March for Free Expression

The next phase

Monday, March 20, 2006

Onwards and upwards

The attacks on our campaign by the Muslim Action Committee and the various other movements allied to it have been helpful in raising the profile of this campaign, and have nudged our blog ever upwards in the Technorati ratings, all of which is to the good.

What is not so good is that they have served to distort the appearance of the campaign. This is, after all, a movement in support of free expression and not against Muslims. The growing support we enjoy from Muslims and the Muslim world should not obscure the fact that we are also supported by secularists, rationalists, Christians and human rights organisations of many complexions.

As Saturday approaches, we'd like to restore some balance. Trolls need not be fed in the comments sections - though they have elicited some wonderfully apposite and articulate ripostes.

So far, we have greatly exceeded all our expectations. We have an extraordinary roster of speakers; a rainbow of supporting organisations and individuals; sister rallies in other cities; our financial needs have been met through the amazing generosity of donors.

These next few days we need to get our message out as widely as possible. Please download posters and put them up wherever you can.

Please sign the petition if you haven't already, and mail as many of your contacts as you feel is appropriate, asking them to do the same, and to pass it on.

If you haven't yet donated anything, perhaps consider doing so. If we get enough extra, we will be able to take out newspaper adverts.

And most of all, if you've been with us for a while, pat yourself on the back. Buy yourself a drink. It's thanks to you that we've got this far.

So, from all the organisers, thank you very much.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes your token Muslims, like the token black people they have in the BNP. Oh yeah not forgetting that half these Muslims are not even Muslims, they're Christians etc.

9:28 pm  
Blogger Charles Martel said...

Lets be absolutely clear here.

You can be born a Muslim, but reject the extremist literal interpretation of Islam.
Saira Kahn is a very good, high profile, celeb example of this kind of Muslim.

Much the same way that I was born Roman Catholic, but I pretty much disagree with everything the Pope says vis a vie gays, contraception, the war in Iraq and other matters. But if I believed in "God" , i would just say "yeah - i am a Catholic"

Its one thing to attack an ideology, an idea, a whole political, sharia law system - such as "Islam". Before I became atheist, I regularly attacked Catholicism, even though I considered myself Catholic.

But its quite another thing to attack people - "Muslims" - in general.

And anyway, we all know that the punishment for leaving Islam is death in many Islamic countries - so we'll never know what the real levels of adherance to Islam really is. If the punishment for leaving Islam is death , how sure are we that the often quoted 1.5 billion figure is the true level of Islamic following?

If you ask me, the real figure is far far less - with the overwhelming majority of Muslims just trying to get on in life, paying lip service to the mullahs.

Saudi Arabia does a brisk trade in fine whiskey, which usually ends up in the royal palaces. Some "muslims" you have there ruling that country.

In the case of Saudi and other Islamic nutcase states, Karl Marx was dead right - religion really is the opium of the people.
Islam in Saudi is used as a diversionary tool, to make people hate the U.S. and Israel and to ignore the incredible disparity in wealth between the ruling elite and the rest of the population. It literally is a feudal society.

So, we cant attack "Muslims" - we need to go after "Islam" and attack it rationally, and undermine its core teachings through secular and freedom-loving propaganda.

10:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep on the same page as Nick Griffen, Muslims i don't have a problem with, Islam i do

11:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muslim friends tell me they do not know which march to go on. They think that the cartoons were wrong, but they also think that attacking embassies and threatening people's lives in the name of their religion is wrong.

I think the debate has become too polarised. Many of those supporting the "Free expression" march - including commentators here - are against Islam. There is even talk of support from BNP fronts. Meanwhile, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir - a party most Muslims dislike - is supporting the anti-cartoon march. There is no space for a moderate viewpoint that most Muslims and non-Muslims hold. This is: ridiculing and offending people's beliefs is wrong, but violence should not be used to defend these beliefs. The Muslims I know were just as appalled by the reaction to the cartoons as the cartoons themselves. So, they won't go on either march.

8:02 am  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

The only thing I've got against Islam is that it appears to say a lot about me in it, not personally but as an unbeliever.

I would very much like Islam to repeal a lot of this nonsense and be truely moderate.

I know this to be impossible as I have Muslims friends who are lovelly people. I'm equally sure there are Imams that are good kind just people.

I would really like to see those people at the rally supporting the society that is borne from idea of freedom of expression.

Leave the uneducated fanatical embassy burning radicals to protest about the freedoms we enjoy in the Western world.

Yes this has become polarized, this is because people have been murdered for speaking their mind, not something that has happened in the West in very long time, but happens daily in the Middle East.

8:40 am  
Blogger Duniya said...

"I would very much like Islam to repeal a lot of this nonsense and be truely moderate."

Well, you cannot dictate another's religion. I wish that Catholicism could free itself from the Vatican and allow Africans to practice safe sex to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. But this isn't going to happen. Rather, by continually demanding that Muslims should proove their adherence to laws and value that in fact the vast majority of Muslims respect and uphold, you are in fact side-lining them.

Muslims have the right to defend their religion by peaceful means from ridicule and contempt. They have a right to demonstrate peacefully against the cartoons. It is their right to free speech that they condemn cartoonists.

The majority want to protest peacefully and feel alienated by the extremists within their own community (many will not march alongside Hizb ut Tahrir) as well as those who reprint the cartoons in the name of free speech.

The tone of this March for Free Expression ("Islam must change", "we need to go after Islam and attack it rationally, and undermine its core teachings through secular and freedom-loving propaganda, etc) makes it difficult for many Muslims to participate in it to show that they oppose violent intimidation by extremists.

If you don't understand this, then you will not get Muslims marching with you. They will just see it as more anti-Muslim sentiment rather than a genuine defence of liberty.

10:17 am  
Anonymous publicansdecoy said...


The march is not specifically about the Motoons or attacking Islam. It's a great shame that the Motoons have been focussed on so much. This is in a large result because of the likes of MAC and Global Civility choosing to single out that one element in particular, and scream islamophobofacistoracist! at anyone who dares stand up against them. This march has a much broader focus than just the cartoons, however. It is in response to attacks on free expression from any number of groups, both Muslim and non-Muslim (see Jerry Springer: The Opera, or Bezhti). It is only the Islamist groups who are playing the victim card and claiming it is all about them. The organinsers have repeatedly made it clear that is not the case.


In other news, I would dearly love for Newsnight to discuss the MFE ahead of Saturday's March...

10:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

publicansdecoy: well, you might have a problem with the focus on the Muhammad cartoons and suggest that there should be a broader discussion on free expression, but it seems from the majority of people contributing here, their main concern is Islam as a religion. I just don't see how you can win over liberal Muslim support on this stance.

12:40 pm  
Anonymous publicansdecoy said...

The majority of people I've seen posting here are angry people who have been directed here by MAC and have believed their spin that this is a campaign targetting Muslims and/or Islam. As a result, people have responded to their comments on those points alone, hence the regrettable skew in the the subject matter of discussions.

Fwiw, in many ways the reaction to Bezhti was worse than the reaction to the Motoons, at least in the UK. The majority of anti-Motoon protests have been peaceful, which I have no problems with, even if I don't agree with their opinion. It would be nice if the anti-Motoonists could extend the same courtesy towards MFE people on Saturday, instead of threatening breaches of the peace.

12:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "regrettable skew" in the discussion is more like Muslim-bating. Accusations that the Saudi royal family drink alcohol, reference to "Islamic nutcase states", talk of the "need to go after 'Islam' and attack it rationally, and undermine its core teachings", the suggestion that Islam needs "to repeal a lot of this nonsense and be truely [sic]moderate", etc, are unlikely to win over any liberal Muslim support. If you want to have Muslims participate in a demonstration for free expression, then you have to change the way you talk about Islam and Muslims. At the moment, you are not giving them a lot of space to state their support for free expression as Muslims, since it all appears to cast Islam as the problem.

1:00 pm  
Anonymous publicansdecoy said...

I don't think this campaign should seek to appease the views of any one element of its supporters above any other. The whole point is that people should be able to disagree and debate freely, without threats of violence and intimidation. A liberal Muslim has no more right to demand that people revere her religion than a non-Muslim has to demand that Islam be banned. I see the problem as one of evanglelism from both sides, both expecting the other to reform views in accordance with their own demands.

Very few comments from Muslim commenters on this side have displayed this sort of live and let live attitude. I'm not sure if these are the liberal Muslims you refer to.

1:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not understand your problem in the British perspective. As far as I can see, in the early stages of the cartoon row, a handful of idiots dressed up as suicide bombers and praised Osama bin Laden. Most Muslims thought they were crazed. There have been no embassy attacks and no violence as a result of these cartoons in the UK, but Muslims have freely expressed their opposition to the ridiculing of their prophet. Whose freedom of expression is being curtailed, then? What is the big deal in the British context? People are disagreeing and debating freely in Britain and Muslims are freely stating that they don't want their prophet to be made the subject of ridicule. The situation in the UK is not like the situation in the Palestinian territories, Syria or Iran, where officials have deliberately sought to use the cartoon row for another agenda entirely, bringing their thugs onto the streets to strengthen their own power base. It has nothing to do with Islam and most Muslims hate these oppressive governments (Syria, incidentally, is officially a secular state). So what is the big deal?

1:34 pm  
Anonymous Rastaman said...

Islam IS the problem. How can you say otherwise? No, it's not all Muslims, all followers of Islam that are causing the problems anymore than all followers of Catholicism practice the rhythm method. However it is true that Catholic teaching is to not practice birth control and I personally feel that this is a shortcoming of Catholicism. In the same way, Islam has shortcomings, but in the case of Islam these shortcomings result in a great many Islamic teachers teaching torture, death and mayhem. If it were just a lack of birth control, that would be a pretty minor issue, would it not? When so many Muslims are exhorted to hate and kill, and the vast majority of Muslim news media, and by that I mean OVER 99% of them, preach hating and killing and post hideous cartoons against Jews and Christians and the USA and have been doing so for YEARS, then yes, Islam has serious flaws and these flaws clearly pose a mortal danger to all of those who are not Muslims and the real possibility of a brutal life to those who are Muslims. Islam IS the problem.

1:56 pm  
Anonymous publicansdecoy said...

The problem is that a lot of the protest against the Motoons has been nominally peaceful, simply because the British media hasn't dared see what happen if the cartoons were printed over here too. We have seen self-censorship in a bid to avoid causing any kined of offence whatsoever to Muslims, and the ensuing violence, which I find an unhappy state of affairs. Now certain Muslim groups, such as the MAC, are going further and demanding that this sort of censorhip become enshrined in law, and that all religions be excepted from any kind of criticism or ridiule, or any kind of discussion unless it is painfully reverential. They are seeking to impose their own prejudices onto other people. You cannot claim protection of ideas from criticism, just because those ideas are printed in some holy book. If most Muslims hate this sort of idea, then they will be more than welcome to come on the march. Let them argue and debate freely and peacefully with those who do not like Islam. All ideas must be open to challenge.

2:24 pm  
Anonymous publicansdecoy said...

Addendum: I suspect MAC are only really concerned about Islam, not all religions. I doubt that they would be happy to give up slagging of Jews and Judaism at every possible opportunity.

2:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And when have MAC orchestrated violence, supported violence, attacked Jews and Judaism? It seems that the March for Free Expression is definitly for the right to slander.

3:23 pm  
Anonymous man said...

This must include freedom of expression FOR Muslims. Freedom of expression for fundamentalist mullahs and freedom of expression for liberal tolerant muslims too.

3:26 pm  
Anonymous publicansdecoy said...

Whoah! I do not constitute the MFE all by myself. I am sure I disagree with plenty of people on the MFE on all sorts of things, and they will disagree with me. And I did not state in that post that MAC have orchestrated and supported violence. It is the self-censorship of the British media on the Motoons/criticism of Islam that they want to see enshrined in law.

The Global Civitlity campaign does, however, feature an article on their site entitled "The Obligation to believe in the Prophet, obey Him and follow His Sunnah", so it seems only reasonable to assume that they are also supportve of the following Hadith:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."



Indeed, the flipside of opposing the aims of the likes of Global Civility is accepting the right of Muslims to claim that homosexuality is immoral, or to claim the holocaust didn't happen.

3:37 pm  
Anonymous man said...

Yeah, I think they should have that right. And I should have the right to tell them what a twattish thing that is to say.

4:16 pm  
Anonymous man said...

The basic difference is this:

"Global Civility" want more restrictions on free speech, globally. The Campaign for Free Expression demand less restriction, if anything. We don't all have to agree on exactly where the limits should be, - after all how could we, if we are free? - just that there should be at least no further restriction.

4:18 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

Alex: Don't be put off! You're right to point out how well organised they seem to be, but in addition to the reasons others have given, I ought to point out that they have had a bit of a headstart on us, having already organised the central London rally on Feb 18th, when Peter and Patrick were just getting the ball rolling and beginning to promote the March.

Man: Quite right. They want more restrictions and we want less. I couldn't give a monkey's whether the MAC represented Muslims, Jews, Christians, the Raelians or any other religious body - I'd still disagree with them.

Here's what Trevor Phillips had to say on this a few weeks back:

“One point of Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is,” he told Jonathan Dimbleby on ITV1.

“That’s why freedom of expression — including Muslim leaders’ right to say they think homosexuality is harmful — is absolutely precious.”


6:23 pm  
Anonymous polemicist said...

anonymous @ 8:02 said "There is no space for a moderate viewpoint that most Muslims and non-Muslims hold. This is: ridiculing and offending people's beliefs is wrong....."

FALSE!!! "Ridiculing other people's beliefs is wrong" - this misses the whole point of this rally!

In a relatively free society, you are perfectly entitled to believe that the earth is flat or that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden - and no-one will persecute you for this. However, you are not entitled to demand that I "respect" those views, which I consider ludicrous, and you cannot seek protection under the law from satire or criticism of such views. Furthermore, you are not entitled to respond to negative comment with threats of violence and intimidation which are themselves contrary to the law.

The same logic applies to any religious belief or superstition - no matter how widely held.

In addition, it should be stated that religious views which encompass any sort of fascist philosophy do not earn "civility" in my view. I have never been polite to fascism and do not intend to start now - just because it masks itself in an aura of religious gobbledegook in an attempt to earn "respect" does not mean I have to be "civil" towards it.

7:07 pm  

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