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Free speech, western style

Reader comment on item: Cartoons and Islamic Imperialism

Submitted by P. hanbury (Australia), Oct 30, 2007 at 06:55

There appears to be a widespread misconception that in western countries one can do and say whatever one chooses, without fear of reprisal. In reality, most western countries have laws prohibiting racial vilification, incitement to violence, and also libel and slander. So-called "free speech" has its limits, under the law as well as in regard to common sense.

If I insult a person unintentionally, I will of course apologise. But if I knowingly offend someone, and refuse to apologise, I have no right to demand that they not take offence. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that Islam is only 1400 years old. When Christianity was 1600 years old we still had such horrors as the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre, and the Inquisition (in fact the latter was put to rest only in 1834). While claims are made that Islamists demand we follow their rules, it seems that we in the west feel free to demand that they follow ours, and that they do so right now. Perhaps we should wait another 200 years or so before we criticise Islamists for failing to be as modern and "enlightened" as we imagine ourselves to be.


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