Freedom of Speech is being discussed a lot these days...
...because people keep killing, or trying to kill others for offending the sensibilities of a *certain* faith.
Cartoonists, illustrators, writers are particularly under threat.
You know someone's fighting a losing battle when they have to defend their ignorant beliefs by using a gun to respond to a pen.
Most of the ways I hear 'freedom of speech' being talked about are maddeningly twisted. There is confusion amongst those who desperately try to find things that 'appear valid' to curb said freedom. There is also confusion amongst those who try to use it to violate human rights and dehumanize entire groups of people. Unfortunately, it seems too many are unable to distinguish one from the other.
Among those who had difficulty telling the difference between instances when human rights were violated and instances where ideas were simply being challenged... were some very influential writers unfortunately: Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, and Taiye Selasi all withdrew from attending the PEN literary Gala, that took place on May 5th. They withdrew for the distasteful reason of protesting an honour being given to the dead. Because they saw it unfit that Charlie Hebdo was given the PEN Freedom of Expression Courage Award. All citing some combination of the "they are forcing secularism on people", "they are racist", "they taunt the marginalized", "they are Islamophobes"...
Sure, I can understand initial anger...but those who are presented with facts about CH's intent, their politics... deliberately choose to ignore them, and continue on with their faux-rage. For example, if this picture was a malicious racist depiction, I doubt the justice minister herself would have attended the funerals of the slain....and I doubt she would have given a eulogy at one of the funerals.
You can see the video of her eulogy and read a translation here.
In a similar manner, I have done mock anti-masturbation ads. If looked at without context of who I am, what my views are...it may indeed seem like I promote the idea that self-pleasure causes natural disasters. But my intent was to put it in the form of what an anti-masturbation person might say. It is so ludicrous on its own, that I'd hope I wouldn't have to explain that I was mocking the viewpoint I created the poster from. However, if this was circulated in certain religious schools, amongst those who think natural disasters are indeed because god is angry....they might take it at face value. If it was viewed in places where people had no idea what I write about, they too might think I was a god-fearing anti-masturbation person.
The information is out there, it is readily available. It is for *you* to verify your claims before you go around spreading lies about the brutally murdered. Especially if you are in the public eye. Wilful blindness is such a shame.
Some people deliberately misrepresent and omit facts to try and validate their claims about CH. Do they not stop and think for a second... about how awful it is to misrepresent those recently murdered, those who are no longer here to speak for themselves? People have been sharing images from other publications, that are *not* Charlie Hebdo at all, to back their claims of "racism". Some fail to see context, but some also deliberately misrepresent. Sigh.
Katie Hopkins, Jihadist Joe & Vive Charlie
On the other side, there's the issue of those who don't wish to challenge ideas...but instead deem entire groups of people inferior. People like Katie Hopkins for example, who recently wrote an article for the (UK) Sun, where she claimed migrants were like cockroaches and viruses. Here are some quotes from Katie:
"No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care."
“Because in the next minute you’ll show me pictures of aggressive young men at Calais, spreading like norovirus on a cruise ship … These two populations are the same. The migrants harassing Brit truckers at the port are the same as the vagrants making the perilous trip across the Med.”
“What we need are gunships sending these boats back to their own country. You want to make a better life for yourself? Then you had better get creative in Northern Africa.”
“Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.”
I know, I know, she sounds like a *delightful* dinner party guest....and someone you'd absolutely want to work with, someone you'd want to represent the credibility of your publication, right? Imagine my non-surprise when Vive Charlie (a magazine set up by Jihadist Joe, a popular 'satire' Twitter account that 'critiques Islam', but ends up being more anti-Muslim than anti-Islam) decided to team up with cuddly Katie. YAY 2 bigots are better than 1, if efficient bigotry is what you're going for.
Don't get me wrong, I am an ardent critic of the ideology myself. I am not even remotely a fan of Islam. Growing up Muslim *and* having a vagina in Saudi Arabia doesn't exactly leave you a fan if you manage to de-indocrinate. However, I attempt to keep my critique focused on the ideas contained within Islam, and not on the *people* who practice (the people who claim scripture is infallible sure, but that isn't what all Muslims think). Muslims are diverse, and some of them want change just like any critic of Islam, some of them find the scriptures problematic too - to group them all in as nazis or fundamentalists is incredibly ignorant and misrepresentative.
I know Jihadist Joe and his magazine Vive Charlie are popular in the atheist 'scene' - because shielded, problematic Islam needs to be criticized and scrutinized. Rational people will support when it is, except sometimes the subtleties of 'criticizing ideas *not* people' are lost on those outside of the community. Critique of *Islam* is not always what's going on with Jihadist Joe or Vive Charlie....when critique of ideas bleeds into generalizing, or mocking entire groups you are crossing the line into bigotry. Anti-Muslim bigotry is real, mosque burning is real, the shouts of "go back home you terrorist" are real, and they hurt... As an ex-Muslim, I face both anti-muslim bigotry because of my name, my pigmentation, etc ....I also face Muslim bigotry because of my dissent, my non-belief.
There is no win for people in my position...we are alienated, we are called Islamophobes or self-hating racists by our communities (and often times the liberal West too), and we are called Islam apologists even, by those who think its ok to say all Muslims are fundamentalists, extremists, or that all Muslims are like Nazis...
|Screenshot from Homoeconomicus Weblog|
It's one thing to say *more* Muslims need to call this stuff out, but another to say it's non-existent.
|Nice to see my educated, freedom loving, secular supporting family also being referred to as "savages"|
...because 'Muslim' = savage. :/
We don't want to be written off as 'anti-Muslim bigots', most of us secular critics of Islam are not...some of us even have Muslim families that we love and want the best for.
Dawkins too, occasionally crosses this line into generalization unfortunately (and I bet I'll have some 'freethinkers' very upset with me for saying this).... but Dawkins' endorsement for Joe's account speaks for itself really. I am a fan of Dawkins, and the work he does...don't get me wrong, but I don't always agree with his tweets.
Some excellent points have been made by John Sargeant of the Homoeconomicus blog too, regarding Jihadist Joe, Dawkins and Dawkins' support for Joe...who quite clearly is:
"A global conspiracy believer who uses it to justify his use of bigotry against Muslims has been promoted by Richard Dawkins. That saddens me as a fan of his work and as someone that writes about secular issues."
|"Superbly witty" is not the description of Joe I'd expect from someone I respect very much. But no one is right all the time I suppose :/|
Of course, Joe's free to say whatever he wants, and endorse whatever narrative he likes. I will always defend his right to be a part of the conversation (I don't think his or accounts like his should be banned at all), but I certainly don't have to approve of his thoughts. Many over at Vive Charlie seem to think that the concept of free speech means that one cannot voice opinions or disapproval even. Free speech doesn't mean a lack of opinion...
Your right to exist will be defended, as will my right to criticize your shitty ideas. :)
A few weeks ago I was contacted by Vive Charlie to write for them. And this was after I had already been open in my criticism regarding their alliance with someone as inexcusable as Katie Hopkins. An interesting situation to be in as an ex-muslim, immigrant, person of colour...to be asked to write in the same publication as Katie. But I'm all for free speech, however loathsome - so I said, if they wanted me to write for them, I'd do it only if I could address my issue with the magazine teaming up with a bigot. Because really...Joe's views are problematic on their own, but Katie's views are even more problematic...this magazine is set up in honour of Charlie Hebdo who is too often falsely accused of being racist. I feel like Vive Charlie does CH no favours by 'honouring it' and hosting people who think migrants are cockroaches. There is enough mess around CH as it is...
Their response [paraphrased] was that I'm being petty, and am anti free speech. Katie is just another writer after all, why would I want to stifle her views? Why would I want to take out my personal grudge with her in the publication, didn't I want to write about 'more important' things? -----I'm sorry, but anti-migrant racism and bigotry is incredibly important to me. Even more so when it's being muddled with things like Charlie Hebdo, or valid secular critique of the ideas within Islam. Publications like VC only serve to discredit our critique further if we are conflated with them or their often ignorant ideas. We as secularists need to speak up on this to distinguish ourselves from unfair critique of people.
|Hmm...kind of like your grudge against *all* muslims?|
They told me they wanted me to write about recently murdered Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud, whom I was in touch with. "How inappropriate," I thought to myself...."Sabeen gave her life speaking up for the oppressed....for people that were also Muslim...for people that could very well have been the migrants Katie Hopkins refers to as cockroaches. Honouring her in such a publication would not be honouring her at all."
But Joe, while speaking to me, did mention that *I* was the racist here....for assuming all migrants are people of colour. Yes, I'm a racist...but Katie is worth defending as not racist. Nice to see how twisted some people's logic can get.
He then mentioned that I was not what they were looking for, because I didn't support free speech fully (Yeah, ok Joe...)
|And I can add that her perspective was defended several times during our convo..as being 'anti-policy, not anti-migrant'.|
Just before I wished him well and left the conversation, he said oh, well Sam Harris has just (convenient timing) agreed to write about Sabeen for us..so we'll go with that!
I'm still waiting to see Sam's piece for Vive Charlie... :) (and wondering how much truth there was to this claim...or if it was just meant as a 'fuck you we've got someone better anyway' kind of bluff...if it is indeed untrue, to drag Sam Harris' name into this is a rather strange decision...especially when it can be verified that he hasn't written about Sabeen for them).
Update: Sam has just confirmed that this was indeed a BS claim...
Incredibly amusing to see them attempt to backpedal and squirm out of this...
And to further Vive Charlie's defence of Katie Hopkins...a very strange ultimatum has appeared in their latest issue:
|Freedom of speech still allows people to have opinions, you know?|
|(Screenshot via Vive Charlie)|
|Oh dear.... :/|
I've often tried to put myself in the shoes of the Charlie Hebdo haters...how would i feel about their murder if I really believed Charlie Hebdo was bigoted? - the answer is, their content is fucking irrelevant because people don't deserve to die for drawing. Disapprove of their content, but if that's the issue that takes centre-stage for you over *murder*...you are deeply troubled.
Sadly, the Garland shooting happened - and unsurprisingly it was a 'draw Mohammed contest' ....sigh... (luckily no one was seriously hurt except for those attempting murder, but it could have gone differently)
why does this act always beget violence? or attempted violence... I hope the defenders of Mo realize one day that they are not doing him any favours by killing people for drawing him. I don't think the act of drawing someone that no one knew personally or someone we can't even prove the existence of is bigoted in any way shape or form. It is most certainly not comparable to anti semitism....which involves degrading and dehumanizing actual people who were killed, persecuted for who they are.
And some of us don't think Mo was such a nice guy... why shouldn't we be free to express that? There is some scriptural stuff he is supposed to have said and done..that I just can't approve of, I'm sorry.
However this contest was organized by a known bigot (Pam Geller). My response however, remains the same... it doesn't fucking matter who's doing it, because all they are doing is drawing, the ones raising weapons are the worse humans in this.
Was her intent hateful? Sure... doesn't change the fact that she organized a 'drawing contest' to express her hate, and the other party attempted to kill.
|according to Pamela, everyone that doesn't support Israel is a savage jihadist, ok then.|
|Here's her ad claiming that moderates basically eventually become terrorists.|
image from pamgellerDOTcom
By far the most terrible thing about this is that Pam Geller's conspiracy theorist worldview gains credibility through such attacks, or through defence of such attacks...by liberal apologists, by people saying 'she should have respected their beliefs'. Stop making Pam Geller more credible ffs. She's someone who needs to be ignored, not made a hero out of...and her critique of Islam doesn't come from an intellectual place, it comes from a xenophobic one. So no, she owes it to no one to respect their ideas...just as we don't owe it to her to respect hers. But use your words to fight back, not weapons. Write articles, draw pictures...whatever.
The fact that she is the better person in all this is a bizarre reality we have to face...a reality Muslims created.
Let me finish off with some choice tweets I encountered that day:
ps- christians are way worse than any muslim shooter because they *wish* an eternity of hellfire upon non-christians (and muslims don't do that obvs :P )
Thank you for surviving this extremely long post! If you enjoyed this, you might also like my previous one: A Former Apologist on Free Speech & Tribalism
Thanks to all my patrons: Fred, Martin, Ruthless Atheist, Lisa Fontaine, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Alexander, Know the Question, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke Van Houten, Alberto and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!