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
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
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
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
their idea of God as private dealer with a particular race. Moslems
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
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
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
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 leader condemns protesters
Asghar Bukhari said the demonstration in London on
Friday should have been stopped by police because the group had been
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
It's irrelevant whether it's
Muslims causing hatred or anyone else - freedom of speech has to be
"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
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
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'
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
and we have been waiting, but we are not going to accept these images,"
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.