Sunday, February 05, 2006

No freedom of speech in Jordan

A couple of days ago, the editor of Jordan's AL-Shihan published those cartoons, with an editorial calling on Muslims to "be reasonable" and asking

What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?

First, he was fired by the newspaper's owners. Now, he has been arrested and charged with "insulting religion" under Jordan's press laws. There's no indication of what the penalty is, but it is probably a few years in jail.

It is of course outrageous that anybody could face prosecution and jail for printing cartoons and asking unwelcome questions about violence and religion - but before anyone gets on their high horse about it, remember that New Zealand still has a law against blasphemous libel on the books, and that if those cartoons had been about Jesus, anyone publishing them in New Zealand would technically have been liable to a year's imprisonment. If we want the moral high ground on freedom of speech, shouldn't we remove the beam from our own eye first? Anything less is simply hypocrisy.


No idiot. Hypocrisy is comparing an archaic law which "technically" could be invoked but will not be, with a law that is continuously used to physically deprive people of their freedom. If you want to tell us about the last time someone was jailed for a similar offence in New Zealand then you've got a point. Otherwise, you're engaging in a rampant bit of hypocrisy yourself.

You are desperate here to be as morally equivocal as possible, aren't you? I guess rallying against oppression outside of Ameica takes a touch more courage than is obviously comfortable.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/05/2006 10:50:00 AM

Adrian: My position is perfectly consistent. I oppose restrictions on freedom of speech at home as well as overseas. There's no question that a law which is used is worse than one which hangs around like a bad smell in the law books - but the latter is still an affront to freedom of speech, and undermines our case if we wish to make a principled stand.

This is not about "moral equivalence" - it is about the consistency of our own views. Fortunately, the people expressing outrage over attempts to suppress the cartoons are consistent. I haven't seen anyone yet who has gone "Islamic suppression bad; blasphemous libel law OK". But reminding them of our own law (which many are ignorant of), helps to build support for eventual repeal.

What I am doing here is using this issue to build support for one of my pet issues: doing away with the last vestiges of archaic restrictions on freedom of speech in New Zealand. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/05/2006 11:27:00 AM

idiot - I entirely agree that the law should be banished from the books and consigned to an era thankfully passed. It is indeed a technical affront to freedom of speech, although happily not an impediment to the vigorous practice of it. However, our freedoms are judged by the actual limits placed on them, in daily life. The USSR of course guaranteed freedom of speech to its citizens from the 1950s on, yet we judge its real legacy, not its legal espousals. One could of course distort all sorts of histories by looking at theoretical law rather than the use of law.

Annoyingly for me, I fail at every attempt to wind you up into a state of spleenic distemper. You are a frustratingly patient individual. I shall re-strategise, so beware.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/05/2006 05:16:00 PM

Oh, I learned to count to ten (or a hundred, or a thousand) before posting long ago. And sometimes, I even remember to do it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/05/2006 11:45:00 PM

Hardly anyone in NZ (least of those who support publishing these cartoons which may well breach this law anyway) supports the blasphemous libel law and if it was ever invoked it wouldn't result in repression but instead a massive lurch in the opposite direction with the backlash that one gets if one applies a law that 99% of the population opposes.

So I could reasonably conclude that the law isnt dangerous and is 100th on our list of 100 laws to revoke.

therefore no hypocracy - just dealing with real issues before technical ones.

BTW surely the muslim comunity could try to invoke the law (despite what those discriminatory commentators say) - since it doesn't say christianity anywhere. I suggest they do it.

Posted by Genius : 2/05/2006 11:51:00 PM

Genius: Well, other than Phil Goff and Peter Dunne and various other MPs. But I think that if we can at least get a bill before the House, we can probably get a repeal.

IMHO a test case would be a great way of building support for repeal, but tactically I'm not sure if this is the right issue (and I'm loath to support private prosecution under a law I detest, even as a way of getting rid of it). But if the local Muslim community wants to give it a go, I can't stop them...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/06/2006 12:14:00 AM

Your backlinks don't appear to be working (unless it's merely delayed), but I had a follow-up here.

Posted by Richard Y Chappell : 2/06/2006 04:15:00 PM

Richard: it often takes a day or two for backlinks to appear; I think its something to do with Google blogsearch.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/06/2006 08:20:00 PM