No, I’m not joking. Someone actually made a flippant comment on twitter and got arrested for it:
When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers’s travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping out a comment to amuse his friends. “Robin Hood airport is closed,” he wrote. “You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
Unfortunately for Mr Chambers, the police didn’t see the funny side. A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and questioned for almost seven hours by detectives who interpreted his post as a security threat. After he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation, and has, he says, been banned from the Doncaster airport for life.
Sorry but WTF? When did we lose the group ability to distinguish between a credible threat and someone mouthing off – ill-advisedly sure – but obviously just mouthing off? Why waste police time investigating what I could have told them was rubbish (and I don’t even know him)? Hannah Dunleavy suggests:
While I agree it was a savage over-reaction and has undertones of something quite troubling, I wonder if they’d all be so outraged if Chambers had been a Muslim teenager from Bradford, rather than a white man. I’m sure they wouldn’t. Freedom of speech has to apply to everyone: jokes about blowing up planes cannot be the preserve of Caucasians and Christians.
I agree there’s a point there about freedom of speech needing to apply to all, but to be perfectly honest if a Muslim teenager from Bradford had said the same thing in the same context I would be equally as outraged. If a Muslim teenager from Bradford starts mouthing off Jihadist nonsense on a website known for its extremist content then by all means devote police resources to investigate what’s going on there, but to react in the same way to a stupid comment in a flustered mood by anyone mouthing off to their mates and admirers on twitter? Perspective really is needed.
David Mitchell discusses the furore about the Islamist march ‘planned’ by Islam4UK in Wootton Bassett. Considering the group hasn’t even made the necessary initial representation to the police in order for the march to take place, I’ve found myself astonished at the level of invective raised, particularly the calls for it to be banned. Firstly it obviously was never going to take place anyway, so why make such a fuss, but doesn’t freedom of speech also bring with it the freedom to be offensive or to cause offence? Mitchell is thoroughly right in his support for the freedom to offend for all:
The thing about freedom of speech is that people are allowed to say offensive, indefensible things; that we needn’t fear that because we’re sure that wiser counsels are more likely to convince. “Let the idiots and bullies speak openly and they will be revealed for what they are!” is the idea. It’s a brilliant one and, in confident, educated societies, it almost always works – certainly much more often than any of the alternatives. Why has Alan Johnson lost confidence in this principle? Why have the 700,000 signatories of a Facebook petition calling for the event to be banned?
I know there are circumstances in which freedom of speech is rightly limited – I’m not arguing for a repeal of all libel or incitement to hatred laws. But it’s difficult to see how this demonstration would incite hatred of anyone other than the demonstrators. Public safety can also be an issue. I understand that the police couldn’t let the protest go ahead without a reasonable expectation that it wouldn’t become violent. But if it is banned, let us be 100% sure, let our consciences be absolutely clear, that public safety was the reason, not the excuse.
Entirely right. Of course it’ll never even get that far, because Islam4UK never intended for it to get that far; they merely wanted (as Mitchell says) the free, anti-Muslim invective to prove their case against the establishment. Alan Johnson has said he’d be prepared to ban the march on public order grounds, but contained as that was in the language of having himself felt offended by the march, it’s unclear on what grounds he was really prepared to do so. Let’s be clear: although it was never intended to take place, that march should have had the nominal right to take place in the same way that reprinting the Danish cartoons of Mohammed remains something we all have the nominal right to do. It may cause offence, but being offended is part and parcel for all of us of living in this society. Islam4UK’s Anjem Choudary articulates his own position:
Watch how he deftly blurs the lines between religion and race for his own, self-serving intent. What a bastard, right? He’s then followed by Gordon Brown:
And I couldn’t agree less with Brown’s reasons for wanting the march stopped – being ‘disgusting’, ‘not having public support’ and an ‘abuse of goodwill’ along with being (you guessed it) ‘offensive’ aren’t anywhere near good enough reasons for limiting anyone’s freedom of speech. I agree with his sentiments, and I suspect David Mitchell is right when he says Choudary and Islam4UK’s real intent is merely to ‘defile our holy places’, but is our offense at this really something we need protection from? At what point did our we lose our ability to cope with being offended, when there are so many straightforward strategies available to deal with speech we just don’t like, such as ignoring it?
A lot of hyperbole is given over in this country to the idea that we’re somehow drifting into a police state. Some of it is valid, much of it isn’t – Jacqui Smith may have justified the Metropolitan Police’s arrest of shadow cabinet member Damian Green earlier in the year, but where is she now? The police may have been used a number of times this year to attack violently protest groups which the state decided were behaving contrary to its interests, but the furore was so great they’re certainly not operating overtly in such a way at present. Peter Mandelson’s Digital Economy Bill however in its current form would give him powers the likes of which the Chinese would envy:
What is the problem with clause 11 that I am getting so alarmed about it? It amends the Communications Act 2003 to insert a new section 124H which would, if passed, give sweeping powers to the Secretary of State. It begins:
(1) The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—Pausing there. Note that this says nothing at all about copyright infringement. For example the power could be used to:
- order ISP’s to block any web page found on the Internet Watch Foundation’s list
- block specific undesireable sites (such as wikileaks)
- block specific kinds of traffic or protocols, such as any form of peer-to-peer
- throttle the bandwidth for particular kinds of serivce or to or from particular websites.
In short, pretty much anything.
I do not exagerrate. The definition of a “technical obligation” and “technical measure” are inserted by clause 10:
A “technical obligation”, in relation to an internet service provider, is an obligation for the provider to take a technical measure against particular subscribers to its service.A “technical measure” is a measure that— (a) limits the speed or other capacity of the service provided to a subscriber; (b) prevents a subscriber from using the service to gain access to particular material, or limits such use; (c) suspends the service provided to a subscriber; or (d) limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way.As you can see blocking wikileaks is simply a matter of applying a technical measure against all subscribers of any ISP.
Surely something must limit this power you ask? It seems not. The Secretary of State may make an order if “he considers it appropriate” in view of:
(a) an assessment carried out or steps taken by OFCOM under section 124G; or (b) any other consideration.Where “any other consideration” could be anything.
Francis Davey’s superb analysis of the bill is truly terrifying. The Digital Economy Bill would not just give Mandelson (or his successors) the power to ban say child porn sites immediately, but Wikileaks or any other site the state had issues with as well – on a whim. The power would not be limited by judicial or parliamentary scrutiny – it would be absolute. You’d have no idea he’d blocked the site, you’d have no comeback against him, and in short this would give government the ability to censor the internet as and when it saw fit in the most draconian manner imaginable. Davey’s right when he says this isn’t even about censorship – it’s a continuation of the regular New Labour attack on the rule of law and evidence based policy making. He (and they) must be stopped in this mad quest, because freedom of speech really is under threat, and if passed for example all the twitter campaigning the likes of which have shown some effectiveness against particular villains in the last year would be made futile by this bill.
No doubt the government will trot out it’s common spiel that there are no current plans to use this element of the bill, but if such powers aren’t needed then why develop them? History has always shown that powers when available are always used – RIPA, SOCPA, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, you name it. Government agencies will line up to say the abuses of such powers weren’t what they intended, yet their very existence has led to local government and the Home Office to stamp all over civil liberties, be it against photography of public buildings in public areas or the right to protest itself. If Mandelson is allowed to bring about what’s contained in this bill we will move one step further towards a genuine police state, and that’s something we should all fear.
Of course, any move to ensure gay people are treated the same as everyone else is immediately labelled “political correctness” and smothered in exaggeration and distortion. The defenders of homophobia can no longer, in polite society, say they think gay people are disgusting and immoral. Too many people have grasped the simple, humane truth that every human society in history has had 3 to 5 per cent of people who were attracted to their own gender, and it does no harm to anyone. So the homophobes have resorted to other tactics. One that has been growing over the past year is to claim that gay people who are trying to stop bullying and intimidation are “the real bullies”, trying to “silence” poor embattled homophobes.
We’ve got it happening with Christianists through to newspaper columnists – attacking homophobia is being spun as ‘infringing the right to believe’ or ‘breaching freedom of speech’; we do after all live in the age where there are no more universally understood or accepted ‘truths’. Just this week the House of Lords scrapped an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have criminalised incitement to homophobic hatred. The homophobes would have you believe it represented a victory for free speech:
it is defeat for what would have been an undemocratic and quite sinister attempt to prohibit the expression of opinions and feelings of which government disapproves (even though those opinions – disapproval of homosexual practices - constitute religious principles for many Muslims, Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews). Lesson: freedom of speech must be indivisible – even if it is sometimes hurtful and offensive.
But just look at what the amendment actually said:
“For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”
It’s pretty clear where the real bullying is here, and Ian Baynham knew it too, when he stood up for who he was against homophobic hatred. Hari suggests the ‘political correctness’ and religious fundamentalist lobbies legitimise hatred which leads to cases like Ian’s, like James Parkes’, like Michael Causer’s. I would tend to agree. The Christian Institute celebrated the amendment’s defeat however, saying it was a ‘victory for common sense’. Yet Hari points out:
[The] Stonewall study found that in schools with a consistent policy of punishing homophobic language, gay children were 60 per cent less likely to be attacked. That fall in violence could ripple out from the school gates – but today, only 6 per cent of schools adopt this policy. The Government should immediately make it mandatory.
They should indeed – incitement to homophobic hatred must be banned.
I’m not one of those people who felt Nick Griffin shouldn’t have been allowed on Question Time because his and the British National Party’s (BNP) views on race, religion, nationality and sexual orientation were perverse. They clearly are, but I acknowledge too that freedom of speech has to include those views you despise, as well as those you agree with – you can’t preemptively say even someone as hateful as Nick Griffin shouldn’t be allowed to speak. If he breaks laws then he has to pay a price, if he indulges in hate speech he needs to be prosecuted, if he says appalling things about the holocaust he needs to be condemned for it, but be stopped from speaking because he’s a homophobic racist? Absolutely not. So what was Question Time like after all the hype? In my view it was a mixed bag.
If Griffin wanted to continue his process of ‘cleaning up’ the BNP brand he did a pretty lousy job of it. He came across as blatantly homophobic (he wasn’t alone on the panel in that, you Tories), he was unapologetically anti-semitic and refused to be drawn into sensible discussion by Bonnie Greer about just what he meant by the ‘indigenous British people’. Anyone with any degree of common sense will have watched that and been thoroughly appalled when he tried to wriggle out of his penchant for holocaust denial, and when he tried to justify homophobia. He’s a disgusting man, with a disgusting message, but he will sadly have made significant political capital out of two aspects of the show. Firstly when Jack Straw was asked whether he thought New Labour’s authoritarian immigration policy had contributed to the rise of the BNP, Straw pointedly dodged the question. Typically lawyerly Straw simply answered another question, and it was tragically the key pitfall which lay in wait for him, and which he unceremoniously threw himself into. A government which demonises ‘failed’ asylum seekers, which makes legal aid next to impossible for people fleeing persecution, and expecting help under the Geneva Convention, and which locks up their children, is hardly in a position to preach tolerance to the BNP. Straw knew it, the panel knew it and a smirking Griffin knew it too; Blair and now Brown have given him part of a constituency previously unthinkable in modern times.
The other gain for Griffin was even more alarming. The entire show was debated on the BNP’s terms – their talking points were justified by concentrating only on them. Even Chris Huhne demeaned himself by trying to prove that, yes, the Lib Dems too could be tough on immigration. Every word uttered was a gain for the BNP; whilst it was a delight to see him hammered comprehensively (notably by David Dimbleby), the man who claimed to be a legitimate elected representative wasn’t ever called to express his position on education, the health service, energy policy or transport. By making the programme an attack on Griffin, however justifiably, the BBC played right into his hands, as did every guest on the panel other than Bonnie Greer.
The BBC has said it might invite him back onto the show – if it does I sincerely hope they hold a normal panel, and stop enabling him to play the martyr, particularly one who isn’t expected to live up to the standards expected of the office he now holds. We must remember Griffin’s rise is inextricably connected with the failure of the political system, which forces all three major parties to fight for marginal advantage over a tiny number of swing voters, and all are now entirely disinterested in concerns outside of that bubble. When they either bother to get round to addressing the issues affecting their former supporters, or are forced to by a more proportional voting system, Griffin and his scummy ilk will soon fall back into irrelevance. Until then, we have a problem on our hands, and need to start coming up with less sensationalistic ways of dealing with it.
Jan Moir’s homophobic Daily HateMail article is starting to bring up difficult questions:
The piece, by Jan Moir, has also prompted more than 1,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
A Met police spokesman said: “We have received a complaint from a member of the public.”
Moir defended her column saying suggestions of homophobia were “mischievous” and that the backlash was a “heavily orchestrated internet campaign”.
It’s awkward isn’t it? Was her invecive against Stephen Gately actually hate speech? I suspect it might have been, but is that the most important consideration? She clearly had an agenda in writing the article, as did the HateMail in publishing it, but does trying to prosecute her for it not make her a martyr and absolve the HateMail from being a regularly homophobic rag? Brendan O’Neill goes further:
The irony of the anti-Moir brigade is that it is witch-hunting Moir in the name of ‘tolerance’. She was intolerant, they say, and that is intolerable – therefore she can no longer be tolerated. The irony of expressing shrill intolerance of someone for being intolerant is lost on these illiberal liberals. In a sense, Moir hasn’t done anything particularly wrong; certainly she hasn’t done anything ‘evil’. Causing offence is a natural part of rowdy and testy public debate. No, the real problem arises when people politicise their feeling of having been offended, when they effectively argue that it is unacceptable for them to have felt offended and thus the offending party must be chastised. Offensiveness is a part of life; the politics of inoffensiveness is a threat to free speech and open debate.
Apparently attacking Jan Moir is a substitute for actually arguing why her attacks on Gately were wrong, why her ludicrous assertion that civil partnerships can be fatal was wrong, and justifying why her homophobic hate was wrong. O’Neill sounds very much like he’s advocating absolute freedom of speech, but maybe he’s not – maybe he’s just suggesting that the article didn’t cross the line between causing offense and inciting hatred. Maybe in that he has a point – Moir didn’t after all say that all gay people were evil, that Stephen got what was coming to him, or that gay equality should be rolled back; but hatred is rarely couched in such terms. It’s a seductive argument – liberal values should always have to be justified and rejustified – what I would ask though is why? Why should she be given a free pass to publish homophobic (which is clearly what it was) invective? Why should she not be held to account for it? Why should it have to be explained every time that homophobia is wrong and why it’s wrong?
I’ve seen similar commentary suggesting that being intolerant of her intolerance makes us worse than her. I don’t buy the argument for a second – I would on any occasion that she was threatened in any way or if violence were advocated, but I’ve not seen such comments. The vast majority of the attacks back on her represented common sense disgust at a homophobic attack on a man unable to defend his reputation, but I accept it did miss the greater point. Daily HateMail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre, the man ultimately responsible for authorising the article for publication, remains the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) editors’ code committee. He runs an overwhelmingly homophobic tabloid newspaper, yet is also responsible for the means of redress against journalistic homophobia – Jan Moir is actually just a bit player in this story.
There are obvious limitations to free speech – there always have been, but I’m not suggesting that her anti-gay speech be banned; her freedom of speech comes with responsibilities and consequences. In a society now largely gay tolerant (if not necessarily friendly), the right solution was to go to the sponsors underpinning the article’s publication and make the case to them that their active or tacit support of Moir’s article would have business consequences for them. They apparently agreed (how many large businesses want to appear homophobic these days?) and their departure caused an impact on Dacre’s business; he won’t be thrilled with that, or with her. The nature of social media means however that this highly effective online activism is unlikely to coalesce into a larger movement – that’s regrettable, because the means are now there to bypass outdated (and ineffective) structures like the PCC, and hold bigots to account (not to mention toxic waste dumpers). We do need to constantly talk about where the line needs to be drawn with freedom of speech – but I remain highly impressed at the stand the Twitterati (and others) took against naked anti-gay hatred last week.
Yes I know I took my own pictures of the Carter-Ruck flashmob last week, but this one has me in it. I’m in print! In the Guardian! Yay! Peter Preston also has some interesting points about the new alliances forged as a result of the second Carter-Ruck injunction on the Guardian:
as the Guardian‘s triumphant Alan Rusbridger noted, is that it wasn’t a win for press battalions or nippy legions of Twitterers alone. You needed the resources of a determined paper – and, in parallel, a dogged BBC – to pursue the toxic case of Africans falling violently ill in the Ivory Coast. And you needed an elliptical front page story in print about a gagged Commons question to set the blogosphere buzzing.
It’s a cute, quick conclusion, but he should bear in mind that there was no deliberate alliance, and after Carter-Ruck clearly got nervy about their misjudgment with it and varied the second injunction, it rapidly fell apart. Between Tuesday and Friday night’s reversal of the first super injunction, the blogosphere and Twitter in general had completely lost interest in Trafigura and Carter-Ruck. The issue for Twitter was the question of freedom of speech in parliament, nothing more – when that was restored it was job done, everyone then piled on Jan Moir for her homophobic bile, even though the Guardian was still operating under severe restrictions. The BBC also didn’t act uniformally with the Guardian and blogosphere – Newsnight and the Guardian may both have exposed Trafigura’s role in the toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast, and both were facing legal action by Carter-Ruck as a result, but the BBC was almost entirely silent when the Guardian went on the offensive.
Don’t get me wrong I think some very interesting changes have happened as a result of Carter-Ruck’s historic misjudgment with the second super injunction, but the relationship between old and new media is unstable and the outcomes frequently overstated. The fight against hack Jan Moir’s homophobic attack on Stephen Gately may have generated an historic number of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), but the Daily HateMail’s editor Paul Dacre remains chairman of the PCC’s Editors’ Code of Practice – the very code his employee (and he by extension) broke. As long as that’s the case all the tweets in the world won’t really change anything, and indeed although Trafigura and Carter-Ruck are rapidly backtracking from their hardline behaviour, libel law is unchanged in the UK, other super injunctions remain in place and noone is holding Trafigura to account.
I’ll let Charlie Brooker kick things off:
WikiLeaks believes the Guardian was gagged to prevent it reporting the following parliamentary question:
- Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) – To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.
Want to read the Minton Report? Here it is. Its findings?
It’s all about Trafigura’s involvement with toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. I quote:
[But the] dozens of damning internal Trafigura emails which have now come to light reveal how traders were told in advance that their planned chemical operation, a cheap and dirty process called “caustic washing”, generated such dangerous wastes that it was widely outlawed in the west.
The documents reveal that the London-based traders hoped to make profits of $7m a time by buying up what they called “bloody cheap” cargoes of sulphur-contaminated Mexican gasoline. They decided to try to process the fuel on board a tanker anchored offshore, creating toxic waste they called “slops”.
One trader wrote on 10 March 2006: “I don’t know how we dispose of the slops and I don’t imply we would dump them, but for sure, there must be some way to pay someone to take them.” The resulting black, stinking, slurry was eventually dumped around landfills in Abidjan, after Trafigura paid an unqualified local man to take it away in tanker trucks at a cheap rate.
You are encouraged to express your thoughts here about an oil trader known to have committed an act of industrial pollution, using a libel law firm to prohibit reporting from parliament, on a report it doesn’t want you to know about.
UPDATE: Mr Justice Sweeney signed the gagging order.
or The Battle of Trafigura? (Allegedly) *
An attack has been made against free speech in parliament:
The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.
Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.
The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.
So from this story we can infer that Carter-Ruck have gagged the Guardian from reporting something for some reason. Internet consensus is building on what that is:
From Parliament.uk, “Questions for Oral or Written Answer beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009″
N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.
Whether or not Carter-Ruck have slapped a gagging order on the press in parliament for the first time in history (surely it’ll be undone before lunch tomorrow) on behalf of Trafigura is anyone’s guess. I mean we just don’t know. We do know that it was the Guardian which broke the story about Trafigura in the Ivory Coast (here and here), and that they were the only paper to have been gagged, but we couldn’t possibly conclude anything else.
* with due credit to James Graham
“Irreverence is the champion of liberty.” –Mark Twain
Free speech is the foundation on which all other liberties rest. Without having the right to express our opinions, however unpopular, those willing to use political clout, violence, and threats will stifle dissent, and we must all suffer the consequences of this. As George Bernard Shaw quipped, “Every great truth begins as a blasphemy.”
The UN, rather than standing up for free speech, has given in to pressure from Islamic nations and has proposed a resolution to essentially ban criticism of religion. In its pursuit of “tolerance” for religion, this resolution wants to strip everyone, everywhere, of their freedom, even their obligation, to criticize what they oppose. Unlike one’s political affiliation or favorite sports team, religion demands – and has been granted – unique and unswerving immunity from criticism since its very inception. Labeling anything deemed critical of it “blasphemy”, religions have effectively defined the boundaries for what can and can’t be said about them. We propose we knock down this barrier and break this spell. Religion is no more undeserving of criticism than anything else, and if people’s insecurities are upheld as a reason to stifle the expression of the equally sincere feelings of others, and indeed, the pursuit of truth itself, we will have forsaken our ideals in favor of one-sided and entirely undeserved sympathy. As Richard Dawkins noted,
“Society bends over backward to be accommodating to religious sensibilities but not to other kinds of sensibilities. If I say something offensive to religious people, I’ll be universally censured, including by many atheists. But if I say something insulting about Democrats or Republicans or the Green Party, one is allowed to get away with that. Hiding behind the smoke screen of untouchability is something religions have been allowed to get away with for too long.”
The primary focus of Blasphemy Day is not to debate the existence of any gods or deities. The objective of International Blasphemy Day is to open up all religious beliefs to the same level of free inquiry, discussion and criticism to which all other areas of academic interest are subjected.
Blasphemy Day International is a campaign seeking to establish September 30th as a day to promote free speech and stand up in a show of solidarity for the freedom to challenge, criticize, and satirize religion without fear of murder, litigation, and reprisal. It is the obligation of the world’s nations to safeguard dissent and the dissenters, not to side with the brutal interests of those who demand “respect” for their beliefs (i.e., immunity to being criticized or mocked or they threaten violence).
The purpose of Blasphemy Day is not to promote hate or violence. While many perceive blasphemy as insulting and offensive, this event is not about getting enjoyment out of ridiculing and insulting others. The event was created as a reaction against those who would seek to take away the right to satirize and criticize a particular set of beliefs given a privileged status over other beliefs. Criticism and dissent towards opposing views is the only way in which any nation with any modicum of freedom can exist. Without this essential liberty, those in power are those best able to manipulate others will suppress and silence dissent by labeling it “defamation” or “blasphemy” or whatever other bogey words they can use to stifle opposition by turning popular sentiment against it. Please, do not let them do this. Yes, Muslims find images of Muhammad offensive. But which is more offensive to you? Those who would poke fun at a prophet, or those who would murder innocents in his name?
Blasphemy Day will take place every September 30th, to commemorate the publishing of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. The purpose of this event is to set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind. The focus on “blasphemy” is simply because it is such a salient issue, and one for which a lot of consciousness-raising is necessary. Religion has had a free ticket from criticism for too long, and it’s time we make it clear to the world that we have a right to oppose it.
So if you support free speech, and the rights of those who disagree with religious views to voice their opinions peacefully, support Blasphemy Day and join the cause!
If you’re a CFI campus group leader, check out event ideas for Blasphemy Day on the CFI On Campus website.
If you’re looking for a Blasphemy Day event at a Center for Inquiry or a CFI Community in North America, please go to their individual websites.
Blasphemy Day International is adminstered by the Center for Inquiry.