1. I’ve been uncomfortable with the sudden rise of challenging free speech, or at least limits, which sprung from the killings in France. Of course free speech needs to be protected and like you say, everyone has a different view. But I don’t think free speech is the problem.
    I saw a youtube video, which was a debate set up by iERA and CAGE, which “starred” Mozzem Begg, Abdullah al Andalusi, Hamza Tortzis, Dan Hodges, Andre Walker, Peter Cave, and with Yvonne Ridley as the moderator. Ridley started by saying that since Charlie Hebdo, “Muslims have found themselves at the centre of debate about free speech.” For one thing, I doubt that was thrust upon the likes of the MCB, Tortzis, Andalusi, etc, who immediately started the public debate with relish.

    The youtube debate went around the houses regarding “offence” with Begg bringing everything back to the “War on terror,” in whichever way he could. Tortzis used the word “ontological” for the zillionth time, and Andre Walker shouted a lot.
    But at some point, what was obviously going to be mentioned was the “but” thing. This is the problem, and not free speech.

    A popular statement after Charlie Hebdo, was something along the lines of, “Of course there shouldn’t have been violence, however what you need to understand is that we love Muhammed more than we love our own family.”
    In my opinion, the full stop comes after the word “violence” and no more needs to be said (as Peter Cave pointed out).
    But, we are stuck with the second part of that sentence, which is problematic. Apart from “not understanding,” I’ve never heard anyone challenge or dissect that sentence. How can anyone put the love of Muhammed over their family into practical use? If anyone says “killing defamers of the Prophet,” that is obviously looney-land thinking.
    Could it be as simple as someone insisting he has to pray at the mosque, rather than help his daughter with her homework? How else is that term put into practice? It can’t, so they are either empty words, or they actually mean something. What could the meaning possibly be?

    1. An explanation for the killings in France? Surely not.
    2. An excuse for the killings? That would be mad.
    3. To make me admire the person who says it? Not a chance.
    4. A veiled threat to make everyone realise that there is a fervency that could turn violent if you write a book, make a film, draw a picture, or anything else?

    Number 4 is my favourite, and therefore where the real problem lies here. Why does that fervency exist and is anyone willing to tackle it? Is it childhood indoctrination, through family, school, mosque, imams, clerics? Who knows? I’d like to see an imam asked if that fervency could be tackled and dispensed with. I suspect the fervency is needed in order to defend and grow the religion, so I doubt anyone would even want to get rid of it. It’s as if someone might say, “Sorry folks, you’re stuck with it, so we may as well sort this problem out by stopping all sorts of freedoms in the first place.”

    So we can all debate free speech until the cows come home, but what is actually a new problem of a veiled threat of violence, that will perpetuate, is the real thing that needs to be debated, but nobody has done that yet.

  2. Chris

    I liked the talk very much, BUT how do you answer that old question (first posed, I think, by John Stuart Mill). Should we be free to shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre – when there is in fact no fire.

    • As I explained in my debate with Brian Carey, there is a distinction between incitement to hatred and incitement to violence. Incitement to hatred is the encouragement of others to hold certain ideas or beliefs, or to have certain feelings, that might be described as hateful. It is not incitement to commit a specific act. Incitement to violence is incitement to commit a specific harmful act. Shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre when there is none – it was Oliver Wendell Holmes, not John Stuart Mill, who, I think, first raised this – is in essence inciting people to commit a specific act – stampede – the aim of which is to cause harm.

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