If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. (Noam Chomsky)
In defence of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, the Danish Cartoons and the recent YouTube movie, the liberals argued that Muslims should not get too upset over the offensive contents, because this was about the ‘sacred’ free speech or freedom of expression; the right to express a certain viewpoint, no matter how offensive or accurate. The problem is this is not applied consistently across the board. Why it is free speech to mock religious values, and yet a similar tone of language is not tolerated against a particular racial group or a group with a certain sexual orientation?
“In January 2011, Baroness Warsi claimed that Islamophobia had ‘passed the dinner-table test’, meaning that prejudice against Muslims was commonplace in British society. This unique intolerance of Muslims can involve stereotyping, discrimination and even harassment of the significant number of Muslims that now live in Britain. Even though two years have passed since a high-profile politician like Warsi highlighted the problem, it appears little has changed, which is why in January 2013, she again made public comments explaining that Muslims are still marginalised in British society.
Islamophobia has not only passed the dinner table test but it has permeated British society at every level. The media, politicians, security services, policymakers and other public institutions can all be held responsible for the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment over the past few years.
Speaking at a dinner held by a new government-backed organisation, Tell MAMA - set up to monitor anti-Muslim attacks - Baroness Sayeeda Warsi the Conservative Minister for Faith and Communities, hit out at the media, which she claimed fuels the rising level of hatred and suspicion of British Muslims.
Editors Note - This article was originally published in response to the Danish Cartoon in 2006; it has been substantially updated to reflect the change in political climate and my personal viewpoint on the issue.
“Vehement hatred has already come into the open from out of their (belligerent enemies) mouths but what their hearts conceal is yet worse” (Quran 3:118)
“The lies (Western slander) which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man (Muhammad) are disgraceful to ourselves only.” (Thomas Carlyle)
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Hamlet, William Shakespeare)
A tiny nation like Denmark would not antagonise a population of one billion plus, unless it was confident that it could do it with impunity. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, refused to meet the ambassadors of eleven Muslim countries, regarding the offensive cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten. Just consider how the Danish government would have responded, had this been a complaint from the Israeli government about anti-Semitic cartoons. Despite the global outrage, they allowed the publishing of the offensive materials, with total disregard for the Muslims.
This type of vulgar material is better representative of the crude porn culture of Denmark, and forms part of the ongoing vicious media campaign against Islam; yet Islam continues to flourish and spread in the heart of the West. This has no doubt contributed to building up frustration and anger amongst the anti-Islamic brigade; and the problem is further compounded by their inability to provide an intellectual response to Islam, hence the crude attack, and at times it encompasses racial and chauvinistic undertones. Listed below are the key arguments raised around this issue.
Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch Politician has been acquitted of all charges in his hate speech trial in Amsterdam. According to the Judge, comparing Islam to Nazism might be offensive, but it falls within the scope of free speech. Naturally, Geert stated, “It's not only an acquittal for me, but a victory for freedom of expression in the Netherlands”. The judge also pointed out that Geert Wilder’s comments are often “crude and denigrating”, however they are not illegal; they included racist remarks like “head rag tax”. Why the term “head rag”? It sounds like the pejorative racist term “rag-head”, frequently used by the Americans.