They have to be blokes, do they? »« Hostility from certain political quarters

We want to live in a democracy, not a madhouse

Well here’s a good thing I didn’t know about – a talk that Charlie Klendjian of the Lawyers’ Secular Society (he was on that Big Questions episode, sitting I think next to Maajid) did in December, in which he does a fine job of needling Universities UK.

Well, well, well. Who would have known?

In the year 2013, in a western liberal secular(ish) democracy, segregation is not segregation
as long as it’s…driven by “genuinely-held” religious beliefs.

It’s a brave new world.

Talking of bravery, or rather the lack of it, I had never actually heard of “Universities UK” or
their Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge until a few weeks ago.

They really are exploring the outer reaches of the old saying that “any publicity is good
publicity”, aren’t they? Yep, I’ll give them that. Well you’ve certainly got your publicity, Nicola,
so congratulations to you and your team on that. Sterling effort. Quick round of applause,
please, everyone, for Nicola and her team.

A comrade, definitely.

So, now I have this conspiracy theory. I’ll tell you about it if you promise not to tell anyone,
ok? Seriously, this is massive, it’s right up there with fake moon landings.

I think Universities UK don’t actually care about free speech, or not in any meaningful sense. I
think they only care about keeping Islamists happy. At any cost. Any cost whatsoever. If that
includes turning the clock back on hard-fought gender equality then so be it.

Well if they’re so keen to turn the clock back with this “separate but equal” policy of theirs,
then I think we should turn the clock back too. I think we should borrow another phrase from
history, this time from the anti-drugs campaigns of the 1980s: “JUST SAY NO”

If Islamists want to separate men and women, or implement any of their other madcap
seventh century ideas, everyone should JUST SAY NO. Say it with me, come on, it’s panto
season, “just say no” after three…1, 2, 3…JUST SAY NO.

You are allowed to say no to Islamists, Nicola. There’s no law against it. Yet.

Seriously. Such a comrade.

Today he wrote a statement on the matter of Maajid Nawaz and Jesus and Mo and the LibDems.

The LibDems, you remember, said yesterday:

The Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression and as such defend Maajid’s right to express his views. But as a party we urge all candidates to be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence.

Maajid made his own statement:

My view, that as a Muslim I was not offended by this cartoon, originally featured on a BBC programme without advanced knowledge that I would be shown the image. I then posted this to my social media in order to clarify my view, which was by now televised, that as a Muslim I was not offended.

But moderate language and a respect for others’ opinions is at the heart of both Liberalism and my understanding of what Prophet Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) teaches us. I wish to take this opportunity to re-assert that although I do not agree with those who have interpreted my comments in a way that I did not intend – and although I continue to hold to my belief in both Islam and freedom of speech – I respect the right of all those who have taken offence to express themselves peacefully.

I do regret if, in expressing my own views, I have caused inadvertent offence to any side in this debate.

In conclusion, I bid you all salam (peace) and request that we all allow ourselves to put this unfortunate incident behind us.

So here is Comrade Charlie Klendjian’s at the LSS:

The LSS fully supports Maajid’s right to tweet a Jesus and Mo cartoon and we feel no need to qualify that support with the word ‘but’.

We stand with Maajid and we are dismayed at the reaction to such a harmless act, and in particular we are appalled at the explicit death threats against him.

For the LSS the issue of offence is irrelevant to a discussion of free speech. The question here is whether someone has the right to post the cartoon. It’s an embarrassingly simple question deserving of an embarrassingly simple answer. The answer is ‘yes, because it does not infringe anyone else’s rights’. This is GCSE-level morality and human rights, if that.

We haven’t had blasphemy laws in the UK since 2008 and we don’t miss them. We don’t want them back – not today, not tomorrow, not ever. And nor do we want an unwritten, de facto blasphemy law in its place. The LSS opposes all blasphemy laws anywhere in the world. Anyone who thinks freedom of expression should be limited on the grounds of offence or disagreement fails with flying colours to understand the function and importance of free speech, and consequently they also fail to understand the very essence of freedom itself.

It’s not for Maajid to justify what he did; it’s for others to justify why he shouldn’t have done it. The burden of proof is squarely on their shoulders. So far the only ‘reason’ delivered up is that some people didn’t like the cartoon. The solution to that is mercifully simple: don’t look at it.

Holding religious ideas to account and challenging them – no matter how sacred some people might consider those ideas – goes to the very heart of secularism. Once we accept that certain discussions are beyond limits on the basis some people might be ‘offended’, we open the door to limitless harm. We enter a chaotic marketplace where the only currencies are intimidation and fear. We enter a competition where the winning prize is how offended someone claims to be. We want to live in a democracy, not a madhouse.

There’s more; read it all; it is just what we need.

 

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    This is my favorite bit from Klendjian’s comments about Maajid:

    It is precisely this kind of invertebrate reluctance to challenge taboos or to defend free expression wholeheartedly and enthusiastically which emboldens those who seek to limit free expression and open inquiry, which discourages people from speaking honestly and openly, and which effectively blames people who suffer adverse consequences when merely exercising their fundamental, lawful rights.

    You do not have the right not to be offended nor should you be defending that non-existent right.

  2. thinksanddrinks says

    That is one of the few truths from the right wing in the US: You have NO RIGHT NOT to be offended. Anyone can offend you at any time; your recourse is to ignore them or offend them back. You have NO right to NOT be offended. That is in the US; anywhere that is not true is not a democracy and is shading into a dictatorship.

    (I’m offended all of the time by right-wing clowns that want the rest of us to shut up. We will NOT shut up, and they have no right to stop us. They can be as offended as they like; we encourage them to be offended (maybe they will have a stroke).)

  3. Robert B. says

    The phrase “fail with flying colors” is particularly evocative. I’m picturing an enthusiastic patriot charging into disaster with perfect self-righteousness, his national flag snapping gaily in the breeze.

  4. exi5tentialist says

    The fact is though, people have the right to be offended, and if they are offended, you will probably lose their votes. Losing votes is something the Liberal Democrats specialize in. I am not surprised Maajid Nawaz wants to put this unfortunate episode behind him. It is not the only error of judgement the Liberal Democrats (Coalition partners with the current Tory Government) have committed in the last few years.

  5. Albert Bakker says

    @thinksanddrinks – The idea of absolute freedom of expression is culturally deeply engrained in the US for reasons that can be traced back to it’s founding history.
    This is (or at least used to be) not exactly the case in Europe, less so even in continental Europe, than it is in the UK. This also has it’s own historical reasons (beyond the obvious experience of WWII.) As a consequence we lack the assurance that in the end things will balance out in a shouting match or drown out in a sane majority, and things might very quickly gain uncontrollable momentum. We have therefore, especially after WWII developed certain sensitivities and a sense of caution against offending minorities – with overshoot – that might be very difficult to translate into an American context.
    I think, collectively, though Europeans are slowly moving more in the direction of a traditional US POV, but it is still hard to shake off, as common wisdom dictates the plebs cannot be trusted to use it wisely.

  6. Argle Bargle says

    The fact is though, people have the right to be offended, and if they are offended, you will probably lose their votes.

    People can be offended and there are consequences to their sense of offense. However what Al Dente and thinksanddrinks are saying is there is no right for people to say “I’m offended by X and therefore you need to be punished for offending me.”

  7. kevinalexander says

    invertebrate reluctance

    I’m so stealing that!
    Invertebrates of the world! Stand up for your…?!
    No…wait. Doesn’t really work, does it.

  8. Shatterface says

    The fact is though, people have the right to be offended,

    People have the right to feel offended.

    They do not have the right not to be offended.

  9. chrislawson says

    exi5tentialist: nobody is claiming people don’t have the right to be offended, and I don’t see how it would be possible to enforce it anyway. The point is that YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO NOT BE OFFENDED. These things are not flipsides of each other.

  10. chrislawson says

    Argle Bargle:

    A small correction: ‘there is no right for people to say “I’m offended by X and therefore you need to be punished by the state for offending me.”’ Obviously there is nothing wrong with people being punished by, say, losing votes or losing advertisers if they cause offence. I know it seems like a small correction, but we live in a world where every time a right-wing shock jock loses a contract for saying something appalling, they complain about censorship. It’s important to maintain the distinction.

  11. chrislawson says

    thinksanddrinks@2:

    That is one of the few truths from the right wing in the US: You have NO RIGHT NOT to be offended.

    Have you not been reading the news for the last 20 years? The US right wing noise machine only pulls out that line when they have caused offence by making some outrageously bigoted statement. Soon as someone says something they don’t like, it’s all “how dare you say such awful things?” and “what can I do to get you fired?”

    Have you heard of the trumped-up War Against Christmas fomented by the right-wing? Isn’t that the ultimate example of demanding the right not to be offended that even private, secular retailers are being pressured not to say “Happy Holidays” in advertising because it is offends Fox News blowhards? And yet I don’t hear Bill O’Reilly telling theocrats that they don’t have the right be not be offended.

  12. says

    I think, collectively, though Europeans are slowly moving more in the direction of a traditional US POV, but it is still hard to shake off, as common wisdom dictates the plebs cannot be trusted to use it wisely.

    Myself, I generally support hate speech laws (I’m not European, but Canadian so close enough). People do not have a right to not be offended but they ought to have a right not to be the objects of a hate campaign based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic group, or religion. This doesn’t qualify as the latter. I’m also a fan of anti-harassment and anti-bullying laws. People ought to have a right to go about in public or online without being targeted with incessant nastiness. This doesn’t qualify as that either.*

    It’s just a guy saying “Not all Muslims are offended by this cartoon. I’m Muslim, and I’m not.” That doesn’t even express disrespect for Muslims who hold a different view (which he would be well within his rights, both legal and moral, to do–though at that point, I could understand his party pulling his candidacy because he’d be expressing disdain for potential voters who hold a different opinion on a religious matter unrelated to the party’s platform).

    *In fact it’s his detractors who are guilty of this, with their death threats and intimidation.

  13. Shatterface says

    That is one of the few truths from the right wing in the US: You have NO RIGHT NOT to be offended.

    Except by gay marriage, abortion, evolution. gun control, flag burning and immigrants who don’t speak English.

  14. Shatterface says

    If he is sacked what the Liberals would be saying, essentially, is that as a Muslim he has no right not to be offended by the cartoon and that expressing the lack of offense he feels is, in itself, offensive to others.

  15. says

    What Ibis said @ 12.

    I actually don’t like this blanket “you have no right not to be offended” soundbite, because I don’t think that’s true. Confining “right” to mean moral right as opposed to legal right, I think we have plenty of right to be offended by real offense. We have every right to be offended by personal attacks, for instance. We have much much much less right to be offended by disparagement of something we like. There’s a big difference between those two categories. (There’s also a lot of complicated space between the two.)

  16. Adam S says

    Ophelia @ 16

    I spoke more about this in another thread but, I think the soundbite “You have no right not to be offended” can be restated as “Everyone has the right to be offended.” We are bombarded by comments, opinions and propaganda everyday and we have the right to feel whatever we want about them, including being offended.

    This obviously means we can be offended by “real” offence, such as personal attacks or hate campaigns. However, it is very easy to point to such things and have all “reasonable” people agree. However, it’s the space in between that is trickier to navigate and why we need to revisit this issue. Just because I think Muslim sensibilities about depicting the prophet are absurd, doesn’t mean that I can call the offence of Muslims as “not real offence”. It is to them.

    That said, they do not have the right to demand the state to legislate away their offence, demand arrests or bands on drawing Mohammed, or define burning a Qu’ran as “racial hatred”. However, with the exception of the death threats Maajid Nawaz has received, has there been any attempts to incur actual government involvement or legislation in this incident?

    Actually, I think Phillip Pullman said it best when asked about his book “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ”

    “Yes it was a shocking thing to say, and I knew it was a shocking thing to say.
    But no one has the right to live without being shocked.
    No one has the right to spend their lives without being offended.
    Nobody has to read this book.
    Nobody has to pick it up.
    Nobody has to open it.

    And if they open it and read it, they don’t have to like it.
    And if you read it and dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it.
    You can write to me.
    You can complain about it.
    You can write to the publishers, to the papers,
    You can write your own book.
    You can do all those things.

    But there your rights stop.
    No one has the right to stop me writing this book.
    No one has the right to stop it being published, sold, or bought, or read.
    And that’s all I have to say on that subject.”

  17. Shatterface says

    The fact is though, people have the right to be offended, and if they are offended, you will probably lose their votes. Losing votes is something the Liberal Democrats specialize in. I am not surprised Maajid Nawaz wants to put this unfortunate episode behind him. It is not the only error of judgement the Liberal Democrats (Coalition partners with the current Tory Government) have committed in the last few years.

    Even by your fuckwad standards that’s incoherent gibberish.

    What ‘error of judgement’ are ‘the Liberal Democrats’ making here – Maajid, as an individual, linked to a cartoon you are throwing a proxy-fit over because you don’t think he’s authentically Muslim enough and the Lib Dems aren’t backing him up so they’re actually on your side

    Make up your mind: do you oppose Maajid’s right to publish the cartoons because you think ‘authentic’ Muslims are screaming ballbags or do you oppose the Lib Dems who are distancing themselves from him because they also think Muslims are screaming ballbags?

  18. exi5tentialist says

    @Shatterface (18) Fuckwad? Ballbags? Oh no I forgot, I don’t have the right not to be offended, so of course that gives you the moral high ground to sexualise the interaction to your heart’s content. Except, if you’re using that kind of language regularly, don’t expect to get elected to anything (of course, I know you’re not trying to get elected, so you’re not responsible to anyone for what you say.).

    But that really is my point about Maajid Nawaz. Of course he has the right to publish these silly cartoons. Muslims have the right to disapprove of him doing so. Do you actually understand what democracy is?

  19. Shatterface says

    But that really is my point about Maajid Nawaz. Of course he has the right to publish these silly cartoons. Muslims have the right to disapprove of him doing so.

    See? You are doing it again. You are treating ‘Muslims’ as a uniform mass while excluding Maajid from their number because he doesn’t fit your stereotype of Muslims as screaming ballbags.

    You are a vicious Islamophobe taking it upon yourself to decide who is or isn’t authentically Muslim.

  20. Shatterface says

    Do you actually understand what democracy is?

    Yes, I do. Apparently you think it’s something to do with voting according to your ethnicity.

  21. Shatterface says

    Oh, and you haven’t answered my question about what ‘error of judgement’ the Lib Dems have made here since the party isn’t giving Maajid the support he is entitled too: they’re siding with you on this.

  22. Shatterface says

    @Shatterface – since when does the plural “Muslims” mean “All Muslims”?

    You counterposed Maajid with ‘Muslims’ this excluding him from that group – otherwise you’d have written ‘other Muslims’.

  23. rnilsson says

    @Ibis3 #12: I always knew you were Kulturnyi and sophisticated. Thank you.

    @exit5: I never knew you were cultural or liberal before. Now I know you are neither, just a sock (pb,etc). Suggest: GTFO. Sorry if that hurt your sentiment. After all, it’s just my opinion, innit? And as such down-votable by the multiple-gross-virgins-of-P*rad*se, right? So, do everyone a favor and actually act on your ‘nym and exit? By 5.

  24. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @17. Adam S : Well witten.

    Seconding your comment and especially the quote by Phillip Pullman.

    Exactly. Spot on.

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