Saturday, 10 January 2015

Freedom of speech?

"The public in France has this natural tendency to be Islamophobic without being aware of it, but the horror or what just happened cannot let us forget about rationality."
-Valerie Amiraux, Canada Research Chair for the study of Religious Pluralism (

I'm a believer in "freedom of speech" but I regard it with a certain amount of caution as I would with a "right to bear arms" if we had it here in Canada.

During my survey of websites and literature for my piece yesterday I titled, Je Suis Ahmed, I was struck, as I often am when thinking about subjects and issues with certain complexity and profundity, of the scope of differing views—some wacky and visceral and downright scary, some thoughtful and utterly important to remember in times like these past few days in France. I've been deliberately avoiding posted comments in news stories knowing how disturbingly uninformed and thoughtless some can be.

It is interesting that Muslim and those of Arab descent tweeted the more rational and personally thoughtful comments on the senseless massacre in Paris:

while the hashtag #Je suis Charlie comments tended toward the decidedly abstract, vague, mechanical and impersonal comments about values and freedoms. As in Dyab Abou Jahjah's tweet, Voltaire was also much referenced in #Je suis Charlie but I doubt his heart would have been warmed by a somewhat reactionary sentiment expressed by the non-Muslim twitter. I think Voltaire would have quipped:

Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomythe mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.

or some variant referencing hate speech with the recently-much-cherished "freedom of speech", and he would have humbly signed his tweet, Fran├žois-Marie Arouet.

Observing what is now happening in France with attacks on mosques he would no doubt say: "It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong" with the glaring irony lost upon the self-righteous fools who think such attacks are justified.

I know a so-called "Christian" here who thinks casual Islamophobia is a God-given Christian duty. I bet you dollars-to-doughnuts that this is a hall-mark of the Harper base. Our highly-esteemed Public Safety Minister made a huge show of solidarity (as has Harper himself) with our French allies but I get a distinct feeling that their ideas of "freedoms" in general are somewhat off the mainstream notions of freedom.

I weep for the species.


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