Sunday 23 September 2012

"Suppressing criticism not the answer"

Well, somewhat to my surprise, the South China Morning Post ran my letter today in full, and at the top...

Suppressing criticism not the answer
Your editorial ("Outrage at video was predictable", September 16) proposes a moral equivalence: that the video Innocence of Muslims bears equal responsibility for deaths as do those who did the killing.
What you are saying in effect is that a video, made legally in the United States, is the same as the illegal killing of embassy personnel - that video producers are the same as murderous mobs.
In defence of this moral equivalence you say that there are limits to free speech "such as the sensibilities of the audience, that must be taken into account".
But what a slippery slope that is.
For the "sensibilities" which you say ought to be taken into account are those of the more extreme fringes of the Muslim world.
The attacks in Libya were well planned by al-Qaeda and affiliate Ansar al-Sharia.
The video was just an excuse. And 9/11 was a "nice" time to do it.
Bobby Ghosh, the deputy international editor of Time magazine, in his article on September 13, "Agents of outrage", said the attacks were not spontaneous, but were "provoked outrage".
Moderate Muslims have been saying that no matter what the video "offence", there is no excuse for random killings.
Yet your editorial takes the side of those radical elements.
If you support the "limits" to free speech for the "sensibilities" of Islamists, do you imagine that censoring a silly video will be enough? Surely not.
There will always be something on the internet to which they can take offence, should it suit their agenda.
In contrast, while this video is lambasted for denigrating Islam, nowhere in the world was there criticism of productions such as The Book of Mormon,The Passion of the Christ and the like.
Suppressing the criticism of Islam will only encourage further demands for censorship of any criticism of Islam as being offensive or blasphemous.
That will lead to the suppression of fair criticism of the more troublesome elements of Islamic doctrine.
Already we have seen self-censorship of a scholarly documentary called Islam the Untold Story.
Making a moral equivalence between an internet video and murderous Islamists renders us mute to discuss Islam in any form at all.
We must not come to this end, for Islam must surely be subject to the same examination and debate as all other religions in the world.