The Future of Freedom of Speech
For those who believed introducing democracy into Islamic nations would lead to liberty and pave the way via open discussion to a reform of Islam, please take note of what is happening in Afghanistan and soon to happen in Iraq. Back in October, when this hit the news … if being published in Radio Free Europe is “hitting the news” … the threat was obvious. Without the protections of the individual’s freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, democracy is worse than worthless. I wrote at the time, it “is little more than a murdering mob trampling others in their path. Without these freedoms, the spirit of democracy turns into the nightmare of totalitarianism.”
Our founding fathers knew about the dangers of unlimited democracy, many conservatives and liberals used to know this. Now people look away because it is agreed by both sides of the aisle that Afghanistan is the “legitimate war.” Neither wants to face the limitations of Islam but instead focus on the details of individual battles and the threat of specific terrorist organizations. Few see the forest.
What is far more serious is that we are seeing our freedoms disappear. In France, Italy and Australia, there are laws against “vilification of a religion” and Tony Blair, if he had his way, would introduce similar laws into the UK. Diana West asks “who … will speak up for free speech?” Indeed, who? Houellebecq, who was narrowly acquitted of “vilification” in France, believes what he said in France will never be said again. He may have won the legal battle but lost the war. Whether by laws, social pressure, or physical intimidation, free speech will come to an end unless good people do something. Even if by means of provocative speech, as was common in the past, the limits of free speech need to be tested. And it has to be done here at home.
If nations-building there means liberty-destroying here, we will see liberty nowhere.
I've been told by some that the prohibitions against criticism of Islam are necessary to win their hearts and minds; and win the current battles. There are some costs one does not pay for victory, let alone the modest gains in Afghanistan or Iraq. Freedom of speech and conscience must never be surrendered.