Wednesday, 4 February 2015

"In any free society, 'but' has its uses"

Two letters today in the South China Morning Post, taking me to task for my letter....
(I'll do a reply later).

In any free society, 'but' has its uses
Peter Forsythe, in his letter ("By holding back from criticism of Islam, we give in to extremists", January 22), laments the "but brigade" and argues that we should not resort to "but" when it comes to free speech. He defends the right of free speech only with regard to Islam and, as such, it seems, he joins the team of the "except league": people who contend that free speech is absolute "except", for example, when it comes to anti-Semitism, or something which they hold sacred.
Charlie Hebdo is a member of the "except league" too. Google can prove that.
I think the "but brigade" has generally done much better than the "except league".
Recently, I was sitting with my ageing parents chatting and watching the news. Suddenly, images of an Islamic State terrorist appeared on the screen standing between two kneeling Japanese hostages. On my mom's enquiring, I explained to her that they were so-called Muslims.
Without hesitating for a second, my father declared, "But they are terrorists". My mom joined in and announced, "They are bloody monsters". Being devout Muslims themselves, they have essentially joined a "but brigade" against Islamic State.
The "but brigade" has done us all a great service. Until recently, unrestrained economic development was not questioned. Then someone came along carrying a "but" banner, saying economic development is important, "but" with responsibility to the environment.
The "but brigade" is rendering its wonderful services everywhere. When a referee displays a yellow card on a football pitch, he warns a player, "play, but within the rules". Similarly, a police officer will tell you that you have the freedom to drink, "but" not to drive while drunk, thereby ensuring that your freedom does not trample on the rights of other drivers and pedestrians.
The "but brigade" is generally peace-loving too. Millions of protesters posed a "but" to the former US president George W. Bush's unrelenting "crusades". If the "except league" - of which Mr Forsythe seems to be a member - had also chanted, "Say what you want 'but' this war is illegal", they would have saved hundreds of innocent people from torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
If my frail, unlettered parents can raise their voice against Islamic State, what stops the educated, powerful likes of Mr Forsythe from standing up against the killing and torturing of innocent people? Nothing, but their membership to the "except league"!
Chaudhry Hafiz Mohammad, Mei Foo

Let freedom and decency go together
Peter Forsythe appears to be utterly exasperated by the antics of the "but brigade" ("By holding back from criticism of Islam, we give in to extremists", January 22), who simply refuse to abandon their deranged notion of showing tolerance and respect to others.
Apparently, we need to demand the right to be absolutely free to say anything we want, any time, any place, regardless of who we may defile, hurt or humiliate in the process. This is a non-negotiable demand, and it's our way or the al-Qaeda way.
And, if we don't fight for this unbridled right, then we had better prepare ourselves for "Western submission to Islamic blasphemy laws" and being "rendered mute in the battle of ideas against murderous jihadist violence".
That kind of uncompromising stance, peppered with enough fear-mongering to instigate the right amount of panic and social tension, would have many an individual who specialise in extremism lining up to give their kudos.
Nowhere in the Koran is physical punishment prescribed in response to blasphemy, so I fail to understand the anger against Islam as a religion. I also fail to comprehend how debasing and mocking the religious faith of another human being can be construed as a useful tool in something as noble as a "battle of ideas".
To cast aside Pope Francis' humane opinion that people should refrain from insulting other people's faiths as crazy talk, and side with Salman Rushdie's nonsensical remark that nobody has the right "not to be offended", is simply bizarre.
Why should we not insult other people's faiths? Because when you insult a religion, you are not attacking an individual, you are attacking a people and a community. You are grouping together people from all over the world with whom you have no connection and saying, "I'm going to publicly ridicule that which you hold most dear - for no other reason than the fact that I can."
Freedom of speech must go hand in hand with basic human decency. Otherwise, at the end of the day, there is no difference between us and those who carried out those terrible murders - since we have all of us forgotten our humanity and civility.
If "satire is a sound civilisation's answer to savagery", then please, Mr Forsythe, enlighten us as to what is the answer to the "savagery of satire"?
Ali Khan, Mid-Levels