Home » Apologies for everything » Freedom of speech comes from freedom of thought (final version)

Freedom of speech comes from freedom of thought (final version)



So, this is deeply depressing.

I don’t mean that no-one is reading my blog anymore. I mean that I’ve had an unwilling change of heart this morning, and it pains me to say it.

If you can’t stand to read what I’m about to say, there are plenty of other Posts on this blog that probably won’t offend you, although God alone knows what offends you, everything probably.

As certain commenters on certain other sites may have observed through gritted yellow fangs, while making extraordinary hissing and spitting noises and vowing eternal vengeance, I spend quite a lot of my free time, which is most of my time, bating Internet trolls under an assumed name.

The kind of quasi-literate human compost-bacteria who are constantly whining about, and blaming ‘immigrants’, ‘politicians’,  ‘scientists’ and ‘liberals’ for their own mental and physical, social, economic, psychosexual, cosmetic and intellectual deformities; who will seize upon any item in the news to expound their sick and twisted view of the world, conditioned by deep-rooted inadequacies and childhood disempowerments.

But this morning I find myself at one with them.

It seems that a hundred thousand people professing the Muslim faith have signed a petition demanding something be done about a tiny French satirical magazine whose editor and nine other staff were murdered at work last month by other Muslims claiming the right of vengeance – along with three police officers and four harmless hostages taken in a kosher convenience store – merely because they refused in the face of repeated threats to stop printing gently humorous little drawings purporting to represent ‘Mohammed’, the ineffable Prophet of Islam, poking fun not at Him, but at the absurd sensitivities of His more rabid Followers.

And a few hundreds marched yesterday on Downing Street, imagining in their wilful incomprehension of the British constitution that here, politicians control the media. Many of their placards (all professionally typeset and printed, I notice – at whose expense?) argued that the media should not be allowed to publish such ‘offensive’ matter in ‘a civilised society’. We are to assume that the marchers are all in favour of killing anyone who thinks differently. What kind of ‘civilised society’ does that conjure up, then?*

I think we have a grammatical divide here. In the West, ‘civilised’ is an adjective, meaning well-behaved; moderate. In the Caliphate, ‘civilised’ is the past-participle of a verb meaning ‘to ruthlessly control and keep in ignorance’.

I am so deeply, penitently sorry for writing this, but I am angry today and you force me to go against every decent instinct in my bones, and I have to say it: If you don’t care to live among us, if you don’t feel you belong, and can’t ever belong, if you feel we are your enemy and your only option is to attack us, if you are hypersensitive to a way of life that would not be acceptable in the tribal societies from which you originated; if you wish to import your own values and impose them on others, then why are you here? No-one is forcing you to stay.

There are lots of things about life in the West that trouble us too. Economic inequality. Declining services. Abusive employment practices (see also: Qatar). Rising prices. Stagnant incomes. Usurious interest rates. The corruption of bankers. Rampant consumerism. Thoughtless and destructive foreign policy. The obscene waste of resources. Disrespect for institutions. A tedious, undemanding diet of TV cookery shows and talent contests. Drugs, drunkenness, pornography, gambling, child abuse and prostitution (it’s why the Saudis flock to London). Litter and squalor. A general air of purposelessness and fin de l’époque nihilism.

The point is, we hope to deal with society’s ills through enlightened methods, not by forcing mentally retarded children to blow themselves up in police stations.

Coincidentally, we have recently celebrated on the 50th anniversary of his death, the life of Winston Churchill, who – though an undoubtedly flawed military genius and politician, a patrician drunkard and fervent colonialist – by almost universal acknowledgement held the nation steady at a time of great peril, took charge of our fate and led us somehow against overwhelming odds to defend our little island and its quaint values successfully against an all-conquering regime of unparallelled nastiness. And I don’t mean the Americans.

Now we are faced with a growing threat of fundamentalist Islam, a tendency to reimpose an austerely religious way of life out of which we in the West evolved centuries ago with a very different, mercantilist settlement, and which you say has nothing to do with you. But you don’t oppose it.

At the same time, we are celebrating 800 years since an unlikely coalition of barons forced Bad King John to sign a charter at Runnymeade, on the Thames, challenging the absolute power of the monarchy and demanding equal treatment under the law. Out of that grew the system of parliamentary democracy we have today; eschewing tribalism – and guaranteeing basic personal freedoms.

Case-based, secular law, that has evolved through centuries of discussion, debate and consensus, reasonably free of political and religious interference, and which continues to evolve to suit the condition of the real world today – not as it was 1200 years ago, in a far-off place.

Freedoms granted, hard won, that are rapidly being retracted in the face of reactionary Islamic radicalism and the special threat it poses to public order. (Yes, there are other threats to public order.)

We have a long and honourable tradition of political and religious dissent in Britain, often advanced through satirical commentary in the face of corrupt authority and the ruthless persecution of free-thinking men and women. As a result, we have arrived at a formal separation of church and state and courts with which we are entirely comfortable, and which has been the envy of the world.

So forgive us if, while according you ecumenical respect, we don’t take anyone’s religion too seriously, at liberty though you are to have one. Our government and laws are not subject to the scrutiny and approval of religious authority. And were we to take your religion, and those of the many other religious groups in the country, entirely seriously, we should be living in a very much more oppressive, divided and intolerant environment than we do.

If you understand only one thing about us, about our uncivilised society, let it be this: humour is our way of coming to terms with difference. It is not a means to insult you.

It is how we embrace you.

Make no mistake, this experiment in multiculturalism could so easily end in tears. The people can only go so far to accommodate minority cultural sensitivities, to subordinate our hard-gotten historic liberties of thought, speech and publication to the apparatus of the security state, merely because of the violent extremism of a few. If it’s not enough for you, please feel free to go and live wherever you will be happiest.

In common with most Brits, I should imagine, until last month I’d never even heard of Charlie Hebdo.

I wish we still hadn’t.



A BBC poll of one thousand British Muslims reveals that 95% regard themselves as ‘very loyal’ to Britain; 80% however expressed concern at the publication of images of the Prophet. Cartoons which, we have argued to the death, are not ‘images of the Prophet’… they are only token representations giving a form to an ideology, for the purpose of raising an important social issue through the medium of humour.

Why is it important?

Because, 27% of the survey felt that some level of violence was justified to assuage their sensitivities in this regard. It’s a serious question: how can we who have no such sensitivities live with this? I should care less if someone publishes a cartoon depicting a sort of Jesus-figure as a mildly amusing joke against overly sanctimonious Christians. I have a broader perspective. And that’s what, I fear, outrages many Muslims who cannot in their minds divorce church, state and law as we do. Their religion does not encourage them to have an objective view. It still criminalises dissent: a mark of immaturity.

If we assume that the 5% of two million British Muslims (100,000) who are not loyal to Britain include 27% who think on balance that non-Muslims ought to be killed if they insult the Prophet – in ways determined only by Muslims themselves – then we have 27,000 citizens in our midst who can potentially be radicalised to support organisations like Islamic Jihad, al-Quaeda, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), all of whom claim to be dedicated to the violent overthrow of the West, forcible conversions of non-Muslims and the global imposition of sharia law.

Who want to put the clock back 500 years, only with social media.

So, I am sorry, but I just don’t see how we turn away from this, merely because we don’t like to be rude to our guests. In common with other countries whose social and material development have outstripped the rest, admittedly at the expense of the rest, we attract large numbers of people who arrive, hoping for a better life. It is still possible that the large Pakistani, Somali and Iraqi-originated populations of Britain will eventually integrate, as have successive waves of non-Muslim migrants before them. But the signs are beginning to point the other way, to an increasing separation and, within a generation, possibly, a ‘two-state solution’.

The worry is that this option seems to be gaining ground amongst the younger, British-born generation Muslims, rather than with their parents. Politicians, educationalists and social pundits need to get their heads around this, and soon. We have already thrown all the digital bling and the reality game shows, the social benefits and the educational opportunities we have at the problem, and it isn’t working. The idea that there are ‘community leaders’ who can negotiate and impose solutions is a category error. It cannot be left to the security services and our unlovely white supremacists to fix.




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