Debates on free speech and Muslim bodies


by Sunny
22nd February, 2006 at 10:25 pm    

Just a quick announcement really, for your amusement. I’ll be on Asian Network tomorrow morning from 9:30am to talk about recent controversies over free speech, and people’s OTT reactions to them. Don’t know who I’ll be up against but can listen to the archive after.

I shall also be on PTV Prime (Sky 815) tomorrow at 4pm against someone from the newly created Muslim Action Committee (MAC) and possibly the MCB (though they’re usually too scared), and ask why we need so many Muslim orgs and what exactly are they achieving. Though usually these discussions never go to plan.

On a totally different note, I read today that the mother of Navjeet Sidhu, woman who committed suicide at Southall station with her two kids 6 months ago, also killed herself at the same spot yesterday. RIP.


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  1. Opinionated Voice

    [...] Following on from the David Irving case, Israeli lawyer, Ervin Shahar, says he has asked Germany to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with denying the Holocaust. Although Mr Ahmadinejad did not deny the Holocaust on German soil, another law passed in 2005 permits the filing of international cases in German courts. This is further evidence of the European condition that the slandering of Muslims is permitted under the precept of ‘freedom of speech’ while offending Jews is considered a criminal act pervious to international boundaries. Hopefully a point that Sunny will address tommorrow! «« Previous: Hamas and the Terrorist List Comments » [...]




  1. raz — on 22nd February, 2006 at 11:13 pm  

    About the Navjeet Sidhu issue, I am reminded of the words of one woman discussing the Behzti play with one of the actors:

    Link here

    “Everything in this play rings true, but I can’t discuss it with my father, my husband or my son, and if I can’t discuss it with the people I love and share my life with, what hope is there? Gurpreet Kaur must be a very brave woman, obviously a true Sikh, but she has taken a very big risk.’

    I remember reading these words with a tinge of sadness, wondering how many thousands of other Sikh women were suffering in silence. Tragic.

  2. Jay Singh — on 22nd February, 2006 at 11:23 pm  

    raz, I have read the play with nearly a hundred Sikh women and teenagers and none of them articulated anything like that. I can imagine it is a neatly fabricated quote by the actor. I’m not quite sure what it has to do with a woman tragically commiting suicide, but nevertheless, I am sure you do.

  3. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2006 at 11:52 pm  

    Oh c’mon Jay, are all Sikh women the same? And are they all going to discuss everything with you, or admit openly they hide things from their parents etc?

    I know you don’t like Behzti etc etc, but to assume that Punjabis are open societies with no social problems, and then getting defensive when Behzti is used an example… there’s no need.

  4. Jay Singh — on 23rd February, 2006 at 12:00 am  

    I really don’t think that Sunny and you know it!

    Yes, the reactions at the play readings I organised could be described as visceral, and the most charitable things that were said was that the prurience of it trivialised their issues – not what was intended, I feel sure.

    Anyway, I was just wondering if a tear rolled from raz’s cheek as he thought that tragic thought *sniff sniff* ;-)

  5. Rohin — on 23rd February, 2006 at 12:13 am  

    Don’t MAC make make-up?

    Or computers?

    Or burgers?

  6. Sunny — on 23rd February, 2006 at 12:33 am  

    We clearly received different reactions, but I don’t see why you feel the need to play down Raz’s thoughts. Can he not feel empathy for others?

    I assume also that if some other woman, like the woman who was actually raped at a Gurudwara here, said she agreed with what Gurpreet Kaur was trying to say – you would not say what you did above.

    Rohin – I shall ask them :D

  7. Sid D H Arthur — on 23rd February, 2006 at 12:56 am  

    good luck Sunny. Please post archive links/transcripts etc.

  8. Steve M — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:17 am  

    This is further evidence of the European condition that the slandering of Muslims is permitted under the precept of ‘freedom of speech’ while offending Jews is considered a criminal act pervious to international boundaries.

    I don’t think that it is, OV&H.

    A more accurate interpretation would be:

    This is further evidence of the European condition that the slandering of Muslims is permitted under the precept of ‘freedom of speech’ (although to be avoided) while allowing Austrians to forget or deny the crimes that they committed is considered a criminal act pervious to international boundaries.

    This case was tried in Austria not Israel.

  9. Steve M — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:28 am  

    and the Ahmadinejad shot will never cut it.

  10. Jay Singh — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:36 am  

    Sunny, I was just ribbing him for his tears and sympathy, it sounded funny. Bless him.

  11. raz — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:43 am  

    Sunny, I’ve seen this type of denial amongst a lot of Asian men. Muslims who deny honour killings, Hindus who deny dowry murders now we have Sikhs trying to sweep everything under the carpet. The hysterical, defensive response to the Bhezti affair by the likes of Jay Singh is indicative of the ‘head in the sand’ mentality which sadly permeates so much of the traditional male Asian psyche. The treatment of women in our cultures is one of the pivotal issues for any progressive young South Asian, and we must not let these voices be silenced.

  12. Jay Singh — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:50 am  

    *round of applause*

    I really can’t be bothered to lay down my credentials, they are plain for all to see, God Bless You Raz, your humble cliches are ennobling to me ;-)

  13. Rohin — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:53 am  

    Let’s stop this here. The exact same words have been used before. Jay is not hysterical nor is he in denial about problems with Sikh/Asian culture as witnessed by what he’s written on here. Read the post he wrote about the Sikh community. He and I disagree about Behzti, but I don’t think any of the regular commenters here are the head in the sand type. No need to start an argument now.

  14. jamal — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:54 am  

    steve, to try to prosecute a middle east president in by filing a case in a german court does transcend international boundaries in its intention.

    You are correct in that this wont cut it.

  15. Jay Singh — on 23rd February, 2006 at 1:57 am  

    Rohin

    I really don’t think you and I disagree about this issue at all. All my criticisms of it are founded in the same principle that we criticise those things we dislike – NON NEGOTIABLE principles of freedom of speech. My opinion on the play is couched in those parameters – and made at a safe distance – as a piece of representation and art.

  16. raz — on 23rd February, 2006 at 2:07 am  

    Rohin, why don’t you read the thread and see who it was who started the ‘argument’. If Jay is incapable of sensible discussions without resorting to personal attacks, that’s his own problem:

    “but nevertheless, I am sure you do”

    “Anyway, I was just wondering if a tear rolled from raz’s cheek as he thought that tragic thought *sniff sniff*”

    Yeah because these deaths:

    http://images.thetimes.co.uk/TGD/picture/0,,271007,00.jpg

    are really a laughing matter, aren’t they Jay.

  17. Sunny — on 23rd February, 2006 at 2:07 am  

    Jamal – Surely the Iranian president’s comments about wiping Israel off the map also trancends his own boundaries? If he’s delusional about his own power, then that’s his problems. But ther Germans are not the only ones poking their affairs into others people’s business. All those people asking for the Danish people and govt to apologise etc etc are also doing the same.

  18. Jay Singh — on 23rd February, 2006 at 2:09 am  

    raz – it’s you being hysterical now, be calm, relax, look out of the window and make a wish upon a star or something.

  19. Rohin — on 23rd February, 2006 at 2:32 am  

    Raz, if it sounded as though the “Let’s stop this” was aimed only at you, sorry. It was for you both. A polite request cos I thought it looked as though it was going the wrong way. If it’s a calm discussion, go for it.

  20. Cinnamon — on 23rd February, 2006 at 8:50 am  

    My sympathies are with the train drivers who got pressed into acting as executioners for those people, the people who have to clean the mess, and those that witnessed the sucide.

    I hope they will be able to forget the terrible sight eventually.

    And yeah, I think it is sad that the woman gave up on her own life, unforgivable that she killed her children, and tragic that her mom followed her.

    But in a way I don’t have sympathy with the two women, because those woman didn’t have an impossible position to improve upon, but they just ran from life, instead of running their life.

  21. BevanKieran — on 23rd February, 2006 at 10:50 am  

    But the Germans are not the only ones poking their affairs into others people’s business. All those people asking for the Danish people and govt to apologise etc etc are also doing the same.

    If collective punishment works in both directions then Germany could boycott Iran’s participation in the World Cup. It would be easier than making empty threats against the President.

  22. Cinnamon — on 23rd February, 2006 at 11:36 am  

    BevanKieran,

    that has been dicsussed and since the Mullahs don’t like football, it also has been discarded. Besides, the idea of football is to bring people together.

    However, the caricature trouble II where a German paper made a joke about our army childishly insisting on policing the World Cup ended up with the caricaturist getting death threats from the Iranians[1].

    Even so, the Iranian team are still warmly invited, and most Germans make a distinction between mullahs and normal Iranians, we have experience with living in a fascist state and know exactly what it is like to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, and so, it would be out of the question to let the mullahs spoil the last bit of legal fun the Iranians have.

    Cinnamon, who hopes the Iranian team will do well!

    [1] Germans are not known for their capacity for humour, but at least we found a nation that definitly beats us here, comprehensivly. *smirk*

  23. jamal — on 23rd February, 2006 at 6:03 pm  

    Sunny,

    The Iranian presidents comments on wiping Israel off the map is a seperate issue.

    This is not about people “poking their nose in”.

    European countries including Austria advocated freedom of speech arguements in publishing and republishing the cartoons that offended, slandered and stereotyped Muslims. In a clear act of hypocrisy, Austria now ignores freedom of speech because Irving denied the holocaust.

    So with reference to your radio discussion, why is it that offending muslims is freedom of speech in Europe but offending Jews is not?

    I have posted an article about it at BLOGCRITICS

  24. ian — on 23rd February, 2006 at 9:53 pm  

    You can offend Jews all you like, Jamal. Go publish some antisemitic cartoons, no one’ll bother you. So offending Jews is freedom of speech.

    I don’t agree with the holocaust denial laws because I believe people should be free to be shown up for the vile scum they are. But the laws came in to stop the rise of fascist parties, and the people who passed those laws thought that encouraging people to believe the Nazis were nice people besmirched by the Evil Jew (TM) was the equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.

    Why are you obsessed with this idea that Europeans care about the sensibilities of Jews so much? We don’t. There are antisemitic comments and digs at Jehovah all the time in the European press.

    And there were other people besides Jews who were murdered at Auschwitz. The UK’s done little for disabled people, but they’re ‘protected’ by the same holocaust denial laws. And some disabled people are Muslim. They’d have gone to the gas chambers, too.

    Why should we not care about whether a disabled Muslim can get into a shop but take steps to prevent the rise of fascism that would gas them (or hang them or stone them or bury them in sewage)?

    Because we hate Nazis more than we hate anyone else.

    It’s you who are so keen to turn this into a Jews versus Muslims thing. No one else gives a toss.

  25. ian — on 23rd February, 2006 at 10:00 pm  

    Short answer.

    Fascism kills people. Cartoons about some dead dude don’t, whether that dude’s Mohammed, Jesus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Big difference between someone’s sensitivities and someone’s life.

    Your religious ideology and its founder should no more be protected from criticism than Republicanism and George Bush. Good grief, how do Republicans sleep at night with all those offensive Steve Bell cartoons?

  26. jamal — on 23rd February, 2006 at 11:04 pm  

    Ian,

    The difference with shouting fire is that everybody is at risk of being injured in a stampede, in comparison to Jews feeling offended. It is a silly comparison.

    You may “hate nazi’s more then anyone else” but i have them just as much as i hate all bad people. Therefore im not going to only avoid offending jewish sentiments which is what occurs in europe in contrast to the slander muslims receive.

    And now furthermore you can lose the implication that only muslims worry about cartoons as the catholics are the current set of cartoon protestors.

  27. ian — on 23rd February, 2006 at 11:42 pm  

    Jews are the butt of offence all the time, Jamal. As I said, you don’t have to go to Denmark to read snide comments about Jews: you can read them right here in the UK. And on the righteous MPACUK forums if you prefer.

    Yes, the fire thing’s a silly comparison, which is why I don’t agree with the denial laws and which is why I wouldn’t support a law that forbade taking the mickey out of someone’s god. I support the repeal of the blasphemy laws, not their extension.

    The implication only Muslims worry about cartoons is your inference – I never said it, youre projecting. I know all about Piss Christ and the rest, so Bloody Mary’s nothing new. I’m not blind. I know minority groups of whatever stripe get hot under the collar about every real or perceived insult. I’m a member of a minority group myself.

    You don’t give a toss about offending Jews, gays or apostates, so why should anyone give a toss about offending you or other Muslims? Neither you nor I are above criticism.

  28. BevanKieran — on 24th February, 2006 at 1:09 am  

    Cinnamon

    I accept your point about Mullahs disinterest in football compared to the general population of Iran and that in those circumstances a boycott would be vindictive.
    I am in two minds as to whether political issues should be kept out of sport. Going OT here but South Africa and the sports boycott was a clear way of exposing the injustices of apartheid (covered brilliantly in Peter Oborne’s Basil D’Oliveira biography). It could also be argued that Irans qualification from the Asian league was facilitated by the expulsion of Israel. (This topic is covered poorly by a particularly illiterate Wikipedia entry). However I do wish Iran well, though not as well as if there was a decent side (i.e capable of beating England) in their group.

  29. Sid D H Arthur — on 24th February, 2006 at 1:12 am  

    Jamal

    I know its hard to accept for many Muslims, but the two are not comparable offences. Muslims should re-evaluate what it means to deal with provocationary acts directed at their beliefs from a legal point of view rather than from a purely sentimental and reactionary one.

    Publishing the cartoons was a breach of religious taboo, and was racist in intent – that we know. Or at least on PP we know. However, organised religion has lost its value in the West because it doesn’t chime with Liberal Democracy. And all things remaining equal, thats the system we live in and should respect.

    This publishing of the cartoons was anathema to Muslims. However, in order to safeguard themselves from such attacks, there exist laws which govern the protection of those who will use “Freedom of Speech” to incite hatred. Therefore Muslims would be wise to use the apparatus of the legal and judicial systems to fight such attacks on grounds of incitement of hatred or on by any such law that protects rights rather than by destroying property, rioting and ultimately losing the meaning of the offence caused in the first place.

    The Holocaust is an event which is loaded with connotations of guilt and culpability for Europeans. It occurred in the living memory of people who we are contemporaries of. It was also a culmination of an endemic European pattern of antisemtism that goes back many hundreds of years to when Jews first came to Europe. See here.

    Comparison of another crime, however heinous, to the Holocaust is to deny it. Abd to deny the Holocaust is to attempt to revise Europe’s dirty history of racism and prejudice and attempt to legitimise, even justify, its crimes on others. This is another anathema. Comparing one anathema to another gets you nowhere and to encourage it is to buy the Muslim bashers pretext to assuage the collective guilt of the the Holocaust and transfer it to Muslims. Muslims seem all too ready to bear this guilt – god only knows why (hello Mr Ahmadinejad). But that is what Muslims cannot afford to do if they want to have their rights respected in return.

    So please, there’s a trap here which says “Muslims Don’t Press this Button”. Don’t fall for the obvious by pressing it.

  30. Don — on 24th February, 2006 at 12:39 pm  

    I don’t oftern agree with Sid on this topic, but I think he makes an important point here. When muslims deny, mock, minimise or celebrate the Shoah, not only does it reinforce the stereotype of muslims as narrow minded bigots, it also allows those who oppose these attacks to, conciously or not, see themselves as making some measure of redress for the collective guilt still felt in Europe. The transfer of that guilt is, perhaps the next logical step.

    Those on both sides who seek a reaction have settled on juvenile and crude ways to do it. How many racists are delighted by the idea that with a few strokes of the pen they can send muslims into their own streets to burn and destroy their own cities? How many dead because of the cartoons? How many of them were in the remotest way connected with the publication? I’d guess none. to ‘retaliate’ by mocking the gas chambers also gets a reaction; contempt.

  31. Jai — on 24th February, 2006 at 2:37 pm  

    I also agree with both Sid and Don on this occasion.

    In addition to what they have already said, the point is this: The veracity of Mohammad being a sacred figure and a divinely-inspired prophet is a matter of opinion (although not to devout Muslims, obviously).

    However, the veracity of the Holocaust is a matter of inalieable historical FACT. There is solid, concrete evidence to support this.

    This is the basic difference between the 2 scenarios.

    While I can understand why devout Muslims would feel that disagreeing with the former is a destructive course of action, attempting to promote a revisionist version of the latter is actually incredibly dangerous because of the reasons already stated by Don and others here on PP.

    Also, retaliating by mocking the Holocaust or indeed attempting to deny its existence (and why the continuous obsession with Jews ?) not only deserves contempt, it is an extremely spiteful, vicious, and frankly childish way to react, and not only further makes the perpetrators look worse in the eyes of the rest of the world, it continues to undermine any religious credibility and moral authority they may claim to have.

  32. Sunny — on 24th February, 2006 at 2:45 pm  

    A good point well made Sid – however I doubt most Muslims will want to accept that. Its an open trap many keep falling into.

  33. jamal — on 25th February, 2006 at 1:09 am  

    I agree in part.

    Because religion has lost its chime in the west does not mean that we all follow. There are 2 scenarios, but both are equal in their own way. However, it appears that when jews or the holocaust are offended that action is taken through safeguards which are already in place, or put in place as we see with Red Ken. To be of the opinion that denying/refering to the holocaust may cause a resurge of history is like saying to mention civil rights or saddam houssein will cause a resurge of their respective conflicts. I dont buy it, though I accept what offends the sentiments of Jews and am all for their protection. It is just that I want some protection too for when I am offended in a similar way. Islamophobia and racism is also a problem in europe and the cartoons perpetuated this. First it was tackled correctly by lead muslims from 9/2005 onwards until the end of jan/06 when the wrong people got involved and it negatively escalated. This is where my main gripe occurs as the papers were then able to republish the pictures regardless of countless muslims making it clear that they were offended.

    Nevertheless, I agree that the muslims were stupid in the way they reacted which was no different to the blacks in birmingham recently and the immigrants in france, rather then condemning the jews they could actually take a leaf out of the jews book in learning how to effectively take action.

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