March for Free Expression

The next phase

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Challenge: Public Debate

As reported yesterday, we asked the Global Civility campaign to send a speaker to our rally, so we can have a civilised debate instead of a stand off, with rally and counter demonstrations.

Their first response was to avoid giving a direct answer, and instead to ask me to respond to the following list of questions:
Do you believe that the right of freedom of expression should include the following:

1) The right to insult the Queen?
2) The right to divulge state secrets?
3) The right to incite racial hatred?
4) The right to incite murder?
5) The right to incite religious hatred?
6) The right to glorify terror?
7) The right to slander people?
I stuck to the point, though, and asked them to answer my question before we moved on. After a couple more emails, they gave this final reply:
I doubt very much that the demonstrators who will be coming to your march will be inclined to listen to our views, i believe that by coming out in support of your demo they are pretty much nailing their colours to the mast. I therefore think little will be accomplished by us sending you a speaker when we have 30 other odd locations on which to express our views that day.

If however you are interested in engaging us in a debate in any other forum, for example a university, radio programme etc we would be more than willing to oblige in sending someone to challenge your views.

Which of course comes back to what your views actually are, would you mind kindly answering our questions and a number 8 which was suggested to be today

8) Do you belive in the right to question the official record of the Holocaust?

Ismaeel-Haneef Hijazi
Muslim Action Committee
I answered:
OK, to summarise:

I have offered you an opportunity to put your case to the free expression campaign, and you have refused.

Instead, you have challenged me to a public debate, in a university debating chamber or on a radio programme.

I accept. I will make the arrangements. The rest of this discussion can wait until then.
I will of course approach the BBC and several university debating societies to see whether any are willing to offer a forum. As an aside, I can tell you that the list of seven questions above have been put to all the organisations listed in our sidebar. I have been copied into a couple of responses.

The danger of becoming too involved with this group is that it can distort the appearance of this campaign. As noted last month:
This will be a march in favour of free expression, not a march against Muslims.
So I'd just like to thank the Muslim Action Committee for helping to raise the profile of our campaign and making sure that people in 31 towns and cities we do not yet have the resources to reach will be aware of what we are doing on the 25th March. And now we will return to the main agenda.


Anonymous Andrew said...

"8) Do you belive in the right to question the official record of the Holocaust?",

lol. From Tehran to Bradford they always revert to having a go at our Jewish friends, even in response to stuff that has got nothing to do with Jews (Danes drawing cartoons as one example!)

Not suprising as the Muslim Action Committee has among it's members Hizb ut Tahir, the "lets all live in the 7th century" funsters who want to ban everything that looks like it might be remotely fun and impose islamic sharia on the world.

What larks!

1:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol I never thought of it like that but yes, they are advertising the March for Free Expression all over the country for free! They're probably putting up the fliers right now!

Some of those other questions are tricky make sure you point out the idea of confession/public-safety vs free speech, ie that if you go up to a policeman and tell him you're about to kill someone hes not going to arrest you for the words, but the confession. the words can even be printed in the paper the next day!

1 is easy, God Save the Queen was one of the Sex Pistols best songs!

8 is also easy, denying that right means you have to apply the same rule to all historical events. if you cant deny the holocaust then you shouldn't be able to deny the moon landings or Hiroshima. The Holocaust is a historical event like all others, it can stand up by itself.

2:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's an easy question. Of course you have the right to deny the Holocaust. More to the point, it's a pretty sad state of affairs when some Muslim groups are just obsessed with having a go at the Jews, above all else. It's quite bizarre really.

3:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is anyone else reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail?
'What is yourrrrrr name?'
'What is yourrrrrr quest?'

3:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think they're fair to have a go at the 'Jews' (i.e. certain lobby groups) as the Holocaust denial law is a very real thing in many European countries and needs to be stopped. However their point in using this against free speech is irrelevant, everyone here agrees that the denial laws are wrong too! Yes there is a hypocrisy and yes it should be fixed, just not quite in the way they suggest lol.

4:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until you answer the questions 1 to 8 no-one will actually know whether to take your claims of supporting free speech seriously.

Why haven't you answered?

6:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"8) Do you belive in the right to question the official record of the Holocaust?"
Yes, I believe in the right to ignorance and making a fool of oneself.

Polish Solidarity with Denmark

10:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the same token I believe in your right to claim that the earth is flat.

Polish Solidarity with Denmark

10:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen this:

11:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> "Why haven't you answered?"

well actually if you looked here we have answered 1 and 8 directly: What you're basically trying to prove is that since there need to be some restrictions to freedom of speech that means we should add insulting to the list. my counter argument is that freedom of speech is totally pointless if everyone who's insulted by something can add their rule to the list of things we cant say. not only do you want the cartoons 'banned' but you don't even want to allow the press to show them as part of a report - even death threats have more privilege than that!

2) If you're privy to a state secret then you've signed a contract not to reveal it.

3, 4 & 5) If you are confessing that you would murder someone, or you are essentially organising a murder then you should expect arrest. the text of your 'incitement' should be freely printed in the press as it is a report on the event.

6) Yes it should be allowed, no-one says you have to be sad about 9/11 or 7/7 if you want to be happy about it its up to you.

12:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^ oops forgot 7: slander

that's a tricky question although again, the right for the press to print the slanderous text/image as part of covering the story must be respected. i certainly don't believe that the deceased should be protected from slander but i wont answer the question more than that except to say for something to be slanderous, people must have a more negative opinion of the person as a result of seeing/hearing the slander. since you cannot find one single non-Muslim who can say that they have a more negative view of Islam or Mohammad as a result of seeing the cartoons (and NOT as a result of the aftermath) its clear that it cannot be classed as slanderous anyway.

12:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right to criticise the Queen? They say it as if it's a bad thing.

Gives me an idea though... anyone thought of asking Republic for their support? There's still a law on the statute books forbidding republican public meetings.

12:52 am  

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