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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Stifling free speech is not really free


Last Updated: 4th February 2010, 4:14pm, Toronto Sun

In recent years, multiculturalism was propounded as if to ease the conscience of liberals - those who believe in liberty as Mill wrote about - when they do illiberal things such as penalizing free speech.
Read the rest here. Mansur, a Muslim, is commenting on the ridiculous trial of Geert Wilders in The Netherlands for insulting Islam.

Ezra Levant comments here:
... you must admire the honesty of the court to describe their self-destructive, amoral attack on Wilders so clearly and without euphemism.

There you have it: his "views" were unacceptable in content and presentation.

Apparently critics of Islamic fascism must be inarticulate and ineffective; or articulate and bold communicators must only be supportive of radical Islam. Now we know the ground rules in Holland.

"This method of presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity, as a result of which hate is created."

Stop. Just stop for a moment and realize the amazing gulf between this court and reality. This case is about Islamic radicalism. And yet it is a critic of that radicalism who is charged with "radical meaning"; it is a critic of the relentlessness of radical Islam who is charged with "reiteration". Who knew that one could only make an argument in a wishy-washy -- not radical -- way? Who knew that one could only make an argument once -- not to reiterate it?
Two key things here in my view: First, The Netherlands' court did not emphasize that Wilder's's comments were untrue, only that they gave offence. That's the problem with all "human rights" commission type proceedings. They become a form of government censorship by definition, as we see above. The world is a patient on a couch and the government is a psychiatrist. We used to have a different kind of relationship with our government.

Second, a belief that cannot responsibly be denied cannot responsibly be believed either. If Wilders is not free to dissent loudly and publicly from Islam, its apologists will not be motivated to muster arguments against his views, but will rather go running to the government - as here - to protect them. If people are not free to just leave the religion, there will be little motivation to make them stay. In the long run, all this authoritarian/totalitarian stuff does the religion more harm than it does anyone else.

Hat tip Franklin Carter at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee


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