People’s beliefs are only respectable to themselves »« We give this kuffar the right to speak

The right to offend is fundamental to free expression

Here’s One Law for All’s statement in support of LSE ASH:

One Law for All calls on the London School of Economics Student Union to respect and uphold the rights of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH), in particular its right to freedom of expression.

Their accusation that the publication of a cartoon featuring Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed amounts to ‘racism and discrimination on campus’ is both absurd and dangerous.

The right to offend is fundamental to the right to free expression. Indeed, offence is a highly subjective concept, thereby rendering every word, drawing, or speech potentially offensive.

The LSE SU should understand the difference between prejudice against a group of people and criticism of a set of beliefs.

The ASH must be allowed to continue their activities unhindered and any action against them dropped.

For more information, contact:
One Law for All
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
[email protected]
www.onelawforall.org.uk

Comments

  1. Acleron says

    The LSE SU appear to have dug themselves a large hole and fallen straight to the bottom. They have announced an EGM where they have a motion to equate criticism of Islam with racism. So not only do they want to suppress free speech and discriminate against one group in favour of another they have a futile wish to redefine the English language.

    It is difficult to see how they can retrieve themselves from this self-imposed position. With the publicity already world-wide, the career prospects of LSE graduates could become restricted. If that happens, no doubt the LSE authorities will have to step in to prevent their undergraduate recruitment becoming compromised.

    A sad situation but a salutary example of the effects of suppressing free speech.

  2. Sam C says

    Oh dear, going to sound concerntrollish!

    There are cultural differences between the USA and Europe. In Europe, there is not the same worship of an abstract absolute right of free speech. Few people in Europe share the infantile view of American libertarian commentators that free speech is somehow the magic and only true path to all liberty.

    In the USA, even the advocates of unconstrained free speech allow exceptions such as the classic of shouting “fire!” in a crowded building, lying defamation, that sort of thing.

    In the UK, the exceptions stretch a little further – most people regard it is unnecessary and unproductive to say stuff to annoy the heck out of other groups. Racist hate speech is outlawed, we’re generally comfortable with that. The fact that USAians don’t like it is, frankly, none of their business, the principles of democracy allow us to set our standards, not the US constitution.

    My guess is that most British folk would take the view that it should always, always, be permissible to criticise Islam (or any other religion or belief system) but that that is not the same as deliberately being annoying by upsetting people by insulting what they hold dear. Why not annoy people? Because it’s a small island, a small world, and we have to live together. Give and take. Rights and duties. Don’t pick fights.

    You guys won’t get it, I’m sure. It’s all black and white absolute rights with you, isn’t it? Rights without responsibilities or consequences. And the USA and its citizens are so aggressive by mentality, uncompromising in your assertion of the right to trample on anybody, literally and metaphorically.

    But with your self-assigned right to offend comes the right to feel unhappy when you get a well deserved smack in the mouth. Who says you can set the rule that says “I say what I want – and no come backs!!”? Tell me that my daughter is ugly and see where free speech gets you.

    No, you really won’t get it. Fundamentalist Free Speechers are as blind and unaware of their blindness as fundamentalist Christians!

    • Upright Ape says

      That is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Limits on free speech can be debated. You are entitled to your views on speech. You are not entitled to your own science. Comparing us to those who think the world is 6000 years old is delusuional. And if you think that offensive speech should be banned and yet you come here and insult us you are a hypocrite to boot.

      • Tony says

        Ophelia:
        -I second that.
        I’m all for free speech. I understand there are certain situations where speaking freely can have repercussions (shouting FIRE in a crowded theater for instance). The repercussions can be direct violence or mass panic. That’s why there should be open discussions about what type of speech can be tolerated, and which cannot. I don’t feel there should be absolute laws saying “all speech is ok, no matter what, nor where” (or the reverse). There’s also likely to be a fine line to walk. There’s also going to be people that think free speech is too limiting or too expansive.
        However, violence as the answer to someone insulting you? Wow, let’s get all 5th grade.
        If I said Xenu’s mother is ugly, what actual harm has befallen him or her? If I tell someone that Islam is a vile religion that degrades women to the point that my car is considered of greater value, who gets harmed?
        I hear people tout ‘emotional damage’. What does that mean? The criticism of Islam has shattered some fundamental tenet of the theists’ belief? Sure they may consider it insulting, but so what? The insult isn’t towards the believer (and even if it was, it’s not against the law to insult someone; nor, IMHO should it be–anywhere), it’s to the belief system. Saying Xenu’s mother is ugly is nothing more than a subjective opinion that shouldn’t hold much weight to Xenu or his mother.
        Even in high school, when someone tried to bait me with ‘your momma is ugly’, it didn’t work because I didn’t give a flying rat’s buttocks what that person thought. He/she can think that all they wants. *I* know my mother is not ugly. My mother knows she’s not ugly. The opinion of others simply doesn’t matter. Violent retaliation in that situation would have been infantile.

    • piero says

      Sam C:

      Oh, where to start…

      I agree with you in part: gratuitous offence is not the best way to live in peace and harmony. Why would I want to call your daughter ugly in your (or her) face? That would certainly be a stupid provocation, certainly make you angry and certainly cause an instinctive aggressive reaction. Besides, who am I to establish aesthetic criteria?

      Yet your hypothetical situation made me think a bit, and here’s what I thought: I do actually have a daughter, and I think (obviously) that she is the most beautiful thing ever to adorn the Earth. If I was walking along with her and someone called her ugly, what should I rationally do? It depends on many factors.

      If my daughter is generally considered beautiful (by people other than her mother and myself), I need do nothing at all; she will know it’s a lie, and a stupid one at that. We would laugh it off in unison.

      If my daughter is generally considered ugly (except by her mother and me), would it be in her best interest for me to punch the offender? I think not. She would realise (consciously or unconsciously) that her looks do in fact constitute a problem for me, because I’m ready to react violently to any suggestion that she might not be as beautiful as I’ve told her she is. In other words, I would actually be confirming to her that she is not very good looking.

      Hence, the best course of action would be for me to ignore the insult and tell her that the offender is nuts, and that she should not take him/her seriously.

      The events that have originated this an a myriad other discussions in blogs and the media are not really that different. Muslims profess a wholly irrational (in fact, pathetically so) love for Muhammad, which could be compared to my love for my daughter, were it not for the fact that Muhammad is not the daughter of any Muslim, and has been dead for over a thousand years.

      To Muslims, drawing a picture of Muhammad is an offence. To non-Muslims, especially American and European non-Muslims, pictures are innocuous. We live in a mostly visual culture, and even little children know the difference between a picture and a real object or person. Therefore, Westerners (sorry for the inappropriate term, but I’m trying to be brief) do not generally react too emotionally to representations.

      So, is a picture of Muhammad offensive? Offence involves two parties: the offender and the offended. Unless the offended can prove that the other party INTENDED to offend, the point is moot. As Ophelia Benson said, if some sect is offended by people wearing blue (because it is the colour reserved for deities, say), should I stop wearing blue shirts in order not to offend?

      What Muslims expect is simply ludicrous: everyone should conform to their beliefs because otherwise they’ll assume we are being wilfully offensive. That’s just crap. Western countries in general, and Britain in particular, have never been, are not, and hopefully will necer be, Muslim countries.

      I don’t want to sound arrogant. After all, I live in a small, underdeveloped country which is still struggling to achieve a decent standard of living. But if someone chooses to come to my country and live here, I expect him/her to adapt to the local customs. Most Muslims now living in Britain emigrated in search of a better life. Britain let them build a new life, gave them social security, helth care, free education. Do they also expect the British to recognize Muhammad as their prophet? That’s just too much. I’m sorry, but sometimes you just have to say “take it or leave it.” Judging by their claims and behaviour, I would hope British Muslims chose “leave it”, because multiculturalims is an impossible chimera.

    • kevinkirkpatrick says

      Sam C,

      You are ripping down a straw-man. Free speech is not about what you are allowed to say without repercussion.

      Read this slowly:

      Free speech is only about speech the government (and by extension, government-run entities) can restrict or endorse.

      If a actor says “nigger” in certain contexts, that actor’s career is FINISHED for life. I am not “free” to call my co-workers a “kike”, “raghead”, nor “slant-eye”, inasmuch as I’d be promptly escorted from my office and brushing the dust off my resume. But I still have “free speech”, because none of those actions are actually illegal, and none of the repercussions are handled by the government.

      Let’s take your hypothetical: do you really want to live in a country whose legal books are filled with mandates like, “No citizen may say another citizens’ daughter is in any way unattractive, at a fine ranging 100£ for ‘unattracitve’ to £500 for ‘arse-ugly’”. Because THAT is what lack of free speech looks like – is THAT what you want?

      • piero says

        “£500 for ‘arse-ugly’”

        LOL!

        Never heard that before. I guess if someone called me “arse-ugly” I could not be offended: I would be too busy laughing.

  3. Sigmund says

    @SamC
    So having a mild, satirical cartoon on your own groups facebook page, one that you need to ask permission in order to see, is beyond the limit of permissible free speech?
    You make it sound like the LSE atheists were forcing random muslims to look at these images.
    The ‘Jesus and Mo’ site has been popular with atheists for the past six years. The cartoons use humor to point out the hypocricy of both religious claims and issues within the atheist/skeptical community. Six years and hundreds of cartoons and not a peep from muslims – for the simple reason that they are not the sort of cartoons that are useful for simply causing offense (like, for instance the Danish cartoons or that of Lars Vilks).
    The problem only blows up because non atheists decided to visit the atheist facebook page and police the imagery according to their religion.
    Who exactly is the group that decided to pick a fight?
    It wasn’t the atheists. Weve been using those images on our own sites for years and we aren’t trying to post them on other peoples sites.
    I notice that a writer on the LSE Union paper, ‘The Beaver’ kindly pointed out that:
    ” “offensive” cartoons are a particularly sensitive issue for Muslims because the depiction of any prophet (including Jesus Christ) is strictly forbidden.”
    Presumably, once they’ve come for the atheists, the next move will be for those nasty provocative “Christians”.
    Remember Christians, you may have a right to images of the prophet Jesus but you have a responsibility to refrain from using that right when it offends the deeply held beliefs of others.

  4. sumdum says

    My guess is that most British folk would take the view that it should always, always, be permissible to criticise Islam

    Yes, but you seem to ignore that they want to make any criticism at all fall under a vague definition of racism and islamophobia.

  5. Tony says

    Sam C:

    You guys won’t get it, I’m sure. It’s all black and white absolute rights with you, isn’t it? Rights without responsibilities or consequences. And the USA and its citizens are so aggressive by mentality, uncompromising in your assertion of the right to trample on anybody, literally and metaphorically.

    -We get it. You’re making a blanket condemnation of the entire US population. I suppose by your reasoning, since I feel you just insulted me without even knowing me (which if you did, you’d know I don’t operate in black and white, I hate absolute rules on anything, I despise blanket generalizations, I feel we all have a responsibility to others and the world around us, I feel there are consequences to even the smallest action we take…I could go on, but you can have to podium back and talk about how much you know about me, and the rest of population of the country) I should be able to punch you. To be honest, the last insult you tossed about uncompromisingly trampling on rights made my jaw drop. I got fired from my job last year due-in part-to my sticking up for the rights of other employees, in 3 separate situations where I wasn’t even involved. My general manager didn’t like the fact that I was vocal (around other employees, not guests; I worked at a restaurant) about my dislike of his treatment of other employees. I really didn’t care about his opinion. I stand by my decision to stand by the rights of others.
    So please, do continue to tell me how much I want to trample on the rights of others.

    • piero says

      Tony:
      I sympathise with you. I was also fired for standing up for my fellow workers’ rights. Similarly, I’ll stand up for my fellow human beings to express their views with the utmost freedom, and if any political party or religious sect attempts to muzzle them, they will ipso facto become my enemies. Not my opponents, mind, you, but my enemies.

    • echidna says

      Sometimes, standing up for your fellow workers against bad treatment by the boss works. I’ve seen it happen, so I hope you’re not sorry you gave it a try.

      • piero says

        Unfortunately, I do regret it. I stood up for their rights, but when push came to shove, I was on my own.

        I did learn a lot about human nature, though. Won’t be making the same mistake anytime soon.

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