Sunday, February 15, 2009

Geert Wilders - when should people be silenced?

I don't agree with Geert Wilders critique of Islam. It's emotive and unbalanced and paints a picture of the religion that is unrecognisable to most of its followers.

However objectionable and unhelpful I might find his view and his film, I have to say that I was shocked by Chris Huhne's support of the Government's decision to refuse him entry to the UK last week.

My innermost instincts are to protect freedom of speech. When I first came across Labour's No Platform policy in the 1980s, it made me feel queasy. On the face of it it sounds fair enough not to give voice to views which are just so objectionable that they could incite violence against a particular group of people. The trouble with this is that somebody then has to decide what is objectionable. And if you're not careful, what you are allowed to say could become narrower and narrower. The other point is that you have to allow those views to be articulated in order to argue against them. Otherwise they go underground and their proponents have to operate behind front organisations......

I am just listening to the BBC's The Big Questions where people are basically justifying the use of torture as part of a debate. I really don't like that point of view but I don't think they should have been stopped from saying it.

We have legislation against hate crimes in this country, and I think it's right and proper that we should. Nobody should have to face violence or persecution because of their religion, sexuality, race, age or any other aspect of who they are.

I think religions, governments and philosophies are fair game when it comes to criticism. I do not see why I should be silenced from criticising the homophobia of many organised religions, nor the abuses of human rights which are carried out in the name of religion or dogma across the globe, nor the principles on which these religions or dogma are based.

If we take the Government's logic on the Wilders case to its natural conclusion, would Italy be right to prevent me from going there because of what I've said about the Pope's homophobic pronouncements?

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Anonymous said...

It is unusual that I disagree with you (well at least to your face) but according to Politics Home the Wenders issue has unusually polarised Lib Dems 50/50. We appear to be a microcosm of that. I agree with Chris Huhne that Wilders was correctly banned. Wilders is a racist who wants to ban the Koran and remove the civil rights of muslims. Many Liberals seem to be taking the view that the permission of unrestricted expression of views is an abolute. That was not the view of John Stuart Mill, who recognised that society has to have the backstop of defending itself from harm. Wilders views are known and any debate does not have to be graced by his actual presence. Our society has developed an elaborate system of checks and balances to protect our freedoms. We are not on any slippery slope here. The banning of one self-publicising Dutch ponce will not bring society crashing down about our ears.

Bernard Salmon said...

In response to Norman: If the Dutch government decided that you using the term 'Dutch ponce' was offensive, would you be OK with being banned from the Netherlands as a result?
And Caron, one point you didn't include is that restricting people's freedom of speech only allows them to present themselves as victims and probably attract more support as a result. I must say I wonder how many of the thousands of people who watched Fitna online did what I did and watched a couple of refutations of it from Muslim groups. Very few, I suspect.


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