“Free speech go to hell”

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 3rd, 2006

Today’s Guardian brings this report “British Muslims protest over cartoons” which had a placard slogan: “free speech go to hell”. It provides a microcosm of the whole dispute, and brings into sharp relief the failed attempt of our times to reconcile ourselves (as I understand) within the dialectic of what Herman Dooyeweerd would call the nature–freedom ground motive (or are we dealing with one of the even “earlier” dualistic motives?).

Jack Straw (perhaps surprising to some) made the most intelligent comment on this matter I have read so far: “There is freedom of speech – we all respect that – but there is not any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory.” (There may be other good analyses, as I have not read extensively on the matter: Kofi Annan’s and Peter Mandelson’s are not bad either.) But has he got to the “bottom” (ἀρχή) of it?

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  1. On February 3, 2006 at 16:03 Mike (Worcester) said:


    In Saudi Arabia, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said Riyadh hope “that religious centres like the Vatican will clarify their opinion in this respect”.

  2. On February 5, 2006 at 11:20 Matthew Brown said:

    Why is it that Al Jazeera can freely run the most flagrantly anti-Jewish propaganda, terrorist agit-prop and just plain obscene clips of terrorist violence without Americans attacking any embassies at all? And why is it that Syria’s government, which would gladly extend its reach into Lebanon, is unable of unwilling to protect the embassies of its diplomatic guests? Why is the “Arab street” so damned ugly these days?

  3. On February 5, 2006 at 16:00 Chris Carroll said:

    No, we just bomb Al-Jazeera offices in Afghanistan and Iraq…The Arab people have been subjected to brutal and corrupt dictators propped up by US and European support for decades. The US has waged war againt Iraq killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people for more than a decade, after supporing Saddam at the time he committed the worst of his crimes. We continue to support the Israeli occupation. We’re beating the war drums against Iran for…possibly acting like the US and Israel and building nuclear weapons. Why wouldn’t the Arab peoples be mad?

  4. On February 6, 2006 at 09:34 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    Some local Oxford responses: Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford condemns insulting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad; Tariq Ramadan, who is a visiting scholar in Oxford at the moment, says in today’s Guardian that to describe the clash over the Danish depictions of the prophet as one between freedom and dogma will only fan the flames.

  5. On February 6, 2006 at 12:51 Adam (Southern California) said:

    If I were a Muslim, I’d be really pissed that a bunch of barbarians and murderers had been allowed to take over the public face of my religion. These guys are offering up an apology for the actions of their militant brethren. I think if Fred Phelps were in the Middle East, he’d be considered pretty mainstream.

  6. On February 9, 2006 at 03:22 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    A couple of days ago, Rasmussen said “We need to resolve this issue through dialogue,” but then today it was reported that “the Danish government severed ties with local clerics.” So, with whom are they going to talk? Lutheran mosques?

    Unrelatedly, I would like to read a transcript of Aznar’s speech at Georgetown.

  7. On February 12, 2006 at 11:46 Mike (Worcester) said:

    My own thinking on this issue is not very clear, apart from my natural American fundamentalism regarding free speech. Andrew Sullivan gets close to what I think I think:

    If Islamists blaspheme their own faith on a daily basis, then the West has every right to illustrate that fact. With no apology needed.

    I feel much less offended when people use images of Jesus to attack Christians than when they use them to attack Jesus himself. Because us Christians do a pretty bad job of things, overall. We deserve most of the grief we get.

  8. On February 12, 2006 at 16:23 Adam (Southern California) said:

    I read somewhere a while ago that Islam needed its version of the Reformation. I don’t think the analogy really holds, though, since there is no central command structure in Islam, but a variety of different imams. They need a strong imam to emerge and lead a sincere, strong movement for an Islam that renounces violence and hate and respects human rights. I know that many Muslims are loving people, but their voices have been drowned out in the sea of hate.

  9. On February 13, 2006 at 05:28 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    I think Adam is referring to the call by Salman Rushdie and enumerated by Timothy Garton Ash. For a Calvinist like me, Giles Fraser turned such call on its head.

  10. On February 13, 2006 at 14:25 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Ah yes, that was it. I’m mainly a “3” (Islamism is the problem) with elements of a “6” (the interaction of the West with Islam is the problem). Also, I find it difficult to believe Rushdie’s call is going to have much traction if he treats the Quran as a created document instead of the word of God. That’s kind of like saying that Christianity would be better off if we didn’t believe Jesus was the son of God and was resurrected.

  11. On February 13, 2006 at 14:39 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Here’s a post by Eugene Volokh on a particularly Orwellian sign:

    “Freedom of Expression is Western Terrorism”

    Where do you even begin to start a debate with someone who’d come up with a sign like that? It’s mind-boggling.

  12. On February 13, 2006 at 20:50 Mike (Worcester) said:

    I laughed when I saw she was using freedom of expression to attack freedom of expression. It’s like some wiseass kid crashing a demonstration with a sign reading I HATE FREE SPEECH.

    The woman holding the “Freedom of Expression” sign doesn’t come off as a wiseass, though.

  13. On March 6, 2006 at 11:41 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    The Bishop of Oxford remembers Zaki Badawi.