Friday, February 10, 2006

More Unwelcome, Unapproved Free Speech

More demands for unconditional respect have been going out as the people of earth debate what actions should be taken against people who dare challenge God. Strangely enough I find every last shred of respect I had for humanity has been methodically stripped from me in the last few days so don't anyone hold their breath.

More censorship fun:

University of Cardiff student newspaper Gair Rhydd - which means Free Word in Welsh - was forced to recall copies after it reprinted one of the 12 cartoons originally published in a Danish newspaper, which have resulted in Muslim protests around the world.
What is the Welsh translation for "Cowardly Thugs" out of curiosity?

A student union spokeswoman said Tom Wellingham, the editor of the paper, which won newspaper of the year at last year's Guardian's Student Media Awards, had been suspended alongside three other journalists.

But wait, here comes the student union spokeswoman's punch line:

"The editorial team enjoy the normal freedoms and independence associated with the press in the UK, and are expected to exercise those freedoms with responsibility, due care and judgment," she said.

How do you say "The student union of the University of Cardiff is a pack of liars." in Welsh? The editorial team enjoys fewer freedoms and less independence than newspapers in the Middle East. You suspended them you dumb asses! Don't pretend that didn't happen at the same time you are announcing it. It makes you look stupid as well as evil.

She said a "majority" of the 10,000 copies printed had been collected and would be shredded. Fewer than 200 copies of the edition, distributed on Saturday, remained unaccounted for.

Why waste electricity on shredders? I believe bonfires are more traditional and a spiffy effigy of John Stuart Mill could be included for fun.

The students' union has launched an investigation into how the images came to be published in the paper, which has a potential readership of more than 21,000 students.

An investigation. Good! The sooner all perpetrators are identified and handed over to the appropriate mob of witchfinders, the sooner we can put this ugliness behind us. (At some point I should tell you kids about the parallel universe I grew up where this shit is considered nauseating)

Local councillor Joe Carter, whose Cathays constituency houses the students' union, described the publication of the cartoon as a "controversial and risky manoeuvre".

"They were wise to pull it but I'm surprised they ran it in the first place. There's a very strong argument about freedom of the press versus tolerance of religion. We have to have tolerance of people's views and culture," he told icwales.co.uk.

We HAVE to have tolerance of people's views and culture. Anyone not being tolerant will have their heads cut off. Tolerant being defined as observing unquestioning obedience and lacking any criticism. Traditional Liberalism, secularism, and humanism do not, I repeat, DO NOT qualify as a culture or a view. Feel free to vomit on these values.

Ashgar Ali, the chairman of Cardiff's Medina mosque, criticized the publication. "You can't play with someone's religion," he told the website.

Thanks Chairman. While you are at it are there any other threats you would like to make? Maybe some edicts you would like to proclaim? "You can't vote against candidates that are approved by God" maybe? Or "Resistance is futile." perhaps?

Let us jump across the pond and revisit St Mary's University in Halifax. I mentioned in an earlier post that that Logic Professor Peter March was forced to remove the cartoons from his door by the university. He has also decided to bring up the issue in class but the university says they won't be taking action against that. If you thought that the inevitable threats would be via mail or telephone, you don't understand how much freedom religious people actually enjoy. The threats are being delivered in person to his office.

March said he was threatened on Wednesday when a group of young men entered his office demanding an apology.

He described the confrontation as: "A finger pointed in my direction, eyes screwed tight, the man saying, through his mouth, I'm going to get you, and some huge men behind them nodding their heads."

Welcome to university.

The SMU Palestine Society also wants March to apologize for posting the cartoons charging that the professor is deliberately trying to upset people for his own publicity.

But March said he did it in an effort to draw attention to academic freedom and freedom of speech, adding it is his duty to confront rising pressure to censor certain images.

Shaheen Sajan, a graduate student and spokesperson for the Palestine Society doesn't buy March's justification. She called the action "irresponsible" and "racist."

The quality of today's grad students. Do I need to explain everything to everyone? Listen very closely Shaheen Sajan, I shall say this only once. Religious beliefs do not make someone a race. Criticizing someone's beliefs, especially ones which they are trying to force-FORCE!!!-on others is not the same as criticizing someone for having skin that is too dark or for being descended from Jews. You freakin' dumb ass. Also, one of the central functions of universities is to provide safe haven to ideas that are upsetting and offensive so either get used to it or go to a community that values collective teamwork and harmony over individual rights. Fast food work might be recommended. Again let me reiterate: You freakin' dumb ass.

But taking speech out of someone's mouth is insufficient for some. The National Post describes an encounter with the Professor (remaining calm) and a group of offended Muslims (decidedly uncalm). When he decided that there was nothing left to say, he asked one of those present how to say goodbye in Arabic. What he was instructed to say actually turned out to mean "I'm sorry" to which everyone cheered. It would be funny if it were not so unbelievably petty.

So this brings me to a topic that has challenged me for some time now. There are religions. There are criminal organizations. How does one delineate between the two? If one turns in to another, like say, a medical fraud organizations declares itself to be a religion to avoid trouble with law enforcement or a religion decides to influence society by threatening and intimidating people, how should such transitions be viewed by the law. Certainly there seems to be a movement in parts of the western Muslim community to try and get Islam viewed as a criminal organization. Part of the martyr complex no doubt. The best defense against a world in which law enforcement has to make decisions about which religions are legal or not would be to put strong emphasis on what used to be western values of freedom and plurality but since those no longer seem popular, I recommend bullet proof vests and strength of will.

Professor March stated "It's my plan, providing I survive that long, to bring the cartoons in and discuss them if the class is interested," Someone who understands the stakes and is not cowed by them.

Thank you Professor.

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