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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Free Speech Issue At The UN

On free speech, I am a fundamentalist, so I wasn't happy to read about the request to the UN to make blasphemy a human-rights violation. Still, I understand why the request was made, because Europeans and Canadians don't believe in free speech and don't have a legal right to it.

I don't think there is any way a society can ban some forms of speech while claiming to still respect free speech. One can ban speech that is criminal. For example, I don't have a right to call up someone and tell them I'm going to kill them unless they send me $1000. One can ban speech that is situationally dangerous, such as the classic yelling "fire" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. (But that too is dangerous, see Ledux on the issue and the case.) But you can't ban entire topics of speech or ban speech disrespectful of certain groups or beliefs without instituting a brawl for "no-criticism" status in a society.

So it's hardly a surprise that Muslims want to be included in that select "no criticism allowed" group, is it? People are being quite hypocritical about this. US-style all-you-can-brawl free speech doesn't exist in Muslim countries and doesn't exist in Europe or Canada. It seems to me that only the US has any valid retort to the Muslim claim.

This Chicago Tribune article lays the issue out neatly:

The growing number of Muslims, it is argued, will eventually lead to the repression of anything critical of Islam. Journalist Mark Steyn speculated recently in The Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal that the continent could be under Sharia (Islamic religious law) by 2040. "We're already seeing a drift in that direction," he argued.Well, it turns out that some parts of Europe already ban the sort of blasphemy at issue here--under laws written to protect Christian sensibilities. Denmark, as it happens, provides up to 4 months in jail for anyone "who publicly offends or insults a religion." In Germany, reports the broadcast outlet Deutsche Welle, one magazine has been sued eight times under an anti-blasphemy law enacted in 1871.

There are also laws which ban the selling of Nazi regalia or tracts and laws which ban Holocaust deniers. France doesn't even have freedom of religion - if it regards a particular religion as a cult (like Scientology or the Raelians), people don't have freedom to follow it. Nor is it just blasphemy that's forbidden. Speaking against homosexuals is a crime in several European states and in Canada. Big groups of DU'rs want to make it a crime here in the US. I don't want the UN rights body to include blasphemy in its list of human-rights offenses, but DU is being hypocritical when it sees the Muslim request as some sort of aberrant and unique effort.

I'd hope that the US would keep its principles of free speech alive, because we are a rare, rare oasis in an increasingly coercive international society. And I don't think there's any hope of saving the UN. It, like the Concert of Europe, has become a means for dictators and elites to institute repression. Any human rights body created under the auspices of the UN will also be used to suppress popular struggles for reform.

Comments:
ah the wonderful U.N. I like the idea and intent of the place but the practical applications has become horrible. It is amazing how many people think Europe is similar to the U.S. in terms of free speech and other individual rights. It's especially a concern when you hear some call for the U.S. to be more like the rest of the world when they don't really understand what the rest of the world is like.
 
Tommy, exactly. The "Euro-style" post WWII society is in many ways an ummah of its own. It is based on inculcating certain values and creating a public consensus for peace. That is admirable in many ways, but it is very different from the abstract structure of US society, which is based not on culture or on beliefs but on behavior.

Trying to live up to the Constitution has been a long struggle, but it has been worth it. Because of it, absorbing immigration is easy for us. Because of it, someone like Minh-Duc can come to this country and be a "real American". And what rational society doesn't want people like Minh-Duc?
 
You don't know what its like in Europe? Come over here and try to protest against the islamisation of Europe and you'll end up in jail.

Criticism of Islam? Not allowed in Europe. Especially in Belgium. Any political party who dares saying something about islam, gets nazified by the left wing politicians, just to shut them up. But they can bash jews, other Europeans and Americans as much as they like.
 
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