When a ‘sacred’ text is not so much the word of God as the word of man

44

Christians accept the reinterpretation of Jesus in a way that Muslims can’t with Mohamed.


In the past week, two of the world’s big religions – Islam and Christianity – have each been exposed to a potentially explosive “text”. The first is a crude and almost childishly irreverent trailer for a film that depicts the Prophet Mohamed as a nasty, vicious, sexually incontinent man. Its release has created mayhem and stirred violence right across the Muslim world. The second is the emergence of a scrap of papyrus showing, according to some scholars at least, that Jesus was actually a married man. Those scholars are still alive. Yet there have been no death threats. No one has died.

Now it’s true that the trailer was a crude and deliberate insult to Islam, whereas the scrap of papyrus is a historical artefact that forms part of scholarly debate. Yet in many ways, its entry into public debate should have been even more incendiary than the silly snippet of film. The idea that Jesus, far from being celibate and removed from the life of fleshly pleasure, was not celibate after all is a shocking idea for so many ordinary Christians: it goes to the heart of their religious beliefs and feelings.

By contrast, the trailer for the laughably bad film was made by people no one had heard of and could have easily been dismissed as the crackpot ravings of unimportant nogoodniks. Why? And what accounts for the huge contrast in the way the adherents of the two religions react? The essential reason has to do with the very different roles that history and attitudes to historical truth have played in the two religions.

Many other (non-religious) factors also need to be invoked to explain the Muslim reaction, not least centuries of Western imperialism and the feelings of resentment and inferiority that that has created. It is also worth stressing that Christians are certainly not incapable of expressing outrage at what they see as betrayals of or attacks on their beliefs: Martin Scorsese’s fascinating and rather brilliant film The Last Temptation of Christ – which ends with St Paul preaching about the death and resurrection of the celibate Christ while deliberately ignoring the married Jesus who is standing in the crowd of enthralled listeners – provoked international protest. But again, there was no violence.

 

Written By: Selina O’Grady
continue to source article at independent.co.uk

44 COMMENTS

  1.  Martin Scorsese’s fascinating and rather brilliant film The Last Temptation of Christ – which ends with St Paul preaching about the death and resurrection of the celibate Christ while deliberately ignoring the married Jesus who is standing in the crowd of enthralled listeners – provoked international protest. But again, there was no violence.

    Actually this is false.   There was violence. 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T

     On October 22, 1988, a French Christian fundamentalist group launched Molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel movie theater while it was showing the film. This attack injured thirteen people, four of whom were severely burned.[8][9] The Saint Michel theater was heavily damaged,[9] and reopened 3 years later after restoration.  

    Michael

  2. Oh, them good Christians are a peace loving bunch aren’t  they.
     
     
    Maybe that is because the secular system of government and legal system are more  successful in suppressing the mayhem we see in the east. Only a few hundred years ago I guess the Jews weren’t so keen on these peaceful Christians. I think I just have to name crusades and inquisition to stir up some memories.
     
     
    Pretty arrogant text if you ask me.

  3. Although the article is interesting in principle I find it quite irrelevant with regard to the recent violent outbursts by Muslim fundamentalists over the world… I think these theological differences that the author is contemplating sound more like rationalizations than real explanations. 

    Christianity has not always been a “tolerant” and “peaceful” religion. I think people like Galileo would testify to that. So, why is modern Christianity more modest than modern Islam? The answer is really simple! The Enlightenment! In the late middle ages scholars rediscovered ancient Greek philosophy again. Slowly a new radical movement emerged. The movement we call the Enlightenment! The church lost a lot of it’s political power. Our societies were secularized. 

    Islam has yet to undergo it’s own enlightenment… it really has nothing to do with theology! 

  4. Scholars have long pointed out that rabbis were always married, so the notion of a single Jesus did not really make sense. I think the Christian world has seen this one coming for centuries and was braced for it.

    The embarrassing part is then the inconsistency. It must be explained away so the bible can remain officially inerrant.

  5. There’s certainly a difference between mass and individual action, but I don’t think mmurray was trying to point out anything other than the factual inaccuracy of the article in its sweeping generalisation and, perhaps, the strong motivation that any ideological belief can provide for violence.

    And aren’t you kind of nitpicking, too?

  6. Yeah, that kind of nitpicking is thoroughly inappropriate and unhelpful. Shame on Michael Murray for bringing it up. This thread is about disapproving of Muslims, Michael, not Christians.

    If I’ve learned anything in the past couple of days, it’s that no matter how contemptuous the people on this site are of Christians, when it comes to Islam, any differences get put aside and the followers of Christ are embraced as brothers.

    If you’re a Christian who posts an article condemning homosexuality or birth control, the folks here will come down on you like a ton of bricks. Submit  footage which criticizes Islam and you’ll get the thumbs up from ‘most everyone here.

  7. Is there a difference, would you say, between: “homosexuals should be prevented from marrying (or thrown off a cliff, or stoned, or buried alive) because God says so” and “religion (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Tengri-ism) is irrational”? 

    I agree, some criticism of Islam (e.g. by Pat Condell) is thinly-veiled prejudice (primarily against Arabs, it seems), based on its apparent foreignness and not on the tenets of the ideology; but that doesn’t mean that all criticism of Islam is invalid, and certainly not that criticism of Islam is as invalid as expressions of religious bigotry and regression.

  8.  Why are you even mentioning a case of one individual as a juxtaposition to large mobs across multiple countries?

    I think that if someone writes for one of the national daily newspapers they should get their facts right.  Particularly when checking them takes 5 minutes with Google.  Yes I’m pedantic about the truth.  If one bit I know about is wrong how am I meant to regard the rest of the article or her book.

     That kind of nitpicking is thoroughly inappropriate and unhelpful.

    Ah you’re a moderator now.  Congratulations.

  9. I’m not defending Islam. The religion is patently absurd: misogynistic, homophobic and all the rest, and I can think of few things more deserving of criticism. My point was that, as was evident from responses to the Condell video, many of the people on this site seem to put aside their disdain for other religions whenever a thread appears concerning Islam.
    The video that precipitated the violence in which hundreds of people died seems to have been produced by a Coptic Christian group. Yet the response from many on this site has actually been to defend them. On Richarddawkinsnet!

    I can’t be the only one who sees the hypocrisy. If the same people who made Innocence of Muslims had produced an anti-gay movie that provoked an attack in which a gay person was killed, this site’s members would be calling for the filmmakers’ heads to roll. All talk of freedom of expression would go out the window. And yet these Coptic guys get a pass, presumably because they’re considered the lesser of two evils.

    I know that Islam is, currently, arguably, the worst of the three branches of Abrahamism, and the scariest, and it’s full of brown people who don’t speak the same language as the rest of us; and it’s natural to fear it more than we do the other two branches. I just wish there was a bit more consistency on the Clear-Thinking Oasis, because people like Pat Condell, people filled with righteous hatred who condemn billions based on the actions of a few thousand, should be treated the same as any other demagogue, religious or otherwise, who preaches bile and then sits back and waits for the mayhem to ensue.

    Condell’s video was horrible. There was nothing constructive in it; it offered no solutions, only sound and fury. It claimed to be a message to rioting Muslims when anyone with half a brain could see that it was in fact a call to action to his knuckle-dragging fans. He uses the pronoun “we” about fifty times. The final two minutes was “we” this and “we” that. It was laughably manipulative. I’m just embarrassed, on their behalf, to find out that so many on this site are so manipulable. Anybody wanna buy some magic beans?

  10. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if someone made an ‘anti-gay’ movie that was viewed by a person who took it on himself to murder a gay person because he was ‘inspired’ by the film’s message, I would blame the killer, not the director/producer.

    These Coptic guys ‘get a pass’ because they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong by making such a film. If some of their other activities were immoral, I’d have no problem condemning them for those activities. I’ll look at each case on it’s merits. It’s nowt to do with their being the ‘lesser if two evils’.

  11. I didn’t think you were defending Islam; sorry if it came across that way.

    Consistency would be great, I agree. It’s also really hard to achieve, especially when, as you rightly point out, the “other” is so highly contrasted with the familiar (by language, skin colour etc.). 

    I think the supposed ideology of the producers of the film, though certainly interesting, is not actually relevant. I really hope no-one on this site has posted anything like “great to see those Coptic Christians inflaming Muslims”. 

    Condell initially struck me as a bit of a loud-mouth, but probably harmless. I would now characterise him as something close to a demagogue. He makes valid points, on occasion, but does so in a rabble-rousing style; and that just isn’t good enough when all you are fighting for is the moral high ground. I’d be surprised if he could mount a decent argument for free expression, or against racism, for the sake of the ideals themselves.

  12. These Coptic guys ‘get a pass’ because they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong by making such a film.

    They must be feeling a little beleaguered at the moment. Maybe you should cheer them up by sending them an email. I’m sure they’ll be pleased to hear that they have your support and that of others in the atheist community, on this issue if not with everything. Do me a favor, though, and keep my name out of it.

  13. Any person or group, no matter how loathsome I may find them, has my support in respect of free expression.

    My hands, and those of the film-makers, are clean as a whistle; sadly, I can’t say the same of those who have pandered to violent thugs throughout history.

  14. The filmmakers’ hands are clean as a whistle? They shouldn’t be held responsible at all for their movie, not even a teeny-weeny bit, even if their intent in making it was to provoke mayhem?
    I guess personal accountability is a relic from the past.

  15. Just curious….if the RDF, the purpose and work of which I presume you approve, were to finance a film that depicted Mohammed as, say, mad, randy, or just a pure chancer, would you object? Would you support the right to freedom of expression if the group behind the film were one that you approved of, regardless of the content of the film(assuming it didn’t promote violence or another breach of others’ rights)?

  16. Personal responsibilty….you got it one! Muslims are perfectly capable of simply ignoring that which offends them, just as football supporters are capable of restraining themselves if the supporters of an opposing team sing an abusive song. They are only words and images; no one is stopping them from doing what they want to do. Of course, many Muslims would certainly not extend the same freedom to you were they in a position of power, although I’m sure many can ‘ live and let live’.

  17. I support the freedom of expression of the people who made this film, just as I support Terry Jones’s right to burn a copy of the Qur’an if he chooses to. I also think they should be held accountable if anyone comes to harm because of these actions. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Freedom of expression isn’t a one-way street. If you express yourself, you should be prepared to face, and accept, the consequences of your speech and actions and not hide behind the First Amendment. What part of this is difficult to understand?

  18. I think the supposed ideology of the producers of the film, though certainly interesting, is not actually relevant. I really hope no-one on this site has posted anything like “great to see those Coptic Christians inflaming Muslims”.

    It wasn’t so much the presence of any comments defending the filmmakers that got under my skin as it was the absence of any posts condemning them. It was the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime, the curious thing being the dog’s failing to bark when one might have expected it to. I hope that makes sense; I know that not everyone is a Holmesian. :)

    I agree that the producers’ ideology probably isn’t that relevant: it looks like the people who instigated the past few days’ violence just searched the internet until they found a video with which they could enflame their followers on the anniversary of 9/11. The Innocence of Muslims guys will probably turn out to be bit players in this affair.

    I like your assessment of the toad Condell, though I would add that I doubt he could organise a p~ss up in a brewery.

  19. I guess people here would tend to get condemny (and yappy) when a professed follower of religion pursues an anti-secular agenda, say, rather than when one religion attacks another? I think the first move in this game (arguably the release of the film, but the internet-searching instigator may be a better starting point) was by one set of crazies attacking the beliefs of another set of crazies. The response  has intensified the argument (to the point of mortal risk) and expanded it beyond the crazy-on-crazy and into a feud between religious tyranny and free expression.

    But I really don’t know, I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for even-handed criticism.

  20.  “I also think they should be held accountable if anyone comes to harm because of these actions.”

    This way lunacy lies.

    Held accountable how? They made a film, they didn’t kill anyone. Unless you mean they should be ‘held accountable’ by a low score on Rotten Tomatoes? Surely you can’t mean criminal charges should be brought against them?

    Allow me to demonstrate the problem with ‘holding them accountable’.

    Someone reads your post. They agree with your comment that the makers of the video should be held accountable. They REALLY agree with your comment. They agree SO much that they up and kill the film makers. When challenged, they point to your post as a spur to their actions.

    Are YOU now to be held accountable because people came to harm because of your post?

  21. I presume you support the right to freedom of expression because it allows someone to say what he wants without infringing the rights of others; I also presume you wouldn’t support this right if it allowed one person to impose his will or beliefs on another. How then do you say that he is accountable if ‘anyone comes to harm’? Surely the exercising of the right you support, which is in keeping with the principle you apply in upholding one’s right to freedom of expression, leaves the ‘hearer’ free to decide his own course of action; if the hearer weren’t free to decide his own course of action, you wouldn’t support the freedom of expression of the ‘speaker’ in the first place, would you?

  22. Katy Cordeth:

    I think the supposed ideology of the producers of the film, though certainly interesting, is not actually relevant. I really hope no-one on this site has posted anything like “great to see those Coptic Christians inflaming Muslims”.

    It wasn’t so much the presence of any comments defending the filmmakers that got under my skin as it was the absence of any posts condemning them. It was the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime, the curious thing being the dog’s failing to bark when one might have expected it to. I hope that makes sense; I know that not everyone is a Holmesian. :)

    Elementary my dear Katy. I haven’t seen the film nor any of the clips for it. Why should I waste my time and effort? I have heard Pat Condell and I have read Richard’s views and by and large I agree with them both. I have also followed the news, whereupon I learn that many people, who also haven’t seen the film, are rioting in various places, with resultant deaths and destruction.If we are into “odious”, I can think of far more “odious” people than Pat Condell, and no I don’t agree with his EDL politics, nor am I a “follower”.

  23. Held accountable how? They made a film, they didn’t kill anyone. Unless you mean they should be ‘held accountable’ by a low score on Rotten Tomatoes? Surely you can’t mean criminal charges should be brought against them?

    Darn straight that’s what I mean, and there is legal precedent for this. You’re not allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater; you aren’t allowed to incite people to violence; it isn’t legal to produce and distribute child pornography; in Germany you can be prosecuted for saying the Holocaust didn’t happen. Freedom of expression isn’t the blank check you and many others seem to think it is. Every civilised country in the world places restrictions on what its citizenry is allowed to say for the precise reason that if they don’t, people will come to harm.

    If freedom of expression is paramount, how do you feel about the, in Condell’s words, “clerical ignoramuses whose motives are even lower than the literacy level of their followers”? The ones who fired up the masses and sent them out to commit murder. Surely these clerics were only excercising their right to free speech. Do they have blood on their hands or don’t they?

  24. Why then do you support Jones’s right to burn a Koran? Logically, you must say that you support the rights of freedom of expression of the child pornographer, the Holocaust denier, the yeller of ‘fire’, and the inciter of violence? You must oppose the prohibition of their activities, no?

  25. How many times must I repeat myself? I support the rights of Terry Jones and others like him to burn the Qur’an and I expect them to face the fallout from their actions should anyone come to harm because of them. Quid pro quo.
    I believe that in most cases, as with the examples of the would-be pornographer, the Holocaust denier etc, it’s the threat of a legal response to these actions that stops the perpetrators from going ahead with them in the first place. The knowledge that there will be some comeback is enough to prevent most people from acting out the desires of their id.

    Just because we have the freedom to do something doesn’t mean we’re obligated to do it;
    we also have the responsibility not to act on our every whim, and if we fail to meet this responsibility we have the expectation of being punished. This system of holding people accountable for their actions is the only thing that prevents society from descending into anarchy.

    You yourself said “Any person or group, no matter how loathsome I may find them, has my support in respect of free expression”. So if I may turn your question back on you, does this support extend to the four examples listed? Oh, I almost forgot the fifth example, that of the Muslim clerics who instigated the recent violence. Do they also have your support?

  26. “I support the rights of Terry Jones and others like him to burn the Qur’an and I expect them to face the fallout from their actions should anyone come to harm because of them”.

    You’re missing my point. 

    I presume your support for Jones’s right to free expression is based completely on his not infringing the rights of others; you wouldn’t uphold a right that you thought were an infringement of the rights of others. Am I correct in saying this? 

    If you are saying this, you are implicitly acknowledging that Jones’s actions, burning the Koran or whatever, are not a reasonable grounds for the violent infringement of the rights of innocent people by those who are ‘offended’ by Jones’s action, since their (the “offended’s”) rights have not been infringed; therefore, surely you must conclude that their violent response is completely unjustified because it is not done to uphold their ( the offended’s) rights, which, I hope you agree, is the ONLY justification for violence. 

    Muslims certainly have the right to be angry and show their displeasure, but violence implicitly violates the rights of others and is, therefore, unacceptable.If you said that Jones, by virtue of his actions, should have to face up to the anger of some Muslims, I’d say, ‘fair enough’; but he shouldn’t have to face death threats or violence.

    “…and if we fail to meet this responsibility we have the expectation of being punished.”

    ‘Punished’ is a very loose word in this context and is liable to mislead. My girlfriend may certainly punish me if I cheat on her, even though I am not breaking any law or violating her rights; she doesn’t have the right to violate my rights, though.

    ‘You yourself said “Any person or group, no matter how loathsome I may find them, has my support in respect of free expression”. ‘

    Provided that they are not infringing the rights of others.

    “So if I may turn your question back on you, does this support extend to the four examples listed?”

    Child pornography? Because the child’s rights are violated, I don’t support  the right to circulate it.

    ‘Fire in a theatre’? No, because the patrons are entitled to enjoy the service they paid for, without someone’s screaming that their life is in immediate and certain danger. Its unreasonable to expect that  people would be able to relax if someone told them that they were about to be burned to death. There is no danger to the people offended by the film about Mohamed; they don’t even have to watch it!

    Incitement to violence? Generally I’d say no, for it involves calling on people to violate the rights of others. There may be a few instances where it could be acceptable, but certainly not where it’s an issue merely of hurt feelings. It is quite a complicated matter, though, particularly how you would go about denying the inciter his right/non-right.

    Holocaust denial? A stupid law, which was passed by a nation that is hypersensitive about its past. Understandable, but silly all the same. You might as well pass a law that makes being stupid an offence.

    “Oh, I almost forgot the fifth example, that of the Muslim clerics who instigated the recent violence. Do they also have your support?”

    They don’t have my support if they call for violence to be used against innocents; but, again, how you would deal with such a situation is quite complicated, and I couldn’t give a ‘black and white’ answer. However, I can give a black and white in the case of the film about Mohamed: if you don’t like the film, turn of your TV, DVD, or PC, and your life will go on just as it did before. If one wants to protest, I’d suggest peacefully persuading others why the film is inappropriate or immoral.

  27. I presume your support for Jones’s right to free expression is based completely on his not infringing the rights of others; you wouldn’t uphold a right that you thought were an infringement of the rights of others. Am I correct in saying this?

    No, not really. Burning the Qur’an was a deliberate and provocative act, done with the very specific intention of creating chaos, violence and possibly death in the Muslim world. Even someone as manifestly stupid as Jones was aware of this and he chose not to care or to just go ahead anyway because he knew that the US Constitution protected him. No one should be in any doubt that he was aware what the results might be.

    In the cases of the pornographer, the denier, the instigator and the vociferater, statutes are already in place to deal with them, including the silly one which tries to prevent the reemergence of Nazism in a country from which it’s never truly gone away, and people are regularly tried and convicted under such laws. Yet Jones’s actions, which no matter how many sometimes sickening comments there have been on this site defending them, led directly to people’s deaths. There are human beings dead today, RJ, who should be alive, and they’re dead because of what Pastor Terry Jones did, just as surely as if he had pulled the trigger himself.
    And is he languishing in a six-by-eight cell? No, he’s as free as a bird; and I can’t tell you just how much that disgusts me.

    So when I say that I support his right to freedom of expression, I guess what I mean is that people are free to do anything they want. Each of us has free will. I’m free to try and hold up a bank, or punch someone in the face, or shoplift a new i-pad; but I don’t do any of these things even if I wanted to (I could use a new i-pad) because I know there’ll be a reckoning.
    I support the rights of those who would burn the Qur’an and I want them to know that if anyone comes to harm as a result, they will be made to suffer too. In my Brave New World, there will be no cowering behind the First Amendment. If you do something in innocence which some group chooses to take offence at, that’s fine; no jail time for you.
    But if your intentions are malevolent and provocative, hiding behind a bit of paper will work for you about as well as it did for this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v… 
    You will be thrown in a cell to rot for the rest of your natural. Goodnight.

  28.  I really don’t think you have any idea of what you actually support and why. It seems like you have a mishmash of ideas whereby people can be prosecuted for saying or doing things that, in themselves, cause no harm but other people might be annoyed by.

    Following your views the whole thing degenerates into a whirling maelstrom of prosecuting people who open their mouth or write anything that anyone can take offence at.

    The Koran can be viewed as inciting adherents to violence against non-believers. Should printers of it be prosecuted?
    The Daily Mail can be viewed as inciting readers to violence against… well, everyone. Should printers of it be prosecuted?
    The Daily Bugle can be viewed as inciting the city to violence against Spiderman! Should J. Jonah Jameson be prosecuted?
    Your own post can be viewed as inciting vigilantes to violence against those film makers. Should you be prosecuted?

    People can take offence at anything and see justification where there is none. In ’93, Monica Seles was stabbed by a fan of Steffi Graf. Should someone who commented prior that “Steffi might not win the next tournament unless someone takes Monica out in an earlier round.” be prosecuted? If I throw one of the six Korans I have in my library in the bin, should I prosecuted for inciting violence? If I threw it on the bonfire in the garden? What if I tear a couple of pages out to make notes on and a Muslim sees me do it? What if it was a copy of Harry Potter and The Wizard’s Gallbladder and I did it in front of a Potterite? Prosecution again?

    What if I take my T-shirt off and shake it? Prosecution for inciting bulls to violence?

    “I support the rights of Terry Jones and others like him to burn the Qur’an and I expect them to face the fallout from their actions should anyone come to harm because of them. Quid pro quo.”

    This is just, frankly, ridiculous. You’re essentially saying that threats are valid and once a threat has been issued anyone who then does what has been prohibited by that threat deserves what’s coming to them. If someone makes a public declaration that they will behead anyone who wears red, if someone then wears red and they get beheaded you would just shrug and say “Well, I support their right to wear red but I expect them to face the fallout from their actions.”.

    I don’t think you’ve thought your stance through properly.

  29. “I support the rights of those who would burn the Qur’an and I want them to know that if anyone comes to harm as a result, they will be made to suffer too”.

    ‘Free’ doesn’t just mean that someone is physically allowed do whatever it is he is planning, but has a sentence hanging over him once he has done or said what he wanted to; it means he will be free from prosecution or persecution after the event, too. By your reckoning, RD is the legitimate target of any number of adherents of any number of religious groups (at last count, about 5 billion) because he has insulted them all hundreds of times…well, insulted their beliefs, anyway.

    As for Murtaugh….he should have been busted back to patrolman that very day :)

  30. I’m going to repeat my point one final time, Ben, in the fervent hope that it finally gets through. Jones’s burning of the Qur’an was done in full knowledge of what the consequences might be. It was his intention, right, his intention to create mayhem and suffering. Perhaps it wasn’t his original intention, but when he became a cause célèbre, when he was told hundreds of times what would happen in the Muslim world if he went ahead with his action, when he said he’d reconsider if the President of the United States made a personal phone call to him; at this point he can’t not have been aware of what the outcome of his burning the book would be, and at that point he had a responsibility, moral if sadly not legal, not to proceed, which he in fact lived up to for a while. Either you agree with this all of this or you don’t.

    Should those distributing the Qur’an be prosecuted? Certainly not, it’s an important historical document. If these same people select and distribute certain passages to others in an attempt to promote attacks on homosexuals, then yes, they should have the full force of the law brought to bear on them.

    The Daily Mail is held accountable by the Press Complaints Commission, and a small army of lawyers is employed whose job it is to make sure that it doesn’t hit the newsstands if it contains anything too inflammatory, not just because the PCC may become involved, but the Crown Prosecution Service.

    Should you be prosecuted for waving a t shirt around? If you’re in the vicinity of a bull and there are people between you and it and it’s your intention to enrage the animal, yes you should be prosecuted if the animal gores anyone; and you probably would be.

    I hope you’ve noticed that there’s a theme beginning to develop of the context in which something is done and the intent behind it. I’ll say that one more time: context and intent.

    Should the person who commented “Steffi might not win the next tournament unless someone takes Monica out in an earlier round” be prosecuted? Ben, if the person who made that statement had meant it as a veiled incitement to someone to attack Ms Seles, and it could have been proved, they would have been prosecuted.
    Has the fact that there are already laws against inciting violence escaped your notice?

    Should you yourself be prosecuted for destroying one of your copies of the Qur’an? Not if it’s in the way you describe, but if you film yourself and post the footage on youtube or elsewhere, in other words if your destruction of these books isn’t by way of merely disposing of them but a political act designed to provoke people who you have a reasonable expectation will react violently, and someone is hurt, then you bet your cotton socks you should find yourself being dragged through the courts.

    I can’t respond to your penultimate paragraph as I frankly can’t make heads nor tails of it, so I’ll repeat my earlier question, if I may, in the vague hope that you’ll get round to answering it, although I won’t hold my breath:

    If freedom of expression is paramount, how do you feel about the, in Condell’s words, “clerical ignoramuses whose motives are even lower than the literacy level of their followers”? The ones who fired up the masses and sent them out to commit murder. Surely these clerics were only excercising their right to free speech. Do they have blood on their hands or don’t they?

  31. “…when he said he’d reconsider if the President of the United States made a personal phone call to him;”

    Katy, would you have held Obama responsible if his refusal to ring Jones had led to Jones’s going ahead with his plan to burn the Koran, which would, in turn, have led to rioting by some Muslims? Surely, by your reasoning, Obama’s inaction would make him as culpable as Jones, since he, too, must have known the likely reaction by some Muslims to Jones’s action, an action he had the power to prevent.

     This whole indirect responsibility thingy could get quite complicated…..

  32. Would I have held Obama accountable? Certainly not,  POTUS can’t be held responsible for the actions of everybody in the country. If he had made the phone call, the rest of his presidency would have been taken up with making similar calls to every nutjob with an axe to grind or looking for their 15 minutes*.

    Nor do I hold Jones’s parents accountable, or the education system which so obviously failed him, or the doctor who dropped him on his head when he was born. The chain of events that led to so much death and destruction begins with Jones and ends with the ones who ran amok. If I’ve given the impression that I believe everyone should be held accountable for everyone else, in a sort of six-degrees-of-seperation way, then I need to work on expressing myself better. All I’m saying is that this person should be brought to account for his seminal part in the events, because the failure so far to do this means any other Arab-hating sociopath can burn a Qur’an or post an incendiary film on youtube, create carnage and then just walk away from it all, whistling happily.

    The whole indirect responsibility thingy could indeed get complicated, but that’s why the good lord gave us brains and a drive to see justice done.

    *Not really relevant but there was a tv comedy drama a few years ago  in which a minor British royal was abducted and the kidnapper’s ransom demand was that the Prime Minister commit a lewd act with a pig on live television:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B

  33.  “I’m going to repeat my point one final time, Ben, in the fervent hope that it finally gets through. Jones’s burning of the Qur’an was done in full knowledge of what the consequences might be. It was his intention, right, his intention to create mayhem and suffering. Perhaps it wasn’t his original intention, but when he became a cause célèbre, when he was told hundreds of times what would happen in the Muslim world if he went ahead with his action, when he said he’d reconsider if the President of the United States made a personal phone call to him; at this point he can’t not have been aware of what the outcome of his burning the book would be, and at that point he had a responsibility, moral if sadly not legal, not to proceed, which he in fact lived up to for a while. Either you agree with this all of this or you don’t.”

    In a nutshell, I don’t – for the reason I gave in my penultimate paragraph that you claim not to be able to understand. Essentially, because threats of violence were made if he proceeded to burn a book, you think he should have stopped. You seem to think that bullying is a valid reason for people to give up their rights. It isn’t.

    I made the point that, following this, if a group of people place a ban (backed by threats of violence) on someone wearing red, if that person then wears red then any fallout is their own fault for doing it as they had full knowledge of what would happen. You’re placing the blame on the victim of the bullying, not the bullies. This makes no sense.

    “Should those distributing the Qur’an be prosecuted? Certainly not, it’s an important historical document. If these same people select and distribute certain passages to others in an attempt to promote attacks on homosexuals, then yes, they should have the full force of the law brought to bear on them.”

    Eh? So if they distribute the book which contains passages of hatred and intolerance, that’s fine – but if they just distribute the specific snippets then it’s not? How can you determine the ‘intent’ of distributing the book. If a book contains incitements to violence in a few places and you carpet bomb enough people with it, SOME people are bound to pick on those passages and cause trouble. How can you determine the intent of someone who distributes 10k copies? Are they nobly distributing an important historical document for free… or are they distributing incitements to violence in the guise of distributing an important historical document?

    “Should you be prosecuted for waving a t shirt around? If you’re in the vicinity of a bull and there are people between you and it and it’s your intention to enrage the animal, yes you should be prosecuted if the animal gores anyone; and you probably would be.”

    How do you determine my intent? Can you read my mind? Unless I actually stand up and announce my intentions, you have no idea.

    “I hope you’ve noticed that there’s a theme beginning to develop of the context in which something is done and the intent behind it. I’ll say that one more time: context and intent.”

    You like saying things ‘one more time’ however repetition is not a valid argument. Context and intent. Well, context is applied by other people (burn that and we’ll riot) and intent is impossible to determine short of a declaration by the initiator.

    “Should the person who commented “Steffi might not win the next tournament unless someone takes Monica out in an earlier round” be prosecuted? Ben, if the person who made that statement had meant it as a veiled incitement to someone to attack Ms Seles, and it could have been proved, they would have been prosecuted.”

    There’s a reason I phrased the line just like that. How can you tell if it was an incitement? Without, of course, prosecuting them to determine the issue legally?

    “Should you yourself be prosecuted for destroying one of your copies of the Qur’an? Not if it’s in the way you describe, but if you film yourself and post the footage on youtube or elsewhere, in other words if your destruction of these books isn’t by way of merely disposing of them but a political act designed to provoke people who you have a reasonable expectation will react violently, and someone is hurt, then you bet your cotton socks you should find yourself being dragged through the courts.”

    This is the whole crux of the matter that I disagree with. You are removing people’s right to make a political point because others may react with violence. This really is pandering to the bullies. It’s that simple. Where do you draw the line? At what point, when enough threats have piled up from various groups, do you stand back and say ‘This is getting silly’. The Reddists prohibit me from wearing sacred red because they’ll riot, the Blueist prohibit me from wearing sacred blue because they’ll riot, the Whitests prohibit me from wearing sacred white because they’ll riot. In your world, if I wear my Union Jack hat in protest it’s me who gets prosecuted, not the violent mobs threatening violence, me.

    “I can’t respond to your penultimate paragraph as I frankly can’t make heads nor tails of it, so I’ll repeat my earlier question, if I may, in the vague hope that you’ll get round to answering it, although I won’t hold my breath:

        If freedom of expression is paramount, how do you feel about the, in Condell’s words, “clerical ignoramuses whose motives are even lower than the literacy level of their followers”? The ones who fired up the masses and sent them out to commit murder. Surely these clerics were only excercising their right to free speech. Do they have blood on their hands or don’t they?”

    I have only made three posts on the subject and thus can hardly be accused of deliberately ignoring your points, so your infantile tone is really not required.

    In reponse, this is something I’ve been trying to determine my own stance on. Part of me says yes, they should – but that’s an emotional reaction. The rational part of me is saying they should be allowed their free speech, regardless of what they say. Any actions others take after hearing that speech is still actions OTHERS take. Those people always have the option not to go on a killing spree. Granted, this stance is only likely to be valid in a utopia, where educated passers-by hearing rants against the sin of homosexuality or the fury of a sky wizard will simply roll their eyes. Uneducated, easily led rabble are more likely to be moulded into a living weapon but – and the end of the day – it’s still THEIR choice as to whether they pick up a weapon and riot or pick up their shopping and go home.

    There’s still a big difference between ‘clerics who send people out to commit murder’ and ‘burning a book in political protest’. One is a direct and deliberate rallying of people for violence, the other is an expression of protest that may prompt others to violence when they take offence. A big difference.

  34. “….because the failure so far to do this means any other Arab-hating sociopath can burn a Qur’an or post an incendiary film on youtube, create carnage and then just walk away from it all, whistling happily.”

    But the ‘carnage’ is exclusively the responsibility of those who choose to express their outrage thus; that’s the part that you won’t accept! There is nothing ‘inevitable’ about their reaction to that which they see as as a provocation or an insult; they retain the control, or should retain it, to respond in any way they wish. The principle at the heart of freedom of expression is that one shouldn’t use violence or force against the speaker unless one’s rights are being infringed; therefore, violence or threats of violence in the case of Jones’s actions are unacceptable. To argue otherwise is to undermine a principle that is essential for the continuation of our civilization. In other words, the speaker should not be called to account for his actions unless he is violating the rights of others, even if his actions seem crass, provocative, or idiotic.

    Re. Obama’s not making a phone call: Yes, were he to do as Jones requested, he would leave himself open to floods of phone calls, with callers demanding that he do x,y, or z; but if you apply that principle of being ‘held to hostage’ more generally, you can see what is likely to occur: every time militant Muslims are confronted by words or images of which they disapprove, all they have to do is threaten violence, and the speaker will acquiesce. Say a bunch of rowdies threaten to have a tear-up if RD accepts an invitation to visit Iran to give a lecture on the irrationality of religious beliefs; what should he do? Should he abandon his plans because he knows if he speaks violence is likely? In that case, you might as well rip up the whole principle of free speech into little bits, for the ‘outraged’ will, in effect, have assumed complete control of the speaker.

  35. First of all, if you don’t want others to react to your comments in an infantile way, maybe you shouldn’t use characters from Marvel Comics when you make your points. Secondly, I don’t actually like repeating myself; this thread has already taken up entirely too much of my time and I’m beginning to sound like a broken record to myself.

    Anyway, here we go.

    “Essentially, because threats of violence were made if he proceeded to burn a book, you think he should have stopped. You seem to think that bullying is a valid reason for people to give up their rights. It isn’t.”

    If he had been the only one threatened, then I think he had the right to proceed. But once he became aware that others would suffer, I believe – and I know you’ll disagree with me – that he held the fate of all those unnamed people in his hands; and he didn’t give a damn about them. His desire to make his political point, whether one agrees that he had the right to make it or not, took precedence over everything else.
    He took it upon himself to, under the protective umbrella of his own nation’s laws, face down these people you seem to believe were bullying him, not by reacting to anything they were currently doing but by making an opening gambit of his own. It’s pretty easy to stand up to bullies if they’re half a world away from you, you’re fairly certain that they won’t make it to your neighborhood, and even if they do you know that you can always hide behind your Uncle Sam’s coat tails.

    “Eh? So if they distribute [the Qur'an] which contains passages of hatred and intolerance, that’s fine – but if they just distribute the specific snippets then it’s not? How can you determine the ‘intent’ of distributing the book. If a book contains incitements to violence in a few places and you carpet bomb enough people with it, SOME people are bound to pick on those passages and cause trouble. How can you determine the intent of someone who distributes 10k copies? Are they nobly distributing an important historical document for free… or are they distributing incitements to violence in the guise of distributing an important historical document?”

    Simple: I would give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me reason to do otherwise. Unlike many people on this site, I don’t go into paroxysms of fear whenever Brown God, his prophet, his followers and his book are mentioned. I try not to spend my life profiling every person who might look a bit ‘Arabby’. Nor would I want to prohibit the distributiion of the Qur’an because parts of it are homophobic, anymore than I would campaign for the internet to be switched off because it’s possible to discover how to make a bomb on some of its pages. The Bible is equally vile in its view of homosexuals, yet common sense and decency are prevailing in nominally Christian countries in spite of that; I have to believe that this will eventually spread throughout the world.

    “if a group of people place a ban (backed by threats of violence) on someone wearing red, if that person then wears red then any fallout is their own fault for doing it as they had full knowledge of what would happen. You’re placing the blame on the victim of the bullying, not the bullies. This makes no sense.”

    This is a silly oversimplification of a complex issue.

    “How do you determine my intent? Can you read my mind? Unless I actually stand up and announce my intentions, you have no idea.”

    Nonsense. If this were true then justice systems around the world would grind to a halt because all a defendant would have to say at trial was “I didn’t mean to do it, and none of you can prove I did.” The best way to determine what someone’s intentions were is to look into their past behavior. If you had a history of committing violent acts then this would be reason enough to infer that your intentions this time were malevolent. Not proof in itself, but certainly a determiner when it came to deciding whether to charge you with a crime.
    Although in this case, intent isn’t as important as the fact that you should have had a reasonable understanding of what the consequences would be in provoking a bull in this way. Like the person shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, he may not intend to cause anyone physical injury, it may just be a prank; but whatever punishment he recieves will be commensurate to the amount of suffering he caused, because he should have been aware  of what the worst case scenario might be.

    “Well, context is applied by other people (burn that and we’ll riot)…”

    What? My dictionary defines context as: the conditions and circumstances that are relevant to an event, fact, etc. Context isn’t subject to interpretation by anyone. To return to you and your t shirt, the context of your being in the presence of a bull and a group of people is what would make your waving a shirt around a dangerous act. In the context of being at home in your bedroom, the act becomes meaningless.

    “This is the whole crux of the matter that I disagree with. You are removing people’s right to make a political point because others may react with violence. This really is pandering to the bullies. It’s that simple. Where do you draw the line? At what point, when enough threats have piled up from various groups, do you stand back and say ‘This is getting silly’. “

    I would argue, as I have, that before you decide to make a political point, you have to weigh up what the consequences might be, if not to yourself then to others. And you have to decide if the point you’re making is worth those consequences. And if you do decide to go ahead and burn a Qur’an or a flag, or make a video, or whatever, and other people, who may have no interest in your political cause, come to harm because of your actions, I ask that you take some responsibility for that and not simply declare them martyrs to the greater good of your own freedom of expression. As your favorite web-slinger might say, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

    “In reponse, this is something I’ve been trying to determine my own stance on. Part of me says yes, they should – but that’s an emotional reaction. The rational part of me is saying they should be allowed their free speech, regardless of what they say. Any actions others take after hearing that speech is still actions OTHERS take. Those people always have the option not to go on a killing spree.”

    By that logic, the patrons of the movie theater are responsible for their own injuries. They could have acted in an orderly manner instead of giving in to their animal instinct to escape, but they chose not to, thus sealing their own fate; and the guy who shouted “fire” gets a pass.
    No doubt you’ll insist that the two are not comparable, but can you say with confidence that the mentality of a riled-up mob is very different from that of a panicking crowd? I would venture that the thought processes and reactions of both groups would at the time be pretty similar.

    “There’s still a big difference between ‘clerics who send people out to commit murder’ and ‘burning a book in political protest’. One is a direct and deliberate rallying of people for violence, the other is an expression of protest that may prompt others to violence when they take offence. A big difference. “

    No argument from me. I’m not saying that Jones is as responsible as the other parties involved; only that he is in some way responsible. If you’re unwilling to concede to that in the slightest way then I guess there’s nothing more I can say except “Excelsior!!”

  36.  “First of all, if you don’t want others to react to your comments in an infantile way, maybe you shouldn’t use characters from Marvel Comics when you make your points.”

    No different to using characters from other fictional works like, say, the Koran.

    “Secondly, I don’t actually like repeating myself; this thread has already taken up entirely too much of my time and I’m beginning to sound like a broken record to myself.”

    Then stop.

    “If he had been the only one threatened, then I think he had the right to proceed. But once he became aware that others would suffer, I believe – and I know you’ll disagree with me – that he held the fate of all those unnamed people in his hands; and he didn’t give a damn about them. His desire to make his political point, whether one agrees that he had the right to make it or not, took precedence over everything else
    He took it upon himself to, under the protective umbrella of his own nation’s laws, face down these people you seem to believe were bullying him, not by reacting to anything they were currently doing but by making an opening gambit of his own. It’s pretty easy to stand up to bullies if they’re half a world away from you, you’re fairly certain that they won’t make it to your neighborhood, and even if they do you know that you can always hide behind your Uncle Sam’s coat tails.”

    Whether it’s himself or others that were threatened changes nothing, the point is still the same. The threat of violence can then be used to silence anyone or anything that people who are willing to resort to violence dislike. It’s as simple as that. If someone told you to stop posting on this board or they’d go and stab a child, are you really telling me that you have a moral obligation to stop doing so and if you do not that you bear responsibility for that stabbed child? If so, what degree of responsibility do you bear? If you’re guilty, what should your sentence be?

    “Simple: I would give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me reason to do otherwise.”

    But the reasons you might have for not giving them the benefit of the doubt are wildly open to interpretation and still don’t change the net effect of the action. Distributing 10k books which contain passages of hate will STILL garner some adherents to the vile parts regardless of the intent of the person distributing the passages.

    “if a group of people place a ban (backed by threats of violence) on someone wearing red, if that person then wears red then any fallout is their own fault for doing it as they had full knowledge of what would happen. You’re placing the blame on the victim of the bullying, not the bullies. This makes no sense.”

    - This is a silly oversimplification of a complex issue. –

    No, it really isn’t. It’s taking it to an absurd level but, to me, the damn thing is absurd anyway. You cannot look at an example of how absurd your stance is and then say that’s oversimplifying it. It really IS that simple and that example stands, you just don’t like to see it.

    “Nonsense. If this were true then justice systems around the world would grind to a halt because all a defendant would have to say at trial was “I didn’t mean to do it, and none of you can prove I did.” The best way to determine what someone’s intentions were is to look into their past behavior. If you had a history of committing violent acts then this would be reason enough to infer that your intentions this time were malevolent. Not proof in itself, but certainly a determiner when it came to deciding whether to charge you with a crime.
    Although in this case, intent isn’t as important as the fact that you should have had a reasonable understanding of what the consequences would be in provoking a bull in this way. Like the person shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, he may not intend to cause anyone physical injury, it may just be a prank; but whatever punishment he recieves will be commensurate to the amount of suffering he caused, because he should have been aware  of what the worst case scenario might be.”

    I do hope you’re not a lawyer, anywhere, because your view of the legal system is way out of whack. “I didn’t mean to” is not generally a defence that gets people off scott free from the results of their actions. If you murder someone then, regardless of whether you meant to or not, that person remains murdered. Also, prior convictions are not normally taken into account when determining the guilt of people as it taints the concept of a ‘fair trial’.

    “I would argue, as I have, that before you decide to make a political point, you have to weigh up what the consequences might be, if not to yourself then to others. And you have to decide if the point you’re making is worth those consequences. And if you do decide to go ahead and burn a Qur’an or a flag, or make a video, or whatever, and other people, who may have no interest in your political cause, come to harm because of your actions, I ask that you take some responsibility for that and not simply declare them martyrs to the greater good of your own freedom of expression. As your favorite web-slinger might say, “With great power comes great responsibility.””

    My argument is that you don’t otherwise you’re at the whim of anyone who threatens violence in response to actions they dislike. Like my point above about someone threatening to stab a child unless you stop posting. According to you, knowing that threat has been issued and continuing to post makes you partially responsible. Whilst you would be in a literal sense, in a legal, moral or obligatory sense, I would say you are not.

    “By that logic, the patrons of the movie theater are responsible for their own injuries. They could have acted in an orderly manner instead of giving in to their animal instinct to escape, but they chose not to, thus sealing their own fate; and the guy who shouted “fire” gets a pass.”

    Sort of. The patrons are responsible for injuries they inflict on others. The guy who shouted fire is unlikely to get away with a free pass because, although not limited by proper freedom of speech laws, he would have been limited by the rules of the theatre that he agreed to on entry which would have included a rule about not disruption the show or falsely shouting ‘fire’ or ‘bomb’; like most venues.

    Freedom of speech does not apply in places where you’ve released that right; like theatres, cinemas, bowling alleys and – of course – your workplace where your contract usually prohibits you calling customers a worthless shitheel regardless how much you would like to. I am oh, so tired of seeing the ‘fire in a crowded theatre’ example trotted out.

    “No doubt you’ll insist that the two are not comparable, but can you say with confidence that the mentality of a riled-up mob is very different from that of a panicking crowd? I would venture that the thought processes and reactions of both groups would at the time be pretty similar.”

    Even if they are, it doesn’t matter. People are still responsible for their OWN actions.

    “No argument from me. I’m not saying that Jones is as responsible as the other parties involved; only that he is in some way responsible. If you’re unwilling to concede to that in the slightest way then I guess there’s nothing more I can say except “Excelsior!!””

    Depends on how you’re then defining responsible. I would say he is, as I mentioned above, in the literal sense in that he could have prevented it by not acting – but not in a legal, moral or obligatory sense as he should have the right to burn a book, any book, without having to consider the rabid actions of lunatics. The fact that someone, somewhere finds that book important is not his concern. If he knew someone did and burnt it deliberately to offend then that makes him an arsehole… but not a criminal.

  37. “I do hope you’re not a lawyer, anywhere, because your view of the legal system is way out of whack”

    Likewise, I hope you’re never on a jury, anywhere: “Your honor, we’re unable to reach a unanimous verdict because one juror insists that, even though the defendant has admitted hiring someone to kill his wife, the only one who should be held accountable for the crime is the hitman he paid as ultimately it was his decision to carry out the contract.”

    “I didn’t mean to” is not generally a defence that gets people off scott free from the results of their actions. If you murder someone then, regardless of whether you meant to or not, that person remains murdered.”

    My dictionary defines murder as: the unlawful, premeditated killing of one human being by another. In other words, a deliberate act which can’t be committed accidentally, although I’ll allow that the definition is subject to varying interpretations in different systems of jurisprudence.
    And while the “I didn’t mean to” defense doesn’t generally get people off scot-free, someone’s motive for committing a crime is always taken into account; when deciding whether to press charges, at trial, at subsequent parole hearings

    “Also, prior convictions are not normally taken into account when determining the guilt of people as it taints the concept of a ‘fair trial’.”

    True, but the evidence of someone’s criminal past doesn’t need to make it all the way to the ears of the jury. It can be used by the police in their investigation to secure evidence which can then be heard in the courtroom; it can be made available at trial to the presiding judge; it can be introduced by the defense team. There are any number of ways unlawful prior behavior can be useful when prosecuting someone.

    “Sort of. The patrons are responsible for injuries they inflict on others. The guy who shouted fire is unlikely to get away with a free pass because, although not limited by proper freedom of speech laws, he would have been limited by the rules of the theatre that he agreed to on entry which would have included a rule about not disruption the show or falsely shouting ‘fire’ or ‘bomb’; like most venues.”

    “Freedom of speech does not apply in places where you’ve released that right; like theatres, cinemas, bowling alleys and – of course – your workplace…”

    “Even if they are, it doesn’t matter. People are still responsible for their OWN actions.”

    I must say, you seem to have a very odd take on personal accountability. The patrons are responsible for injuries they inflict on others and the only thing the police can charge the shouter with is ‘Breach of Theater Etiquette’? So the 96 people who lost their lives at the soccer stadium in Hillsborough, Yorkshire in 1989 died not because of police incompetence or inadequate safety facilities. They were in fact unlawfully killed by their fellow Liverpool City fans.

    “Depends on how you’re then defining responsible. I would say he is, as I mentioned above, in the literal sense in that he could have prevented  it by not acting – but not in a legal, moral or obligatory sense as he should have the right to burn a book, any book, without having to consider the rabid actions of lunatics. The fact that someone, somewhere finds that book important is not his concern. If he knew someone did and burnt it deliberately to offend then that makes him an arsehole… but not a criminal.”

    He could have prevented it. And he didn’t. And you’re defending him on the basis of your own and his and my right to freedom of speech. And this freedom is more important to you than others’ right to life. Whatever the consequences might be, this inalienable right that all white people have to speak their minds must come before all other considerations. Maybe freedom of speech does count for more than the lives of a couple hundred brown people. I for one am not nearly secure enough in my beliefs or so confident in the inherent superiority of Western society to be able to make that call. I guess I should be grateful that there are people like you and Pastor Jones in the world who can decide it for me.

    PS. Your central argument never wavers from the belief that one must never give in to bullies. Can I just ask what your position would be in the hypothetical example of a schoolchild who was driven to commit suicide by persistent text-message or Facebook bullying, or mere verbal assaults in the schoolyard? Are the bullies accountable at all?

  38. “But the ‘carnage’ is exclusively the responsibility of those who choose to express their outrage thus; that’s the part that you won’t accept! There is nothing ‘inevitable’ about their reaction to that which they see as as a provocation or an insult; they retain the control, or should retain it, to respond in any way they wish. The principle at the heart of freedom of expression is that one shouldn’t use violence or force against the speaker unless one’s rights are being infringed; therefore, violence or threats of violence in the case of Jones’s actions are unacceptable. To argue otherwise is to undermine a principle that is essential for the continuation of our civilization. In other words, the speaker should not be called to account for his actions unless he is violating the rights of others, even if his actions seem crass, provocative, or idiotic.”

    You’re projecting Western values onto a society which doesn’t subscribe to them. Literally. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, sort of the Muslim version of the United Nations and consisting of 57 member states, subscribes to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, as opposed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C… 

    So all the lofty principles you’ve delineated mean precisely nothing to them. You may as well be giving a lecture on vegetarianism to a tiger. It. Doesn’t. Care.

  39. “So all the lofty principles you’ve delineated mean precisely nothing to them”

    Mean nothing to SOME of them; many Muslims seem to be able to get on with their lives, without getting bent out of shape over a film. See…there is nothing in the film, or the burning of a Koran, that leads inevitably to violent protest; the protesters retain control over their actions. 
     
    “You may as well be giving a lecture on vegetarianism to a tiger. It. Doesn’t. Care”

    What a craven cop-out. The tiger SHOULD care; that’s the whole point of this discussion! You might as well say it doesn’t care that we oppose forced marriages, murder of apostates, compulsory wearing of the Burqa, or the persecution of homosexuals. Should we abandon our opposition because of their opposition?

    If we give in on freedom of expression, the basis of personal freedom and the essential driver of the  advancement of society, we might as well throw in the towel and go back to living in caves and trees, and killing each other over the women we want to sleep with or the animals we worship.

    Imagine if all the great thinkers throughout history had given up and gone back to beating their chests because someone’s superstitions were threatened by what he heard.

  40.  “I must say, you seem to have a very odd take on personal accountability. The patrons are responsible for injuries they inflict on others and the only thing the police can charge the shouter with is ‘Breach of Theater Etiquette’? So the 96 people who lost their lives at the soccer stadium in Hillsborough, Yorkshire in 1989 died not because of police incompetence or inadequate safety facilities. They were in fact unlawfully killed by their fellow Liverpool City fans.”

    You’re trying to turn this into something it isn’t. We’re discussing freedom of speech – or at least I am trying to. What does that have to do, at all, with police incompetence or safety provisions at Hillsborough?

    Back to the theatre, what the police charge the shouter with is down to them but the issue is no longer freedom of speech. The shouter, having agreed to the terms of the theatre (or most venues) not to shout ‘bomb’ or ‘fire’ DOES NOT have the freedom to then do so under freedom of speech provisions. He relinquished that right by agreeing to the terms of the theatre. So, again, shouting fire in a crowded theatre is not generally protected under freedom of speech because that right was released upon acceptance of the terms of entry.

    “He could have prevented it. And he didn’t. And you’re defending him on the basis of your own and his and my right to freedom of speech.”

    Yes. It’s not difficult.

    “And this freedom is more important to you than others’ right to life.”

    Firstly, don’t put words in my mouth. Secondly, in case it needed saying, you are lying by attempting to represent my position thus. Thirdly, I – or the person making the speech – is not impinging on others’ right to life. A THIRD PARTY IS DOING THAT. These are separate issues despite your attempts to conflate them. I’ve stated it before and I’m going to have to do it once more, one should NOT cede one’s rights in the face of threats from others otherwise your rights are worth absolutely nothing. Again, it’s not difficult.

    “Whatever the consequences might be, this inalienable right that all white people have to speak their minds must come before all other considerations. Maybe freedom of speech does count for more than the lives of a couple hundred brown people. I for one am not nearly secure enough in my beliefs or so confident in the inherent superiority of Western society to be able to make that call. I guess I should be grateful that there are people like you and Pastor Jones in the world who can decide it for me.”

    What’s colour got to do with it? This whole section is simply disingenuous and a pitiful attempt to reframe the issue in a racist way. If you’re going to take the tack of lying about my position as above or attempting to tar people who support freedom of speech as somehow being racist then this discussion ends now. I have no time for such childishness.

    And yes, you should be grateful that there are at least some people like me with backbones who will stand against our rights being limited in such fashions. If everyone took your stance, we’d still have blasphemy laws… or we’d soon see them reintroduced at the behest of the religious.

    “PS. Your central argument never wavers from the belief that one must never give in to bullies. Can I just ask what your position would be in the hypothetical example of a schoolchild who was driven to commit suicide by persistent text-message or Facebook bullying, or mere verbal assaults in the schoolyard? Are the bullies accountable at all?”

    Again, this is not an issue of free speech. Facebook does not allow its service to be used for bullying, schools do not allow bullying, mobile phone service providers do not allow their service to be used in such a way so your example is not a freedom of speech issue. Rephrasing it, if I may, into the child being taunted (though not physically threatened) on the street then those bullies would be exercising their right to freedom of speech – however distasteful it might be. Emotionally, I’d want to give them a damn good beating for being little shits but rationally, they would be entitled to taunt under their freedom of speech rights.

    Lastly, you correctly determine that my stance is that one should not give in to bullies. You then, oddly, give a hypothetical example of where someone gave in to bullies and ask me to determine accountability. If all parties held my stance, the issue would not arise as the child would not have ‘given in’ by opting for suicide.

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