Worrying developments for freedom of expression in the UK

Paula Kirby writes here about the manner in which valid criticism of utterly insane ideas is being silenced in the UK. She cites three recent examples that happened in the past week.

This includes ..

Rhys Morgan,  a 17 years old,  who received threats of expulsion from his school if he did not remove a Jesus & Mo cartoon from his own personal Facebook page. The story is that some Muslims students took offense and started issuing threats of violence against him and also threatened to burn his house down. The utterly insane  response from his school was to remove the valid criticism through intimidation of their own – take it down or get expelled.  I am not aware of any attempt by the school to expel his Muslim school colleagues who threatened him with violence,  I would certainly hope that also happened.

You can find out more here Rhys Morgan’s blog and Twitter feed

Next we have a meeting scheduled in a university by a secular group earlier this week  to advance the cause of One Law For All (basically criticism of Sharia law). It  had to be called off as a result of death threats from Muslims. This involved one of them arriving 5 minutes prior to the talk, recording all those present on his camera phone and announcing “I know where you live and we will come and hunt you down“. When security were called, they blamed the organisers for having had the temerity to arrange such a meeting in the first place!!!

You can read more about that The One Law For All story here – Maryam Namazie

We also have the UCL farce. An atheist society posted on an atheist social networking page for an audience of atheists, and stirs up a storm of disapproval, outrage and coercion from the religious with a view to forcing it to remove a cartoon. The chair of the atheist society was also forced to step down.

You can read all about that on Butterflies and Wheels, here and here, which covers the latest developments at the time of writing.

Paula then comments in her article …

… the key thing to note in all these cases is that it is no longer just the religious who would inhibit our freedom of expression: increasingly, secular bodies are buying into this invidious idea too, all in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘community relations’ or ‘respect’.

This erosion of our freedom of expression really matters. …     You cannot have a free or healthy society where some ideas may not be challenged, especially when – as in the UK – those ideas have real power and influence in public life.  And you certainly can’t have a free or healthy society where a person’s rights to challenge ideas peacefully are not protected, but the rights of the challenged to respond with threats of death and other violence are (even if only tacitly, by caving in to them and treating those who threaten violence in response to mere ideas as though they were the real victims).

I now wish to add a few thoughts of my own. What is going on here is a breach of basic human rights.

Freedom of Thought” – people need to be free to believe in whatever they wish even if it is obviously not true. That stance is a double edged sword and also applies to non-belief. Any attempt to impose beliefs upon others does not respect their freedom of thought, but is instead insisting that others do not have the right to hold a different view. Rhys had a cartoon on his page, some Muslims were offended, I get that. They are free to think whatever they wish, but they have no right to impose their beliefs upon Rhys by force, nor does the school have the right to threaten explusion for a cartoon on his own personal facebook page.

Freedom of Speech” – ideas and beliefs do not have rights, only people do, and nobody has the right to not be offended. Muslims can and do criticize other beliefs and also non-belief, yet when their beliefs face criticism, then deploy violence and intimidation to silence that very valid criticism. This is not acceptable and must not be permitted.

If this trend continues, then our society and our personal freedom faces a very real danger. Multiple and often conflicting ideas and beliefs exist in our society, and so if we are to truly function and live together without ripping each others throats out every time such beliefs and ideas conflict, then there is a line that must not be crossed – you do not get to force others to conform to your irrational belief.

Playing the “Respect” card is not a game where a celestial dictatorship gets a free hand to impose their insanity upon others through threats of violence, it simply means that they are indeed free to believe whatever they wish, but they must also learn to tolerate criticism that they do not agree with.

Not sure about this? OK, look at it this way, suppose it had been the other way around. What if a group of atheists charged into a mosque and started disrupting the rituals and haranguing the people in there and promising to hunt them down and kill them if they continued to worship Allah, would that be acceptable? Would it then be acceptable if, when the Muslims complained, they were advised, “It was your fault for having a Mosque and praying in it, you obviously offended the non-believers by doing so“. Yep, the line being taken by some is truly that batty.

My stance here is not against their beliefs, instead it is a stance in support of liberty for all, and advocates that none should be permitted to force others to conform to their beliefs.

So what can you do?

Paula suggests …

Please read these stories and consider how best you can show your support for freedom of expression in the UK. If you want to contact your MP, you will be able to find his or her details via this link.

And I agree.

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