Monday, March 11, 2013

The Huffington Post Vs. Free Speech

I commented yesterday about how the Huffington Post not only will never criticize Islam the way it does other major religions, but will in fact publish puff pieces playing up how great and awesome Islam and those who practice it is. This wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't such an obvious double standard in favor of Islam and against everyone else. Today, surprisingly, the Huffington Post took it one step further by even throwing freedom of speech away to please Muslims. In this case it is an adjunct professor and spokesperson for the Ahmaddiya Muslim Community named Harris Zafar. He's here to tell us that freedom isn't important if Muslims don't like what you are saying, but that Islam values freedom of speech anyway. After broaching on the recent news items about Muslims "misunderstanding" their own religion, he gets to his main point (emphasis mine):
"The difference between Islam's view on free speech and the view promoted by free speech advocates these days is the intention and ultimate goal each seeks to promote. Whereas many secularists champion individual privileges, Islam promotes the principle of uniting mankind and cultivating love and understanding among people. Both endorse freedom for people to express themselves, but Islam promotes unity, whereas modern-day free speech advocates promote individualism."
Free speech is antithetical to religions as is all freedom; people don't have rights, they are at the mercy of a God who tells them what they can and can't do. Zafar can dress up his religion in all the weasel words he wants: You can't promote unity and freedom of speech at the same time. The whole point of freedom of speech is that people can speak out when they don't like the way something is going. The point Zafar seems to be making is that Islam promotes people expressing themselves, just as long as they don't say anything that's against Islam. Or as he would say, against "cultivating love and understanding and uniting mankind." George Orwell couldn't have done any better.

After this he begins cherry-picking versus from the Quran that say what he wants us to hear, a time honored tradition in religious arguments that I have no intention of getting involved with. It goes without saying that among those who actually enforce the laws of Islam, as opposed to merely writing about it on liberal blogs, freedom of speech isn't tolerated, especially when it comes to Islam. Just ask Walid Husayin, who got off light compared to other people who "insult Islam." Zafar gets to a legitimate point, that there are limits on free speech in any society:
"The most vocal proponents of freedom of speech, however, call us toward a different path, where people can say anything and everything on their mind. With no restraint on speech at all, every form of provocation would exist, thereby cultivating confrontation and antagonism. They insist this freedom entitles them the legal privilege to insult others. This is neither democracy nor freedom of speech. It fosters animosity, resentment and disorder."
He's partially correct. There are limits on freedom of speech. Hate speech, slander, and incitement are all illegal even in the freest of countries (note that "insulting others" is not, though). But sometimes it's a good thing to cultivate confrontation. Like if you were ruled by a dictator in a Middle Eastern country? Or if you feel like the bankers on Wall Street have been getting away with screwing over the poor for too long and you want to do something about it? Eh? Eh? Where would our country be if the people didn't have the right to call for change? I can only imagine what would happen if the world's society actually took on what he is endorsing.

Ready for another chilling paragraph?:
"Rather than focusing on privileges, Islam focuses on the principle to avoid speech that causes separation and conflict. Our words should have a positive impact on people's lives, promote truth and promote justice. We agree with former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who once said: "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." Treating speech as supreme at the expense of world peace and harmony is an incredibly flawed concept. No matter how important the cause of free speech, it still pales in comparison to the cause of world peace and unity."
Let me make this very, very clear:

Freedom of speech is not a privilege. It is a right. That's why it's called "freedom of speech." If it can be taken away from you at the drop of a hat, it isn't freedom.

The Orwellian language is coming back out in an unbelievable manner. So only "positive" speech is permitted? Freedom of speech is supreme, Zafar, and if you don't like it feel free to move to a place like Iran or Saudi Arabia where they share your values. A world peace that comes at the expense of everything that makes life worth living is not a world peace that I would like to participate in. Finally Zafar takes on his critics:
"Opponents of Islam claim it denies freedom of speech and censors those who insult Islam. This is factually incorrect. Islam does not prescribe any worldly punishment for unseemly speech. So people who insult should not be persecuted. Islam grants everyone the right to express disagreements with others. After all, the Prophet Muhammad called differences of opinion a blessing in society and never sought to censor or threaten those who verbally attacked him."
Bull. Feces. Zafar, the number of people in their graves or in prison for "insulting Islam" since the turn of the century is probably in the hundreds. Name one Muslim country in the world that I can walk around with a sign saying something offensive about Mohammad and not get my head beaten in and blamed for it. Even Turkey, the go-to example of a secular Muslim state, has thrown people in jail for "verbally attacking" the wrong person or institution. Do you really think that anyone would be uninformed enough to fall for this? Islamic institutions in the real world absolutely do not grant everyone the right to express disagreement. Not if that disagreement is about the existence of God or the holiness of Mohammad. Let's jump ahead to his examples:
"So while antagonists and enemies of peace create slanderous videos, cartoons or advertisements -- like the "Innocence of Muslims" film, Pamela Geller's new ignorant NYC subway ads and Charlie Hebdo's cartoon about Prophet Muhammad -- let us not fall for their claim that an individual's privilege to say whatever he or she wants is more important than the higher principle of uniting people and saving this planet from a path of animosity, hatred and destruction."
Are you sure those are the best examples, Zafar? 75 people died in riots in response to the "Innocence of Muslims," including five Americans if you believe President Obama (oh snap!), and there was violence all around the world because of it. A Muslim activist committed vandalism and assault in response to Geller's ads, and the reaction to the French cartoons was anything but tolerant. If anything your examples prove that the majority of Muslims aren't satisfied with freedom of speech if they find it offensive, and your Orwellian concluding paragraph seems to back that up.
"The ultimate goal of Islam is to unite mankind under a single banner of peace."
Yes, that is a hallmark of fascist societies. Everything is peaceful, and no one is free.

I think I've made my point sufficiently at this juncture so I will stop. It remains disconcerting how little the Huffington Post cares about freedom of speech, except when they can use it to defend anti-Semitism.

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