Friday, March 17, 2006

A one-sided freedom

Five British men have been charged over their protests against the publications of the Danish cartoons in February. Two faces public order offences, but one faces charges of both incitement to murder and inciting racial hatred. The former IMHO is a crock - the demonstration, however disagreeable was simply an exercise of freedom of speech - but the latter is even more so. For the past five years, there has been an intense political debate in the UK around amending legislation to create a crime of "inciting religious hatred", as this is not covered by current racial hatred laws. This has culminated in the government's Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, which is currently having a very bumpy ride through Parliament. The bill has not passed yet, and in its absence, it is perfectly legal to stand outside a British Mosque or protest in the street with a sign saying "Kill All Muslims". But according to these charges, it is illegal to do the opposite. Quite apart from questions of how exactly that works (how can "non-Muslims" or "enemies of Islam" be considered a racial group when the qualification is clearly religious?), it is inconsistent and hypocritical - and this will not be lost on British Muslims. Combined with the opposition to the bill, this sends them a very clear message: they are subject to law, but not protected by it. And that is exactly the sort of injustice which encourages people to blow themselves up on trains.

Closer to home, a number of local bloggers (including myself) spoke out loudly against the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill on freedom of speech grounds when it was last before the UK Parliament. I wonder if the others will be quite so loud in condemning these charges, or whether the freedom they were defending was simply a one-sided freedom to abuse Muslims, while denying any right for them to respond in kind.


Well, I can't speak for the rest of the VRWC, but I wish I was there so I could have stood beside them with a sign reading: "FREE SPEECH FOR ALL - EVEN THESE COCKS!" :)

Posted by Anonymous : 3/17/2006 09:55:00 AM

I would say that your logic is rather tortured but in the present climate that would be in rather bad taste.

Let's start with your conclusion - a need to condemn these charges or face an accusation of double standards. According to the article the charges are "soliciting murder and stirring up racial hatred". Now I'm not certain of the law regarding the last bit but presumably under present law both charges can be made. (But I gather that those who oppose the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill argue that there is at present enough legal means to deal with the incitement of hatred against religious groups - no doubt that is what is being applied here).And if they are proved true then why should one condemn the charges? Incitement to murder is a crime. To equate a non-condemnation of that with defending "a one-sided freedom to abuse Muslims" is grotesque.

But you start with a non-sensical premise - "... it is perfectly legal to stand outside a British Mosque or protest in the street with a sign saying 'Kill All Muslims'" Well, no. If this amounts to incitement to violence then it is illegal. The law does not descriminate on the basis of the religion of those threatened.

That this is going to lead Muslims to become suicide bombers might come as a surprise and possibly an insult to many Muslims.

I give you credit for being pretty sharp on legal issues but I really think you are way off here.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/17/2006 10:46:00 AM

There is a difference between incitement and advocacy.

For instance I happen to think that on balance, it would be a good thing if someone were to shoot Robert Mugabe. That is (traditionally) not incitement - it's an opinion.

If I were to find a mercenary and pay them a million dollars to do the deed, *that* would be incitement and a crime.

Unfortunately, this distinction is getting blurred by belligerent nations wanting scalps in the "war on terror".

Posted by Rich : 3/17/2006 01:00:00 PM

Anyone who stood outside a mosque with a "kill all Muslims" sign wouldn't last very long. The effect would most likely be similiar to a protest in France where two men walked into a crowd of protesting Muslims with the following signs on them:

Free Cartoonist
Support Denmark
Support Free Speech

They were taken away by police who ended up running with the two men to the police van while being chased a number of increasingly angry Muslims. The police told the men they were crazy to walk into a crowd that big with those sorts of signs on them, clearly very concerned for their safety.

Now, an individual outside a Mosque in Britain, with "kill all Muslims" on them - Would. Not. Last. Long.


Posted by Lucia Maria : 3/17/2006 06:14:00 PM

I believe in freedom of speech as long as you are not inciting haterd or the murder of others or inciting others to do so.

Why doesn't Helen Clark beleive the same?

And why do you support her?

You have turned to the dark side Logix!

Posted by Anonymous : 3/17/2006 07:03:00 PM

Lucyna: yes, and anyone attacking them would be comitting a crime. But this is about the consistency of the application of British law - not what vigilantes do.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/17/2006 07:51:00 PM

what law allows you to say kill all muslims but not Kill all non muslims?
I find it hard to believe that a court would enforce such a distinction unless is was VERY clearly spelled out in the law. So I expect you have a law that says "you can threaten to kill muslims but not non muslims"? Or is it jsut that we are saying that judges are generalyy white and racist?

Posted by Genius : 3/17/2006 10:39:00 PM

Genius: this is a decision to prosecute, not a legal judgement. The charge may be thrown out for precisely the reasons I raise above, or it may be upheld. But the fact that it has been laid at all suggests a nasty double standard somewhere in the system.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/17/2006 11:40:00 PM

Most people agree free speech has some limits - the common example being yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

I generally support the limits being minimal. Criticism and satire being well well below the limits. Holocaust denial is below the limits.

Inciting and advocating mass murder is one of the few things over the limit.

Posted by David Farrar : 3/18/2006 01:28:00 PM