Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Channel Four last night broadcast a debate about Muslims and Free Speech. At the end, after a stream of Muslim speakers attacked free speech, a vote was held: Is free speech under attack from Muslims?

And yes, the irony was that obvious.

The vote was "no", narrowly. Why? Partly because the question voted on was badly worded. All Muslims? Some Muslims? Only Muslims?

I think people were generally voting on whether or not they thought the attacks they had just been witnessing from some Muslims against free speech were justified.

I assume (from watching who applauded when during the debate) that the large Muslim component of the audience - it looked like some 30% to judge from headscarves and obviously religious dress - generally voted in favour of the suppression of free speech.

Others feel it's nice to be nice and were voting in disapproval of contentious speech of all kinds. Most people feel we can live without the noisy, obscene and marginalised fringes of society. (We can't, incidentally).

"How would you feel if I insulted your mother?" asked Tony Soprano at one stage during the debate. OK, maybe it wasn't Soprano. Maybe it was someone from Hizb ut Tahrir. It's significant how this language of offence and revenge has spread from the New Jersey Mafia, professional gangsters everywhere, and the villages of Albania, Sicily, Corsica and the Hindu Kush into mainstream society so that a young man can stand at a podium explaining the ancient basis of the vendetta - that all insults must be avenged - with aggressive language and posture, while a nice middle class liberal presenter nods approvingly from his podium.

Unfortunately, Jon Snow is not the only person in our society to have become so degraded.


Excellent reviews of this debate at The Select Society and Oliver Kamm's site.

Ismaeel, in the comments, points out a different view, from someone who was in the audience, the Gay Jihadi.


Ismaeel said...

Did a little digging Peter, seems ur appraisal of the audience make up was a bit exagerrated, here's an account by someone actually there at time of shooting:

By the way i disassociate myself completley from this character.

Ismaeel said...

And i didn't hear anyone attack free speech, i think what they all said was that that they accepted the right of free speech but encouraged people to use wisdom and civility in exercising that right.

Peter Risdon said...

Well, the bloke on the end of that link also thought John Simpson was the chairman. I stand by my impression of the audience makeup.

Peter Risdon said...

The bloke from Hizb-ut-Tahrir didn't attack free speech?

There's a common misunderstanding that advocating free speech means you agree with and admire everything anyone might say. Obviously it's good to be polite and avoid giving offence, but people have to have the right to speak honestly even if that does offend some of their audience.

We all encourage wisdom and civility but to suggest that death threats and murders are "encouragement" is a trifle disingenuous.

Ismaeel said...

No he didn't attack free speech, he attacked Kennan Malik, which is fair enough.

Who suggested death threats and murders were encouragements to civility. See this is where i find the way you deal with these kind of issues wrong. You start homogenousing all Muslims into one monolith, who all think the same, act the same and carry the same ideas. It's called stereotyping it's not nice.

Ismaeel said...

And you only have that impression cos u lost the vote....i never had u down as a bad loser, especially with what happened with your demo.

Peter Risdon said...

Ismaeel, the people who are causing the concern are the issuers of death threats. I don't happen to believe that your civility platform is especially well thought out, but I've even specifically stated in this post that I uphold your right to make your case and I invited you to do so at the free expression rally.

But you behave as though there had never been any death threats, riots, murdered Nuns and other Christians, and one murdered film director. Some elected politicians need police protection in European countries because of the threats of violence to them. That is what we are concerned about, that and the pressure for legislative restrictions to free speech.

Ismaeel said...

I don't behave in any such manner. I can perfectly understand that people would be concerned by such reactions. However it is also necessary for those who are provoking such reactions to question their own approach. Rational, informed and intelligent debate does not require the necessity to gratitutiously insult. The same points can be made more powerfully and more effectivley by going for a straightfoward rational critique. However when u keep on attacking someone the likelihood is that they are going to lash back sometimes in unexpected and irrational ways. That's what happens when you keep pushing someone into a corner. I personally think the way foward is more open, measured, balanced and good mannered debates like the one that happened on channel 4 last night. I know many educated Muslims who would gladly participate, in fact who are desperate to, the opportunities however are few and far between. The opportunities on the other hand for large parts of the media and political and academic classes to demonise a community and a faith are many and constant.

Peter Risdon said...

It is necessary for everyone to question their own approach, Ismaeel. But when people are threatened and attacked we have to stand up for the principle that they should not be, even if we disapprove of them.

I invite you to join me on that platform.

Ismaeel said...

I believe people shouldn't be threatened or attacked if they make reasoned and informed criticisms. However when they are gratuitiously insulting and provoking, my stance is somewhat less rigid. After all isn't a provocation a defence in English law? And we are after all discussing about freedom of expression within the context of obeying the law. In case you are in any doubt by the way i uphold obeying the law of the land in which you are a citizen with rights and duties.

Anonymous said...

The saddest thing about Islam is that whenever it looks in the mirror it only ever sees perfection or a victim. In most countries with a Muslim majority life for non-Muslims is a misery or impossible. In the West Muslims can build mosques and worship anywhere they like. Can you build a church in Saudia Arabia? No and you can get arrested for having a cross in your pocket. In Pakistan Catholics and Protestants are machine gunned by Muslims during a service in a church that they have to share because the Muslim authorities wont let them build separate churches. In Egypt an apostate from Islam has been imprisoned without trial for 18 months. Long before Darfur, the Islamic regime in Khartoum spent twenty years trying to enforce the delights of sharia law on the Southern Animists and Christians. Result; after countless murders, rapes, abductions and forced conversions to Islam, 2 million dead. Most places you look, Islam is killing and complaining. Islam is very misogynistic, violent and intolerant. It has to be stood up just like we had to stand up to Nazism. Its going to be along slog but the civilised world will triumph in the end.

Ismaeel said...

Yeah by people who are too cowardly to post their names, nice one

Peter Risdon said...


At 4:38, Ismaeel wrote:

"I believe people shouldn't be threatened or attacked if they make reasoned and informed criticisms. However when they are gratuitiously insulting and provoking, my stance is somewhat less rigid."

Thereby admitting he does not oppose political violence.

Who would have thought it?

Anonymous said...

Ismael at 5.03
The real cowards are Muslims like yourself who cant stand to face the fact that their religion is responsible for atrocities across the globe. Instead of stopping a moment and saying " perhaps we have a problem with violence" you just threaten and try to kill people. How very sad and typical.

Bishop Hill said...

At 4:38, Ismaeel wrote:

"I believe people shouldn't be threatened or attacked if they make reasoned and informed criticisms. However when they are gratuitiously insulting and provoking, my stance is somewhat less rigid."

And Peter Risdon replied

"Thereby admitting he does not oppose political violence."

It also entirely justifies the anonymity of commenters here. Who can be sure that Ismaeel might not think a criticism unreasonable or ill-informed.

Guardian apostate said...

Peter, having read several of your posts and comments involving Ismaeel I can only commend you on your patience, calm and reason.

Ismaeel I, like many others, have absolutely no respect for the belief system you call Islam. I've studied it, along with many other religions and philosophies, and Islam is in my bottom three along with satanism and facism http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/005959.php

Although relaxed about immigration initially I have since come to bitterly regret the changes the country I love is having forced on it. Islam has merely the highest profile of the numerous imported problems Britain faces. It seems the future's far from rosy.

GayJihadi said...

I'm the GayJihai bloke who was in the audience. And yeah - I know I said 'John Simpson' instead of 'Jon Snow' in my blog but (a) all white people look the same to me and (b) especially if their first names are similar.

Anyway, thanks for letting me know and I've corrected the post.

And it's also true that there was hardly a Muslim face in the audience, given the timing of the shooting. Why C4 couldn't wait another week after Ramadhan had finished is something known only to themselves. But for the purposes of TV, obviously C4 are going to focus on the few ethnic faces that were actually there (they made us sit together, for crying out loud) to make it look like a mixed audience, which it wasn't. In other places, it would be bad enough but it's fairly shocking for London.

Peter Risdon said...

Welcome here, and thanks for commenting. Making the darker faces sit together is hilarious, and confirms my opinion of Channel Four.

Maybe the mix was supposed to represent the country, rather than London?