Thursday, September 20, 2012
President Obama Guardian of Freedom
I listened to President Obama on the morning of 19th September and I admit that I am confused. He stated that the President of the United States is president of all the people, not just Democrats or Republican but both. This is all well and good but it was a missed opportunity to show that he was more than a politician; perhaps even a global Statesman for the twenty-first century.
And God knows, we sorely need one.
We have had calls for restraint as Muslims riot, burn and kill across 30 nations in protest at what was essentially a set-up by Muslim extremists and we have had threats of retaliation and court cases. All this is a violation of our right to free speech.
I do not understand our cowardice or the president’s reticence to step up to the plate (or to the crease for those who prefer the cricket metaphor to baseball).
So let us examine what are the issues?
Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of democracy. There are times that we must show restraint – shouting fire in a cinema is one classic example; at other times a lack of restraint is simply bad manners, and perhaps this is one of the terrible things that have accompanied our obsession with individuality that it is at the expense of common decency. We say what we think as if the consequences were unimportant. As movie making has developed since the 1960’s we have seen the boundaries of what is permissible reduced to almost no boundaries either to what we may say or, to what we may view. It is this absence of self-restraint that has spilled over and into society providing reactionary forces everywhere with the evidence (so they believe) that our nations are experiencing their death knell.
Nevertheless, while the time is long overdue for us to examine our laws with respect to communication across the board, the principle that freedom of expression is sacred also means we should be wary of sacrilege. And here’s the rub. If to portray Muhammad as less than an angel is wrong then so is distribution or publication of the Koran, anywhere in the free world.
The Koran is not a book that encourages the faithful to respect their fellow man. It is neither tolerant nor peaceful. But it is conditional, and that qualified tolerance is dependent upon acquiescence to restricted rights. So must we weigh rights against sensitivities? Or is the right to offend conditional? To the latter question I shout a resounding NO. Because then it is not what is offensive that we inevitably examine but who we may offend. And that is a form of fascism.
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “It is easier to live with the no-truth or half-truth, but it is tedious to live with the whole truth.” Can there be Peace with Islam while their world knows only extremists and purveyors of propaganda; disseminators of lies and hate? Can we continue to suffer guilt for the colonial policies of former European powers while ignoring the atrocities of Islam?
And while we may think these are isolated and unfortunate occurrences that are not worth the trouble of confronting there are far too many instances of acquiescence to the threat of violence to which our governments have already caved in. Two examples follow:
A couple of weeks ago the first episode of a new TV series on the Prophet Muhammad aired on ITV4, a government/taxpayer funded channel that broadcasts here in the UK. The series is based on the writings of British author, Tom Holland (in particular his most recent book “In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire”). In it he claims there is no proof that the prophet existed. After receiving 1,200 complaints and threats against the presenters’ life the remainder of the series was shelved. And then there is the wonderfully imaginative ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman. The first movie ‘The Golden Compass’ was financially successful but the final two instalments were never made. Philip Pullman admitted that the Vatican applied sufficient ‘pressure’ to ensure that censorship won out over entertainment.
Perhaps 33,000 Muslims have been brutally killed in Syria over the last year and a half and the Arab world prevaricates over taking any action to bring it to an end. Maybe I missed the plethora of condemnations in the UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council but a short 15 minute, badly made video on YouTube is the catalyst for global protests. And to show their respect for the infidel the Egyptian Brotherhood has promised to set up a new movie channel devoted to anti-Christian and anti-Zionist (anti-Semitic) productions. The problem being that this already happens and there are no world wide protests or demands that they cease their obscene fabrications, nor has there been violence or killings. Every year in Islamic Iran a Holocaust denial competition encourages attendees to produce the most abhorrent of anti- Jewish caricatures.
We are the abused partner in this asymmetric relationship, constantly surprised when we are beaten up or molested by our Muslim mate when in fact this is what they know; they expect it to continue and are outraged when it does not. It is a recognized and much documented psychopathology and until we change the dynamic of the relationship the Islamic world will have no reason to even consider its own delinquency.
With respect to the President, a famous Mexican revolutionary leader named Emiliano Zapata Salazar once said “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” I would add that the reason for this is that those that live on their knees are eventually deprived of even that painful right.