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Theodore Dalrymple
Freedom of Expression, Without the Expression « Back to Story

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A necessary condition for the rule of law is that the state should have a monopoly over the use of force. And that the state should be accountable to the people and to the judiciary for its application. In the Basic Law (Grundgesetzt - in effect the constitution) of the Federal Republic of Germany, basic principles for the use of force are clearly stated. The German word "Gewalt" can, interestingly, mean either "force", or (more common in everyday usage) "violence". The Germans who compiled their constitution knew a lot about the misuse of force and violence; ultimately by the Nazi state, in its beginnings by the brown-shirted thugs who used terror as an instrument of influence.

In western societies, decisions about the exercise of freedom are now often made in fear of the violent reactions of a heated minority of adherents of what they consider to be a holy script. This script is not characterised by balanced considerations such as those which led to the excellent consitution of modern Germany (and the, largely unwritten, principles in the customs of British justice and polity, which were once much respected in the world). This holy script has many bits which provide a sense of justification to any believer who wants to use force, even totally destructive violence, against a non-believer. Those predisposed to acceptance of therse holy justifications are absolutely unsuited to be citizens of a democratic secular society based on the rule of law. Those who accept fear of their use of violence as a guiding principle for any significant decision making are craven traitors to the dearest principles of our civilisation.
"I dont think I have heard of any other major religion in the world that has reacted to an insult or blasphemy with widespread mob violence like this".

Richard40, that merely goes to show your ignorance of history (and, to some extent, even current events). Christianity has been replete with very similar mob violence right from its origins before the Council of Nicaea in AD/CE 325. For a dramatic (but quite accurate) picture, try watching the movie "Agora". For more details over a longer period, look at

Actually, it is very hard - perhaps impossible - to find any major religion that has not been associated with mob violence against "non-believers". To see the evidence against Judaism, simply read the Old Testament. Hinduism has a long history of extreme violence and cruelty. Sikhism is not without its episodes of horror. Even Buddhism, amazingly enough, has followers misguided enough to attack Christians, Muslims, and members of other religions, sometimes killing them.

Today's Muslim extremism almost exactly parallels many periods of our own nations' past - and for the same reasons. People who really, honestly believe they will go to heaven if they worship the right god, and hell if they don't, tend to be very intolerant of others who have different beliefs. Wouldn't you?
I dont think I have heard of any other major religion in the world that has reacted to an insult or blasphemy with widespread mob violence like this. It demonstrates Islams own barbarism, not any fault of their critics. Until Islam can move to a point where they can react to blasphemy and criticism without violence, any talk about Islam being a "religion of peace" is nonsense.
Mr. Dalrymple,

The answer is simple and it is already widely known. If the Muslims react violently to material they consider objectionable, the State bends to accommodate them. Why, then, would any other group believe that peaceful protest would be a worthwhile endeavor when they've already been clearly shown what works against the State?

The State is encouraging violent behavior. The Muslims may be the first to start it, but they won't be the last. I'd say there is a good chance that in the end their actions may redound to hurt them more than anyone else.
To the same effect: the way she dressed she was asking to be raped . . .
"As far as Hassen Chalghoumi is concerned, then, you can have any freedom you like—so long as you don’t exercise it. . . ."

This is very similar to the islamic formulation on apostasy and non-muslim proselytizing. You are free to believe what you want, but you are not free to ever discuss it or try to convince anyone else. The watchword appears to be "submission" - or at least the outward appearance of such. Anything that doesn't not signal complete and total submission to islam is prohibited.

Apparently, when they say "Slave of Allah," they mean it.
Enough! I've declared independence at! No more boundaries, no more rules!
Arguing with or debating a Muslim is utterly pointless. They have but one unshakable point of view -- that the mosque is the state. Thus, if an imam declares that something or somebody is blasphemous, no further discussion is in order. They believe in government of men, and not of laws.

I have but one question for M. Hassen Chalghoumi: Aimez-vous mes fesses?
"In any case, it does not follow from the fact that the mob was reprehensible and the reaction of officialdom was cowardly that the theater and the playwright were blameless."

I am citing Dr. Dalrymple's words in another article. The makers of the film are being deliberately obnoxious and provocative. They know their Muslim public, they foster muslim violence. Of course there is responsibilty on their part, as there is on the Muslims' side, since two wrongs do not make a right.
Hassen Chalghoumi's statement is more or less equivalent to the wellknown marxist definition : Freiheit ist die Einsicht in die Notwendigkeit, or in other words: You are free as long as you don't leave your restricted area.
David,in the short term i`m being pragmatic and provoking these people who behave in many ways like mad dogs will not persuade them to change their ways..Our christian ancestors were led from their barbaric state by the enlightenment of science and those amongst them with compassion for their fellow men.we have the choice of eventually fighting them over their beliefs with the terrible consequences on both sides or leaving them to mature in their own societies while firmly insisting that if they wish to live in ours they must recognise that our laws take precedence over their religious beliefs.
Look to the example of America, they have certainly left their mark on today's world with their military strength but probably their way of life and culture will have a greater influence in the long run.
Hollywood,McDonalds and Coke could be the thin edge of the wedge.
Not a very attractive solution I know but better that than my grandchildren being slaughtered in the name of some crazed clerics feaverish imagination and lust for power.
Who could insult Islam more than it's followers have already done?
Jerym, you would be very foolish to poke a stick at any large notoriously fearsome dog. But that's because it's a dog, not a human. We expect dogs, as animals, to react viciously when poked. We expect (or at least we'd like to expect) humans to act in a somewhat more rational manner when "poked" (especially when the poking is not physical in nature). (I am not, here, condoning the movie that is the supposed "cause" of all of this unrest. It was created by a mind just as obviously deranged as the minds are of those responsible for all of the mayhem in the Middle East.) And Mr. Welsh, you too are correct when you note that our Christian ancestors often acted in less-than-Christian ways when they thought their religion was being degraded. But, then, they had no other cultures to look to for "guidance" as to how to properly behave. Since then, Western culture (though by no stretch of the imagination perfect) has evolved and, to a large extent, has outgrown its infantile attachment to religion as a way of governing society. One would hope that Islamists might see some of the benefits of not letting religion rule every aspect of their lives (especially their more animalistic tendencies). And as for Republicans physically attacking Democrats, or vice-versa, and the fact that the attacker cannot defend himself by saying "he knew perfectly well that I detested his views", this may hold true today. But give it another 10 or so years. Politics, in this country, is becoming the new religion for the unthinking masses. I wouldn't be surprised to see Republicans and Democrats burning each other at the stake in the not-too-distant future, much the way Catholics and Protestants used to do. Otherwise, I agree with Mr. Hendriks' summation: "Well written" piece by Dr. Dalrymple.
Difficult to puzzle out what Dalrymple is attempting to say here. Yes, physical violence resulting from “cartoon rage” is criminal, but then taking violent revenge over how someone drives their car or cheers on their favorite team is criminal as well. Cartoon rage, road rage, sports rage are equally addressed within our systems of justice in describing just how far we can go when personally offended. Should cartoon rage lead to a massive explosion within the publishing offices of Charlie Hebdo or should the magazine’s editors be found brutally murdered in the parking lot, modern societies have specific remedies for dealing with these crimes included within their respective Constitutions. The very professional French police would hunt down the alleged perpetrators, French prosecutors would vigorously present evidence of guilt and, if a conviction should result, the criminals could spend 20 years in prison. Certainly no one is suggesting offended assassins receive amnesty.

But as most people are inherently decent, defending the legal right to insult Islam as a religion may not generate much enthusiasm among the general public. Dalrymple and his professional colleagues are deeply offended by violent attacks on Freedom of Speech. They believe their journalistic offerings are precious gifts and should be accorded respect, as well as non-retaliation, no matter what the topic. Free speech is necessary to liberty they contend and journalists are the self-appointed, modern equivalent of Crusaders for God. But Dalrymple and his assorted colleagues have no plans to throw themselves between the assassin’s knife and the cartoonist in support of Free Speech. Old men and women always leave that unenviable task to our young men in military or police uniforms. That is also the civilized response although one which seems slightly contemptible within this context.

How we should react to deliberate insults motivated by hatred and fear seems to be Dalrymple’s main point. But it’s in our nature to always react in some way to outrageous statements. This website recently censored racist hate speech prompted by one of its columns. The Canadian government has energetically prosecuted hate speech under their laws. How slippery the “slippery slope” becomes may depend on what motivates the speech. And, as to defending liberty, the massive increase in published free speech thanks to the internet doesn’t guarantee good government and certainly hasn’t safeguarded our liberty from attacks by our governmental masters. Freedom of Speech also implies the right to keep your mouth firmly shut. Perhaps Dalrymple and his colleagues should take the hint in regard to certain examples of so-called free speech.
Well written.
'If a Republican physically attacked a Democrat, or a Democrat a Republican, after one said something with which the other strongly disagreed, would it be any defense for the attacker to say, “He knew perfectly well that I detested his views”?'

And what of the hundreds of men detained indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, many of them for no more reason than the opinions they hold (and perhaps were foolish enough to express)?

And what of the US President's hit list?
I find it odd that neither Dr Dalrymple nor any of the comments so far even mention that "the West" was just the same until, at most, 250 years ago. Go back to 18th-century England, or Massachusetts, or France, and depict Christ in the way the film in question depicted Mohamed - you would most probably die, quite likely in a very nasty and prolonged way. Indeed, I would not be surprised to learn that there are plenty of hard-core Christian fundamentalists today ready to hand out similar treatment to vocal unbelievers or followers of "the wrong" God.

Our ancestors were no more stupid or wilfully evil than we are, so why do we expect Muslims to undergo 250 years of adaptation and compromise overnight? Since no one can prove or disprove the truth of any religion, moreover, wouldn't it be wise to adopt an attitude of courtesy to all, religious, agnostic, and atheist alike?
Western culture has a malignant cancer in its midst. It uses the language of rights and tolerance to eat away at our freedoms while not giving an inch of reciprocation in the lands it controls. Deception and feigned accommodation are its weapons when not in control. Lashings, burnings, stonings and beheadings are its weapons when in control. Islam is not a religion. It is a savage, medieval, socio-political system that is inherently hostile to everything modern Western society holds dear. There is no changing it. There is no accommodating it. It is as insidiously dangerous to our freedoms as was Soviet-style Communism. It and its proponents must be declared persona non grata in our lands and expelled.
The discussion overlooks the possible motivation of the maker of the lousy film trailer who might have been angry at the murders of his fellow coreligionists, the Coptic Christians in Egypt at the hands of Islamists, about which Obama and Hillary keep forgetting. But then again Obama seems to refer to murders as "bumps" on the road to somewhere else. However the want-to-be- film- maker may have enjoyed venting his spleen but he has not helped his fellow co-religionists who are still in Egypt and who immediately disowned the film. There is a word that is a part of this whole rampage that Obama and Hillary and Dalrymple and Hassen Chalghoumi and the media and I are not discussing.
Any act of provocation must bear a certain amount of responsibility for its outcome.
How much is obviously debatable and it depends on the character and past behaviour of the provoked.
It would be very foolish for me to poke a stick at any large notoriously fearsome dog I may meet on my daily walk.
Vincenzo Fiorentini September 27, 2012 at 4:28 AM
This French imam talks the way you expect, well, a French imam tp talk. Actually, even better.

That said, I am thoroughly surprised that we all continue to play along with the myth of the movie trailer causing the Middle East unrests.

For one thing, the attacks on the US embassies were prepared in advance and coordinated to occur on Sept 11.

For another, the trailer had been around for a month without anyone complaining.

Finally, most likely those in the Middle East that have actually seen it are a minuscule minority.
So true. I grew up in communist Czechoslovakia where we used to say that in our country everyone is equal (as was the official propaganda), but some are just “more equal”. It's kind of sad — and humorous too, from certain point of view — to see how the same principle spreads all over the world disguised under such names as “political correctness” or “tolerance” and so. Thx for un-disguising it.
I suppose we will wait a long time for these bearded and berobed children to grow up and take responsibility for their own actions, rather than casting blame onto any and every thing other than those lacking in sufficient self-control as to moderate their own reactions. Silly infants... I an NOT the one who overturned that car and burned it. THEY are. Matters not one whit why. THEIR hands are connected to THEIR brains. Do not blame violence on any but those whose hands accomplish it. Children do that. Makes as much sense as the idiots proclaiming with their bumper stickers: "I do what my Rice Krispies Tell me to DO".
As I read this and the troubles in the Middle East,China and Japan, the riots in Spain, Greece and too many other European cities it doesn't look good does it?
Sadly, I fear either a civil or global war, perhaps even a combination of the two. At 49 years old in my second marriage with a 5 and 4 year old, I work hard to avoid the cuts. At 6' and 190lb, I fear I need to keep up the boxing training and target practise just in case. Sad state. Mostly I fear for my two sons from the first marriage at 28 and 26 they are just the wrong age if it all kicks off.
One wonders if they have thought it through. Because if people can not control themselves and pose a risk to themselves or others, the correct location for them is the mental institution.