Monday, February 06, 2006


Immediate Need for Repeal of the Blasphemy Laws

Can some good come from this cartoon violence?

Letter to my local Tory MP:

It is pleasing to see the Conservatives responding robustly to the fascist elements who have been attempting to impose their private "blasphemy" laws through the threat of gangster violence.

Dominic Grieve said "It's a clear breach of the criminal law - the existing criminal law, not new laws about incitement."

The legal basis of the charges that Dominic Grieve proposes is a matter for the courts. Whatever the facts of the case, the presumption in favour of free speech should be very strong indeed. Amongst the reasons for this is that we need to know what people really think, rather than a sanitised version which could easily become a welcome PR technique to hide criminal intent.

However, I suggest that we all now wish that the Conservative Government had responded in a similar way to the Rushdie conspiracy when they were in power. This conspiracy (which has directly resulted in 39 murders (including the Japanese translator of Satanic Verses, Hitoshi Igarashi, stabbed to death in his university office as well as the Norwegian and Italian translators stabbed and/ or shot in the street) and numerous other deaths) was of course the direct forebear of the current events. Unlike the current example, the target was a specific individual, which may have effected the legal status of the actions.

It remains unforgivable for the Conservatives, in the person of Norman Tebbit, to have responded by blaming Salman Rushdie instead of arresting the conspirators. To do this is precisely equivalent to the imputing of blame to a woman who has been raped on acount of the length of her skirt.

The Tories are attempting to change their image and exculpate these errors of the past. This is very welcome. It is extraordinary to see Cameron joining with Tony Benn's long campaign in demanding the removal of the Queen's residual perogative powers. This kind of thing is an excellent PR tool. It will undoubtably get people talking about the Tories as an electable force who have never done so before.

Islamist criticism of the 'West' over the Danish cartoons is wholly wrong-headed (and bizarrely hypocritical given the kind of nazi-style anti-semitic caricatures that habitually appear in the press of most* of the countries that have made official protests to the Danish state.) It is not illegal to insult or offend against Islam and the Danish state, like other states, has no authority to prevent this occuring.

However, the Bezhti rioters in Birmingham, the Jerry Springer protesters (a group which includes the BNP) and the current Islamist goons do have a legitimate argument for hypocrisy in the case of the continued existence of the blasphemy laws in Britain. The Islamist fascists say that terrible punishments should befall those who insult Islam. It is an astounding fact that British law STILL makes similar statements about those who insult Christianity in hard-to-define ways. Prison sentences await.

Is it not time that there was a cross-party attempt to get rid of these primitive vestiges of the early-modern theocratic police state? This would show genuine support for free speech for all groups, with no group specially privileged through protection from mockery or offence.

*"Most" - probably "all". I've not checked. See ADL for a thorough catalogue. It should be noted that many of these newspapers are owned or otherwise controlled by the governments themselves. Click for random examples.

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