgraceful and disgusting, Muslims do not feel that way.

  It's irrelevant whether it's Muslims causing hatred or anyone else - freedom of speech has to be responsible
Asghar Bukhari

"I condemn them without reservation, these people are less representative of Muslims than the BNP are of the British people."

He said that Muslims were angry over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in European papers but it was "outrageous" for anyone to advocate extreme action or violence.

"We believe it [the protest] should have been banned and the march stopped.

"It's irrelevant whether it's Muslims causing hatred or anyone else - freedom of speech has to be responsible."

Police estimated Friday's crowd at between 500 and 700 and no arrests were made.

On Saturday more protesters, organised by the Hizb ut-Tahrir group, gathering outside the Danish embassy in London.

It appeared that the rally was far more restrained than the one on Friday.

Police later said two men had been arrested near the embassy during the protest.

"They were arrested to prevent a breach of the peace, after a search by officers found leaflets including cartoons of the prophet Mohamed," a Met spokeswoman said.

The UN's Kofi Annan has urged Muslims to accept the apology from the paper where the cartoons first appeared.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has praised UK media for not publishing them.

Mr Straw said the decision by some European newspapers to print the cartoons was "disrespectful" and he added that freedom of speech did not mean an "open season" on religious taboos.

  By publishing these cartoons, we are saying to the Muslim community in Denmark 'we treat you as we treat everybody else'
Fleming Rose, Jyllands-Posten

Flanked by a forest of messages such as, "'Freedom' to insult", a speaker at Saturday's rally told the crowd they were demanding an end to "vilification".

"If you want to debate and criticise then we are ready and we have been waiting, but we are not going to accept these images," he said.

He called on "the governments of the Muslim world to completely sever all contact with European governments" until they had "controlled the media".

Among the images which have sparked outcry is one of Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban on his head. Newspapers in Spain, Italy, Germany and France reprinted the material.

They have sparked protests across the Middle East.

  We have to be very careful about showing the proper respect in this situation
Jack Straw

UK Muslims have denied that the reaction to the cartoons' reproduction has been a threat to freedom of speech.

Inayat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC that any kind of cartoon that was derogatory to a race or group in a stereotypical way was "unacceptable".

"Of course Europe has the right to freedom of speech, and of course newspapers have the right to publish offensive cartoons. This was really a question about exercising good judgment," he said.

"Knowing full well the nature of these cartoons, they were offensive, deeply offensive to millions of Muslims, these newspaper editors should have exercised better judgment.

So, how are we going to sort all this out?  By allowing dialogue to proceed and realising it will take time. This situation has been predictable from the moment the globalization process was fully launched in the 1980s. It was inevitable that the flaws in all local cultures would be mercilessly exposed. We have got to  enlighten the fundamentalists of naive science and naive religion without insulting them. To be fair to the scientists they are enlightening themselves, as that is the nature of real scientists. It was back in the 1950s that Peter Medawar told them that they must be ready, in the final analysis, to throw away even the theory on which they had staked their reputation. It is the religious fanatics who have to open their eyes and the fundamentalists who have to up their game and understand the eal truths that lie behind their faiths which have become clogged in out of date dogma. What is happening is a good thing, even if it looks like chaos.

For the moment, we in Europe must get our heads round one simple truth. You cannot have both Freedom of Speech and Freedom from Offense. If there are particular things which are to be classified as unacceptably offensive in speech and image, they will have to be defined in law. This would in my view be difficult. A more normal approach is to ignore pointless, offensive public perfomances which are in bad taste. That requires editors and producers to exercise some judgement to ignore them on our behalf and refrain from inflicting them on the public in the first place; but when they fail, there is no need to make a fuss, just to make ones feelings clear by exercising freedom of speech in return. Threats and violence are unacceptable.

What are we to make if this?

Police urged to act over cartoon protest

  Sunday February 5, 01:29 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Politicians and mainstream Muslims called on Sunday for police to act against militant protesters who urged violence against Westerners over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

The country's main Muslim group said placards at a London rally with slogans such as "Massacre those who insult Islam" were disgraceful and not typical of Muslim opinion. Police should look to prosecute those responsible, it said.

Uproar over the cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper and were then reprinted in other European countries, has swept across the Muslim world. One showed the Prophet Mohammad with a turban resembling a bomb.

Lebanese demonstrators set fire to the Danish consulate in Beirut on Sunday and Syrians set the Danish and Norwegian embassies ablaze on Saturday in Damascus.

David Davis, home affairs spokesman for Britain's main opposition Conservative party, said slogans at Friday's rally outside the Danish embassy in London amounted to incitements to serious criminal offences.

"Clearly some of these placards are incitement to violence and, indeed, incitement to murder -- an extremely serious offence which the police must deal with and deal with quickly," Davis told the Sunday Telegraph.
[end of Reuters extract]

Personally I think the police should locate and interview all those adults who took part. I would imagine that most would then need to be referred to psychiatrists to determine of they were a risk to the public due to either mental disorder or some form of damaging conditioning. If they are, then steps must be taken to either keep them under observation (including tagging) or, if they are considered a real and present or permanent danger, by detention in a secure location. I would also expect some of them to be given just a caution and a discharge.

FEBRUARY 07 2006
There seems to be some difficulty in understanding what Abu Hamza, sentenced to 7 years today, was not found guilty before. There are people who are saying the rules have been changed. Can I explain this? It is very simple.

Until recently he was not taken seriously. He was classed as an ignorant ranter, a troublemaker, but not someone who could be taken seriously by others to follow his advice, literally. This in spite of warnings from foreign intelligence services that this was the case. He was interviewed by the security services who treated him as a possible source of contacts. It was also thought that by holding off from charging him he would be a guarantee against attacks in the UK. This turned out to be true for a period. In the last few years it became obvious that he was actually being listened to and therefore his incitement to murder was a real danger, in his eyes and in those of his followers.

There are some who say there has to be equal treatment of those who speak against Muslims. But Nick Griffin has not advocated attacks against Muslims. He has accused some of them of bad and illega behaviour. He will have to justify this. His case is still sub judice, as the prosecutions service has decided to retry those charges on which the jury could not agree and he was not acquitted.

After a lot of comment and dialogue, it still does not appear to be appreciated that a cartoon of Mohamed with a bomb in his turban is not an insult to Mohamed or to Islam. It is a polite way of pointing out that to bomb civilians in the name of either Mohamed or Islam is insane or dishonest or both. The cartoon is against those who do that. That is not to say that a suicidal attack by those whose land is invaded by an enemy, against that enemy, is never legitimate - just don't do it in the name of a religion and its founder who would condemn it.