We don’t draw the line

I am off to Brighton today to join a panel discussion on ‘Where do you draw the line’ on free expression.

I say no where. Let people talk even if what they say is disgusting. You can’t and mustn’t stop people from reciting the Koran because it’s inhuman just as you can’t and mustn’t stop us from speaking out against it.

Here are the details of the event: 4.30 – 6pm at the Brighton Dome, Pavilion Theatre, a panel discussion staged by Index on Censorship and Free Word as part of this year’s Brighton Festival For more information, click here.

By the way, don’t forget that this has an impact on real lives. Today is an International Day of Action in support of Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rapper and songwriter living in Germany who has received a fatwa of death by the two Iranian Ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi and Safi Golpayegani. Shahin has been accused of offending Islam in his rap, Naghi. A bounty of 100,000 US dollars has been offered as reward for his murder on a website affiliated to the Islamic regime of Iran.

I’ll be sure to mention Shahin today in my interventions. If there is an action in his defence, why not join it. You can also support Shahin by joining his Facebook page and visiting his website.


  1. Alasdair says

    See, I’d say fatwas of death are exactly the sort of free expression that *should* be restricted. There is a line to be drawn, and ‘Kill this person, in the name of God’ is on the wrong side of it.

    • FredBloggs says

      I’m inclined to agree. Active incitement to an act of violence is where the line should be drawn.

      This is distinct from incitement to hatred, which is where UK law appears to draw the line.

      • danmargri says

        I agree. I thing the First Amendment jurisprudence draws a reasonable line. Incitement to violence is not protected speech. I am not very familiar with the British situation, but my understanding is that there is a charge that was used against, among others, Nick Griffin, called “Incitement of racial hatred”. If this is correct, I find this charge deeply disturbing, since it criminalises incitement to something that is not itself illegal.

  2. Jet says

    Any nation that allows it’s leaders to call for the death of citizens of other countries for thought crimes, has no idea of what the word ‘civilization’ actually means, and should be accorded no respect from any other nation.

  3. Art says

    The only limit I think acceptable are those that seek to make sure that any particular form or manifestation of free expression is not too loud or so frequently repeated that it drowns out other voices. There is also some right to a reasonable amount of peace and quiet.

    I suspect that fatwas imposed over claims a person has insulted Islam are entirely self defeating. One of the persistent problems with crime and punishment is that: Small penalties rapidly lose their edge so the powers that be feel the need to perpetually impose harsher punishment and, once you impose the sentence of death you hit a wall.

    In the late 1700s English law had worked its way up the scale of harshness to the point where even petty crimes could earn you a hanging. It was pretty common for half-starved orphans to face capital punishment for stealing a few pennies worth of food. Faced with the absurdity of children facing death over petty crimes the judges found alternatives outside the written rules. Both the colonies in Americas and Australia were peopled with scofflaws accepting exile instead of death.

    People exiled because of common crimes are often accepting of their situation. Exiled as consequence of a life of violence and theft doesn’t make one so very resentful. But few have such a passionate love/hate relationship as people exiled from their homes because of their thoughts and words. The largest and most vocal resistance to Muslim intolerance comes from exiled Muslims.

    Everyone loves an underdog and who doesn’t like to tweak the nose of pompous authoritarians? IMO the demand that none insult Mohammed or Islam has resulted in far more insults. Also, nothing makes an authoritarian system look so weak and ineffectual as an idle death threat. On the other hand nothing makes an authoritarian system look both cruel and monstrous as a death threat carried out. Hard for them to win.

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