Friday, January 19, 2007

Sheik Feiz Mohammed and freedom of speech

The Australian press is in an uproar over DVDs of sermons by Sydney Muslim leader Sheik Feiz Mohammed in which he refers to Jews as pigs and argues that young Muslims should be taught the virtues of jihad. The police are investigating, and there is some chance Mohammed will become the first victim of Australia's new sedition laws. This would be both a gross affront to freedom of speech, and a terrible mistake.

There is an obvious comparison with Holocaust-denier David Irving here. Irving was a jerk, a fraud, and an anti-semite - but prosecuting him turned him into a martyr for freedom of speech, and gave his views far more prominence and credibility than they deserved. Prosecuting Mohammed is likely to do the same, with the added bonus of symbolising Australia's hatred of Muslims - something which is not exactly going to help in the battle for "hearts and minds".

Freedom of speech cuts both ways, and applies to views you don't like as well as those you do. Sheik Mohammed's views are vile and hateful, but they do not in and of themselves harm anyone. They are offensive, but giving offence is not harm. In the nineteenth century, the great liberal John Stuart Mill argued forcefully that

the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection

In cases involving speech, this is traditionally interpreted as "shouting fire in a crowded theatre". Sheik Mohammed's words simply do not reach that threshold. If people do not like what he is saying, then they have a simple response: argue with him. But there is no justification in a liberal society to ban his words or punish him for them.


Sheikh Feiz Mohammed says, "Teach them this, that there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a Muhajid. Put in their soft, tender heart the zeal of jihad and the love of martyrdom."

He is inciting children to violence and self-annihilation or, at least, "grooming" them. Fuck that.

Posted by Richard : 1/19/2007 02:41:00 AM

I'm tempted to think along similar lines as Richard. To mix a metaphor or whatever, he's not encouraging people to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, but to actually set fire to it

Posted by dc_red : 1/19/2007 08:59:00 AM

No it's all words. He isn't saying - "go and blow up the number 13 bus, you'll find the explosives in this lockup" which is incitement (and conspiracy).

He's making a general exhortation. In a modern democracy, we should be able to take that. Most muslims will disagree with him - *unless* they get to the stage where they feel that their culture is being suppressed and the only way out is through violence.

The time when someone should be arrested and charged with terrorism is when they're found with that lockup full of Semtex. Since the securocracy have found remarkably few such arms dumps, they are resorting to thoughtcrime.

I "call bullshit" on the whole WoT anyway. There have been *three* fatal terrorist attacks in the developed world since September 2001. The IRA (an organisation of maybe 400 people) managed one incident every few month (outside NI) all through the late eighties. This suggests to me that the number of "jihadis" actually prepared and able to mount atrocities, as opposed to mouthing off, is pretty small.

Which is not what the securocrats want us to think, as it undermines the whole WoT idea.

Posted by Rich : 1/19/2007 10:29:00 AM

"Freedom of speech cuts both ways, and applies to views you don't like as well as those you do"

Unless it's the Exclusive Brethren running a political campaign. That should be regulated.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/19/2007 10:48:00 AM

To an objective Martian observer, the U.S. reaction to 9/11 and the whole way the Bushites have handled their so-called "War on Terror" would constitute powerful evidence that Osama is right about the Americans & their motives in the Middle East.

For many (most?) Americans 9/11 was literally a bolt from the blue. Insular, and fed hyper-patriotic and simplistic propaganda by their major news networks most Americans simply are unable to contextualise 9/11. The result is a bumper sticker response by a nation fearful of the outside world.

The whole "war of Civilisations" thing I just don't buy. Sure, its propagated by a whole army of troglodyte Mullahs but the only reason these Mullahs have an angry audience is because their audience populations have been brutalised and radicalised by oppressive, U.S. propped up governments. Even where this is not the case - as in Iran - the clumsiness of the United States is unbelievable.

The likes of Sheikh Feiz Mohammed - and Osama Bin Laden - are merely mirrors held up to the face of the deliberate policy decisons of the United States and its allies over the last half century.

The viper in our midst is of our own doing. The question is, what should be done? Sadly, in this case I am with the hardliners here. This man has a constituency and that makes him dangerous. You have to make a difference between the general and the particular. The government's first duty is to the protection of its citizens, even if its omissions and commissions were the cause of the danger in the first place.

Posted by Sanctuary : 1/19/2007 12:13:00 PM

anon - "Unless it's the Exclusive Brethren running a political campaign. That should be regulated."

The EB made highly disputable claims from the safety of an anonymous campaign using fake names and fake addresses (and thats not even touching the other backroom stuff they were up to).

That is not "free speech" thats called "deception".

So please drop that argument once and for all.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/19/2007 12:43:00 PM

The campaign by certain members of the EB was not anonymous. They did not use fake names, although one address was wrong.

From memory, the only EB pamphlet that contained disputable claims was the one about the green party. Categorically it was not anonymous and did not have a false address.

And it turns out only one of the sixteen claims didn't bear scrutiny:

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 1/19/2007 02:41:00 PM

fraser, I refer you to Graeme's helpful facts for the EB example.

But for free speech in general, it appears that you're implying that speech should not be free if it's anonymous and/or disputable.

My interpretation could be off, but if that is what you mean then I suggest you (and anyone else in favour of speech rationing) are not actually for free speech at all.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/19/2007 06:02:00 PM

He can say what he likes for all I care, but can't complain when others call him an evil insane wanker.

That's what I hate about most lefties who say we have to be tolerant of their extermist views.

We can't rebuttal without being called racist, or some other slur.

That's like saying you can't condem the National Front in this country for the racist bastards that they actauul are.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/19/2007 06:58:00 PM

Graeme - your link is 404'ed

Posted by Anonymous : 1/19/2007 08:45:00 PM

Huskynut - really?

Works for me - 'though the links within that page don't work since SH upgraded to the new site.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 1/19/2007 10:48:00 PM

Your comparison is wrong. I don't recall David Irvine suggesting young children should go out and kill themselves to take out Jews or those that accepted the Holocaust. This person is deliberately inciting fellow delusionals (for that is who it is aimed at) to groom their children for suicide in the name of their delusion. And once again, plenty of people are prepared to say either he doesn't represent the mainstream, or else has the right to say what he likes.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/20/2007 12:40:00 AM

This is a conflict not of cultures, but of tribes. It bothers me that there were demands for Sheik Feiz Mohammed to be barred from living in Australia despite it being the country of his birth.

This is reminiscent of German desires for Jews to be force emigrated. Whilst on a totally different scale the basic premise is the same - this is not your country because we do not "want" you.

Somehow it shows a deficit of the concept of "nation" and it feels to me to be a welling up of some kind of tribalism.

Posted by Muerk : 1/20/2007 02:29:00 AM

Sean's right - Feiz Mohammed is plainly delusional. Debate, with its implications of pandering to your opponent's intellectual vanity while indulging your own, is not the answer, any more than is media-fomented outrage. Feiz Mohammed, deluded little twirp that he plainly is, deserves nothing more than mockery.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/20/2007 06:25:00 PM