The European culture of free speech

Her lies in the naturalisation process notwithstanding, it seems that, one way or another, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial feminist, Islam critic, and former Dutch parlamentarian, will be able to retain her Dutch citizenship. If she still wants it.

Even though she had reportedly planned to move to the United States to work for the American Enterprise Institute for a longer time and a number of reasons – not the least of which may have been that, as argued by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German), the Netherlands had grown a little tired of paying the bills for her non-compromising, crusadesque stance against Islam (as opposed to her new employer) – the circumstances causing her immediate resignation from the Dutch Parliament are a significant event in Dutch, maybe European politics, although I suppose it will only later become clear what exactly it means.
Continue reading

The liberalism of fools?

I cannot recommend highly enough Ken Macleod’s post (found via Crooked Timber) on how the “socialism of fools” – Engels’ description of anti-semitism – was accompanied by a sort of “liberalism of fools”, to wit, the anti-Catholicism of the pre-WWII era. Macleod, acknowledging that anti-Catholicism is rather passé these days, wonders if hatred of something else, perhaps another sect, might fill the roll as a modern liberalism of fools.

And, on a not entirely separate topic, French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo (no website, not that kind of paper) is republishing the images, along with one on its cover of Mohammed crying “It’s hard to be loved by fools”. An effort by the Conseil français du culte musulman to stop publication through the French courts was rejected on a technicality.

Chirac, however, has demonstrated that he is not, contrary to widespread belief, the biggest fool in Europe. Unlike the Danish Prime Minister, he has “condemned all manifest provocations that are liable to dangerously arouse passions.” Alas, he has only retreated to the number two slot in European political idiocy. He also said, “Anything susceptible to harm the convictions of others, particularly religious convictions, should be avoided. Freedom of expression should be exercised with a sense of responsibility.” Right on count two, wrong on count one. Responsible freedom of expression means that when you go out to offend people, you can’t claim to be surprised when they are offended. But there is little point in free speech if it is forbidden from trying to change convictions.

And round and round this totally avoidable fiasco goes.
Continue reading

The cartoon row: aiming for maximum shock value

Iran newspaper Hamshahri came up with an original plan to counter the release of Danish cartoons making fun of the prophet Muhammad and decided to hold a little cartoon contest to test the limits of free speech:

The daily paper Hamshahri said the contest was designed to test the boundaries of free speech — the reason given by many European newspapers for publishing the Prophet Mohammad cartoons.

Fair enough, you’d say? Well, not quite. The theme of the contest is the Holocaust, incidentally called an “incident”:

A serious question for Muslims … is this: “Does Western free speech allow working on issues like America and Israel’s crimes or an incident like the Holocaust or is this freedom of speech only good for insulting the holy values of divine religions?”‘ the paper said on Tuesday.

Continue reading