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Posts Tagged ‘islam’

Nicolas Sarkozy wants to outlaw the wearing of the burqa in public places in France:

The problem of the burka is not a religious problem. This is an issue of a woman’s freedom and dignity. This is not a religious symbol. It is a sign of subservience; it is a sign of lowering. I want to say solemnly, the burka is not welcome in France.

I suppose the logic goes something like this: The burqa is demeaning; it offends my values. So the woman who chooses to wear it, whether out of social pressure or personal choice (*), is not truly free. Thus, I must make them free by taking away this choice from them.

Come to think of it, this kind of argument is a remarkable tool. Sarkozy did not invent it — precisely the same justification is used all the time to critique everything that the vanguards of public morality consider degrading: from prostitution to pornography, taking drugs to working for low wages. But he — like other petty dictators of this world — sees the real power of this infantilizing logic, because it allows him to restrict individual freedom by invoking supposedly liberal values. That’s masterful. Of course, most people do not understand or care about the fundamental difference between the moral and the legal, the personal and the political, social disapproval and actual coercion; thus this charade continues.

*I am discounting from this discussion any women who are actually coerced (by threats of violence or similar means) to wear the burqa; obviously we need to prevent this from happening, but there are already laws to deal with such situations.

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At least thirty-seven people are dead in a series of horrific blasts in Ahmedabad, India.

Iran is going to hang thirty people tomorrow.

At first sight, the situations look dissimilar. The people dead in Ahmedabad are innocent victims of terror, their lives snuffed out brutally and callously by vengeful terrorists. The Iranians who will die tomorrow have undergone a trial according to the laws of their land and their executions will be lawful affairs handled by dignified government officials.

Yet, as the CNN report makes it clear, quite a few of the Iranians who have been sentenced to death are simply guilty of “being a public nuisance while drunk (or) being involved in illegal relationships — relationships between men and women who are not married to each other.”

Makes me wonder if the cloak of government authority really makes their deaths any more legitimate.

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France is perhaps the worst place in Western Europe for individual liberty — recall the recent conviction of Brigette Bardot for hate-speech — however, their courts do get things right once in a while. In a marriage annulment case, much in the news lately, the French judge did rule in favour of privacy and freedom. Here’s an excerpt from the Chicago tribune report (emphasis mine).

The bride said she was a virgin. When her new husband discovered that was a lie, he went to court to annul the marriage — and a French judge agreed.

The ruling ending the Muslim couple’s union has stunned France and raised concerns the country’s much-cherished secular values are losing ground to cultural traditions from its fast-growing immigrant communities.

Justice Minister Rachida Dati, whose parents also were born in North Africa, initially shrugged off the ruling — but the public clamor reached such a pitch that she asked the prosecutor’s office this week to lodge an appeal.

What began as a private matter “concerns all the citizens of our country and notably women,” a statement from her ministry said.

The hitch is that both the young woman and the man at the center of the drama are opposed to an appeal, according to their lawyers.

The young woman’s lawyer, Charles-Edouard Mauger, said she was distraught by the dragging out of the humiliating case. In an interview on Europe 1 radio, he quoted her as saying: “I don’t know who’s trying to think in my place. I didn’t ask for anything. … I wasn’t the one who asked for the media attention, for people to talk about it, and for this to last so long.”

The court decision “is a real fatwa against the emancipation and liberty of women. We are returning to the past,” said Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara,

“In a democratic and secular country, we cannot consider virginity as an essential quality of marriage,” said an expert on French secularism, Jacqueline Costa-Lascoux.

I am sorry, expert, but the question isn’t what you or I think are the essential qualities for a marriage. The issue is extremely simple — the two parties mutually agreed there should be an annulment on the basis there was a breach of contract, the annulment was granted and they are happy. Stop thinking for other individuals. The government has no business encroaching into private consensual affairs, whether or not those offend your fine sensibilities.

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OMG, this is so awesome!

But a little bit of background first. Ezra Levant is the publisher of Western Standard, a right-wing Canadian magazine. I quote from Glenn Greenwald’s post on Salon, where I first came across the video that appears next.

In February, 2006, he published the Danish Mohammed cartoons, which prompted an Islamic group’s imam to file a complaint against Levant with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, charging Levant with “advocating hatemongering cartoons in the media,” and the imam specifically accused Levant of “defaming me and my family because we follow and are related to Prophet Mohammed.”

Rather than dismiss the complaint as a blatant attempt to punish free thought and free speech, the Alberta Human Rights Commission announced that it would investigate. To do so, they compelled Levant to appear before a government agent and be interrogated about the cartoons he published, his thoughts and intent in publishing them, and the other circumstances surrounding his “behavior.” Under the law, the Commission has the power to impose substantial fines and other penalties on Levant.

Well, Levant insisted on recording the proceedings and was directed by the Commission not to publish the video, but he did so anyway. Just watch it! I would have replied in exactly the same words as Levant if I were in his situation, but it’s still f***ing awesome! Here’s the video.

Any restrictions on free speech by the government, yes even hateful and bigoted speech (except perhaps, speech that is part of a direct criminal conspiracy to incite violence) is fundamentally wrong. After all, it is only offensive speech that needs protection; thus the only kind of freedom of speech that is meaningful is the kind that has no caveats whatsoever. Hate-speech laws, ‘do-not-ridicule’ laws and holocaust denial laws have no place in a truly liberal society and they eventually come back to bite even their proponents, as many leftist intellectuals in Europe are discovering now.

Here are some previous posts by me on this theme.

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The Dutch got it once. So they legalized abortion, prostitution, soft drugs and euthanasia and guaranteed absolute free speech. But isn’t there an old proverb about not seeing the value of things you’ve had for a long while? It seems the famously easy-going Dutch are tired of their freedoms. What else to make of the ban on magic mushrooms, and now the arrest of a cartoonist?

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