I’m not familiar with the comments on Omninerd that you’re talking about, but no, I don’t think it matters at all which religious group we’re talking about. It’s neither more nor less legitimate to paint all Christians with the same brush than it is all Muslims. I think that some people in America feel free to attack Christianity because it’s familiar, it’s "our" religion, while at the same time arguing that we must withold judgment on Islam because it’s "foreign," it’s "their" religion. In a way I see the logic, but I think that’s a false dichotomy that just makes the problem worse. If we could stop seeing Islam as unalterably alien (there are a whole lot of Muslims in America, after all), we might be able to have a more productive dialogue. All of which is beside the point anyway; we were talking about freedom of speech and I will defend the right of these "conservative" bloggers to say what they’ve said just as strongly as I’ll defend the right of "liberal" bloggers to say their piece, whether or not it offends me.
It’s also worth pointing out, as you do, that it is in fact possible to criticize some aspects of a particular religion– or more accurately, as is the case with Islam today, the particular interpretation and practice of that religion– without impugning and entire faith with all the faithful. The problem with the post I quoted is precisely that it failed to do that. Thus my use of the word "stupid." Anyway, it’s prefectly legitimate and even necessary to attack terrorism in the name of religion, and to attack particular interpretations of religious texts that lend themselves to such uses. We should be saying that Islamic fundamentalism is a problem, and we can do so without conflating "Islamic Fundamentalism" with "Islam" in general. I’m not trying to imply a precise analogy here- there isn’t one- but it’s also perfectly legitimate to criticize Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson for their own fundamentalism, a particular interpretation of scripture that they use to argue for the limitation of women’s rights, among other things. And, again, we can and should do so without pretending that all Christians are anything like Pat Robertson.
As for the part about what the rest of the world thinks: I’m not sure how this is related to the topic, but I think it’s worth observing that for the "rest of the world," by which I’m guessing you mean mostly the Europeans, it’s not a choice between doing something and doing nothing; it’s a choice between actions, like the invasion of Iraq, that they think will do more harm than good, and those actions that will do more good than harm. The problem with that view, of course, is that sometimes being cautious results in doing a very little good while allowing a very great harm. But I don’t think they usually see the U.S. as "the problem" so much as taking actions that aren’t part of the solution.
Most of Europe, I think, sees a "Western" intervention in Sudan as a recipe for disaster, because it can be so easily (not to say rightly) painted as imperialism. Hence the emphasis on action by the AU. They’re attempting to take the long view, in which Darfur is a terrible but ultimately transitory conflict, while the idea of the West as imperialist is pervasive, durable, dangerous, and already intractable, and so doesn’t need any help. The obvious critique of this view is that if tens of thousands of people are dying, then the short term matters.
Anyway (and here’s my attempt to relate this whole discussion back to the topic of free speech and censorship), I’m going to have to disagree with the sort of "go it alone" kind of thinking that seems to be in evidence in your last paragraph, and say that what the rest of the world thinks does matter, if not for the reasons that usually get talked about. Free speech isn’t just a value in and of itself; it has value primarily because speech and communication are instruments of change, and to restrict them is to deny certain people that instrument, and in so doing make change less likely. I think that the way to achieve progress is with maximum information, maximum communication, maximum thought. It is foolish to ignore ideas, and so foreclose options, because of where they come from or who created them, and it’s foolish to deny ourselves information about the people (or nations) with which we must interact, be they allies or enemies. We did not understand Iraq, and that has hurt us. We do not understand Iran, and that may hurt us in the future. The way to move toward such understanding is to listen to all the ideas we can, and that requires the freedom for those ideas to be expressed. Indeed, our understanding is certainly limited by the fact that the people of Iran, or of Syria, or of North Korea cannot make themselves heard, forcing us to do a certain amount of guessing. The problem I have with the quote in my original post:
America should deport all Muslims and invite no Muslims into the country. Muslims don’t integrate. Europe is realizing this. America is now inviting the disease. Muslims are apart unto themselves because of their cultic nature. They are not a politic. They are not a culture. They are a cult based upon a killing bookâ€”the Koran.
is precisely that its purpose is to limit thought, to make it seem unnecessary, to provide the illusion that we have all the information we need. Free speech is also necessary to assure that there is sufficient information out there to make it clear what an idiot this person is. Point being that what the world thinks does matter- not because we need anybody’s good opinion (though that sometimes helps move things along), but because knowing what the world thinks and why is the only way we’ll ever have any idea what the hell needs to be done, to protect our own interests as well as everyone else’s.
I agree with you entirely about free speech as outlined in your last paragraph. I should also refine my statement, that I may not give a rat’s ass what the rest of the world thinks, but it is important to know what they are thinking, (if that makes any kind of sense) as you said.
The Google issue seems to be part of a larger trend, and that is to attempt to obfuscate, drown out, or silence views and opinions that you don’t agree with. It has been happening at college campuses, were students will disrupt an invited speaker, it happens at protests- the Tookie Williams vigil springs to mind, where an older man with a Christian sign was shoved away by a group of pro-Tookie activists who loudly chanted "racist, sexist, anti-gay: right-wing bigot go away!" It happened in Europe over the Dreaded Cartoons of Blasphemy- which brings me another example: one of the excuses used by Muslim groups to justify their attempts to stifle free speech was that Europe didn’t have it to begin with because people weren’t "allowed" to "question" the Holocaust. When I first heard this idiotic reasoning, I though "that’s because the Holocaust actually happened- what’s to ‘question?’" but then I realized that these idiots had a point- though not in the way they meant. There is a reason free speech must include the freedom to say and espouse ideas that are reprehensible, idiotic, and vile- it is so that such ideas can be discussed, dissected, eviscerated, and disprove out in the light of day.
Of course, some folks like to prevent the other side from being heard because they are afraid to debate the issues like reasonable people- and perhaps lose.
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