Freedom of Expression

Two contrasting responses to the Geller shooting

It is perfectly possible to oppose Pamela Geller’s views and methods while unequivocally defending her right to express herself and (obviously) unequivocally condemning the gunmen who tried to silence her.  I don’t agree with everything Dean Obeidallah says here, but he is clear, not just about the right to draw and display cartoons, but the necessity of exercising that right:

Anti-Muslim advocate Pam Geller has the absolute right to draw any cartoon she wants of the Prophet Muhammad … In fact after the terrorist attack against the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, I appeared on numerous media outlets urging the media to show every cartoon they had drawn of the Prophet Muhammad. The very essence of freedom of expression demands that we defend the broadcasting or publishing of images that we may not like or even find offensive.

By contrast, here is Dilly Hussain, speaking on Russia Today:

Such an event that took place in Garland – how conducive is that to society to practice that under free speech, where individuals such as Geert Wilders and Pamela Geller, two individuals who are known Islamophobes, that are banned from entering the UK.  Surely that individuals such as those, to be claiming that their event was a manifestation of free speech and an exhibition of art has to be questioned. Of course Muslims generally overwhelmingly would not respond and would condemn such a reaction. However we also must need to look at and learn from the lessons from Charlie Hebdo, and that is, having cartoons which specifically target the most revered figure of the Islamic faith in a gratuitous, insulting way – how conducive is that to society? Is it really conducive?  If it – if it leads to issues such as the Charlie Hebdo shooting, such as the incident we had in Garland on Monday, why do we not take heed from this? Even Mayor Athas, the Mayor of Garland, even he highlighted that, look, there were some issues and some concerns raised, whilst news of this event had got back to him, hence he heightened the security.  So everyone knows that events are provocative, it can lead to a potential blowback. If that’s the case, if the US government really care about the safety and the welfare of their citizens, then why allow such events to take place, and furthermore for it to be led by individuals such as Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders – that’s the real discussion we should be having.

This is a chilling argument, whatever you think of Geller.  Hussain seems to be arguing that fear should prevent us from mocking religion (or Islam at least) and that the cartoonists, not the murderers, were not ‘conducive to society’.  Although he asks ‘why do we not take heed from this’, he is hardly included in that ‘we’.  Any activity might potentially lead to ‘blowback’ – according to Hussain’s line of argument we should impose restrictions on our freedoms in order to pacify murderous terrorists.  Many ‘provocative’ events take place in the UK – events which promote horrific punishments for apostasy, homosexuality and blasphemy.  However when these are even criticised, people like Dilly Hussain complain with outrage that their freedoms are being attacked.