The French got it right – and wrong – at the same time

Free speech is paramount to the continuation of our society.

Finally, even our elites are beginning to realize this, even if they are not willing to express it openly – yet.

Even a few in the media are begginning to acknowledge this, even though most are still confused about what ‘incitement to riot’ is.

Aside:

Just for the record, saying   “Your Mama wears army boots!” is an insult, not incitement to riot, violence or murder.  Saying “Kill those who say My Mama wears army boots!” is incitement to murder.

Even if you replace ‘your Mama’ with ‘Your Prophet’ and ‘wears army boots’ with ‘rapes little girls’.

And offering money to anyone who kills ‘Steve X’, because ‘Steve X’ said or wrote or drew or filmed something, is conspiracy to murder…and a criminal act.

I’m only explaining this because so many policymakers in the USA and UK and media members everywhere seem to have trouble understanding this simple distinction.

Back to the French…

Last week, the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ published some more ‘Mohammed cartoons’.  Good for them.

What is more, they announced ahead of time that they were going to do so.

The response of the French government:  send riot police to guard the magazine from rioters, because, as they quite correctly said, free speech must be protected.  And, they beefed up the security at their Embassies, in case there was a backlash there.

That is what the French got right.

It’s the next bit I have a problem with:  the French banned all protests against the cartoons!

I’m sorry, but that is just as wrong as banning the cartoons themselves!

Peaceful protests are a necessary expression of the freedom of speech and no government may ban them, on any grounds.

EVER!

Sure, if the protests turn violent, the police are obligated to arrest those who break the law and riot.  That goes without saying.  But banning a protest just because it might – even if it is very likely that it might – turn violent is a violation of the very principles that were upheld by protecting the publication of the cartoons!

You cant’d punish pre-crime and you cannot limit someone’s rights because of what they might do.

Well, obviously, you can – the French just did it.

What I mean is that it is wrong to do so

Freedom of speech is for everyone.

It is especially important that we protect the freedom of speech of those who say things we don’t like.

Sure, the protests were likely to turn violent.  Pretending otherwise would be naive.

But the power of the government does not extend to limiting the freedoms of their citizens to commit crimes – only to arrest them and punish them in accordance with the laws after they break the law!

Yes, there is a problem in many places with protests turning violent:  but that is because in the past, the police have been negligent in apprehending and punishing those who break the laws during protests.  That is a problem which needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.

But past negligence in enforcing the laws sufficiently does not give any goverment the right to abrogate the rights of its citizens – especially a core right, like freedom of speech.

So, what happens to atheists in Muslim countries?

While checking out Reddit, I came across this post:

‘I’m planning on telling my parents that I’m an atheist. I live in a Muslim country, so you can guess that they’re Muslim. I need help with some points though. Things said in the Quran that are definitely wrong, like that Noah talked to ants (ants do not talk, they use chemicals to communicate.) and such. The more you know the better. I need to know things that Islam got wrong. Muslims say that Muslim women have tons of rights, and I want to prove them wrong. Help a guy out will you.’

All the comments – at least, when I read it, I’m sure more will be posted soon – advised against this,if the young writer wants to live…

At last, people are finally understanding that in Muslim countries, there is no ‘freedom from religion’.  It’s a first step, but an important one and I am glad to see that people do know this and understand that the existential danger to atheists in Muslim countries is very, very real.

I don’t know how to help this one individual.

But, I do realize that if we do not stop the stealthy creeping of Sharia into our societies, we, too, may face this fate.

Sooner than we are willing to admit…