Monday, March 16, 2009

Free speech and Islamo-fascism

Taking issue with my post here, Trooper Thompson says:

Freedom of speech is for everyone. It is the right to express unpopular views that needs defending. Let people say what they want, let there be free debate, let all arguments be held up to the light of reason. This way we may learn something, our own staid views may be challenged and we, as a society, can progress.
Sure, of course. He's missed the point. In my original post, I said the police were right to protect the Islamoloons' sorry asses and therefore their right to free expression.

That's not the point.

This is: sometimes political movements are so dangerous they have to be fought. Not just debated, mulled over, disputed, but fought. This can also be true when there's competition for the public space, which these scumbags have hitherto felt they owned, demonstrating with impunity while counter demonstrators were moved away or arrested by police.

The Battle of Cable Street was a righteous fight, even though it restricted the ability of the BUF to demonstrate.

But it's for the people, not the government, to do this.

UPDATE: I'm bumping this to the main post. Steve commented:
Peter, for the second time in a week, I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at here.

Are you saying people should physically attack Islamists?

Wasn't the whole point of the March for Free Expression that Muslim groups were using the threat of violence to stop people speaking out? Weren't we demonstrating against people using violence to silence views they didn't like?

The tone of this post seems to imply that you've changed your mind about that.
I haven't changed my mind to any degree.

The question here is whether someone can say (write, draw, etc) something at all. The right to free expression is not a right for me to go into someone else's living room and deliver a lecture, nor to write on their blog, nor to be published by someone who doesn't want to publish me.

Muslim opposition to those cartoons sought to prevent them being exhibited or shown at all. I clarified that in conversations with Ismaeel of the Muslim Action Committee. He was not willing to accept the display of them in private, to invited guests, during a debate about them. In other words, not at all, ever.

I support the right of these Islamofascists to state their views. Their organisation is banned, I don't think it should be. They should be able to publish and to hold public demonstrations.

But this is where reality rears its head. Firstly, sometimes we need to compromise. There's just been a Convention on Modern Liberty and Sunny Hundall was involved. He presumably sees himself as an advocate of freedom of expression, but he didn't support us until I asked people not to bring the cartoons, something that was widely criticised as being contrary to the whole idea. I made that request after talking with a reporter from BLINK who was simply unable to understand that we might not be anti-Muslim racists.

It turned out this was because she was and presumably is as straightforward an anti-white racist as you could find. But Sunny isn't. He suffers from identity politics, in my opinion, but he ain't no racist. He's the sort of person who needed to be involved. So compromise can be necessary, so long as the specific form of expression can be made somewhere and can be public enough that those who choose to do so can encounter it.

Secondly, while you have every right to shout in your own living room, you really don't have a right to come into mine and do it. That's what these scum did in Luton. Just as it would be provocative to go down Brick Lane wearing a Mohammed bomb-turban T shirt, it's provocative to go to a troop parade with an anti-troop message. It was provocative for fascists to try to march into a Jewish area of the East End.

That's where a value judgement comes into it. Fred Phelps and his unholy brood picket funerals in the USA. Other people organise to stand in front of them to obscure their hate. That's a good way to do it.

But Phelps is never going to get anywhere. In Britain today, Islamofascism has got some traction. Here's a tale from Britain today:
The book is called The Imam’s Daughter because “Hannah Shah” is just that: the daughter of an imam in one of the tight-knit Deobandi Muslim Pakistani communities in the north of England. Her father emigrated to this country from rural Pakistan some time in the 1960s and is, apparently, a highly respected local figure.

He is also an incestuous child abuser, repeatedly raping his daughter from the age of five until she was 15, ostensibly as part of her punishment for being “disobedient”. At the age of 16 she fled her family to avoid the forced marriage they had planned for her in Pakistan. A much, much greater affront to “honour” in her family’s eyes, however, was the fact that she then became a Christian – an apostate. The Koran is explicit that apostasy is punishable by death; thus it was that her father the imam led a 40-strong gang – in the middle of a British city – to find and kill her.

Hannah Shah says her story is not unique – that there are many other girls in British Muslim families who are oppressed and married off against their will, or who have secretly become Christians but are too afraid to speak out. She wants their voices to be heard and for Britain, the land of her birth, to realise the hidden misery of these women.
Tell me that woman didn't deserve the protection of others, even if violence ensued. The instigators of the violence would in that case be the Islamofascists, not the defenders of a raped child.

So while I defend totally the right of those scumbags to publish and demonstrate, if they try to come into my house to do so I'm going to remove them, by force if necessary.

UPDATE: Here's the man in black, making the same point a different way. He cherishes the freedoms of America, even the right to burn the flag... he'll tell you the rest:


Steve said...

Peter, for the second time in a week, I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at here.

Are you saying people should physically attack Islamists?

Wasn't the whole point of the March for Free Expression that Muslim groups were using the threat of violence to stop people speaking out? Weren't we demonstrating against people using violence to silence views they didn't like?

The tone of this post seems to imply that you've changed your mind about that.

TDK said...

There is a certain amount of myth making about the Battle of Cable Street.

The far left loves the myth because it justifies them in taking to the streets and acting as thugs. However they don't limit the violence to the NF and the BNP - they use the same tactics to attack anyone who challenges them.

I speak as one who demonstrated against the NF in Lewisham and against Keith Joseph. Today I regard the SWP as no less odious than the BNP, yet the former is tolerated.

The people of Luton seemed angry and they were perfectly entitled to that emotion. The level of anger was shared with the Islamists protected by the police. They were not entitled to beat up those Islamists.

However, free speech only works if ideas can be challenged. We have to be free to describe the Islamists as fools. Yet whilst we can decry the use of bombs the ability to challenge the intellectual backdrop to their extremism is being limited by a desire to protect other mainstream Muslims from having their religion held up for ridicule.

This circle will not be squared.

TDK said...

Wrong Cable Street link

This is the one I meant

Peter Risdon said...

Thanks for adding some perspective to the Cable Street thing, TDK. I broadly agree, except that I think sometimes we need to be militant, and I think this is such an occasion.

I've a lot of sympathy for this, for example. Sometimes there isn't another hand to deliberate.

TDK said...

Our history has been frequently written by the left and just as Cable Street is mythologised into The Event that defeated fascism so too the pacifism that dominated the Labour Party until the mid 1930s, the alliance between fascism and communism, the failure of FDRs New Deal etc are all airbrushed.

If Oliver Kamm is right then fascism in the UK was defeated because the ideas were challenged and ridiculed in the centre without street violence. The myth of the left is that Hitler won because he controlled the streets and that the left failed to mobilise to stop him. In fact street brawls were extremely common in Weimar Germany. It's just Hitler won the battle to blame the communists for starting the street battles.

I don't think discussing the anger some individuals feel at sex offenders with helps understand how we defeat Islamists.

I feel anger at the Islamists or rather I feel anger at their ideas and the fact that they have achieved a privileged position where challenging the the source of their ideology risks social suicide. So rather my anger is directed at the people who shield them by screaming racist at the first sign that the speaker is outside the leftist ranch.

The Islamists at Luton are fringe nutters who should and would be ridiculed by mainstream society if there was no fear of being called a racist. If that occurred the movement would be dead in months.

Instead the space for criticism is monopolised by the likes of Sunny Haidal who agrees with the Islamists to the extent that the west is a uniquely wicked society but disagree with what it should be replaced with. They control what is deemed responsible criticism.

This won't work. If we persist with identity politics we are forced to persist with the idea that minority groups are defined by those characteristics that differentiate them as a group. We inevitably reinforce a message of injustices done by white mainstream society. As Kenan Malik notes that tends to validate the extremists. In contrast we shy away from telling minorities that their histories are a mix of shame and pride. We don't even confront the Islamists of Luton with the fact that more Muslims are killed by Al Queda in Iraq and Afghanistan than by British troops.

We cannot defeat Islamists until we are ready to stand up for people who tell them that Mohammed was not perfect. Once we can do that we won't need street violence. The Life of Brian part II will do the job.

Steve said...

So let me try and understand this.

You would think Muslims justified in attacking people if they, say, waved the Mohammed cartoons around outside a mosque?

The story of the 40 strong lynch mob doesn't really work in this context because you would hope anyone would oppose a group hell-bent on violence against a lone woman, whatever the reason. That's not an issue about free expression.

Peter Risdon said...


The 40 strong mob wasn't intended to be about freedom of expression, but about the fact that some people or groups are beyond the pale and need to be fought - that context matters. My whole update was about the fact that context matters when it comes to responses.

Freedom of expression requires that any given expression can be made "somewhere and can be public enough that those who choose to do so can encounter it".

Your example of cartoons and mosques, therefore, has nothing to do with freedom of expression and everything to do with context, which you don't give.

If a family who had been attending the Mosque had been burned to death in an openly racist firebombing of their home, a small fascist group had claimed responsibility, then members of that group turned up at the same mosque waving these cartoons, then I'd expect them to be attacked and I'd say the attack would be quite justified. Of course, the police would have a responsibility to try to prevent violence and the best way to do that would be to remove the fascist protesters.

The protesters in Luton were removed by the police, something that on both occasions I have commended. They were not beaten up.

If members of the mosque congregation had murdered one of the cartoonists after being urged to do so in a sermon delivered repeatedly by the mosque's imam, then a silent protest that included the display of the cartoons - to show they could not be suppressed by violence - would be entirely appropriate and no attacks by congregationalists would be justified.

alison said...

This isn’t about the right to free speech or expression anymore. It’s about their apparent “right” to threaten, bully and menace and enjoy doing it while we all stand around and have to put up with it. It’s always been about that in many ways. How many times do they need to ‘express’ themselves in this manner before people on the receiving end e.g us - can respond? I don’t see this as feeling any different to feeling threatened all.the.time. Which isn’t pleasant and it isn’t something people have to put up with either. The people in Luton responded in kind. They threatened back. It wasn’t a running battle like outside the Israeli embassy. I don’t understand why anyone would have an issue with what the people in Luton did.

Also about free speech. Since when did it degenerate into a “right” to simply be abusive, threaten, menace, disrupt or wave a placard in someone’s face anyway. How is that a “right”?

Trooper Thompson said...


"Also about free speech. Since when did it degenerate into a “right” to simply be abusive, threaten, menace, disrupt or wave a placard in someone’s face anyway. How is that a “right”?"

Freedom of speech does not allow you to threaten people or incite violence, that is where the line is drawn, but if you don't cross that line, you do have a right to express your opinion, no matter how offensive some many find it, because somebody, somewhere will always be offended.

alison said...

And I think someone has a right to react to that. Since there was no violence here I think the people of Luton reacted appropriately. But anyway Trooper, this is less about offence and more about a bunch of plain fascists threatening. At some point we have to say okay that's enough.

Trooper Thompson said...

Of course they have a right to react, but that right is not unlimited.

The answer to much of what Peter is attacking under the heading of islamofascism is not street violence, but enforcing just laws on everyone equally. There are existing laws against murdering one's daughter.

The thing that drew me into this debate is that I disagreed with those that wanted to see the demonstrators get their heads kicked in, or saw the incident as evidence that John Bull was finally rising from his slumber and would soon be putting the world to rights.

alison said...

So they reacted.

Political correctness has made it virtually impossible to use those laws for fear of racism or interfering and that's where we're at with these people and they need a kick up the arse. What's so wrong with John Bull deciding he won't stand for this crummy fascist crap. Say it was the police the people were aggravating against, I don't (honestly) think people would have a problem with running street battles then, no matter the consequences. Why does it have to be the State or state fascism that we only stand up to?

Honestly, I don't understand the solid libertarian pov. Assuming this is a libertarian issue.

Trooper Thompson said...

"Why does it have to be the State or state fascism that we only stand up to?"

Because it's the most powerful. Fundamentalists have always existed, so have governments that are corrupt and tyrannical.

Both represent threats. One comprises a small band of agitators, the other controls the military, the police, the judges, the bureaucracy, the airports...

alison said...

But these fundies are being accommodated by government. They have henchmen in the House of Lords who talk out the side of their mouths. They'll have more. That is - if we stand around and act like it doesn't matter. I don't mean the kids who act like wannabee islamist thugs like some badass gang by the way. They just need the piss ripped out of them. But this lot are part of a distinct group jossling for accommodation and publicity through a kind of sneering bullying which has nothing to do with free speech. They use it cynically and we shouldn't let them.