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Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Khaleej Times on freedom of expression

From today:
AS EXPECTED, David Irving’s release from an Austrian prison and subsequent return to England has sparked an intense debate regarding the freedom of speech in the modern era, especially with regard to subjects as sensitive as the Holocaust.

How free is it that in addition to Israel, several European countries also have strict laws against Holocaust denial. In Austria, for example — where the ageing historian/writer initially sentenced for three years — the ‘crime’ carries a prison term of up to 10 years. The relevant law states that ‘anyone who denies, plays down, approves or tries to excuse the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity’ automatically qualifies for a stint in the slammer.

That much of the world’s Jewish community continues to nurse psychological wounds from the much-reported Holocaust is understandable considering that according to popular opinion, it threatened to practically finish them off, and that too in the most gruesome manner. But there is a fine line between advocating justified sympathy and muscling all and sundry into acceptance of what is their own version of the episode, true or concocted notwithstanding. It is no secret that the slightest question posed to the Jews’ analysis of Hitler’s atrocities — even if it is with the sincerest of intentions — draws the severest reaction from right across the West. So much as a word is taboo, and one is slapped with charges of anti-Semitism even before one’s point is made completely. The media hounds do the rest and the person-in-question’s credibility is reduced to scarce more than dust.

What is it that has pushed the Zionist lobby to the verge of paranoia, if not into it? Having suffered one of the worst known human rights abuses on record in the Holocaust, they should be eager to encourage rather than shun research and analyses into it. If their claim is right and true, what other could be unearthed by those looking into it?

It bears noting that this iron-fist no-questions-asked approach is widely reflected in the Israeli character. Truth be told, history will judge them as gross violators of human rights themselves, hardly becoming of a people that have suffered injustices. It does not take genius to figure out that only those with something to hide discourage debate and reason, especially in the modern age of much trumpeted freedom of speech. Unfortunately though, it looks as if for such topics it’s going to be ‘Mum’s the word’.
The stupidity of the editorial is apparent, as is the underlying hate, scare quotes and condescending words that show the author himself doesn't quite believe that the Holocaust actually occurred. Hiding behind the absurd premise that the Ahmadinejads and Irvings of the world are actually interested in the truth, the Khaleej Times is painting Jews as a paranoid and scheming people who wouldn't know truth if they saw it. And, overall, the newspaper's editor hides his aching to see the Holocaust debunked under the pretense of "freedom of expression."

But in a somewhat different context a couple of months ago, the editor does not seem to be quite as sanguine about freedom of expression:
More importantly, now it is not possible to dismiss the cartoon episode last year as something that was the handiwork of a loony and reckless cartoonist. Clearly, there is a method in the madness. In fact, these disturbing acts of vandalism are not limited to Denmark. They are part of what has become a disturbing trend across Europe as the right-wing media and politicians whip up paranoid frenzy against everything Islamic. There is sickness in the heart of Europe. And the all-pervasive war on terror unleashed by the US neocons appears to have boosted it.

If it was the Danish cartoons last year, it's Danish video this year. Then there was this opera in Germany that took the concept of artistic licence too far when it showed the beheading of Prophet of Islam besides that of Jesus and Buddha. Last week, prominent French newspapers published an incredibly painful article by a Jewish 'scholar' about the Prophet accusing him of all sorts of absurdities.

What is going on? Can you blame the anguished Muslims if they see a clever and concerted campaign being conducted across the continent to vilify their faith and its revered figures and teachings? And can you blame the Muslims if they come out on the streets, from Morocco to Malaysia, in anger and frustration?

Whatever the explanation for these growing attacks on Islam and Muslims, they could have dangerous and far-reaching consequences for the whole world. The leaders of Denmark and other European countries cannot hide behind the fig leaf of the freedom of expression as these acts of intellectual vandalism and intolerance are unleashed on Muslims, Europe's second largest religious community. The freedom of speech is fine and Muslims respect it too just as they respect all other rights. However, the freedom of speech mustn't be abused to insult other people's beliefs and sensibilities. As the OIC has argued, it is the responsibility of politicians, governments, media and civil society organisations in the West to oppose all such attacks. This is essential if we want to avoid a dangerous clash of civilizations — between West and Muslim world.
Notwithstanding the implied threat in the last sentence ("don't upset us or else we'll hurt you") see how hypocritical his desire for truth and justice and freedom is? Freedom of speech is great when the victims are Jews, but if the victims are Muslims then a world war is the only logical outcome.

And this world view holds that Muslim world war to defend Mohammed seems preferable to jailing Holocaust deniers.