Our Austrian correspondent AMT, moved by such recent events as the legal actions against Geert Wilders and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, has written an essay about the parlous state of free speech in Europe.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Voltaire
As many of us are aware — some more than others — freedom of speech has been changing. Those of us who believe in and fight to protect the concept of democracy can clearly recognize the gradual erosion of this noble and important freedom. There is growing concern that freedom of speech and its provisions in the law are being used more and more to do stifle opinions, and — even more worrying — truths.
Wikipedia informs us that
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak without censorship and/or limitation. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes used to indicate not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on “hate speech.”
Yes, the dreaded hate speech. The “killer phrase” of political correctness, which is threatening the physical freedom of freedom lovers and defenders like Geert Wilders, Ezra Levant, and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. All three use their right to free speech to speak about Islam. All three have been summoned — and Geert Wilders even prosecuted — by the state.
The main problem with the charge of hate speech is that it includes nearly everything under the sun:
Hate speech is speech perceived to disparage a person or group of people based on their social or ethnic group, such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance (height, weight, skin color, etc.), mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability. The term covers written as well as oral communication and some forms of behaviors in a public setting.
Now take this concept in conjunction with what the elites of the European Union impose on their population:
Council Framework Decision 2008/913/Jha of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law Has Adopted This Framework Decision: Article 1 Offences concerning racism and xenophobia 1. Each Member State shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable: (a) publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin;
The careful reader and defender of democracy immediately asks: What is the definition of racism? What is the definition of xenophobia? None is given. However, one concept is clearly defined: Islam is considered not only a religion, but also a race, which transforms any criticism of Islam into racism, the worst charge of all.
What is more, racism and xenophobia can also be applied to “a group of people” who define themselves as members of a religion. One must thus come to the conclusion that statements criticizing the teachings of a religion can be considered racist and xenophobic.
The Council has reached the following decisions regarding the issue: Condemnation of any kind of intolerance and discrimination based on gender, race and religious beliefs in particular, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, the fight against these within the framework of the Council of Europe and the use of effective mechanisms and rules to combat these problems.
Thus, anti-Islamism as well as anti-Semitism will be dealt with within the framework of legal proceedings. The Council reports will include anti-Islamist movements. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) will closely monitor these movements. The Commission will record in which country anti-Islamism increases or how it is reflected.”
This is the beginning of the fall of Europe. Anti-Islamism is not the same as anti-Semitism. Islam is a belief system, Semites are a race. We can’t equate a race to a doctrine. Racism is sheer evil. Apart from the fact that no race is better or worse than other races, unless one is Michael Jackson, one can’t change his race. Instigating hate against a race is instigating hate against mankind. Doctrines that instigate racial hate must be condemned and those who engage in racial slurs must be brought to justice.
Prohibiting criticism of Islam is like prohibiting criticism of Judaism or Christianity. No one in his right mind would suggest criticism of these religions should be banned. The very fact that these religions have reformed and have adapted to modern times is because they were criticized. Only during the inquisition, criticism of Christianity was against the law. Are we trying to introduce Islamic inquisition to appease Muslims? Are we trying to institute the blasphemy law that is practiced in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran to make Muslims happy? This is insane!
One wonders who exactly is fomenting extremism. Consider Turkish prime minister Erdogan who is on the record reacting to the Swiss minaret ban:
“[This is a] sign of an increasing racist and fascist stance in Europe,” Turkish television Channel 7 reported on Tuesday. Islamophobia was a “crime against humanity,” just like anti-Semitism.
Turkish president Abdullah Gül said the vote was a “disgrace” for the people of Switzerland and showed how far Islamophobia had advanced in the Western world.
If a “citizen” of the EU may timidly make a suggestion to those in charge — whoever that might be — it would be the following:
|1.||Prosecute racism by Muslims against non-Muslims;|
|2.||Define freedom of religion as an individual right and not a collective one.|
Islam considers freedom of religion as a collective right of the Muslim community to live according to Islamic rules, even if these rules contradict secular laws. Non-Muslims consider it an individual right to live according to their beliefs within the private sphere, but in accordance with secular laws.
In light of the EU Framework Decision, the Austrian government is in the process of introducing a new law, which according to Andreas Unterberger, “will mimic China’s approach to freedom of speech.”
“Whoever publicly incites to hate against a group [detailed in a long list], shall be punished with a maximum of two years of imprisonment.” The same is valid for those who “insult or disparage” a group. This is what it says in a new law which is about to be passed without any public outcry.
All this in the name of “combating terror”. Unterberger adds,
Do not misunderstand me: I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who hate or insult. But terms that are not precisely defined may be used extensively by the judiciary to restrict freedom of speech. These terms [hate and insulting] belong to good upbringing, to religious education, but not in the claws of a government which, if need be, may use brutal force. […] In the future, one just has to say or write, with a slightly critical undertone, that nationals of X are involved in a significantly higher degree in the drug trade or that national of Y dominate the burglary “business”, or that members of sexual orientation Z are prone to certain transmittable diseases. […] And right away one is confronted with criminal proceedings.
It is unbelievable that no one in this country rises to the defense of freedom of expression protesting against this attack on the most important principle of the Enlightenment, namely freedom of opinion.
Similarly, but not surprisingly, the lack of interest in these measures appears generally manifested in American and European public opinion. Writes Paul Belien:
“… [This] is apparent with regard to the semi-legal initiatives taken at the level of the United Nations. On October 2nd, the UN Human Rights Council approved a free speech resolution, co-sponsored by the US and Egypt, which criticizes “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” […] Though the resolution has no immediate effect in law, it provides Muslim extremists with moral ammunition the next time they feel that central tenets of Islam are being treated disrespectfully through the creation of what they perceive to be an ‘offensive environment.’“
Lesson Plans for Teaching the First Amendment tells us the following:
In the “marketplace of ideas,” we may choose which views to support and which ones to reject. When all ideas are allowed to flourish, we — as individuals — may decide what ideas and concepts to question, embrace or reject.
The antidote to distasteful or hateful speech is not censorship, but more speech.
Geert Wilders will not stop criticizing Islam, neither will Sabaditsch-Wolff or others. One may assume there will be more speech, rather than less.